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Grad School by A Recruit
It was a few years back. It was my first year of graduate school, and I had to shop around for a barber. Not that I needed anybody special for my usual crewcut. The barber at college had done a consistent job-fairly close on the back and sides, about 3/4 inch on top with a little more length in front.
The first place I tried, at the college union, the guy didn't really pay attention to what I said, and proceeded to cut it his way. I wound up with a sort of rounded flattop, a lot longer on the top than I wanted, and not a real good taper on the sides and back; scratch #1.
The next time out I tried a shop in a plaza near campus. Even worse results! the back and sides were way too long and the top was pretty scraggly: Scratch #2
Finally I tried a little shop that I often passed as I walked from my apartment to the lab. A couple of guys I had asked had said he was "OK, but tended to go too short". Well, that didn't sound too bad, since it had been too long the last couple of times out.
It wasn't a busy shop, almost never saw a customer, and I wondered how the guy made a living. He had a couple of little kids that I often saw playing in the yard (the shop was attached to his house). They always had really short clip jobs, so maybe the guys were right. But without wheels, which I couldn't afford at that point, this was the last shop within easy walking distance.
So I went in. I explained what I wanted and he set to work. At last! A good haircut! Maybe a little shorter than I had been getting, close clippers a bit higher on the sides, and the crown area clipped down pretty short. And more like 1/2 inch on the top. Actually, I liked it shorter.
I had always had a bit of a 'thing' about short haircuts, dating from my elementary school days. One of my best friends from down the street showed up at the playground one early summer day with his head clipped right down to the scalp. He said his hair had been too hot, so he had asked his dad if he could get it cut short, and this was what he wound up with.
It really opened my eyes for the first time to the possibilities of haircuts. I wanted to feel that bristly stubble on my own head, but it never happened. Getting a skin tight clip became one of my favorite fantasies, and I started to pay a lot of attention to other kids' cuts. I could sense my mother's "NO WAY" reaction, so I never even asked. Not til college did my usual "kid's business-man cut" give way to the brushcut, and even that was a gradual process.
Several times, in College, with vacation a long way off, I went to the barber with the intention of getting it all shaved off, but the words stuck in my throat and I always chickened out. Anyway, this haircut brought back all of those old feelings, probably because the back was short enough to have something of the butchcut feel, and because it was significantly shorter than the recent cuts.
I stayed with this guy through the winter and spring, getting essentially the same cut, but had him leave it a little longer through the cold weather. In late spring I learned that I was getting a research grant that would keep me on campus through the summer. If I was going home at all, it would be right after classes ended.
I had been home at Spring break with a fresh haircut and my Mom had complained about it being too short all the time I was home. Well, it was really none of her business, but to keep peace in the family, I decided to grow it out a bit, so I postponed getting it cut for way too long.
With a couple of weeks to go, I finally stopped by the shop one afternoon. The weather had really heated up, promising a long hot summer. As I got to the shop, one of Rocco's (the barber) boys came around the corner. His head was freshly clipped even shorter than usual, and brought back the image of that childhood friend. But it was long hair time.
As I got into the chair, Rocco ran his comb through my mop and asked "The usual?" I was sorely tempted, but I remembered Mom,"No, just a trim". "Going to let it grow out?" he asked with, I thought, a touch of disappointment. "No, I have to go see my folks in a couple of weeks, and my Mom doesn't li ke my hair real short." And then, for some reason, I added "Next haircut, when I get back, you can cut it all off" , and I realized as I spoke that the work "all" had got emphasized.
Rocco picked up on this and asked with a grin, "Going to shave your head?" I blinked and told him the truth," I always wanted to do that, ever since I was a kid. But I always chicken out. I'm just too scared to do it" . "Well, how about a GI, then?" I had to display my ignorance of haircut terminology, since "GI" was a new one to me. "You just run the shortest clippers over it all - like a shaved head without the razor".
I realized that that was what my childhood buddy had had, and probably Rocco's son as well; what I had been thinking of as a shaved head."I never had the guts to do that either. It seems like a great idea til I get in the chair, and then I have second thoughts, so I guess I will probably wind up with my usual crewcut - boring but safe. I'd love to get it really short, but I know myself too well." Rocco smiled "Yeah, they are pretty extreme, and the crewcut looks good on you.
Something shorter probably would too, but I guess you'll never know." Well, he proceeded with the haircut, and with every pass of the clippers I wondered what it would be like having them run all the way, with no plastic gadget on them. And I wondered why I was chicken to do it, and why was I letting my hair grow out to go home. When he was done, I had a nice trim cut, with the top actually lying over with a part, with the aid of a little gel.
