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Shearing the Snoop

Normally my wife is not a snoop. In the twenty-eight years we have been married she has respected my privacy and never looked through my personal belongings. Not until last week, that is.

Ellen must have been looking for a missing video as she rummaged through the stack of old movies and classic football games gathering dust in the cabinet beneath our television set. After a few minutes she stopped searching and walked over to me with an untitled video in her hand. The only marking on its label read, ?No. 157-58.?

?Tom, what is this?? she asked. ?Is it one of yours??

I glanced at the tape and instantly recognized it as part of my private collection. Over the years I have assembled about thirty of these videos, each one showing women receiving extremely short haircuts. Normally I keep them locked away in a file drawer at my office, but occasionally I bring one home for viewing when no one else is around. Afterwards I always return the contraband to the safety of my office. I have kept these films hidden from my wife. She has been aware of my short hair fetish for years, but I try not to draw attention to my peculiar fascination. I don?t want Ellen to know the extent to which I take pleasure in viewing women having their hair chopped off. I fear that she will object to my ?hobby? and insist that I see a psychotherapist.

With my carefully guarded secret in danger of being exposed, I tried desperately to think of an answer that would satisfy her curiosity. ?Gee, Ellen, I don?t know. Perhaps it?s something the kids left behind,? I lied. The youngest of our three children had left for college the previous fall, leaving us with an empty nest, but their belonging were still strewn about the house. Perhaps I could put the blame on them. Something in my reply, a hint of nervousness or my tone of voice, aroused her suspicion. She was not buying my lame explanation.

?No, Tom, it doesn?t look like something the kids would have. Are you sure it?s not yours?? she repeated.

?No, it?s not one of mine,? I answered, compounding my deception.

?Well, there?s one sure way to find out who this belongs to,? she said as she reached toward the VCR.

?No, wait, Ellen. I don?t think you should do that,? I cried.

?And why not? Is there something you want to tell me about this tape, Tom?? she asked in an accusing voice.

?Yes, it does belong to me,? I admitted sheepishly, ?and I?d rather you didn?t play it.?

?Why not, Tom? What?s on it that you don?t want me to see?? she demanded.

?It?s kind of embarrassing,? I replied.

?What is it? A porno flick?? she glared.

?No, Ellen, it?s not porno. It?s just something personal that I?d rather not have you see,? I pleaded.

?Well, now I definitely have to watch it,? she declared. ?I thought we were long past keeping secrets from each other, but I guess I was wrong. Let?s see what you?ve been hiding from me.? She inserted the tape into the VCR, hit the ?play? button, and took a seat in front of the tube. I waited nervously for the tape to begin, not knowing how my wife would react, but fearing the worst.

The picture came into focus showing a lovely young Asian woman seated in a barber?s chair with a slightly fearful look on her face. A stocky middle-aged man dressed in a white smock carefully combed her long dark hair. ?Ellen, I can explain this,? I interrupted.

?Tom, be quiet,? she snapped. ?I want to see what?s happening here and I don?t need your interference.? Her tone told me that she was seriously annoyed. I realized that I had no choice but to wait silently while my private obsession was revealed.

It was evident that the beauty sitting in the chair was about to receive a haircut, but what kind of a cut would it be? From the length of her hair it appeared that no one had trimmed even an inch from her locks in years. The barber proceeded to divide her jet-black tresses into two sections and bound each one with an elastic band. The young woman looked rather uneasy, but sat quietly with a long ponytail draped over each shoulder as her barber approached with a large pair of scissors in his hand. Both of them appeared self-conscious. She smiled nervously, staring straight ahead. He paused for dramatic effect, holding the opened blades just inches from her head. Standing at her side, so he wouldn?t block the view, he slowly closed the sharp blades around the thick bundle of hair. The camera zoomed in for a close-up of the shears cutting into the long strands and the microphone captured the crunching sound of hair being severed. When the barber had sliced though the first bundle, he deposited the two-foot long section in the young woman?s lap and turned to her other side. Again the camera zoomed in as he amputated the second ponytail and gave it to his willing victim. She took the bundles and raised one in each hand for the camera as if they were trophies. She smiled weakly and looked at them in amazement, as if to say, ?I can?t believe this is really happening to me.?

The barber paused for a moment, then reached behind the chair and took up a set of black electric clippers. The young woman placed the severed ponytails back in her lap and resumed a serious expression as she prepared for the next stage of her haircut. The ends of her newly shortened hair hung around her jaw, just covering her ears, but would not remain at that length for long. Apparently the barber and his customer had formulated a plan beforehand because there was no conversation between them. She seemed to know what was coming next.

He switched on the power to the clippers and, without any hesitation, began running them up the side of the young woman?s head. Large clumps of dark hair fell onto her shoulders and lap. She suffered through this shearing without saying a word. Within minutes the barber had removed nearly all of the hair from the sides and back of her head. Only the top remained unclipped. He laid down the clippers and returned with his scissors. Working quickly, he chopped off most of the length from the top, casually tossing handfuls of hair to the floor. When all of her remaining hair had been reduced to about one inch in length he began brushing her short hair back off her face. Soon all of her hair was standing upright. Then he resumed with the clippers, expertly carving a precise straight line across the top of her head. The final stage of her shearing continued for several minutes as the barber went over the top again and again. Finally, he seemed satisfied with the result. He handed her a round mirror so she could inspect her radically transformed image. She now resembled a teen-age boy, perhaps a new cadet at a military school. The young woman rubbed a hand across her closely cropped head and offered a tentative smile. She seemed pleased with the result. The barber brushed the clipped hair from her face and neck and removed the cape from around her neck.

No sooner had this freshly shorn woman stepped down from the chair than another eager customer took her place. She looked to be about twenty years old and had shoulder length auburn hair that was beautifully waved and styled. She seemed to be enjoying herself much more than the previous occupant of the chair. The lovely girl shook her hair for effect and smiled broadly as the barber spread the same white cape around her shoulders. This time he did not bother with the scissors. Instead, he grabbed the clippers and began systematically removing her crowning glory. He started in the back and worked his way to the top of her head, then moved to the sides. Soon most of her lovely hair lay on the floor, mixed together with the dark strands from the first customer. She too emerged with a radical clipper cut nearly as short as the first woman?s.

A third young woman followed. Her light brown hair was not as long as the others? at the start, but the relentless barber soon made short work of it. He placed his clippers at her forehead and drove them down the middle of her scalp giving her kind of a reverse mohawk. He continued running them across her head until only briefest bit of fuzz remained.

I squirmed in discomfort on the couch as my wife silently viewed the video. After the third haircut was done she switched off the VCR, faced me, and began the interrogation I had been dreading. A barrage of angry questions exploded in my direction. ?How long has this been going on, Tom?? she asked. ?Do you have more tapes like this one? Where did you get it, anyway??

Painfully, I explained that I had purchased this video and several similar ones from an Internet site that caters to men like me who share a fetish for women with short hair; that I had acquired them over the past five years; and that I watched them for my personal gratification when she was not at home.

?You really enjoy watching this stuff? Does it turn you on? It all seems rather boring to me,? she declared.

I confessed that videos like this one gave me intense sexual stimulation.

?And do you masturbate while watching these women being scalped?? she inquired.

Guiltily, I conceded that it frequently happened.

?So this really is porno, isn?t it?? she continued. ?I mean, most guys wouldn?t find this stuff exciting, but for you it?s a real turn on, right?? Again, I had to admit that she had me pegged.

?Tom, I don?t know what to say. Of course, I?ve known about your fetish since we got married, but this really shocks me. How could you be so sneaky and dishonest?? she demanded.

?It?s not like I?ve been cheating on you with another woman,? I pleaded in my defense. ?You still are the only woman I desire.?

