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It was an ordinary Saturday afternoon.  Donna and I had spent most of the morning and early afternoon doing chores around the house.  It was now 3:30 and I was getting cleaned up, preparing to go to the mall.  I needed to pick up a few things at the drug store.  I glanced in the bathroom mirror and noticed that my hair was getting a bit shaggy.  Since the barbershop I patronized was not far from the drug store I decided it was time to stop and get my hair cut while I was out.
“Where are you going, Jeff?” my wife inquired as I emerged from the bathroom.
“Going to the mall.  While I’m out I’m going to get my hair cut,” I answered. 
“Will you be long?” she asked.
“Don’t know.  Depends on how busy the barbershop is,” I answered.  “Would you like to come along?  Perhaps you could do some shopping and we could get something to eat afterwards,” I added.
My invitation was an automatic reflex, made without any premeditation or hidden motive.  Little did I know how those innocent words would change our lives.
“Sure, I don’t have any other plans,” Donna answered as she got up from the couch where she had been reading.  “I’ll come with you.  Let me get my purse.”
Soon we were in the car heading toward the strip mall where Lou’s barbershop was located.  It’s a rather ordinary shop, occupying a spot between an Indian food store and a tattoo parlor.   Lou’s place is a well-established institution in our suburban community; it’s been doing business at the same location for as long as I can remember—thirty years or more. Several generations of men and boys have passed through its doors.
Saturday afternoon usually is the busiest time at Lou’s and this week was no exception.  Donna and I circled the parking lot twice before finding an open space.  All four barber chairs were occupied when we entered the shop and six customers were waiting.  Lou greeted me with an apology.  “It’ll be at least half an hour, Jeff.  We’re kinda busy today.” 
I turned to my wife.  “Perhaps we should come back another time.  You probably don’t want to wait that long.”
“No, that’s all right.  I can wait,” she replied.
Donna and I took the last two vacant seats and waited for an opening.  This was Donna’s first visit to a barbershop and she was full of questions.  “Which one is your barber?” she asked.  I pointed to Sherry, the only woman in the quartet.  A lively brunette with a quick sense of humor, she kept a steady stream of conversation going with everyone in the shop.  Although she was not yet thirty, she got along well with the three older barbers and her mostly middle aged clientele.  She kept her light brown locks closely cropped with the sides and back clipped nearly as short as a man’s.  I suspected that when business was slow one of the other barbers in the shop took care of her regular haircuts.
“I wonder why she decided to become a barber rather than a beautician.” Donna continued.
I explained that Sherry was Lou’s daughter.  “She practically grew up in the shop.  She began cutting men’s hair when she was a teenager and probably never considered another career; it just came naturally.” 
Donna observed the various haircuts being administered with considerable interest.  “What’s that one called?” she asked, pointing to a boy who was having his hair clipped close to the scalp.
“That one’s a buzz cut,” I explained.
“Yes, I can see why,” she commented as Lou passed his buzzing clippers back and forth across his young customer’s head.
“And that one over there?” she asked, referring to the young man in Sherry’s chair.
“He’s getting a flat top,” I continued.  “See how she’s cutting his hair flat on top.”  We both watched as Sherry made sure her customer’s crop of upright hair was perfectly level.
“Did you ever have your hair cut like that?” she continued.
“Yes, when I was about his age my dad took me to our barber and told him to cut my hair short for the summer.  I wound up with a flat top just like he’s getting.”
“Did you like it?”
“No, I hated it.”
“Why?  I think it would feel nice and cool in the summer.”
“Well, short hair was out at the time.  I wanted long hair like all my friends.”
“Now you hardly ever see guys with long hair,” she observed.  “Funny how styles change.”
Donna and I chatted easily for the next thirty minutes.  Finally, I was due to be called.  “Looks like she’s nearly finished.  It’ll be your turn pretty soon,” Donna observed.
When Sherry’s customer had finished paying for his haircut, she turned to me.  “You’re next, Jeff,” she called.
