It was the summer after my Junior year in High School. My mother had received a promotion at her job, but it was going to mean attending a training course for all of the summer out on the West Coast. The course was to be at a campus in a small town, going with her would have been the pits for me. Staying home wasn't really an option either, since there were just me and mother. So it was decided that I would spend the summer with my cousin Josh and his family. Josh was my age, within a couple of months and his brother Pete was a few years younger. We saw them every year or so. Theirs was a really different family from mine: you would never know our mothers were sisters. Josh's mom was really cool and laid back compared to my mother (mine was 'Mother'--never 'Mom'). They lived in a real small town in a big old house--a big contrast from our city apartment. Mother drove me over the day after school let out and dropped me off with all my stuff. A little while after my mother left, Josh rode in on his bike. I almost didn't recognize him. He had grown a lot in the last year, like I had, and his brown hair was a shaggy mop. The last couple of times I had seen him he had sported a short brush cut--almost a buzz--but now he looked like he hadn't had a haircut in months. After we had talked for a few minutes, getting re-acquainted, I asked him 'Hey, what's with all the hair?'
'My English teacher asked me to grow it out for my part in the class play this winter and I never got around to getting it mowed off again. I've been meaning to get a haircut any day for the last 3 months. I guess I've got almost as much hair as you have, now.'
He was right. His hair was 4 or 5 inches long with enough of a curl so that it had a real tousled look. His ears were mostly out of sight and the back was crowding his collar. It didn't look like he owned a comb. I was also over due for a trim, but it hadn't happened in the rush at the end of the school year. My hair was long, too, as it always was, since mother didn't approve of short haircuts. I didn't go to a barber, it was a stylist. I had always been fascinated by brush cuts, buzz cuts--by any short hair cuts. But it was always on other people. As I said, Mother did not approve of short hair, and made disparaging comments about it, 'He looks shaved like an indian', and the like. So, I could wonder what having a short haircut would be like, but would never have dared to do anything about it. In fact the thought of my actually getting one had never entered my head until the last year or so. That's the sort of person Mother is. After a couple of days the weather turned hot, really hot. Josh & I had spent the hour before lunch playing one-on-one basketball. We towelled off and put our dry tee shirts on before we came in to eat, but we really looked hot with our damp, messed up hair. Josh's mom looked at us and said 'You two look like a couple of refugees. Josh, why don't you do something about that hair so you are a little cooler? Or are you planning to grow it down to your waist?'
Josh grinned and pushed his wet locks out of his eyes. 'I think you're on to something. I'll go after lunch.'
'And take your brother with you. He is almost as bad as you are.' Pete did have a lot of hair, too, though not as much as his brother. His looked like it had been a brushcut a couple of inches ago. He looked up from his lunch and said 'I promised Tim I'd come over this afternoon. I'll get a haircut Monday, but not today, OK?'
Nothing had been said about me, but when Josh & I got on our bikes, his mom asked, 'Do you guys have enough money?' 'guys'--plural. It struck me, suddenly that this was my chance. Get it cut short! Well, not too short, since it would only have the summer to grow back before Mother would see it. Or, hell, get it cut short! If it's gone, Mother can't do anything about it. The free atmosphere of Josh's family was starting to affect my thinking. 'What kind of haircut are you going to get?' I called out. 'I dunno. I haven't decided, but I think I'll get most of it chopped off. It's a lot more comfortable with a brushcut or a buzz. What about you? Your usual trim?'
I detected a touch of sarcasm so I didn't answer. Privately though, I was having imaginary conversations with the barber. I was definitely going to get a haircut and it was going to be shorter. 'Cut the sides and back short and leave a couple of inches on top.' 'Give me a brushcut, about 3/4 inch on top.' 'Give me a buzz cut!' (not likely on that one). I finally decided to wait, let Josh go first, and then decide 'Like his, only not quite as short on top.' or.......
By the time we got to the business district of the small town, I was totally psyched. I was going to do it and Mother be dammed. We pulled up in front of the barbershop and headed for the door. It was locked! A note said, 'Mr. Saunders has had an appendectomy. Shop closed til mid July.' We looked at each other. 'Shit!' said Josh. 'And there isn't any other barber in this one horse town. So let's go home. Maybe Mom will drive us somewhere else.'
The let down was incredible. I had spent the whole ride down imagining watching Josh get clipped and getting my long hair cut into various short and shorter styles, and now it wasn't going to happen. When we got home, Josh's mom was startled to see us so soon and surprised that we had brought all our hair home with us. 'I could call my beauty salon and see if she can fit you in.'
'No way! Could you drive us over to Dayville?'
'Not today; the car is getting a new muffler, remember. You'll have to wait till the first of the week.'
