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When I was a kid, the requisite haircut as directed by my parents was the good old flattop. When I was very small it was no big deal, but as I hit about the 4th grade that began to change. I was in 4th grade in 1965 and haircuts on little boys had started to change. Gone were the crewcuts and butches and in their place more hair was sprouting.

I began to take a lot of teasing and taunting for my ?baldy? flattop style. I began to hate it more and more, but somehow I just couldn?t tell my Mom and Dad that I wanted a change.

Typically I didn?t get a haircut in the summer as my folks didn?t want to waste money if I wasn?t in school where a proper haircut was necessary. My hair actually managed to grow quite shaggy over the summer vacation.

One year as fall came and with it the beginning of school, Dad loaded me into the car and headed off to Bill and Harry?s barbershop. I had tried to work up the courage to tell my Dad I wanted to keep my hair a little longer, but the words just wouldn?t come.

Bill and Harry?s was a typical barbershop of the 60?s. It had big Koken chairs upholstered in a pale aqua vinyl textured to simulate leather. There were 4 chairs in the shop although Bill and Harry were the only barbers who ever worked there. The chairs had ashtrays in the arms and customers regularly smoked right in the chairs as they had their hair cut. The waiting chairs had hard plastic seats in the same color as the barber chairs and chrome frames that gave them a little bit of spring when you moved in them. The shop had that unique scent blend of working men, Clubman Tonic, stale smoke, shaving lather and clipper oil.

Both Bill and Harry wore pale aqua barber smocks a little lighter than the upholstery on their chairs and dark colored slacks. Bill was a little taller than Harry and wore his wavy hair combed straight back and held in place with some kind of slick tonic. Bill was also the kinder and gentler of the two, giving some consideration to how YOU actually wanted your hair cut. Harry, on the other hand, had steel grey hair cropped in longish flattop and he believed that everyone needed a much shorter version of his haircut as standard issue. He was also not too gentle and whipped your head around as he needed while gripping it firmly in place to just the right angle. I always prayed I didn?t get Harry.

Today, there was to be no reprieve in the luck of the draw for me. Harry had just seated his customer as Bill finished his. Bill undid the white nylon cape, pulled the tissue from around the customer?s neck and proceeded to reach over to the shaving lather dispenser where he pushed a button and let a small mound of richly scented hot lather gather in his palm. He returned to his customer and spread the shave lather around his ears and neckline. After the stropping the straight razor he slowly began to neaten up the man?s lower hairline. Meanwhile Harry was making quick work of a bald man?s fringe, clippering it into something like Yul Brynner.

Bill finished his customer completely at about the same time Harry finished with Yul. Both barbers and their customers made the trip to the cash register at the same time. Dad and I were next. (Although I didn?t know this for many years, my Dad also dreaded getting a haircut from Harry. When I knew this, what happened next made perfect sense.)

Bill and Harry dusted their chairs simultaneously and called out; ?Next!? Dad practically pushed me to Harry?s chair as he hastily landed in Bill?s chair. It was musical chairs, only there wasn?t any music. I had clearly lost.

I walked like a condemned man slowly to Harry?s chair. I climbed up and sort of slouched down in the chair as if Harry needing to reach further would spare a little length on my hair. It had the opposite effect; he got a little annoyed with me. He grabbed me by the shoulders and pulled me up and back in the chair at the same time. I was sitting with my butt all the way back in the seat and my back pressed firmly into the back seat cushion.

Harry popped a tissue from the dispenser on the counter, wrapped it around my neck and then pulled the cape over me snapping it tight at the back of my neck. It literally felt like I had been manacled to the barber chair and could not move. My hands gripped the arms of the chair and later I would smell the scent of tobacco on my hands and arms from the customers who had previously smoked in the chair.

When Harry spoke, he said only six words, words that would seal my fate for nearly half the coming school year; ?Back to school flattop for you?? I wanted to say no, that I would be keeping the length on top this year, but I only managed to nod my head a little and that was that.

He grabbed the clippers from the hook on the front of the counter, used a small brush to clean the blades and then clicked them to life. I can always recognize to this day when those Oster 76 clippers are fired up. They have a relatively unique whirring sound that has actually become something I seek out in the barber experience. They are, at once, frightening, intoxicating and arousing. Harry put his meaty hand on the top of my head and pulled it over to the right completely exposing the left side of my head as his personal canvas to begin yet another ?work of art.? He started at my left sideburn and, with the clippers making firm contact with my head, started to shear me like a sheep. The clippers changed sound only slightly as they peeled the hair from the left side of my head. He flipped a large clump of dark brown hair onto the cape where it covered my left arm. It rolled lifelessly down between where my legs were covered landing out of sight.

I strained to see the damage in mirror across from me but only caught a glimpse of the stark white scalp shining in distinct contrast to my summertime tan. Harry held my head tightly in position and admonished me to hold still or I might end up needing a head shave. He sheared all the hair from the left side of my head folding down my ear so he could clipper it nice and clean there. He maneuvered my head around the pivot of his hand and slowly moved to the back. As his hand shifted I could feel the uncomfortable but weirdly compelling sensation of the near bald stubble he had left in the wake of his clippers. I could feel the light perspiration in his palm and the coolness of the air conditioning where my hair had been removed in nearly the blink of an eye.