“This should take only fifteen or twenty minutes,” I told Donna as I rose to take my place in the vacant chair. 
“I’m in no hurry.  Take as long as you like,” she replied.  Donna sat patiently as I stepped up into the chair.  She held an old magazine in her lap, but I noticed that she wasn’t reading it.  Instead, she intently watched my haircut.
Sherry resumed her easy chatter as she went to work.  “Is that your wife?” she asked.  I explained that Donna and I were going out to eat when my haircut was done.  “It’s nice to see couples doing things together,” she commented.  “More folks should do that.”
When Sherry finished I went to the cash register to pay for my haircut.  Donna walked up and felt the back of my head.  “Nice and short, just the way I like it,” she said to me.  She also had a compliment for my barber. “You do good work, miss.”
“Thank you,” Sherry replied.  “I can take you next if you like.”
Donna obviously was taken aback.  She seemed a bit flustered by Sherry’s invitation.  “Oh, no.  Thanks, but not today,” she responded immediately.  Clearly, the thought of getting her hair cut in Lou’s shop had never entered her mind.
“We do cut women’s hair here,” Sherry assured her.  “At least I do.”
“No, I really don’t need a haircut j
ust now,” Donna protested.
“Well, if you change your mind, I’ll be happy to take care of you,” Sherry continued cheerfully.
“Thanks, but that won’t be necessary,” Donna replied as we headed for the door.
On the way to the restaurant Donna commented, “That was strange.”
I was puzzled.  “What do you mean?”
“Your barber,” she replied, “asking me if I wanted my hair cut.  What made her think I would get my hair cut in that barbershop?  Do I look like I need a haircut?”
“No, not at all,” I reassured her.  “She was just being friendly.  What’s the harm in asking?  It’s a unisex salon after all.”
“It doesn’t look like the kind of place that caters to female customers.  Do many women go there for haircuts?” she asked.
“No,” I admitted.  “I suppose there are a few, but not many.”  In fact, I couldn’t recall ever seeing a single woman having her hair cut there in the fifteen years I had been patronizing Lou’s shop.
Donna changed the subject and we said nothing more about our trip to the barbershop.
Five weeks later it was time for another haircut.  As I put on my jacket Donna inquired about my destination.  “Going to the mall to get my hair cut.  I have an appointment with Sherry in twenty minutes,” I informed her.
“Well, I’d like to come too.  Don’t leave without me,” she called as she went to the closet for her coat.  “You don’t mind, do you?” she asked.
“No, of course not,” I replied.  “I’m happy to have the company.”  To be honest, however, I was a bit surprised by her eagerness.  After her reaction our last visit I figured she wouldn’t want to return.
As we drove to the barbershop Donna explained her reason for wanting to come along.  “You know, Jeff, last month, after watching your haircut, I started thinking,” she began cautiously.
“Yes?” I asked.
“I know this may sound strange, but I thought perhaps I would let Sherry cut my hair.  You’ve been saying how we need to save money and having my hair cut there certainly would be cheaper than going to my salon.  What do you think?” she asked. 
Frankly, Donna’s announcement caught me off guard.  I couldn’t picture her sitting in the barber’s chair.  The prospect of my wife getting her hair cut in Lou’s shop made me feel a little uneasy, but I didn’t want to offend her by rejecting this idea out of hand.  “Sure, that would be fine I suppose.  Sherry’s an excellent barber,” I replied.  “But don’t you have your regular stylist at the Beauty Nook?” I asked. 
“I did, but Kim moved to California in September.  Since then I’ve tried a couple of the other girls but I’m not happy with either of them.  All they want to do is talk about their stupid boyfriends.  I’ve been searching for someone new,” Donna explained.  “Anyhow, I thought I’d give Sherry a try.”
“Aren’t you concerned about getting your hair cut at Lou’s?” I asked.  “The sign may say it’s a unisex salon, but you know basically it’s a men’s barber shop.”
