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I am just staring at the pictures in my history book, pictures of the roaring twenties in Germany. There is a photograph of a barbershop with a row of chairs, with ladies losing their long hair. I must think about my very old aunt Cornelia, who died two years ago and remember the old photographs of that period. Already in ’21 she decided to go to the barber and shocked our whole, very orthodox Christian family when she “lost” her almost 70cm long hair. She said: “I was the black sheep and they were happy when I married and disappeared to the capital, where life was even more sinful.”

I must have been 4 years old when my parents moved also to the capital, where my father got a job as a clerk at a bank. The income was rather low and our life as a family with three children was rather poor. Then one day I discovered that we had family in the town, when my father took me with him to visit his old aunt against the wishes of my mother who still considered her as a very sinful woman. For me the old woman was very nice and later when I was older I often visited her, not telling my mother anything about it. The relationship with my mother has been terrible and in fact my old aunt was the one who I considered as the woman I could trust and could tell about my being in love etc. My own mother seemed to consider sexuality as a kind of abnormality and I was lucky that my aunt, who never had children herself, was the one who told me not only about the facts, but also about the pleasures, of love. I was quite unhappy when we left the town again when I was fifteen and returned to that terrible village where life seemed to be like fifty years ago and where it was normal to visit the church two times on Sunday. When I was sixteen my mother considered my education as finished and my parents looked for a job in one of the shops. At eighteen I just took a bag with some clothes and went to my aunt, who I had not seen for three years and I lived for some time at her house.

She gave me financial support to take a one-year secretarial course and I found a nice job and could rent my own small flat. I hardly met my parents anymore, except for my father who came once or twice a year to visit me and his aunt. My brothers soon emigrated to Australia and I was the only one of the family that took care of my dear aunt till she died recently.

During those years I followed special classes in the evening, because I wanted to go to the university. When I was thirty I started my study of German language and literature.

In the beginning it was very strange to be the oldest student, but now I am used to it.

I inherited a nice sum of money from my aunt and that meant that I could study at ease, without too much trouble, even without a job. The only thing that I did was to rent a simple room as a student to lower the costs as much as possible. I found an attic room at an apartment building. The house was rented by a very old lady, but just a week ago she told me that I had to look for another room, because she might go to an old people’s home.

I was rather desperate as it is difficult to find a new room for a reasonable price and yesterday I talked about it with one of the students, Mary, with whom I play volleyball two times a week. All of the volleyball players are much younger, but I play rather well and like this sport very much, moreover it gives me the opportunity to take a shower and wash my long hair, as the facilities at the old woman’s house are terrible. In fact I like to have my hair rather short, but it grows rather fast and I like short hair as long as it is cut very regularly and in a perfect way and that is an expensive thing nowadays. Mary is the daughter of rather rich parents and has a nice small flat, but even then she has a shortage of money and half a year ago she found a small job at an hairdressing shop, where she works three times a week as a cleaning woman.

She seemed to enjoy the job and she told me, “Washing and cutting of my hair is free as often as I like it.” The cutting of the hair seemed to be not the most important bonus as she had her hair rather long.

But recently it seemed to be shorter and last week I saw that her hair seemed to be at shoulder length or something like that as her ponytail had been reduced to a very short one and she even had long bangs. When I asked her about it she loosened her hair and I saw that it had been cut in a perfect way. “The next phase seems to be a real old-time bob,” she said.

“And maybe I want to go even shorter, just like Eva.” (One of our teammates who usually sported a kind of very flattering crewcut.) “Well the people at the hairdressing salon like to cut my hair and I just try how it looks, going shorter and shorter. Maybe that crewcut can be done just before I go to Indonesia.” Mary’s father seemed to go as a consultant for three years to that country and Mary, who studied cultural anthropology, wanted to join him for a year, combining it with the kind of research that she had to do anyway for her study.

It was already ten o’clock when I heard my telephone and it was Mary, who seemed to be rather pleased that she could tell me that she found a new room, or even better, a small flat for me. “You know I work for some hours at that hairdressing salon,” she said. “I noticed that there seemed to be some rooms upstairs that were empty and I asked my boss about it.

“He told me that the mother of the last owner has been living there till last year, but she died and since then it has been empty. The owner does not like to let it out, because the entrance is through the shop. And then, you know how I am, I told him about the nice, somewhat older student, studying German, who needed a room and I said that maybe you could get my job. I even said that you might be willing to clean the shop, in exchange for free accommodation. At first he seemed to have his doubts, but then he realized that it was not too bad for him and now we are expected to come together tomorrow at closing time.”