?No, Tom. Don?t you realize that you have been unfaithful?? she insisted. ?It?s so deceitful. It?s like there?s a whole part of your life that you?ve been hiding from me. I thought that when we married we promised not to keep secrets from each other.?

?But I was afraid that you wouldn?t understand. I feared your disapproval,? I pleaded. ?You might make fun of me for this obsession.?

?Tom, give me some credit,? she replied. ?I?m not some dumb broad. I know a thing or two about human psychology. I realize that sexual desire is expressed in many forms, not just those that are socially approved. I?m not some prude. Just because your interests deviate from the norm doesn?t make you sick or perverted. As long as you don?t try to force your fantasies on me or anyone else, I don?t see what?s wrong with your kinky hobby. It?s the dishonesty that bothers me, not your fetish.?

?Ellen, I can?t tell you how relieved I am,? I gushed. ?I was afraid that you would make sleep in the garage or send me to a shrink.?

?No, you don?t have to worry about that,? she confided. ?I am very upset, however, that you didn?t trust me enough to share this with me. You know how I detest dishonesty. Now, if you don?t mind, I?m going to watch the rest of this video. And I want you to stay here with me.? The commanding tone in her voice left me no option. I sunk deeper into the couch and wondered how much longer this ordeal would continue.

We spent the next half hour in front of the television set viewing five more haircuts. Each time a young woman wound up with a version of the ultra-short cut the first model had received. Some of the victims were tearful; some seemed to enjoy themselves; all quickly were converted from long hair to short. From time to time Ellen would ask a question or make a comment. I tried to help by pointing out scenes that I found especially compelling in each scenario.

?I think you?d get tired of this stuff. It?s really quite repetitious, you know,? she commented.

?Yes, I suppose it would be for most people,? I agreed, ?but for someone with a fetish like mine each haircut seems new and exciting. I could watch them all day and not be bored. It?s kind of like your romance novels,? I argued. ?The settings differ, but the characters and the plots are pretty much alike. Most of the time you know how they?re going to end before you finish the first page, yet you never seem to tire of them.?

?But all of these models are so young,? she observed. ?I didn?t see one over the age of thirty. Is that because older women aren?t considered sexy enough? Or because a ?mature? woman would never consider posing for them??

?I suppose the people who make these films feel that younger models help their sales,? I conjectured. ?They?re in business to make money, after all.?

?And what do you prefer, Tom?? she asked. ?If a woman my age appeared in one of these videos would you buy it??

I wasn?t sure where Ellen?s questioning was heading. She seemed to be taking the absence of older women in my videos as a personal affront. I knew I had to be careful with my answers because she was rather sensitive about her age, having recently turned fifty.

?Yes, I probably would buy it,? I responded honestly, ?if the woman was reasonably attractive and the haircut was the right type.?

?And what is the right type of haircut?? she demanded.

?I find almost any type of short haircut exciting,? I said, ?from a Dorothy Hamill-type wedge to a G.I. Jane buzz cut.? Never before had I revealed my preferences to her so openly. I prayed that she wouldn?t be offended.

?But is there one type of short cut that you like more than the others?? she continued, trying to pin me down. I couldn?t understand why she was so determined to discover my favorite haircut, but I had no option. I had to continue.

?Yes, there?s one style that I like better than the rest,? I admitted.

?Yes, and what?s that?? she insisted.

?You promise you won?t laugh?? I begged.

?I promise,? she said.

I sensed that a moment of truth had arrived. I was about to expose one of my most closely guarded secrets. Ellen was intent on getting to the bottom of my fetish. If she really wanted to know my desires, I would tell her.

?Well, better than anything else,? I confided, ?I enjoy seeing a woman getting her hair cut in a military style flat top.?

?You?re kidding?? she exclaimed. ?Like that Asian woman in the first video??

?Yep, that?s my favorite,? I acknowledged.

?You mean that seeing a woman with her hair shaved short and perfectly flat on top really turns you on?? she demanded.

?Yes, more than any other style, that?s what does it for me,? I confessed.

?And those are the haircuts that you watch over and over again?? she probed.

?Right. Those are the ones I keep rerunning,? I replied.

?Tom, I don?t know what to say,? she declared. ?I mean it?s amazing that you could be turned on by something so bizarre.?

?Yes, Ellen, I know. I?ve puzzled over it for years myself. I haven?t been able to come up with an explanation, logical or otherwise. That?s just what appeals to me. The human psyche is a mysterious thing,? I observed.

?But these women are being robbed of their femininity,? she continued. ?They?re being made to look like men. And you find it exciting. It?s all so very strange. I wonder if this means you?re a latent homosexual.?

?No, I don?t think so,? I answered. ?I?ve examined that theory, but it?s not very convincing. I don?t get turned on by men with the same haircut. The fact that they?re women and what?s happening to them is sort of taboo makes it titillating.?

?So, the shorter the haircut, the better you like it,? she continued.

?Not exactly,? I explained. ?A lot of the videos for sale show women being shaved bald. I don?t like that. It must be a turn on for a lot of guys, but not for me. In my opinion, most bald women look freaky. With a few exceptions, they?re not appealing at all.?

?I suppose I should be grateful for small favors,? she joked. ?Tom,? my wife paused for a moment. She appeared to formulating an idea, but was having difficulty putting it into words. Finally, she spoke, ?Tom, I have a proposition for you.?

?Yes, Ellen,? I waited, unsure of what was coming next.

?Would you be willing to give up these videos?? she asked.

?If I had to, I suppose,? I reluctantly agreed. ?If you told me to get rid of them, then I?d have no choice.?

?But you wouldn?t be happy about it, right?? she continued.

?No, of course not,? I admitted. ?I?d definitely miss them.?

?What would it take to persuade you to part with them?? she asked.

?I don?t know. I?ve never thought about it, really,? I replied dumbly.

?Would you give them up if we could find a suitable substitute?? she suggested.

?What do you mean?? I inquired. ?I don?t understand. What do you mean by a substitute? What are you proposing??

?Well, perhaps we could find another video that would take the place of this one and all the others in your collection,? Ellen suggested rather mysteriously.

?Another video? I don?t understand,? I repeated.

?Well, I?ve got an idea,? she said with a hint of a smile. ?What if I were to appear in one of these videos? You know, as the model getting her hair cut off. Would you like to see that??

?Ellen, you?re kidding aren?t you?? I asked in a state of shock.

?Nope, I?m perfectly serious,? she replied calmly. From her demeanor it appeared that she was indeed serious.

I was dumbfounded. Her statement represented a 180-degree reversal of her previous stand on short hair. For our entire married life Ellen had worn her deep brown hair in pretty much the same style?parted in the middle and reaching down past her shoulders, with long bangs covering her eyebrows. Sometimes she curled it under to create a pageboy style; other times she let it hang straight. At home she often pulled it back in a short ponytail; for special occasions she pinned it up. When she was younger I thought the style was very attractive. She always took good care of her hair and I loved to watch her glossy locks swing and bounce around her head as she walked or ran. In the last few years, however, as more gray hairs began to appear among her dark tresses, I found this look less appealing. From time to time I tried to talk her into trying another style, but despite my fervent entreaties, she wasn?t interested. She insisted this style perfectly suited her job as a fifth grade teacher. She didn?t want to create a distraction in the classroom by experimenting with her looks. Never before had she even hinted that she was thinking about a shorter haircut. That?s why I couldn?t believe what she now was suggesting.

?Look Ellen, I know how you feel about short hairstyles,? I exploded. ?You?ve made your feelings pretty clear over the years. Every time I suggest that you get your hair cut you squash the notion flat as a bug on a windshield. I know you think that short hair is unfeminine. How many times have you said that most women with ultra-short haircuts look like lesbians??

?Yes, Tom. Everything you say is true,? she conceded.

