I can still remember the atmosphere of the place to this day, the smell of Bitteroot and cigarettes, a place delegated to men. The sun shone through the window, which was always a little cloudy and you could just see the red and white pole, spinning in its endless cycle, as I sat in the chairs with my daddy. It was so different from the beauty parlor mommy took me to, which always smelled of hair dye and permanent treatments. This was so much nicer, so much more friendly. Then there was the sound of the clippers that the barbers would use. I used to love to watch them being used.
My daddy was an ex-marine and never stopped playing the part, even after he was wounded and given an honorable discharge when I was three. He was a tall thin man, with a stern but loving face that I loved. Every Saturday morning he would go to the barbers, Tony’s to be exact, and ask for the same haircut, the usual he would call it, but I knew from looking at the pictures on the wall that it was called a “high and tight”. The picture showed a young man in uniform with his hair almost completely shaved except for a ring, that resembled a horseshoe with the opening in the back. I used to watch, as the barbers would run the clippers over my daddy’s head and then use a straight razor to shave the back and sides. Then he would work ever so carefully on the top, with a comb and a small set of clippers until it was perfect. I used to love it when daddy asked me to go with him.
Every week without fail, the barber would finish up with my daddy and then as he dusted off the chair he would look over to me and say, “you’re next little girl.” And hold the cape as if to invite me into his chair. My daddy would laugh and say something to the effect that my mommy would kill him. If they only knew the feelings I got when that chair was offered to me. It was a strange stirring down below that stayed with me for an hour or so, during which time I would daydream about being in the chair and getting “the usual”. I remember one time I gathered the nerve to stand up and say “OK!” when the barber offered me the chair. I climbed into the chair and the barber jokingly fastened the cape around my neck as my daddy smiled. The barber played a little with my hair but then my daddy said we had to go and the fun was over. I thought he was actually going to do it and I was sad when he didn’t.
I always wore my hair long and straight down my back. It was blonde and my mommy would love to brush it in the mornings before I would go to school. Every month or so mommy would take me to the beauty parlor with her and I would get the ends trimmed. Those ladies would always jibber jabber all day and it got on my nerves. They always told me how pretty my hair was and that I should never cut it.
When I was eight years old my mommy got very ill, daddy would never talk to me about it much, only I knew he was upset a lot and that I often heard then talking in their bedroom about me and about what daddy was going to do. Then, not long after that my mommy passed away. I was sad for a long time, and so was daddy. Time rolls on though and eventually we got better and we fell back into our old routines.
Since mommy died, daddy had let his hair grow out and I was wondering if he was ever going back to “Tony’s”. One Saturday, he was eating breakfast with me and said he was going to the barbers, and asked if wanted to come. I nodded my head vigorously and off we went. When we got there the barber was happy to see my daddy and they talked a while about mommy and then daddy got in the chair. The barber didn’t even ask what he wanted when he got into the chair, he just took the clippers and peeled off the two months growth. As he was working my daddy said something to him that I couldn’t hear over the clippers and the barber nodded. When he was finished clipping, daddy’s hair was a lot shorter than it used to be; gone was the horseshoe on the top. Then the barber took the usual shaving cream and instead of just spreading it over the back and sides, spread it all over daddy’s head. I watched carefully as the barber started at his forehead and with short quick strokes, shaved my daddy’s head completely bald. I was getting those little twitches down below again. I imagined that it was me in the chair, as the barber wiped off the remaining cream leaving my daddy with a shiny bald head. As daddy got up the barber smiled at me and said, “you’re next.” The same way he always had. I giggled as the feeling spread over my loins and I got up to walk to the door. “You’re next little girl.” The barber was more stern this time. I looked at daddy and he nodded his head that I should do as the barber asked. I was shocked! It was actually going to happen! I climbed up into the big red chair and the barber fastened the cape around my neck, this time with a more serious look on his face. “Your daddy asked me to cut your hair shorter so that it is easier to take care of, you’re not going to cry are you little girl?” I shook my head no and smiled at him. He carefully combed out my long blonde hair and then took a rubber band and fastened it into a pony tail like mommy used to do. Then without much warning, he took a pair of scissors and cut off the pony tail close to my head. When he was done he took it and put it in and old shoe box and handed it to my daddy.
“I’m sorry sweetheart” he said “ but now that your mommy is gone I can’t take care of your hair the way she used to.” He walked over to me in the chair. “How would you like the barber to cut your hair?” I thought for a minute, as if I really needed to.
