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We were all having a great time sitting around the table and eating dinner at my Aunt Betty’s and Uncle Lou’s house. It was my Mom, myself and my sister, Betty and Lou. This has been the first time home since my big promotion at work to director of marketing for the company. My family was always very blue collar: I was the first to make it big and make huge amounts of money. I spent a lot of money on myself, my clothes were top shelf, and my appearance was important to me, and my company. My sister was very jealous of the things I accomplished, she got married very young and felt she had been stuck in a lifestyle she did not always like. My sister always had to make comments, like as we were sitting there she asked me how much I had spent on my latest hairdo, which was a layered hairstyle that was the tucked behind the ear look, the back was way over the collar length. I had a body wave put in: it looked full, bouncy, and good. I told her a few hundred dollars.

The conversation quickly stopped when Uncle Lou said he had an announcement to make. He told us all that he was sick, and that he only had a year or so to live. We were all quite shocked. I was devastated because Uncle Lou was very close to me. He was like a Father to me – besides my Mom he was the most important thing to me.

The next morning, which was Sunday, I asked my Mom where Lou was and she said down at the shop. The shop was a few blocks from the house so I walked down to see Uncle Lou and spend some time with him before I had to leave to go back home. I had a big meeting on Monday with a new client so I wanted to spend as much time with him as I could. I went through the back door of the shop, and it was strange to hear the clippers going because it was Sunday. I walked into the main section and was a little surprised to see my sister in the chair getting her hair cut. My sister wore her hair in a permed wedge, very simple and Mom-type look. The back used to be longer, at least 3-4 inches past her hairline, but now that Uncle Lou had cut it it was tapered to nothing at the hairline and tapered up to the bi-leveled permed part. My Uncle Lou was very proud of his craft, his shop had been around forever, and he was known for his sharp-looking haircuts. He did everything with clippers.

Uncle Lou was now using a comb and clippers to cut down on the permed part of my sister’s hair. It was amazing watching him. When he was done her hair was a very short wedged cut, the perm looked so uniformed, the back was a little too short, but that is Uncle Lou: a haircut means a haircut. My sister then got down from the chair, she rubbed her hair, and went over and gave Uncle Lou a kiss on the cheek, and told him how much she liked it. She turned to me and said, "I though it would be nice to allow Uncle Lou to do what he does best," and then turned to him and said, "From now on you cut my hair. You don’t get to perm it, but you cut it." Uncle Lou just smiled, he loved being loved.

I told Uncle Lou that I had to go back home in a few hours. We talked some, my sister went to pick up some things at the store. About an hour later she came back. She walked into the shop, and said, "You’re not going to get a haircut from Uncle Lou? You know he is not going to be with us much longer." Uncle Lou, I could tell, was a little embarrassed, but at the same time I knew he enjoyed cutting hair, and that over the years he had done fewer and fewer cuts because of his age. Even though he owned the shop, his health would not allow him to work more than a few hours per week.

If I said no, I would disappoint him. If I said yes, he would be happy, but I also knew that if I said yes, I would get a haircut. Not just a trim, but a cut. I paused for a second and said OK, so I got up into the chair. Uncle Lou put the tissue around my neck, and then the cape around me. He then started to do what he always does before a haircut: he would walk around the chair and breathe heavily through his nose and run his hands through your hair. He did this to me and then said, "A nice haircut." I said OK.

At this point I was not in control anymore, I did not know what type of haircut was coming, and at this point Uncle Lou tuned everything out, he never talked during haircuts until he was done. I heard him grab for his comb, and then I heard the clippers go on. I thought at this point maybe a bowl cut, or something like my sister’s was the haircut I was getting – my Uncle used to do bowl cuts all the time. He came to my left side. He always started on the sides when he was cutting over the ears, so I knew I was getting a boyish cut now. All I could think about was how would I explain to the folks at work my new haircut, mainly because just a week ago I got the body wave and new style from my old shoulder-length bob. They would have to think I was a freak.

Hair was falling in clumps. Uncle Lou was just putting the comb under sections and clipping them off. I saw myself in the side mirror. My hair was about an inch long on the sides, the back was next then the other side.

Finally he was done. He turned the chair to face the mirror. I looked up and saw all this hair on my lap, and this short haircut. I could live with it, the story would be tough but it was a boyish girl look. I was thinking, the top still had length to it, comb it back or on the sides, it would look OK. I saw Uncle Lou pick up a smaller comb and the clippers again, so all my thoughts just went out the window. He turned the chair around again and started with the clippers over comb cutting again. This time he kept going up onto my crown and I felt clumps coming from the top of my head. Now I knew that Uncle Lou always used clippers, but there was a lot of hair coming off. He continued to work his way all the way around my head, going from the sides to the back to the crown and to the sides. I now had a very short haircut, the top was cut to where the top stuck up. Again all I could think about was what would I say at work. There are women who have soft brush cut type styles – I could say I wanted to concentrate on work, not just my hair.

I soon heard the clippers go on again, but this time it was louder. I peeked out of the corners of my eyes and saw this big black clipper going right to the sides of my left ear. I remembered once when I asked Uncle Lou about haircuts, he would always say, "Haircut is not a haircut without whitewalls." I was about to get whitewalls, which meant the hair was going to be high off the ears and the back was going to be peeled short off the hairline. It now dawned on me I was getting what my Uncle felt was his best work, a tight brush cut, with what he called an airstrip landing on top. It was very weird when the clippers just clipped my hair off the hairline, it felt itchy and like a burn happened there. Uncle Lou flattened the top so it looked uniform and tight, he then did the shaving cream thing in the back and around the ears and he was done.

I was tired. I looked at my hair: it was at least an inch over my ears, sharply mirroring the shape of the ear. The back felt like a bad rash. I knew it was short, I could not grab any hair with my fingers in the back. It was tapered short, and at the hairline, forget it! I got up and looked at my sister who just smiled. She had got what she wanted: me to be in a secondary position to her.

Nine months had passed, my hair now grew into an ear-length bob all one length. I was told if I ever did what I did to myself again (brush cut) I would have to look for another job. I could not wait until it got some length again.

I got a message to call home on a Tuesday. I was told Uncle Lou had one week left to live. I flew home immediately. Uncle Lou was at the shop. As I walked in, my sister and Lou were talking. I could tell she just got her hair cut. I went up to Lou and hugged him, and as I was doing this my sister said, "That is great. You came back to let Uncle Lou give you another brush cut."
I went limp, and then I looked at Uncle Lou, and got up into the chair, and starting thinking about my resignation letter. The clippers went on, and the brush cut was going to be part of me again.

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