?So why are you talking about a short haircut now?? I asked. ?This isn?t like you.? Now it was my turn to demand an explanation.

?Tom, why don?t you hear me out?? she replied. ?Believe me, this is not something I would do lightly. You know I?m not a big fan of short hair, far from it. I guess it?s okay for some women, but it?s definitely not my cup of tea. But the idea of you jacking off while watching some young chick being scalped is something I like even less. If you?re going to be turned on by a woman getting her hair cut off I want it to be me.?

?Ellen, that?s incredible,? I gushed. ?I don?t know what to say. I think it would be fantastic, but you don?t have to do this, you know. I would get rid of the videos anyhow.?

?Yes, of course. I know that. But eventually you probably would find some substitute?magazines or something,? she reasoned. ?No, if it will help keep your thoughts on me, it?s a step I am willing to take. Now, tell me, can you give up those videos?? she asked.

?Yes, I can do that,? I answered with only a small twinge of regret.

?And are you willing to trade all of the videos in your collection for one of me getting my hair cut in a flat top?? she continued.

?Sure, Ellen. I?d give them up in an instant,? I eagerly responded.

?Then I think we should do it,? she declared.

?Is this for real, Ellen?? I asked, not really believing my ears.

?I thought I made myself clear, Tom,? she said with a hint of exasperation in her voice. ?We should arrange to make one of these videos with me as the model. I?ll sit in one of those big old barber chairs, smile for the camera, and get my hair chopped off within an inch of my scalp just like those girls in that video.?

?You are serious aren?t you?? I repeated.

?Yes, of course; never been more serious, my dear,? she said. The smile disappeared from her face and she addressed me earnestly. ?This is no joking matter.?

?You saw the kind of haircut I prefer,? I continued. ?You would get your hair cut that short??

?Yes, Tom, I would,? she replied. ?If you agree to throw out all your videos and not buy any more I will get my hair cut short, in a flat top just like that Asian girl, and let you make a videotape of my shearing.?

?You would do that for me?? I asked, still amazed at the words Ellen was uttering.

?Yes, of course, stupid,? she gently teased. ?You?re my husband, after all. I know you?re never going to get rid of this fetish; it?s a permanent part of you. I accepted that years ago. But if you?re going to be jacking off watching a video I want you thinking of me and not some young bimbo.?

?Ellen, I never imagined you?d do something like that for me,? I answered.

?Well, don?t underestimate me, buster,? she joked.

?Aren?t you concerned about what your friends will say when they see you with short hair?? I asked. ?It?s going to be quite a shock for them.?

?I?ll tell them that after thirty years I felt it was time for a change,? she remarked breezily. ?Besides, it?s summer vacation. Most of the other teachers and my students won?t see me till September. By then my hair should be grown out to a reasonable length.?

?What about the kids?? I objected. ?Won?t they be upset to see their mother with such a radical haircut??

?Oh, they?ll get used to it. They?ll probably like it,? she countered. ?So what about it? Do we have a deal?? she asked.

?Yes, of course,? I instantly responded. ?You?ve got a deal.? I held out my hand and Ellen grasped it firmly. We made an exaggerated ceremonial handshake to seal our bargain. I was grinning like an idiot. Ellen smiled wryly and shook her head as if she wondered what kind of a fix she had gotten herself into.

Immediately my attention turned to the details of the haircut. ?When do you want to do it?? I asked.

?The sooner the better,? she replied, ?before I come to my senses.?

?Okay. I?ll get started on it tomorrow,? I declared.

The next day I packed the hoard of videos from my office into a cardboard box and lugged them home. That evening I deposited the box on our dining room table and announced to my wife, ?Well, Ellen, here they are?the complete collection.? Abandoning the films I had painstakingly accumulated over many years was difficult, but the prospect of Ellen?s promised haircut made it easier to bear.

?Thank you, Tom. You can put them out with the trash Thursday and I don?t want to see you out on the curb in the middle of the night trying to rescue them,? she cautioned.

?No, I?m reconciled to this,? I answered.

?Good. Now I suppose we should start making the arrangements for my haircut,? she offered.

?Sure, Ellen, but I really don?t know where to start,? I said. ?We can?t just make an appointment with your regular stylist. I don?t think that would work.?

?I agree,? she said. ?I can?t imagine that Debbie would be too receptive. Besides, I doubt she even knows how to do a flat top. I don?t think that was part of her beauty school curriculum.?

?Surely you?ve got some ideas, Tom,? she said encouragingly. ?Use your imagination.?

?Well, I suppose we could borrow a camcorder or rent one somewhere,? I suggested. ?We could set it up in the kitchen and do your haircut there.?

?That?s not a good idea,? she countered emphatically. ?Who would you get to do the haircut? I don?t want you butchering my hair. It?s going to be short, but I still want it to look half way decent. This has to be done by an experienced stylist.? Clearly, she understood exactly how my fetish worked, vetoing my desire to administer her haircut myself before I had a chance to suggest it.

?Yes, I agree,? I replied reluctantly. ?Your haircut needs to be done by a professional barber, someone who knows what he?s doing. I suppose we could find a barbershop that would let me set up a camera while you get your haircut. I could ask at Tony?s, you know, the place where I get my hair cut.?

?No, Tom, that would be too public,? Ellen objected. ?I don?t want to turn this into a spectacle with a bunch of strange men gawking at me. I couldn?t bear that. It?s got to be done in private with just you, me, and the barber present.?

?Yes, Ellen,? I agreed. ?I see how that would be best from your viewpoint. But where can we find such a place??

?Perhaps you could contact the people who made the tapes in your collection,? she suggested. ?They have the equipment and plenty of experience. That would be the obvious place to begin.?

?Ellen, that?s a great idea. ?Why didn?t I think of that?? I exclaimed. ?That way you?d get your hair cut by a pro and the video would be professional quality too. If I?m going to be watching it for the next ten or twenty years it better look good.? I was impressed by Ellen?s levelheaded approach. I, who had fantasized about this haircut for years, didn?t have the first idea of where to begin. She, on the other hand, was cool and logical.

?Are any of those folks located in this area?? she asked.

?I don?t know. The Short Hair Enthusiasts Club is the largest outfit, but it?s in Chicago,? I informed her. ?There may be others that are closer. It?s worth a try.?

The next day I went on the Internet and started searching. It didn?t take long before I discovered that Ed Cookingham lived just a couple of hours from our home in upstate New York. ?Slick Ed,? as he is fondly known among short hair fans, is one of the pioneers in this business. I had purchased several of his videos and considered him to be one of the best. I looked up Ed?s e-mail address and, after an initial exchange of electronic messages I learned that he would be able to accommodate us. He gave me his phone number and I nervously called his home. When I explained in more detail what I wanted Ed said he would be happy to shoot a film of Ellen?s haircut in his home studio.

?Usually I don?t charge for my services,? he explained. ?Most of the time I pay the models a small fee, but then I get to sell the videos. Because you want to keep the only copy for yourself, it?s going to cost $500.? I readily agreed. The price he quoted was only a fraction of what I had been willing to pay.

We set the date for the following Saturday and I informed Ellen that she would soon be appearing in her own feature movie. ?Just what every girl wants,? she sarcastically observed, ?to have a starring role in her own porno film. Does he want me to wear anything special? And what should I do with my hair?? she asked.

?Ed says your hair should be freshly washed and styled as you usually wear it,? I instructed her. ?You should wear something nice looking but comfortable. Most of the time on camera your clothes will be covered, so it doesn?t matter much. But definitely no jewelry, especially no dangling earrings. They would just get in the way.?

?That doesn?t sound too difficult,? she replied. ?As long as I don?t lose my nerve.?