Harry used a firm up and down motion with his clippers that was almost hypnotic. The motion added to the sense of unreality I felt at being mercilessly shorn right to the scalp. He pushed my chin down onto my chest and still I was unable to see the damage except for a brief glimpse. I felt the summer hair rolling off the back of my head and leaving in its wake what I visualized to be wide bald paths from my nape up to my occipital bone and above. He shifted my head again and sheared its right side to nothing.

As Harry turned to reach for the dusting brush, I lifted my eyes to see myself with a disheveled crop of hair on top and what looked like nothing on the sides. White scalp gleamed against my tan. It was worse than I could even imagine. He dusted all around the sides and back and as he did the weirdness of the sensation on my stubble made my skin crawl.

After he dusted the sides and back he straightened my head and stepped slightly to one side. In that moment I could see the front view and the back view at once thanks to the mirrors on both walls. I wanted to cry, but that would only insure that I would a great target for Harry?s ridicule.

Harry began to attack the hair on top of my head with a vengeance. He used his clippers over the comb to begin the rough shape of my flattop. So much hair was falling with every pass and my image in the mirror was changing by the second. And I actually felt the comb touch down on the very top of my head and the clippers made all the hair above the comb simply vanish. He was cutting me shorter than ever.

As I mentioned, this part was only the rough shaping of the top. There was much more to go. Harry shut off the clippers, returned them to their hook temporarily and dusted off my head again. He picked up the butch wax on the counter and spread it liberally over my head. Although he didn?t need to work hard at this point, he used his fingertips to roughly force my remaining hair to stand up straight on top of my head. Once he was satisfied that no stray ?long? hairs were hiding, he picked up the clippers and comb and went to work.

The hair he was cutting now was about a half inch long and was falling in little clumps onto the cape at my shoulders. A lot of it stuck there and began to gather like dark brown snow. Harry was standing right in front of me so I couldn?t see in the mirror. He leaned down and put his comb into the hair above my forehead and began to work his way to the back of my crown reducing the length more as he went. After finishing this journey over the top of my head, Harry discarded the comb and began to refine the shape using the clippers freehand. I was absolutely frozen.

After he was finished, Harry rubbed a towel all over my head to get as many of the little hairs off as possible. He used a hand brush (you know those little brushes you stick a few finger through and brush through your hair) to brush my ?hair? into place. It wasn?t really necessary as my hair wouldn?t do anything but a perfect microlength flattop. I put my chin down and could see the shiny ?landing strip? on top of my head. The sides of my head also showed shininess through from the scalp and the butch wax.

Then Harry unclipped the cape, removed the tissue and shaved my neck and around my ears. I had never been shaved so far up before and perfectly shaved scalp extended about 1 inch higher than it ever had .

The cape was removed and I slid down from the chair as Harry exclaimed; ?There you go, a whole new boy!? I was new alright, newly shaved, newly balded, newly ready for more humiliation at school than ever.

I slowly walked to the waiting chairs and tried to fold myself up in a way that I would be invisible. My Dad?s mouth hung open as he caught a glimpse of the savage clipping I had received. I knew by the look on his face that he was sorry he had taken my place in Bill?s chair.

While I dreaded the teasing I would endure at school, I actually liked the freshly clippered feeling of my flattop. It was total hair freedom and all I ever needed to do was wash it with the same bar soap I used on the rest of my body. Yes, part of me really liked my flattop.

That night I lay in my bed crying in anticipation of the teasing I would need to take. My Dad came by my room and heard me sobbing softly. He asked what was the matter and between sobs I said; ?I didn?t want to get a flattop today. I wanted to leave my hair longer. And now I?m bald!? His words ring in my ears to this day; ?You should have said something. You don?t have to get a flattop if you don?t want one.?

Epilogue: The beginning of the school year was horrible but I began to be able to ignore the taunts and my hair grew out. By late January, I was able to comb it to the side with a little help from Vitalis. It would be many years before I would willingly give in to a flattop again.

As an extra bonus that year I became close friends with a girl named Christine. She always had the longest blonde hair I have ever seen. It had fallen to her waist in thick waves and was often tied into dual pony tails to keep it manageable. I had actually developed quite a crush on her (and her hair) but she would never give me the time of day. Well? she came to school that year with all her hair cropped off into an extremely short pixie style. Her bangs were about an inch above her brows and no hair covered her ears or touched below her hairline in the back. When we saw each other at the beginning of school, she said; ?Wow, I thought my hair would be the shortest in our class, but you?re almost bald.? I frowned at her comment and she saw that I was hurt. Then she said; ?Don?t worry. I like my hair short. Its easier to play. Maybe we can start a short haired club.? I was sad that her hair had been cut so short, but I was glad she was my friend. Strangely, it was just hair to her. It didn?t really matter that much. It mattered to me.

We were nearly inseparable that year and the next two years after that until her family moved away. I think of her often and wonder if she still has her hair cut short or if she?s just waiting to hear how cute she looked with her pixie cut.

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