I was somewhat confused by the rapid action of Mary and to be honest I did not prefer a job as cleaning woman, but it was not much worse than other small jobs that I took sometimes. Mary made me more enthusiastic about the whole thing when she said that there was a big, although neglected, garden, at the back, which was available to me.

The shop seemed to be in the main street, quite near the street where I lived in my youth. We agreed to meet in a small bar at the beginning of the street and from there we would go to the hairdresser.

The next day I went with my bike to the part of the town where I should meet Mary. I was rather early and decided to walk around a little bit, wondering where the shop was. Much had been changed since we left this neigbourhood 17 years ago. Some shops were still there and I even recognized one of the owners. There were now four or five hairdressers in the street and I wondered which one would be my destination. Most of them were the modern unisex shops, where they cut the hair of both men and women.

To my surprise I even saw the big barbershop, where I went with my brothers or my father a very long time ago. Almost nothing seemed to have changed. As far as I could see there were still five chairs where older barbers seemed to cut hair with an enormous speed, which made those low prices possible. Most of all it was a man’s world and I had not the faintest idea that the very neat Mary, with that perfect haircut, might even have had the courage to enter that shop.

Suddenly all kind of recollections came from the past and I even felt the need to enter the shop to see how it was inside.

My mother, coming from that small village, was very strict in her opinion how hair should be. It meant that my father and my brothers had to visit the barber at least every three weeks, for old-fashioned haircuts. Even though a short haircut for girls was sinful in the twenties, my mother seemed to think nowadays that short hair for a girl was nice, but t
he sinful thing for her seemed  to be bangs, that she related with film stars.

The usual haircut was with a parting at one side and a clip at the other side to prevent the hair from constantly covering the eyes. The back had to be very short, trimmed up with the clippers. The barbers knew exactly how the wishes of my mother were and if something was wrong my father had to bring the message, as my mother did not like to accompany us.

It also meant that for several years I had to go with my younger brothers, but I even liked to go there at the busiest time. First of all there were all kind of weekly magazines, where you could see the photographs of film stars, you could read all kind of stories and comic books. When one of the barbers called the usual “next one”, it often happened that none of the children came or just somebody said that it was not yet his turn. The problems were usually solved with a lot of jokes. When I had read the magazines I just looked how the barbers worked and enjoyed the humming sound of the clippers. Sometimes girls like me got a haircut and rarely a woman entered the shop.

When I was eleven a new very young and very handsome barber, John, started to work in the shop and clearly he was the best in cutting the hair of the girls.

With the early start of my puberty I thought that this barber was the ideal person. Suddenly I saw that girls at school had much more attractive haircuts with a nice fringe etc and one day with all the courage that I could muster I asked him to change my haircut. I wanted it short all over and all the hair combed forwards and very wispy all around. We called it a rat-look, just like rats had nibbled at the ends of the hair. That hair look was popular and the barber, not very sure about the reactions of my mother, asked if my mother agreed and I just said that it was okay. John made a perfect job of it and I left the shop very happy with the haircut of my life, but noticed the old owner shaking his head and heard him wondering what my mother would say. At home my mother did not say anything at first and then started an enormous “swearing” about the barber and said that I had to go back to him. I refused that and told her that it was not honest to accuse the barber, because I had ordered this haircut myself and enjoyed it very much .My mother, for the first time in years, went to the barber and started to quarrel. But the owner-barber, who liked the work of his young colleague (as I later learned, his nephew) asked her to leave the shop at once and said, “Better look for another barber, but you cannot find such a cheap one in the whole town. But let me say something madam: you have a nice, handsome daughter, always polite, never quarreling with her brothers and I wish that I had such a nice child. But realize that you will lose your daughter in this way, if you don’t allow her to experiment with her hair, a little bit of lipstick etc. She is doing nothing sinful with boys or something like that,. Yyou cannot tell her her whole life how to behave.” My mother came back and was very quiet and then she just started to cry and told me that she was sorry about her reactions and later I heard that she wrote the barber a small letter with excuses. As far as it concerned my visits to the barber, I could do as I liked. I started to experiment with makeup and the young barber in his nice way always said honestly what he thought about it and I learnt rather fast to use makeup in a nice, natural, not exaggerated way. It was a pity that more people couldn’t tell my parents and particularly my mother how to handle a young daughter. The things were even worse when we returned to the village, where my mother never did what she felt herself, but always feared what the neighbors might say.

.