“Just like yours daddy.” I blurted out. “Shave it all off.” They both laughed and said that everybody would think I was a boy. “That’s OK, it’s summer anyway.” I said. It was true, it was June and school had just let out, and it was already quite hot outside. I looked at myself in the big mirror, my formerly long blonde hair now framed my face in a chin length bob. “Please daddy.” He looked down at me with those warm eyes that I had grown to love so much.
“Give her what she wants Tony.” He said laughingly. “Shave her head.” The barber looked me straight in the eye and seemed very serious now.
“Are you sure this what you want? Once I cut it I can’t put it back you know.”
He said, as I ran my hand through my bouncy bob.
“Yep, I’m sure, shave me like daddy.” He nodded his head and reached for the clippers. The little stirrings in my loins had grown to a buzz now, to match that of the clippers that were placed under my hair at the back. I felt the warm metal climb the back of my head, knowing that in their wake was the shortest of stubble. I tried to reach back and touch it but the barber pushed my hand back into my lap. After the first pass the barber quickened his pace and ran the clippers up the back over and over, and then the sides, first in front my ear then on top then behind. All of a sudden the clippers were at my forehead, and then they weren’t as they pushed back over my balding head. Three more passes and the clippers fell silent as the barber hung them back on the hook. I looked at myself in the mirror and saw a bald little boy, with little ears that stuck out from the sides of his head, only it was me! I smiled and the smile turned into a giggle.
“You like that don’t you?” asked the barber. I nodded. Daddy was smiling ear to ear as he watched his little girl being shaved. I noticed that there were a few people looking through the window of the shop, that had apparently watched the whole thing, one of them was a woman from the beauty parlor. I looked her right in the eye and stuck out my tongue, she just shook her head and walked away. Suddenly I felt something hot being laid on head, it was a towel soaked with hot water. I was going to tell the barber it was too hot, but I held my breath, not wanting to give him any excuse not to shave me. As the towel was heating up my head, I heard some laughter from outside the shop and as the towel was removed I looked over to see a couple of boys from my school walk through the door of the shop, apparently for a summer cut. “Be with you boys in a minute.” The barber spoke directly to them. He then began spreading hot lather over my head. As the blade of the razor began to denude my scalp I looked in the mirror at the two boys. They were talking to each other, but I don’t think they recognized me, without my long flowing hair. I knew one of them was always looking at me in class and I thought for sure he would know me, but he didn’t, it seemed. I was loving the fact that my hair was slowly being shaved away, but I wasn’t loving the harsh feel of the razor as it scraped over my head. It kinda hurt. Soon the barber was running the towel over my head. I was bald. I was as bald as my daddy. I ran my hand over my head. It was completely smooth and shiny. “All done!” the barber said as he whipped the cape off. Then I remembered that I had worn a floral dress. I got up from the chair and the boys looked over at me as I straightened myself. Both their jaws dropped as they realized who I was. Then they smiled, then the smiles turned to giggles and then to laughter. Daddy and I left the shop and went home, and I couldn’t keep my hand away from my head.
“Are you OK sweety?” he asked with genuine concern.
“Never better daddy, never better.” I smiled and he rubbed his hand over my baldness for the first time. I didn’t wear any dresses the rest of that summer, and as my hair grew into a crewcut, I knew that soon I would have to face all the kids at school, that I had so carefully avoided all summer. As I remember, the first day back was the worst, but then it was not too bad as people got used to the girl with the crewcut.
I’m twenty-three now, married with two little girls of my own. I take them to visit their grandfather often. So when we were there one Saturday morning and my father asked them if they wanted to go with him to Tony’s, I was more than pleased. On the following Monday we were leaving to come back home and I was waking through the old town before we left and I happened upon Tony’s barber shop. I peaked through the window, and there was Tony, relaxing in his chair, with the morning paper. Not much had changed accept for Tony, who was older now with gray hair. Something was pulling me inside as I stepped through the door and bell tinkled, startling Tony.
“Can I help you young lady?” he asked, as I wandered over to him.
“Do you remember a little girl with long blonde hair that asked you to shave her head once?” I asked, smiling at him.
“Oh my goodness!” he said with a smile “You have certainly grown into a handsome young lady miss.” He thought for a moment “I’ll bet you’ve never forgotten that shave, have you young lady?” he asked laughingly.
“No….I haven’t” I hesitated for a moment and then took a seat in the other chair. What was I doing? I knew that this was going to happen, it was just a matter of time, but now…. today? My hair was about shoulder length now, a nice easy style for a busy mom and housewife. I could feel that familiar warmth between my thighs again as Tony grabbed a cape and threw it over me and fastened it around my neck. He didn’t say anything, or ask any questions. He simply grabbed the clippers off the hook.
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