That was my greatest fear. For the rest of the week I watched for signs that Ellen might be having second thoughts, but she went about her routine as usual. I tried not to dwell too much on my wife?s upcoming haircut. She studiously avoided the subject as well. I suspected that just talking about her impending transformation would make her more nervous so I stifled my desire to go over every detail with her.

Friday evening we went out to dinner and a movie. The events of the next day were foremost in my thoughts, but I dared not mention them. On the way home Ellen turned to me and said, ?Tom, you haven?t said a word about my haircut tomorrow. It?s not like you to be so silent. What are you thinking??

?It?s not that I haven?t been thinking about it, Ellen, in fact, I?ve hardly thought about anything else since we made the appointment,? I admitted. ?It?s just that I don?t know how to discuss it with you. I was afraid that if I seemed too eager and kept bugging you every minute, you might not go through with this.?

?Well, you don?t have to worry about that. I?m determined to go ahead with this,? she assured me. ?I?m not looking forward to it like you are, but I won?t back out. You held up your end of the bargain when you threw out the tapes. Now it?s my turn to deliver. I just hope that this video lives up to your expectations. I don?t want you to be disappointed after going to all this trouble.? Her words were comforting, but didn?t help my sleep that night. In my dreams I envisioned Ellen?s haircut in a dozen different variations.

Saturday morning I was up early. I watched my sleeping wife and wistfully gazed at the dark hair spread across her pillow. ?In a few hours this will be all gone,? I said to myself. Although I was eager to see her with short hair, I felt sadness for her loss and regret that my fetish had forced her into this situation.

I went to the kitchen and put on a pot of coffee. At seven I woke Ellen. ?Come on, sleepyhead,? I called. ?You don?t want to be late for your big date.?

She smiled at me sleepily and said, ?Don?t worry, Tom, I?ll be ready.? She spent the next half hour in the shower giving her hair an extra thorough shampooing and conditioning. I heard the blow dryer whirring for nearly fifteen minutes as she styled her long locks last time. When she emerged from the bathroom she looked stunning?exquisitely made up, not a hair out of place, wearing a scoop neck top and a straight skirt. She stood and posed for me. The results of six months of dieting were evident in her slender figure. ?Honey, you look wonderful!? I exclaimed. She hadn?t looked so attractive in years.

?A girl should look her best when she?s making her movie debut,? she replied, ?even at age fifty.?

?Are you still sure you want to go through with this?? I checked.

?Yes, Tom,? she replied wearily. ?After all this preparation I don?t want to disappoint you.?

Shortly after eight we piled into the family station wagon and soon were driving down the Thruway toward Ed?s home. Our appointment was scheduled for ten o?clock and I was breaking the speed limit to get there on time. ?Hold your horses, Tom,? Ellen cautioned. ?Ed and his camera will still be there if we?re a few minutes late. You don?t want to get a ticket. Besides, how would you explain to the trooper why you were in such a big hurry??

?Okay. I?ll try to take it easy,? I said as I eased the accelerator back to 65 miles per hour.

I followed the directions Ed had given me over the phone and arrived at 125 Wisteria Lane with a few minutes to spare. The house, a comfortable looking raised ranch in a quiet suburban neighborhood, was not what I expected. I imagined a filmmaker?s home would be more lavish, but it really was quite ordinary looking. We rang the bell and stood on the front porch waiting to meet the famous barber. Ellen took my hand. ?It?s not every day a girl gets to star in her own movie, even if it is a porno flick, Tom. I owe it all to you and your fetish,? she teased. All week I had feared this moment, thinking that Ellen might change her mind at the last minute and run back to the car. Instead, she seemed remarkably composed, even cheerful. Now she was trying to calm me down.

A hefty middle-aged man, about my age, opened the door and greeted us warmly. ?You must be the Myers. Happy to meet you both. I?m Ed Cookingham. You can call me ?Slick Ed? if you like, all my friends do. Come on in. The studio?s downstairs.? I had seen Ed on several videos, but in person he seemed much more animated and friendly.

As he led us through the house he explained, ?It?s rather unusual that we get a husband and wife coming together. Usually it?s the woman by herself or a couple of women together.?

?And you don?t usually film women my age, do you?? Ellen interjected.

?That?s right, Ellen,? he agreed. ?Most of our models are younger women; a lot of them are college students. But we?re always happy to have ?mature? women visit our studio.?

?Will anyone else be here while we?re filming?? Ellen inquired.

?No, only my wife and myself,? Ed answered. ?This is a real Mom and Pop operation. Linda?s down there right now getting the equipment set up. She?s my cameraman. It?s just down these stairs.?

We followed him into a large basement space that originally must have been a recreation room. ?Nice and cool down here,? I remarked. ?Yes, we turned up the air conditioning earlier this morning,? Ed explained. ?When we begin filming we?ll have to shut it off. It may get a little warm under the lights, but we don?t want any additional noise.?

I glanced around the room. The windows were covered by heavy drapes. The far end of the room was arranged to resemble an old fashioned barbershop. A large chrome and steel barber?s chair with a bright red leather seat stood facing an array of lights and a video camera mounted on a tripod. A tall, attractive blonde a few years younger than her husband was adjusting the lighting. ?Ellen, Tom, I?d like you to meet my wife, Linda,? Ed said by way of introduction. ?She does all the camera work.? I was surprised to see that Linda wore her hair at collar length and not in any of the extremely short styles that Ed was known for. Apparently she did not share her husband?s fetish.

?Nice to meet you folks,? Linda said. ?I?m nearly ready here. Just a few more adjustments,? she said as she went back to work on the equipment. I wanted to ask how she felt about making these videos, but her attitude was strictly business. She concentrated on the technical details and let her husband make the customers feel comfortable.

?Ellen, there?s a release I need you to sign before we begin,? Ed said. ?I need this to protect Linda and me if any of our customers don?t like the way their haircut turns our and tries to sue us. Basically, it says that you?re of legal age and are doing this of your own free will.?

?Sure, Ed. I understand,? Ellen answered as she bent to autograph the paper he offered.

I walked over to inspect the set. ?Ed, it reminds me a little of the shop where I got my hair cut as a boy,? I remarked.

?Yes, Tom, that?s the effect I was trying for when I set up this studio,? he replied. ?Most of those old barber shops were pretty much the same.?

?There?s only one thing missing,? I observed. ?No mirrors.?

?And there?s a good reason for that. It?s almost impossible to shoot good video with a mirror in the background,? he explained. ?You don?t want to see Linda and her camera in the reflection, do you? We don?t have to worry about the bright lights either. We found it was much easier to shoot without mirrors.?

?Yes, that makes sense,? I agreed.

?But that also means that the woman in the chair can?t see what?s happening to her hair,? Ellen observed.

?That?s right, Ellen,? Ed replied. ?Because most of our haircuts are pretty extreme, we don?t want our models freaking out in the middle of filming. We find it helps to keep the woman in suspense till the cut is finished.?

How would Ellen hold up during the filming, I wondered. Would she break down and start sobbing, like some of the models in my videos? Or would she retain her composure during the ordeal? Considering the major transformation she was about to undergo, she seemed remarkably relaxed.

Linda looked up from her camera and addressed my wife. ?Ellen, why don?t you sit in the chair so I can get a reading on you??

Ellen walked across the room and coolly took a seat in the large chrome and leather barber?s chair. Ed stepped behind her and draped a maroon cape around her shoulders. Linda approached the chair with a light meter in hand. ?It?s going to take a few minutes to get the lights positioned properly. I hope you don?t mind,? she apologized. ?Over the years we?ve learned that if you don?t pay attention to the lighting, the quality of the picture suffers.?

Then she spoke to her husband, ?Ed, I think you should use the white cape on Ellen. Her dark hair will show up much better on a lighter background.? Ed did as Linda suggested and replaced the maroon cape with a crisp white one.

