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Ben by A Recruit

As a kid I always went to the same barber that my dad went to. Pretty conservative, regular boy's haircuts. I don;­t know what kind of short cut he would have done, since mom wouldn't have approved. Finally, in high school, I started to get it cut shorter, but for some reason, I felt I had to switch shops. So I started going to Ben, in the next town. The shop was right on the main street of the village; a two chair shop with one barber, and not many customers. Ben was a little Italian man, with a lot of accent left from the old country. I really don't think he was a terribly good barber, but he sure liked to use the clippers. You learned, with Ben, not to tell him how much to cut, but what NOT to cut. Violate the rule at your risk!

At first I didn'­t change styles all that much; got the back a good bit shorter and got the top down to a couple of inches. At school, I was under a lot of peer pressure to get a brush cut. (I was considered to be a look-alike of another guy, one of the jocks, who had one, and there was a lot of kidding, trying to get me to look more like him.) One of my friends who was pushing me was a guy with the kind of hair the girls would have killed for - bright blond, wavy and fairly long. Finally, I gave in and told him I would get mine cut if he did. Figured I was safe, but darned if he didn't do it! Not a brush cut, but a lot shorter than it was.

So off I went to Ben's. I wasn'­t going to get a brush cut - mom's influence was still too strong - but it was going to be close to it. Throwing caution to the winds, but still sticking to the rule, I told him to cut the back like a brush cut, but leave just enough to comb over in the front. He went at it with a vengeance. I think the back was probably something like a #2. As to leaving enough in the front to comb over, he did that - just. The front 2 or 3 inches were just long enough to lay down with a bit of persuasion, but only one direction. Ben took care of that by running the clippers right along the part line. I guess today you would call what I wound up with an Ivy League, but a real short one.

It was quite a sensation for a guy who had wanted to do this his whole life. I couldn't stop looking at it and feeling of it. Of course the kidding intensified at school, but I kept the cut. After graduation I went the rest of the way and got the brush cut which I kept through college.

My last adventure with Ben was the summer after college. I had got a little braver over the years, and the brush cut had got a little shorter. My instructions to Ben were "Cut the back and sides good and short, but leave some on top in the front." This resulted in a crewcut with probably with a #1 blade (no attachment) on the back up onto the crown, tapering to maybe 1/2" or 3/4" in the front. Ben did 3 or 4 of these cuts on me in the course of the summer. As I said, he had few customers and knew me perfectly well. So the next time I climbed into the chair, I forgot the rule, and didn'­t repeat the instructions, figuring he knew what he had been giving me. Well, he started up the back as usual, and then onto the crown, clipping this way and that. I realized that he was getting a bit farther front than usual and was just about to say something when I felt the clippers make a pass right across the front of my head. No point in saying anything now! With my blond hair, I looked really bald with my 1/8" buzz cut.

I loved the feel of that clip, but I was off to grad school in the fall, so when I went back in 3 weeks, I was careful to follow the rule and tell him to leave the front. I think that was the last time I was ever in Ben's shop. Ben has certainly retired and may well have passed on by now, but I can still feel the incredible sensation of those clippers chewing their way across the front of my head. I've had a lot of buzz cuts since, but none as memorable as that first surprise cut one hot August morning.

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