“Well, yes.  That is a worry, but I rather enjoyed myself last time I went with you.  I think I’ll be all right,” she answered.  “Besides, having a female barber will make it easier.  With you there for moral support I’m sure I’ll be fine.”  She smiled at me and patted my hand.  “You don’t mind me tagging along, do you? I’m not trespassing into an old-boy’s club, am I?”
“No, of course not.  You’re always saying how we should do more things together.  This could become a new tradition,” I answered.  Donna obviously was eager to have her hair cut by Sherry and I didn’t want to dampen her enthusiasm.  This would be a new experience for both of us.
This time the shop was not as crowded as on our previous visit.  Sherry was waiting for me as we entered.  Donna whispered, “You go first, Jeff.  I’ll watch from over here.”  She took a seat in one of the uncomfortable plastic chairs arranged in a row in front of the big picture window.  I climbed into the waiting barber’s chair.
“How are you today, Jeff?  I see your wife’s come with you again.  I think that’s sweet.”  As Sherry began my haircut I glanced into the mirror to spy on my wife.  This time she didn’t try to disguise her interest.  Donna watched closely as Sherry ran the clippers up my neck and around my ears.  She continued to observe intently as Sherry used her scissors to blend the longer hair on top with the shortened back and sides.
As Sherry was nearing the end of my haircut I casually inquired, “Sherry, do you have an appointment after me?”
“No, Jeff, you’re my last appointment of the day.  Why do you ask?”
“Well, Donna would like you to cut her hair today.  Can you take her next?”
“Sure, Jeff.  I’ll be happy to take care of her,” she said.
After I finished paying for my haircut, Donna walked up the cash register and once again stroked the back of my head.  “Nice and short, just the way I like it,” she nodded approvingly.
Sherry greeted Donna warmly.  “Hi Donna.  Jeff says you’d like to have your hair cut today.  Is that right?”
“Yes, I decided to take you up on your invitation,” Donna answered.
“That’s great.  I’ll be happy to take care of you.  Why don’t you take a seat?”  Sherry invited my wife to take my place in the big barber’s chair.
Donna gingerly lowered herself into the seat and glanced over her shoulder toward me as Sherry spun the chair around.  I noticed Donna’s shoe taping against the footrest, a sure sign of her nervousness.  There was a forced smile on her face as she readied herself for this new experience.
Sherry spread a striped cape around Donna’s shoulders, lifted her shoulder length locks out of the way, and fastened the cape behind her neck.  She ran a comb through Donna’s chocolate brown hair and commented, “You have beautiful hair.  A couple of times I’ve tried to grow my hair longer, but it never seems to work.”
“Well, it can be a lot of trouble.  Sometimes I envy women with short hair like yours.  It must be so easy to care for.”
“Yes, I guess it is,” Sherry agreed before changing the subject.  “Now, how would you like me to cut your hair today?”
“Just a trim,” was the quick reply.  “A bit shorter all around—no more than an inch or so,” Donna insisted.  She seemed concerned that her new barber might try to cut her hair as short as the male customers.
“Sure, I can do that,” Sherry said.  She went right to work and in less than fifteen minutes she had trimmed an inch from Donna’s tresses.  The blunt cut ends of her hair now grazed the top of her shoulders.  “Shall I trim your bangs too?” she inquired.
“Yes, but not too short,” Donna cautioned.  Sherry combed Donna’s bangs down over her forehead ‘til they nearly covered her eyes, then snipped away about an inch of hair.  When she was done Donna’s bangs ended at her eyebrows.
Sherry stepped back to let Donna inspect the finished haircut.  “How’s that, Donna?” she asked.  “I can take it shorter if you like.”
Donna tossed her head so her hair whipped around her face and then bounced back into place.  She fingered the ends and pronounced her satisfaction with the result.  “No, this is just fine, Sherry,” she announced. 
Sherry removed the cape and Donna walked over to me.  “Jeff, pay Sherry please, and be sure to include a good tip.”  I gladly did as I was told.
As we walked to the car Donna shared her opinion of her new barber.  “Sherry does a very good job.  I really like the way my hair looks.  How much did it cost?”