?How are you feeling, Ellen?? Ed inquired. ?Do you have any questions before we begin? Any last requests?? He sounded a bit like an executioner addressing a death row inmate, but my wife appeared unruffled.

?No, I don?t think so. I?m okay, all things considered,? she answered. ?A few butterflies, but nothing I can?t handle. Tom explained everything pretty well. You want me to sit still and look straight ahead into the camera while you?re cutting my hair, right??

?That?s right, Ellen,? Ed confirmed.

?Do you want me to talk or shall I keep quiet?? Ellen asked.

?At the beginning I?ll ask you how you want your hair cut, just for the record,? Ed explained. ?After that it?s up to you. Some women never say a word while others can?t stop chatting. Whatever you prefer.?

?And what should I do?? I asked.

?Tom, I?d like you to take a seat in the corner over there and stay out of the way,? Ed instructed. ?Try to keep quiet and not be a distraction to your wife. When Ellen?s haircut is done you can come up and admire it if you wish. Until then we?ll pretend you?re not here.?

?Ellen, I have a question for you,? Ed said. ?When Tom and I talked on the phone he said that you wanted your hair cut short, but we never discussed how you want me to cut it. Do you have a specific style in mind, or shall I just go ahead and buzz it all off??

?Well, Ed, I know that Tom has something special in mind,? Ellen replied. ?This haircut really is his idea. I think he should explain how he wants you to cut my hair.?

Ed turned to me and I gave him the detailed instructions I?d been preparing since Ellen made her fateful proposition. ?Ed, I?d like you to give Ellen a series of three haircuts, each one going progressively shorter. The last one should be a good old fashioned flat top.?

?Sure, Tom. I can do that. No problem,? Ed assured me. ?How short do you want me to go with the flat top??

?Well, I?d like it to be fairly short, but not a ?high and tight,?? I instructed him.

?What?s a ?high and tight??? Ellen interrupted with a puzzled expression on her face.

?That?s when the sides and back are shaved bare and just a trace of hair is left on top,? Ed explained.

?Thank God,? Ellen sighed. ?I don?t think I could go out in public if you cut my hair that short.?

?So, Tom, do you want me to use a number two attachment on the back and sides?? Ed asked.

?Yes, that would be fine,? I agreed.

?And what?s a number two, guys?? Ellen interrupted again. ?Are you speaking in some kind of code??

?Sorry, Ellen. We?re talking about an attachment put over the blades of the clipper that regulates the length of the cut,? Ed patiently explained. ?Number two will leave your hair about a quarter inch long. Is that okay with you??

?I guess so,? Ellen answered. ?My hair grows quickly. It shouldn?t take too long to grow it out after that.?

?And what about the top, Tom?? Ed inquired. ?How short there??

?Well, it should be short,? I said, ?but not so short that she has a ?landing strip.??

?Okay guys,? Ellen demanded, ?what do you mean by a ?landing strip???

?That?s when the top is cut so short a patch of bare scalp shows along the crown,? Ed explained. ?You see that style mostly on military men, not very often on civilians.?

?I agree with Tom, Ed. No ?landing strip,? please,? Ellen insisted.

?Okay folks, I think I get the picture,? Ed summarized. ?You?d like the final cut to be a traditional flat top. Not too short. No sidewalls. No ?landing strip.? Anything else?? Ed asked.

?Ed, I do have one question for you,? Ellen spoke up. ?I guess this is kind of academic since Tom is so set on this style, but do you think my hair will look good in a flat top??

?I don?t see why not, Ellen,? Ed assured her. ?You?ve got straight thick hair that should hold a flat top well. But let me check one other thing.? Ed pulled Ellen?s hair back from her face and held it behind her head. After inspecting her profile he resumed. ?Yes, I think it will look good on you,? he observed. ?Your ears are fairly small and close to your head. If they were too large, I wouldn?t recommend it.?

?Well, that?s a relief,? Ellen joked.

?So, Tom, what shall I do before we arrive at the flat top?? Ed inquired. ?What are the other cuts you want to me to do??

?Well, Ed, first, I?d like you cut off five or six inches to create a mid-ear Dorothy Hamill-type wedge,? I explained. ?Then you should trim it short all over into sort of a modified pixie style with minimal bangs. From there buzz it down into the flat top.?

?It?s going to take a while to complete all this cutting,? Ed commented, ?but the tape is good for an hour and we can start a new one if it looks like we?re going to run out.?

?What do you think, Ellen?? Ed asked. ?Will you be able to sit still for that long??

?I don?t know, Ed,? she said. ?That?s a pretty long time just to be sitting here.?

?Tell what we?ll do,? Ed offered. ?After each cut is complete Linda can shut off the camera so you have an opportunity to get up, stretch your legs, go to the bathroom, or whatever. Then you can get back in the chair and we?ll continue.?

?Yes, that sounds like a good idea,? Ellen agreed.

?Tom, do you have any instructions for Linda?? Ed inquired. ?Any special shots you want her to get??

?Well, I?m interested in close-ups, especially when you?re buzzing the top during the last stage?it?s gotta be as close in as possible? I insisted. ?But I also want Ellen?s face included. I want to see her expression while her hair is being cut. Linda, I guess you should alternate between close-ups and headshots. At the end, when the flat top is done, I?d like a view of the hair clippings on the floor. No offense, Ed, but I?m really not interested in seeing your ugly kisser in our video.?

?Sure, Tom, I understand,? Ed said. ?I?ve had lots of practice staying out of view. So, why don?t we get started??

?Ed, before we start, is there someplace I can check my make-up?? Ellen asked. ?I want to look my best for the camera.?

?Sure, Ellen. There?s a bathroom over there,? Ed replied, pointing to a door at the far end of the basement. ?Help yourself.?

Ellen disappeared for a minute. ?That?s quite a woman you?ve got there, Tom,? Ed confided to me. ?Most wives wouldn?t be so understanding.? I wondered if he was referring to his own wife who continued to fiddle with the lights.

?You?re right, Ed,? I agreed. ?I guess that?s why we?ve stayed married all these years.?

When she finished in the bathroom, Ellen strode back across the room and took her seat in the barber chair. I was amazed at my wife?s subdued demeanor. She sat calmly, head held high; legs crossed demurely, hands folded in her lap, waiting for the filming to begin. I, on the other hand, was a nervous wreck, wringing my hands and perspiring profusely despite the cool temperature.

I retreated to the seat Ed had indicated earlier while he repositioned the cape around my wife?s shoulders and fastened it behind her neck. Then he spoke to his spouse behind the camera. ?Are you ready, Linda??

?In a minute, Ed,? she answered. Linda pulled a switch and beams from four powerful lamps flooded the set. Ellen blinked as she adjusted to their intense light. ?Ellen, I?m going to start the camera now,? Linda announced. ?When you see the red light, that means we?re recording,? she explained. ?Three, two, one, it?s rolling.?

Ed stood to the side of the chair and addressed my wife rather formally. ?Ellen, I understand you?d like me to cut your hair today, is that right??

?That?s right, Ed. I?m getting my hair cut for my husband,? she said, smiling in my direction. ?He wants you to give me a good short haircut, but you need to do it in stages.?

?And just how do you want me to do that, Ellen?? Ed continued, pretending he was hearing this for the first time.

?Well, first I?d like you to give me a fairly short wedge cut, about at ear level,? Ellen said, using her hands to indicate two points on either side of her head. ?You know, the Dorothy Hamill figure skating style.?

Ed nodded. ?Yes, I can do that,? he said.

?From there you should cut it in a pixie style,? she continued. ?When you?re done it should be fairly short–about two inches long overall.?

Again Ed nodded in agreement. ?That?s good,? he agreed.

?Finally, I want you to give me an old fashioned flat top,? she said firmly.