As I said ,I was happy when I left that world and lived for some time with my old aunt.

I almost forgot the time and walked back to the beginning of the street where I would meet Mary.

Her haircut had been changed again and this time it was a very short bob and at the back the lower part of her hair consisted of a very short stubble and I could not resist my inclination to rub those short hairs.

We had a nice tea and then we went on the way to the hairdresser. To my surprise she passed all the shops that I just saw and walked to the cheap barbershop. I seemed to look very surprised and Mary started to smile and said: “You did not expect that it was here at this place that I work, but I can assure you that their hair washing is excellent and their haircutting is very fast.”

Before I could tell Mary anything of all those recollections of just a moment ago we entered the shop and there I was back in that world of 17 years ago. Mary was greeted by the barbers, two of them I recognized from the past and Mary wanted to introduce me to the present owner and to my surprise I saw that it was John. He was however busy and indicated that we had to wait for a moment and said that it was o.k when we looked upstairs. We passed the waiting part, the table covered as usual with all the magazines and went to a hall, where there were stairs leading to the first floor.

We entered the rooms and I saw that most of the old furniture was still present, nice antique things and I hoped that they I could keep them.. There was a small bedroom and a kitchen and a place where a shower cubicle would be placed ,if I wanted to live and work there. From the kitchen I saw the long garden and observed that during the summer this would be a nice quiet place.

Just when we wanted to go down again the boss, John, came up and we shook hands. He was still a very attractive man, his own very short black hair was mixed in a very natural way with grey. He stared at me and then he smiled and remembered the girl that was for 5 years his favorite customer, until the moment that we moved to the village. “Hi,” he said, and to the surprise of Mary he gave me a kiss. “You have become quite a nice woman.” I felt tears and fortunately it was rather dark and nobody seemed to observe that a small tear dripped from the corner of my eye. I explained to Mary how often I had been to this barbershop in my youth and that John was my favorite barber.

“I think that he is the one that cut you that nice bob.”

I saw John staring at my hair that had been put up, but for the time being he kept his mouth about a haircut.

I told him that I would be very pleased to do the cleaning work in exchange for free accommodation and I asked him if a part of the furniture could stay. We went again to the shop, which was closing soon as it was almost 6 o’clock. Mary showed me what must be done and warned me that the toilets were the most horrible part as the pissing work of a part of mankind is far from accurate. I suggested that a new urinal could be a nice solution and John who just heard Mary’s remarks agreed that it might be a very good idea.

Suddenly Mary looked at her watch and said that she must go. I was somewhat surprised, because I thought that she would stay to clean the shop, but John explained that the work was done every other day and that Mary specially came to introduce me.

I thanked Mary for her help and said that I would stay to make agreements with John, moreover I wanted to talk a little bit if he had time. That was no problem, as I noticed already he was not married and he even asked me to eat something at a nearby Pizzeria. For me it was crazy to sit there with the man that I adored as a child and I wondered how he felt about it. Soon we were talking about the past and it was quite normal for him that I went to university. I learnt that his parents died when he was young and that the old barber was his uncle and sent him to a hairdressing school to learn the job. “In fact I should have finished my secondary school and maybe I might have gone to university as well. But I liked the work at the barbershop and liked the philosophy of my uncle to keep prices as low as possible. The old barber ret
ired and then I could have changed the whole shop, modernizing it, but I like it as it has been for so many years. The only thing that I changed is that we can wash the hair of customers, when necessary. I always disliked dirty greasy hair. So the customers wash the hair at home or we do it and the customers pay more.”

“Do you still cut women’s hair?” I asked.

John confirmed that he was doing so and asked if I wanted him to cut my hair. “You would still be very attractive with short hair,” he said, blushing for the first time. He told me that on Tuesday afternoon he specially opened for girls or women that like a short or very short haircut. It seemed to be a kind of hobby and he made pictures of those haircuts and shows them on a special  internet-site

“Maybe you find it strange, but one of the nicest things for me is a woman or girl with a perfect short haircut. As a young barber I developed those feelings and for me you were a nice girl, that liked your short hair so very much. For me it was difficult, because it was quite obvious that you adored me and I as the older man could not answer those feelings. Moreover your mother might have killed me. I really found it terrible that suddenly you disappeared from my life.”

I really was moved by the description of his feelings for me and suddenly I felt that again tears were coming. I told him that I found it nice to meet him again and that maybe something nice could grow out of this unexpected meeting. But I made it clear that I wanted and needed the time to finish my study at the university and I wanted to explore what I can do with it.