I guess we actually looked disappointed, having made up our minds and it not happening. Then my Aunt brightened up and headed for the cellar. She came back in a minute with a small cardboard box. 'I just remembered. Mr. Porter, who used to live next door, gave us these when you were young. He used to cut his boys' hair and figured we might use them on you and Pete. I can probably give you guys a trim.'
She opened the box to reveal a pair of electric clippers, some attachments and a comb and scissors. Josh looked at the stuff and at his mom and shook his head with a grin. 'You're a great mom, but I'm not sure I want you as a barber.'
His mother laughed and said 'OK, then I guess it's next week, unless you decide to clip each other. I'm going to do some laundry.'
I looked at Josh and at the clippers. 'You know, if you were going to get a buzz cut, I could probably do it, with the attachments and all. It wouldn't be a professional job, but who cares. And there's all summer to grow it back'
Josh looked at me and pushed the hair out of his eyes. 'It's tempting, isn't it. It might even be fun, but only if I get to do to you what you do to me! How about it?'
I blinked and remembered my imaginary instructions to the barber: 'Like his, only...' no, 'Like his'!
'It's a deal. Let's do it! That is, assuming these things still work.' I got the clippers out of the box and plugged them in. They started reluctantly after the years of non-use, but soon gained speed. But there was going to be a problem with the attachments. The 1/4' and the 1/2' were ok, but the real short tapering attachment and the 3/4' had broken so they wouldn't stay on the clippers.
'You can use the 1/4' on the back and sides and the 1/2' on top. Just leave a little in the front and finish it off with the comb and the clippers. You can probably figure out how to taper up to the 1/4' with the bare clippers. Where's the stool?'
Josh had really got hold of the idea of cutting our hair and was sounding positively enthusiastic. My fascination with short haircuts was going to get a real test, since I was going to be both barber and customer for a cut that was a lot shorter than I had envisioned. The cutting would be fun but I could still feel Mother looking at me with that frown of hers. I put the apron around Josh's neck, snapped on the 1/4' attachment and turned on the clippers. I lifted up the hair at the nape of his neck and put the buzzing clippers against his skin. My heart was pounding and I waited for a moment.
'What are you waiting for? Do it!'
I moved the clippers up the back of his head. A shower of 3 inch long brown hair buried the clippers and fell onto my hand. I ran them up almost to the crown of his head and pulled them away. The mop of hair on the back of his head now had a swath of short bristles, with his white scalp showing through. The clippers may have been ancient, but they cut efficiently. A second pass removed the few stragglers. It was an incredible sensation to watch the transformation. I made repeated passes, clipping the entire back of his head to the short stubble; then around to the sides. Josh looked very strange, with the mop of long hair on the top, hanging down over the close clipped sides. I removed the attachment and clipped the hair low on his neck to nothing and tried to taper it up to the 1/4' length. That turned out to be much harder than it seemed. Fortunately I started low, so I had some room to play, but I couldn't get a good blend. 'I can't get it to taper properly without looking like the moths have been at you!'
'Well, finish the top and try again. You can always clip it to a line and never mind about the taper.' I abandoned the attempt and snapped on the half inch attachment. I was getting confident now. I lifted up Josh's hair, about an inch from the front, dropped the clippers against his scalp and pushed them back. The clippers seemed to bounce a bit as they touched his head, but they buried themselves in his tousled locks and slid the length of his head. They emerged from the back just as I heard something clatter onto the floor. With a shock I realized that the clippers were bare! The antique plastic attachment had given up the ghost! In disbelief I pushed the cutoff hair from the top of his head. Instead of 1/2' bristles there was closely clipped scalp. 'Oh no! You've got a problem, and I don't know how I can fix it.'
Josh reached up and fingered the bare streak. I wasn't sure what his reaction would be, with a 4 inch swath of shaved head. After a moment he laughed 'Well, that takes care of the tapering problem, doesn't it?'
'What's this got to do with tapering the back?' I stammered.
'Well, you aren't going to fix it except by gluing it back, so I expect you are just going to have to shave off the rest of it. And don't look so upset; I was going to have the barber do a buzz and this will only be a little shorter. Keep clipping!'
I ran my fingers down the strip of clipped hair. It was surprisingly rough, like coarse sandpaper, with a few tufts of stray hairs the clippers had missed. I snapped on the clippers and ran them over the bare patch again, removing the strays. The microscopic stubble seemed even shorter than before. I moved over a bit and made another pass, the long locks of brown hair falling free. I swept them off, again feeling the close clipped scalp. Repeated passes, moving over a little each time and the top of Josh's head was bare, except for the forelock. 'I could leave your bangs.' I offered. Josh ran his hand through the remaing hair and over the bristles. 'No thanks, keep clipping.' I moved around to the back and erased my tapering attempts with long passes up to join the bare top. The sides went next. Josh looked strange with the bush of hair sprouting out of the front of his head. I attacked it with the clippers and soon Josh's head was essentially bald, except for a five o'clock shadow of brown stubble. The feel of it was incredible as I ran my hand over it, checking for any missed spots. Suddenly it struck me: 'It might even be fun, but only if I get to do to you what you do to me!' and I had agreed! My turn was next and my trim/brushcut/buzzcut was going to be a baldy! I didn't have a choice, and I realized that I didn't want a choice. Sorry, Mother; who cares, Mother.