?A flat top? Really, Ellen?? Ed asked in mock amazement. ?That?s pretty extreme.?

?I know it?s extreme, but that?s what my husband wants,? she answered. ?I hope you can do it.?

?Sure, Ellen. No problem,? Ed continued. ?You want me to clip the sides and back fairly short and then buzz the top perfectly flat? Is that right? Just want to make sure you know what you?re in for.?

?Yes, Ed. I know,? Ellen assured him. ?My dad and brothers used to get their hair cut like that in the summertime. I know what I?m in for.?

?Okay. Just wanted to make sure,? he repeated.

?So why don?t we get started?? Ellen ordered.

Ed promptly stopped talking and went to work. He picked up a black comb from a shelf behind the chair and began gently combing my wife?s dark shoulder length locks although they really didn?t need it. He slowly worked his way from the right side of her head to the left. Ellen sat resolutely upright as she waited for her haircut to begin. I squirmed in the chair and felt my stomach tighten as the anticipation built to a nearly unbearable level.

Ed rested his comb for a moment. ?Ellen, you have a nice head of hair, very thick and healthy,? he observed. ?But I see a lot of gray on the sides here by your temples that?s hidden by the long hair on top. You know it?s going to be much more prominent when I cut it short??

?That?s okay, Ed,? she answered. ?When the gray first started showing I tried to hide it, but now I?m used to it. I don?t see any need to pretend I?m younger than I actually am. As long as my husband, doesn?t mind, that is,? she said, glancing in my direction.

I shook my head to indicate that I had no objection.

Ed switched the comb to his left hand and selected a pair of scissors from several arrayed on the shelf behind the chair. He approached my wife from the side and turned her so that Linda had a clear shot of Ellen?s profile. Being careful not to stand between his customer and the camera, Ed inserted the blades into her hair just below eye level, near the middle of her ear. ?Here goes,? he warned as the first cut subtracted a six-inch swatch of Ellen?s hair. I watched it tumble on her shoulder and then drift to the floor. Ellen seemed to cringe at the sound of the scissors slicing through her locks.

?Too late to turn back now,? Ed joked. Ellen sat perfectly still as Ed continued cutting around her head. Her solemn face betrayed no emotion, but I sensed she was summoning all of her will power to maintain her composure. Earlier that morning, on the drive to the Cookinghams?, she told me that having her hair cut would be like loosing an old friend and I could see that she was feeling that loss now.

Ed gradually rotated the chair so Linda could record every detail of my wife?s transformation. When he finished his circuit, Ellen sported a cut six inches shorter than I had ever seen her wear. The lower halves of her ears were peeking out below the blunt ends of her hair and her bare neck stood uncovered for the first time. Ellen extended one hand from beneath the cape, picked up one of the longer strands from her lap, and wound it around her finger. She gazed at the severed hair wistfully before dropping it to the floor.

Ed carefully recombed her hair, and then addressed my wife. ?Now I?ll use the clippers to trim your neck and even the length,? he announced. Ellen blinked her eyes, swallowed hard, but said nothing in reply. I knew that more than anything else she dreaded having her hair touched by the clippers. It was a tool that women?s stylists seldom used, she had told me, one that was associated in her mind exclusively with men?s haircuts. She remembered films of army recruits being brutally sheared as they reported for basic training. Now she found herself facing the same prospect.

Her barber turned the chair so Ellen faced away from the camera. Ed set his comb and scissors down and reached for a set of small black clippers. He ran a drop of oil over the blades and switched the power on. ?Ellen, I?d like you to drop your head down so I can get at your neck.? My wife complied with his request and Ed carefully ran the clippers up her neck, removing the fine, wispy hairs that had escaped his scissors. Then Ed moved his clippers a little higher. They bit into Ellen?s thick hair, clearing a narrow strip at the base of her neck along her hairline.

Ed instructed Ellen to raise her head and began shaping the wedge. He used the same clippers to expertly trim a quarter inch of hair all around the back and sides. A steady rain of fine clippings fell from the blades, coating his hand and wrist as he circled her head again. When he shut off the clippers the ends of Ellen?s hair formed a deep line that stood out crisply above her bare neck. He turned the chair to the front again, and standing at her side told Ellen, ?Now I?m going to trim your bangs.?

Ellen closed her eyes as Ed combed her long bangs down over her brows and snipped off more than an inch, exposing an inch wide band of forehead. Ed rested his scissors and resumed combing Ellen?s new style. After a few swipes at stray ends, he appeared satisfied and asked, ?Well, Ellen, would you like to take a look??

?Sure, Ed,? she replied in a voice barely audible. ?Do you have a mirror I can use??

?Here,? said Ed as he held a large mirror in front of her face. Ellen turned her head so she could view the sides and reached up to feel the back of her neck with her hand. I was relived to see her expression brighten. Apparently the haircut was better than she expected.

?I like what I can see, Ed,? Ellen observed, ?but I?d like to look at the back.? Ed obliged by placing the large mirror in her hand and standing behind her with a second, smaller mirror. She stared intently at the double reflection, rotating her head from side to side. ?It looks good, Ed,? she announced. ?I like the way it turned out. I admired this style when Dorothy was in the Olympics and now I have one myself.?

?Not for long, Ellen,? Ed cautioned. ?Don?t get too attached to it.?

Ed nodded to his wife to signal the end of the first stage. After Linda turned the camera off, Ed removed the cape and dumped the abundant remains of Ellen?s dark pageboy into a pile around his shoes. I watched as my wife?s eyes surveyed the clippings that only minutes before had hung from her head. ?That was excellent, Ellen. Why don?t you get up and stretch your legs before we resume?? he suggested.

Ellen climbed down from the chair and stepped over the mound of hair on the floor as she walked toward me. ?Well, Tom, what do you think? How do you like my wedge?? she asked, smiling and turning her head to the side so I could examine her new style.

?You look great, Ellen. Can I touch it?? I requested.

?Sure, go ahead,? she said, inclining her head.

I wrapped my hand around the back of her neck and felt the short hairs bristle against my fingers. Then I brushed the soft ends of the thick hair above her bare nape, delighting in the contrast. When I was done, Ellen tossed her head back and forth. Her shortened hair flared out, brushing her cheeks, then bounced back into place. ?I?ve always wanted to do that,? she confided with a satisfied grin.

?You really like this style, don?t you?? I asked, pleasantly surprised that she was holding up so well.

?Yes, Tom,? she answered. ?It looks wonderful and feels so cool. I never thought I?d like my hair as short as this, but I do. I really do.?

I was relieved that the haircut had triggered none of the emotional outbursts I had envisioned. ?If you like this cut, perhaps we should leave it this length,? I offered. ?You don?t have to go on with the other stages.?

?That?s tempting, Tom, but it wouldn?t be fair to you,? she assured me. ?You brought me here to get my hair cut short and that?s what we?re going to do. I know this is not yet short enough to suit you.? I marveled at her commitment. Even when offered an easy escape, she declined.

I was overcome by a wave of affection for this remarkable woman who married me. Putting my pleasure ahead of her vanity only deepened my devotion. ?You know I really love you, don?t you?? I blurted.

?Yes, of course I know it, but it?s always nice to hear you say it, buster,? she beamed.

Ed approached us and addressed my wife. ?What do you think, Ellen? How was it?? he inquired.

?Not so bad, Ed. It gets awfully hot under those lights,? she said. ?Aside from that, it?s okay I guess. You definitely know what you?re doing. This is an excellent cut.?

You could see that Ed appreciated the compliment. ?Thanks, Ellen. The wedge is very becoming on you. But I?d like to get started again if that?s all right with you,? he said.

?Sure, Ed. Let?s get back to work,? she said. Ellen marched back to the chair and Ed refastened the cape around her neck. Small bits of dark hair clung to the white fabric, a reminder of the first round of cutting. My wife resumed her upright pose and Ed nodded to Linda. The lights came on as the camera began to roll once more.