John agreed and honestly said that he had been single for such a long time that he sometimes doubted if he could live together with another person.

He told me about his other hobbies and seemed to be a regular visitor of museums, theaters and music halls and when I told him about my forthcoming exams, he seemed to know much more about the arts and music of the German Interbellum period than I did.

When our meal had finished John asked me to come again to the barbershop and showed me the pictures of the short haircuts. I even noticed that the gradual makeover of Mary has been filmed. And then followed the question that I expected already the whole evening:

“Do you like it when I cut your hair?” It was asked in a almost shy way and he seemed to blush.

No doubt, I wanted it and the idea that from then on my hair would be cut again as often as I liked. It was more than enough to stammer that I liked it very much. “Even if you like it for your internet collection.” (Of course I looked that evening on my computer to see what John’s site offered.)

“But I want it very, very short right away, not all the things in between with medium length hair, a bob etc. No, I want it extremely short, shorter than ever before,” and I pointed at one of the photographs of a girl with hairs that were perhaps 2-3mm long except for the fringe of somewhat longer hairs.

John placed some cameras on tripods, walked to the chair and almost automatically turned the cushion, which made no sense, because the last customer left already an hour ago. John took the cape and there I sat like 17 years before, but we were older and the difference in age did not seem to matter any more. John took several hairpins from my hair and said that he never saw it as long as that. “Of course not,” I said. “You always made it as short as possible.”

“Well, let us start,” I said. “Any objection if I cut the first lock?” and with a snip I just cut a strand of hair quite near my head. It was a good example for John, because I didn’t want an endless haircut, certainly because it had to be very simple with the clippers.

John made a nice pile of the hairs and said that he could get a nice price for them.

Soon most of my hair had been cut off and I looked in the mirror and observed the strange girl with a spiky haircut. I recognized myself again, but then at a much younger age. John seemed to remember that once he had cut my hair like this and that I had been very satisfied with it.

“We can stop now, if you want,” he declared,” but as you said it must be very, very short.”

“Well the clippers will do their work.”

“You really want it as short at the sides as that girl has it? That is only 1mm long. The clippers without attachment; but with this position of the handle, I can leave more or less one mm. Are you sure?”

For a very short time I doubted, but I knew that I had wanted this extreme haircut for a long time. I nodded and then I felt how John gave me a clipper shave at the sides. He did not make any objection and that is why I thought that the result would be very nice. In the mirror behind us I saw how my hair disappeared, just like the haircut of my father, such a very long time ago. I took my hand from under the cape and felt how extremely short the hair was. John smiled and felt, himself, and I noticed that he liked the whole thing as much or even more than I did and that was very much.

John repeated the movements with the clippers several times and I enjoyed the humming sound. Then he started with the left side and placed the clippers in front of my ears and pushed against my head. Now I saw how extremely short my hair would be, but I knew that it would be beautiful. Another movement was made around my ear and then 2 or 3 behind my ear and I looked at the white skin. Heavens, I would need some sunshine, but anyway the weather forecast was excellent.

I felt that I became more and more excited, when John started at the other side, but before he started he rubbed the shaven side in a very exciting way. Soon the left side was as bald as the right. Then the hair on top: only 2-3mm long, or better only 2-3mm short. John took a number 1 from a drawer and asked me: “Really sure, this will be much shorter than you ever had.”

But I liked the haircut of the girl with the extreme short bristles and said: “Yes, go on.”

What followed was really exciting.

With slow movements almost all of my hair was removed and John repeated the work endlessly till my head was covered with the short bristles.

John finished the job: with the scissors over the comb he cut the slightly longer bristles at the front. He took a mirror and showed me my almost bald head from all sides. He was satisfied by his own work and he only comment was that “You will need some sun.” With the long razorblade my neck was cleaned and there I sat with my new job as a cleaner.

John gave me a kiss and licked with his tongue at the short bristles. He promised me that he would put some of the pictures on the internet and I went home, because as I realized I had to work for my exams, but first I had to promise that John was allowed to take me to the beach on Sunday.

I went home and some hours later John rang and told me that I could see my haircut on the internet: barberjohn.co. And there I saw 16 pictures of my sensational 1/8-inch haircut, as it was indicated. To be honest it looked perfect and the nice thing was that I would have no problems keeping this haircut as short as possible.

The Sunday was nice, we were reading and smiling and sometimes kissing and how this will end I don’t know.

At volleyball training, Mary declared that she would ask for the same haircut and even two other members of my team asked for the address of this excellent barber, not bad….

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