I pulled the sheet off Josh, dumping his shorn locks on the kitchen floor. I sat down and said 'My turn, I guess.' Josh picked up the clippers. 'If you don't want it shaved, I can just use the 1/4 inch attachment.'
'Nope, a deal is a deal.' Josh grinned and snapped on the clippers. He didn't fool around the edges; he started right up the middle, all the way from the front of my head to the back. Great long hunks of my dirty blond hair fell into my lap. I was surprised how long it looked; it hadn't seemed so long when it was attached. I reached up to feel my head but Josh pushed my hand away. He made pass after pass, with the vibrating steel pressed close to my head. The shorn locks rained down on my shoulders and lap. The top of my head felt cool, and there was a sizzling sound, half heard, half felt, when Josh ran his hand over my head. He moved around to the right side and clipped from the sideburn all the way to the top of my head. Wasting no time he worked his way around the back and finished up in front of my left ear. He ran his hand over my head to sweep off the last few severed hairs and touched up a couple of spots. Then he pulled the sheet off, my blond hair mixing with his brown locks on the floor. I reached up and felt of my head. The sensation was incredible. My fingers were expecting the accustomed mop of hair but found nothing until they got all the way to my scalp and the sandpaper stubble. It felt great, but what did it look like? Jason certainly looked different, but not bad at all. We went out into the hall and looked in the mirror. It wasn't me, but I liked what I saw. It would take some getting used to. My head was essentially bald; my blond micro-stubble didn't show as much as Josh's did, but it still caught the light. 'Well' said Josh, 'we wanted short haircuts, and they don't come any shorter, unless we use a razor.' I looked at my reflection as I ran my fingers over my stubble and Josh's remark started to sink in. What would it feel like with no stubble? It would only add a day or two to the grow back time, and I was already going to be in trouble with Mother. To hell with Mother!! 'Get the razor!' Josh grinned and headed for his room. I couldn't tell if he was having the same feelings as I was, but he was clearly enjoying himself. He came back with his razor and shaving foam. I sat back down on the stool and he lathered my scalp. His fingers working all around my scalp, rubbing the foam into my stubble felt great. After a few minutes he picked up the razor and began to shave me, starting right in the front, sliding the razor back a couple of inches at each stroke, rinsing the foam and stubble off between each stroke. The razor made a fascinating combination of sound and feel as it reduced the stubble to smooth skin. In a few minutes he was done, finishing up by shaving the back upwards from nape to crown against the growth of the hair. The completely smooth feel was as different from the stubble as the stubble was from the full head of hair. It was an awesome sensation. In the mirror I could see that the 'invisible' stubble had really been there. My head was now truly bald and shone in the reflection of the hall light. 'How about you?' I asked. Jason rubbed his head and then felt of mine.
'What the hell, I might as well.' I repeated the process on him, shaving away the brown fuzz and leaving his white scalp. I loved the feeling of touching one and the other as I steadied his head against the razor. All too soon he was done. Just as Jason got off the stool his mother came into the kitchen. She looked at us with a startled look and then burst out laughing. 'And you didn't trust me with the clippers! Well, I guess we'll get used to it. And if you ask me, it's a big improvement over those mops you started with.' I should be so lucky with my mother; at least she wasn't here to have a fit. We had started to clean up the mess when Jason's brother, Pete, came home. He burst into the kitchen and did a real double take when he saw us. With a big grin he rubbed our heads, 'Awesome! That's really cool!'
With a sudden inspiration I made a sweeping gesture towards the stool and announced 'Next!'. Pete stopped in his tracks and looked at me and his brother. He ran his hand over his head and then with an impish grin asked, 'Can I, mom? It will blow Tim away; he thinks his buzz cut is short!'
His mother looked at her son for a moment and replied 'We've already got two bald heads; another won't make any difference. Go ahead if you want.'
Pete hopped up on the stool and I grabbed the clippers and made short work of liberating his young head from its mop of hair. I didn't even ask about the razor; I just lathered him up when I finished with the clippers. Another fresh blade and in a few minutes he joined the smooth set. Later that day, as I stood admiring my reflection, it occurred to me that before today I had never even seen anyone getting a buzz cut. Now, in one short afternoon I had shaved two heads and got my own shaved in the bargain. This would be a hard one to top! And Mother would just have to come to terms with the likelihood that my hair wasn't going to be any longer than a short buzz cut for the forseeable future.