??Now, Ellen,? Ed announced, ?we?re going to go a lot shorter this time. This pixie cut that you?ve requested will leave your hair only two or three inches long at most. Are you okay with that??

?It seems a shame to ruin this beautiful style you?ve created for me,? Ellen declared, ?but let?s continue. I?m eager to see what a pixie will look like on me. I mean, I?ve seen it on other women, but I never imagined that I would wear one myself.?

?Well, you?ll soon find out,? Ed said. He began this second round by using his comb to select one of the longer strands from the top of my wife?s head, near the center part. He pulled it to its full length and sliced it off only a few inches from her scalp. He casually tossed the clump of severed hair to the side and reached for another strand. He continued in this fashion for several minutes, first clipping the top of her head and then shortening the sides. Unlike his previous cut, Ed made no effort to trim the hair evenly. Rather, he chopped it at seemingly random lengths, but none longer than two and a half inches. Around Ellen?s ears and down the back of her head he snipped the hair much shorter, leaving it less than an inch long. He worked rapidly, sending hair trimmings flying in all directions. Before long the front and shoulders of the cape were littered with more dark clippings from Ellen?s head.

After finishing the back and sides, Ed turned his attention to Ellen?s bangs. Their clean, straight line stood in marked contrast to the uneven, jagged angles covering the rest of her head. He began slicing into the bangs and soon they were reduced to an irregular zigzag well above her eyebrows. The sight of so much exposed skin on Ellen?s forehead gave her face a new, more oval, shape. She now resembled a schoolgirl rather than a teacher.

Ed rested his scissors and massaged Ellen?s scalp, poking his fingers into her hair, coaxing it into further disarray as if he were tossing a salad. Then he used a brush to smooth down the most unruly tufts–those that sprouted straight toward the ceiling–and pulled some of her hair forward to form a feathery fringe around her face. It was hard to believe that just a few minutes before a sleek, symmetrical wedge cut had adorned my wife?s head. Now not a trace remained.

The barber stepped back and again thrust a mirror into Ellen?s hand. ?There, what do you think of your new style, Ellen?? he asked.

My wife again gazed critically at the unfamiliar woman in the mirror. She drew her hand from beneath the cape and ran her fingers through the short crop on top of her head. I watched anxiously, awaiting her verdict. After several long moments of inspection she announced, ?Well, Ed, it?s very interesting.?

?Interesting good or interesting bad?? Ed queried.

?It?s the latter, I?m afraid,? she answered softly, as if she were afraid she might hurt his feelings.

?Is it too short, Ellen?? he inquired.

?No, that?s not it, Ed,? she replied. ?I don?t mind the length so much although it is quite a change. It?s just that this cut is so disorderly, so ragged. I guess I?m more of a neat sort of person. It?s just not me, if you know what I mean. I liked the clean lines of the wedge much better.?

?Well, Ellen, if you like clean, sharp lines, I?m sure you?ll appreciate your next cut,? Ed exclaimed with enthusiasm. It seemed that he was looking forward to Ellen?s flattop nearly as much as I was.

?I hope you?re right,? Ellen answered sadly. It was clear that she didn?t share our excitement.

With that Linda switched off the camera and lights. Ed again removed the cape from Ellen?s shoulders and shook out the clippings. By now the tile beneath his feet was thick with the remains of her hair. Ellen rose and walked across the room to me. ?Can I feel it?? I asked.

?Of course, go ahead,? she replied. I ran my hand over her head, enjoying the unusual sensation of her shortened locks between my fingers.

?I gather you don?t like this look,? I observed.

?No, not really,? she admitted, ?but I see that you do.?

?Well, it?s so much shorter,? I told her. ?I?ve never seen your hair this short, although I?ve imagined it many times.?

?I suppose I could get used to it,? she said, running her hand up the back of her head to recheck the length, ?but I did like the wedge better.?

?Then isn?t it fortunate that we have another cut planned,? I remarked gaily. ?I don?t want you getting stuck with a cut you don?t like.?

?That?s mighty kind of you, sir,? she said in jest. ?I?ll bet you can?t wait till the next stage, can you??

?You?re right,? I admitted. ?This will be the most exciting part. But how about you? Are you going to be okay getting the rest of your hair buzzed off??

?Well, you know I?m not crazy about the idea, but I think I can handle it, Tom. I?ve already lost so much hair today, how bad can losing another inch or two be?? Ellen observed, glancing at the mounds of her hair littering the floor around the barber?s chair. I was amazed that she had come this far without shedding tears. But how would she hold up in this final stage? Staying calm while Ed administered the flat top would be the ultimate test of her resolve.

?You?re being awfully brave today,? I praised her. ?You know your hair?s going to be pretty short when Ed finishes.?

?Yes, Tom, I?m fully aware of that.? she said, flashing her eyes to remind me not to go overboard.

?Hey, you two lovebirds,? Ed called to us. ?Are you ready to get started again? Ellen, why don?t you hop back in the chair for the final round??

?Be right there, Ed,? Ellen answered as she took her place in front of the lights. Ed replaced the cape around her.

& neck. He nodded to Linda and the red light on her camera flashed as she resumed filming.

?Well, Ellen, what?s it going to be next?? Ed asked for the tape.

?Ed, I?d like you to give me a flat top,? she announced in a clear, firm voice. ?Buzz the sides and back, and then clip the top till my hair is standing straight up. I?d like it short, but not too short, if you know what I mean.? I realized she was doing this for my benefit. Ed didn?t need these detailed directions, but my wife knew that in years to come I would treasure hearing the recorded words coming from her lips.

?In other words, Ellen, you don?t want too much of your scalp showing on top.? Ed continued. ?No ?landing strip? down the middle, right??

?That?s right, Ed,? Ellen answered. ?Can you do that??

?Sure can, Ellen. With your thick straight hair it should be no problem. Shall we get started?? he asked.

?Okay, Ed. Let the shearing begin,? she replied with a bravado I knew was only for my benefit.

Ed reached behind the chair and selected a different set of clippers. These were much larger than the ones he had previously used to trim Ellen?s neck. He attached a plastic guide over the blades and turned on the power. The sound of the humming motor filled the room. Ed turned the chair so Ellen faced the back wall and the camera could zoom in on her neck. Linda moved closer to capture every detail of the shearing. Ed rested his hand on the top of Ellen?s head and gently forced it down toward her chest. He placed the clippers at the base of her neck. Slowly, he pushed them upward, plowing a wide furrow through the uneven hairs on the back of her head. Severed hair spilled down from the blades, onto the cape, before falling to the floor. When the clippers reached her crown a two-inch wide vertical gouge reached down the back of her head. He reinserted the blades on her bare neck to the right of his first cut and continued mowing. With a few more bold strokes he reduced all of the hair in back to a uniform quarter inch length.

Ed turned the chair to the side and gently raised Ellen?s chin. She looked in my direction and managed a weak smile. She had held up this far without crying, but I could see that she now was fighting back the tears. Although I wanted Ed to extend her haircut as long as possible, I saw that she couldn?t hold up too much longer.

Now Ed placed the clippers at the right side of her head and guided them into the thick hair around her ear. He clipped up the side of her head, not stopping till he reached a point above her temple. Ed returned the clippers and cut around Ellen?s ear. The hair on the side of her head fell away leaving it the same length as the back. Then he turned the chair again and repeated the procedure on the left side. With its close clipped sides and longer top, Ellen?s head now resembled a large hairy mushroom. I was glad that Ed?s studio had no mirrors because Ellen surely would have been distressed by her present appearance.