As I climbed out of the chair I had an idea. "About that next haircut--I'll never be able to decide, so lets make it Barber's Choice. You decide, and whatever you decide is ok with me. Don't ask me, don't tell me, don't make me have to decide! Just sit me down and do it!" "Anything? Even a. . " "Don't push me!!" I almost shouted. "Leave me out of it. It's up to you. Whatever. . Short, though. OK? Will you do it?" Rocco laughed and thanked me for the tip. I thought to myself that I was out of my mind, but it was going to be summer, and what the heck, if I even had the nerve to go back in his shop.
And Rocco's two boys with their stubble clipped heads playing in the yard didn't help my state of mind. The next two weeks passed and then the trip home, not particularly eventful, but at least no haircut jibes. And then back to school. The startup of my summer job took all of my time for the first week, so it was about a month since my trim cut.
My hair was by far the longest it had been been in a few years, since the top hadn't been touched for a couple of months. I had by no means forgotten my rash decision, and that was probably part of the reason I was so busy. But the time was now! Either get my ass into Rocco's shop and follow through or . . . Anyhow, he had said my crewcut looked good, so he might just play it safe. Or maybe he would have forgotten the whole thing. Or maybe he would really clip me down. The stubble cut I had always wanted--did I still want it?? The thought of having those clippers running over my head and the wonderful remembered feel of the tight stubble--yes I wanted it! More than anything, or did I? Or would he really shave me bald? Yikes!! Well, all I had to do was walk into Rocco's shop and see what happens.
It was Friday afternoon, so I left the lab a bit early and walked home across the river bridge. I stood in front of the mirror for a while, looking at my hair. "Go!! Go now!!" I went. I took a deep breath and walked the last half block and into the shop. Rocco was working on a teenage boy, but he turned grinned and nodded to me "Did you have a good trip?" Well, that answered the 'did he remember?' question.
Hunks of hair were falling off the boy's head as he reduced what must have been a sort of bowlcut to a nice crisp crewcut. I stared at an old magazine and stole glances at the chair. Soon the boy was done and Rocco motioned me into the chair. I took another deep breath and sat down. He flipped the blue and white striped cape to get the loose hairs off and tossed it over me and pinned it at the back of my neck.
He picked a pair of clippers off its hook and went over the the counter and fiddled with the blades. I don't know if he did it on purpose or not, but I couldn't get a look at the clippers as he came back to the chair. He ran his comb through my hair, "Quite a mop you have managed to grow. Let's do something about it!" He swung the chair sideways so that I couldn't see the mirror and started the clippers up the back of my head, and up and up, all the way to the crown. It was going to be short!, but how short, I couldn't tell.
Successive passes up the back, and then over my ear, and in front, going all the way up the side of my head. Hunks of my light brown hair tumbled down my shoulder and landed in my lap. And then the other side. And he pushed the clippers around on the crown of my head, where the little whirl is and where the hair never would lie down right. Then he lifted the forelock with his comb.
For an instant I thought it would be a flattop, but then I felt the clippers pressed firmly against my forehead and run up the length of my head. I did say I wanted it short! The hunks of hair that landed in my lap looked longer than I thought it had been when it was attached, so there couldn't be much left. A few more passes the length of my scalp and Rocco switched the clippers off, and swung the chair back facing the mirror. The transformation was startling--lots of skin showing but a lot of stubbly hair as well.
My neatly combed Ivy league was gone! "That's an all over #1.5 buzzcut. That's about what a GI would grow out to in a week or so. But I need to trim this up a bit." He picked up a different pair of clippers and snapped them on. I figured he would be trimming around the edges, and in fact he started right at my right sideburn. But he kept going all the way up the side of my head onto the top and then turned and ran them back all the way to the crown!
A white streak emerged on my scalp! "Oops, got a little high there. I guess you are going to get that GI after all!" Slower this time, with repeated strokes, he pushed the stubble off the top of my head, making what I could see in the mirror look totally shaved.
A couple of minutes more and the back and sides were clipped too. Rocco lifted off the cape and dusted me off. I climbed down from the chair and went over to the mirror. I was bald!! A tiny dusting of fuzz, a bit of shine from the shop lights. Gingerly I ran my hand over my head, experiencing the sandpaper feel. Yes!! Yes! Yes! it felt fantastic; it didn't look too awful either! Why had I waited so long? "I thought about shaving you smooth, but that's a lot of bother and it will grow back to this by tomorrow anyhow.
Those were my closest cutting clippers, so its a super GI cut. Next time I'll shave it for you, or you can do it yourself." Next time?? "Yes", next time!!!