?Now for the top,? Ed said eagerly, announcing the final assault. I detected a momentary grimace on Ellen?s face, but she quickly replaced it with a brave smile. Ed grabbed a spray bottle from the shelf and pumped a fine mist of water over Ellen?s head. She closed her eyes while he soaked the top. Small droplets rolled down her forehead. Ed used a hand towel to absorb some of the excess water and tousled her hair into a disheveled mess.

?Let?s see if we can teach this hair to stand up straight,? Ed said to no one in particular. He took a stiff bristle brush and began attacking the hair on top of Ellen?s head. His vigorous strokes forced the hair up and back off her forehead. He continued brushing until all her hair was pushed back off her face. I stared at the novel sight of Ellen?s bare forehead without any bangs. His brushing exposed a charming widow?s peak I never had noticed before.

Ed returned with a wide toothed comb and his clippers. He had removed the plastic attachment that shielded the blades. This meant the most critical part of the haircut was just ahead. Linda moved her camera closer, aiming at a spot above Ellen?s forehead. Ed switched the clippers on again and inserted his comb above Ellen?s brow, lifting the damp hairs so they protruded an inch or so above the teeth. Deliberately he guided the clippers along the comb cleanly chopping off all the hair in their path. Short pieces of dark hair tumbled from the blades, some sticking to Ellen?s eyebrows and nose. She reached her hand out from beneath the cape to whisk away the annoying bits of hair.

Ed paused while my wife resumed her rigid posture. Then he continued with the clippers, concentrating on carving a flat surface along the top of her head. The only sound in the room was the steady buzzing of the clippers as they hungrily devoured every piece of hair above the comb. Gradually, Ed worked his way to the back of Ellen?s head, reducing the length on top until the longest hair at the front was no more than an inch and farther back on her crown it dwindled to less than half an inch. He didn?t stop there but returned his comb to the hair in front and repeated the process, shaving another fraction of an inch from the top.

When he was satisfied that the top was perfectly flat, he ran the unguarded clippers up the sides of Ellen?s head, carving the two surfaces to form a square frame around her face. The hair on the sides was now even shorter. Gray was prominently mixed with the brown. I could see her white skin gleaming beneath the short bristles.

My wife had closed her eyes while Ed mowed the top and sides, as if she couldn?t bear to watch. Now she cast a plaintive look in my direction, pleading to bring her ordeal to an end. I knew it wouldn?t be much longer till Ed was done and tried to tell her so with a reassuring smile.

Ed exchanged his large clippers for the smaller pair and began trimming around Ellen?s ear. He etched a diagonal line down her neck and squared off the back. Then he carved her sideburns into two sharp points.

Ed rested his clippers and reached into a jar on the counter. He began rubbing a generous handful of gel into Ellen?s short hair. When that was done he took up his brush and a blow dryer. He repeatedly stroked the top and sides until all the clipped hairs were stiffly standing at attention, not one out of place. Then Ed returned with the large clippers. ?Just a little touch up,? he explained. He passed the clippers back and forth over Ellen?s head, barely skimming the surface of her flat top. At last he switched the clippers off and used a soft brush to sweep the severed hairs from around her ears and neck. Ed paused to inspect his work, and then looked in my direction, seeking my approval. I nodded enthusiastically and Ed announced, ?Okay, Ellen, we?re done.?

My wife exhaled and slumped back in the chair, thankful that her ordeal was over. ?Finally,? she said with obvious relief. ?That?s about the longest haircut I?ve ever endured.?

?Sorry it took so long, but I wanted to get it right,? Ed explained. ?Would you like to see your new look??

?I?m not sure I want to see it,? she said. ?I?m afraid I won?t recognize myself.?

?It?s quite a change, I?ll grant you that,? Ed replied, ?but I hope you like it.?

Ellen reluctantly accepted the mirror he extended. ?My god, it certainly is short,? she exclaimed at the first view of her drastically altered appearance. She raised her fingers to explore the short hairs around her ears, and then reached to the top of her head, tentatively feeling its level surface. She turned her head to the side to look from another angle.

?I can take it shorter if you like,? Ed offered helpfully.

?No thanks, Ed,? she laughed. ?I think you?ve done enough damage for one day.? I was pleased to hear her laugh again.

?Well, Ellen, what do you think?? he asked.

?You do excellent work, Ed,? she observed. ?It certainly is flat.?

?That?s why we call it a flat top,? he replied breezily.

With that Linda switched off the lights, marking the end of filming.

?I hope you like it,? Ed said to Ellen.

?I hope my husband likes it,? she corrected him. ?This was his choice.? She turned and looked hopefully in my direction. ?What do you think, Tom?? she asked. ?Is this what you had in mind??

?You look great, Ellen. You?ve never looked more beautiful,? I gushed.

She shook her head, marveling at my enthusiasm. ?Well then, why don?t you come here and see it up close?? she called.

I accepted her invitation and took a few steps till I was standing next to the chair where she still sat. ?May I touch it?? I asked.

?Go ahead,? she said. ?I know you?re dying to do this, aren?t you??

I extended my hand and passed my fingertips over the newly flattened top of her head. I felt the short hairs tickle my palm. It was an intensely erotic sensation, unlike anything I ever had experienced before. Ellen sat patiently as I repeatedly caressed her brush cut.

?Okay, folks,? Ed interrupted. ?Why don?t we check out your video??

?Sure, that would be great,? I answered.

Ed stood behind Ellen, removed the cape from around her neck, and shook all the short hairs to the floor. My wife rose from the chair and we walked to the corner of the room where Linda inserted a videocassette into a VCR player. ?I?ll fast forward through most of this, but I want you to see how it turned out,? Linda explained.

For the next half hour we sat and watched as the haircut was repeated for us in double time. Ellen joked about her abrupt transformation while I marveled again at my wife?s courage and composure. From time to time she rubbed her hand across the top of her head, getting accustomed to the feel of her shortened hair. When we got to the part of the video when Ed clipped the top of Ellen?s head into a flat top, I insisted that it be shown at regular speed. Ellen covered her eyes. ?I can?t bear to watch,? she cried in mock horror. But after few seconds I noticed that she spread her fingers and was watching the tape with as much fascination as I was.

When the video came to an end I congratulated Linda on her excellent camerawork and wrote a check for Ed. We said farewell to the Cookinghams on their front steps and walked hand in hand toward the car. I clutched the precious videotape in my free hand. ?I think you?d better drive, Ellen,? I said, ?I?m going to have trouble keeping my eyes on the road.?

It?s now been ten weeks since Ellen?s extreme makeover and her flat top is just a fond memory. Her friends were flabbergasted at her unexpected change and wanted to know why she had selected such an unusual style. She never revealed the real reason for her haircut, saying only that after thirty years she decided it was ?time for a change.? Our kids were amazed at their mother?s radical new look, but they were very supportive. ?You look awesome, Mom,? our daughter told her. I could see that Ellen was delighted by their vote of confidence.

Last week, in preparation for the start of school, she went back to her salon for the first time since her shearing. She came home with her shaggy locks trimmed into a brief but flattering feminine cut more appropriate for a fifth grade teacher. Her stylist was upset that Ellen hadn?t asked her to preside over this transformation, but Ellen appeased her by saying she did it on a whim while on vacation.

Ellen told me that she plans to continue growing her hair till it?s long enough to hold a wedge like the first cut Ed gave her. That probably will take a year or so. She claims she never intends to go back to the long style she favored for so many years. I don?t mind the growing out process too much because every few days I play my priceless video and watch my wife getting her hair cut in a flat top all over again. It never ceases to arouse me.

Sometimes Ellen takes a break from grading papers to watch part of the video with me. She always smiles at me and shakes her head. ?I still don?t understand how you can get so much pleasure from watching a stupid haircut, but I?m glad it?s me that you?re watching? she says.

I couldn?t agree more.

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