When I told her, she exclaimed, “Wow.  That’s less than half what I pay for a haircut at the Beauty Nook.   I think I’ll keep coming back here.”
Donna’s hair didn’t require cutting as often as mine, but every other month she joined me on regular excursions to Lou’s.  Each time Sherry inquired how my wife wanted her hair cut, Donna always replied, “Just a trim.”  Her locks remained at the same length—just touching her shoulders.  At the conclusion of each haircut Sherry offered, “I can take it shorter if you like,” and each time my wife politely refused.  It became sort of a ritual.
In the time between haircuts Donna wore her hair several different ways.  Sometimes, when she was busy, she pulled it back into a short ponytail.  Other times she used a plastic clip to pull it up off her neck.  Occasionally she tried French braids.  But most of the time she let it hang straight down—the way I liked it best. 
Our fourth visit for his and hers haircuts came on the first Saturday of July.  Our town was in the middle of a major heat wave.  The air-conditioned comfort of Lou’s barbershop was a welcome relief from the sweltering temperature outside.  Sherry waved to us as we entered.  She was just beginning a haircut for a teenage customer who was seated in her chair.  “I’ll be with you folks in fifteen minutes or so,” Sherry called.
We took our seats and watched as Sherry started the young man’s haircut.  His hair was considerably longer than most of Lou’s usual patrons, hanging well past his collar. Sherry didn’t bother with her scissors, but picked up her clippers and placed them above his forehead.  It was evident that he was going to be on the receiving end of a major summer shearing.  Within minutes nearly all of his dark locks were lying on the floor and only a quarter inch of hair remained on his head.  Donna seemed fascinated by the remarkable transformation unfolding in front of us.  “My, that’s a lot of hair he’s losing,” she exclaimed.  “I wonder what it feels like to get your hair cut as short as that?” she asked.
“If you really want to find out, you should ask Sherry to cut your hair just like that,” I joked. 
“Well, it certainly would be a lot cooler.  Someday I may just do that,” she replied.  I didn’t know how to interpret the mischievous look in her eye.  Was she teasing or was she serious?
“I hope you’re kidding.”
“You never know,” she said with a wink.
Sherry put the finishing touches on the young man’s haircut and sent him out the door.  She turned to me and said, “You’re next Jeff,” since I usually went before my wife.
Donna leaned over and asked, “Why don’t I go first today?” 
“Sure, that’s fine with me,” I answered.  With that, she jumped up into the empty seat.  I had never seen her so eager to get her hair cut.
“Hi, Donna.  What will it be today?” Sherry asked.  “The usual?”
“Not today, Sherry,” Donna replied.  “I’d like to try something different.” Donna’s announcement caught me off guard.  She hadn’t mentioned anything about getting her hair cut in a different style.  I must have had a surprised expression on my face because Donna smiled at me and mouthed the words, “Just watch.”
“You want something shorter?” Sherry inquired.
“Yes, I think a shorter style would be a good choice for this warm weather.”
“Sure, Donna.  Just how short would you like to go?”
“I’d like you to take it up off my neck.”
“Sure, I can do that.  How far off your neck?”
“I’m thinking you should cut it about here,” Donna said, pointing to a spot just below her ear.  The cut she was requesting would remove about four inches from her shoulder length blunt cut.  She hadn’t worn her hair that short in the ten years we’d been together, yet she seemed unconcerned about entrusting this major alteration to her lady barber.
“So you want to keep it all the same length?  Shall I give you a bob?” Sherry asked.
“Yes, I think that’s what you call it.”
“A short bob like that would look really cute on you,” Sherry agreed.
Sherry promptly went to work with her scissors and comb.  Half an hour later my wife emerged from the barber’s chair with a brief bob that bared her neck but still covered her ears.  Her bangs were a good deal shorter too.  Now about an inch of forehead showed above her ey
ebrows.  “Well, what do you think of my new hairdo, Jeff?” she asked as she tossed her head and felt the shortened hair brush against her cheeks.  “Do you like it?”
Over the years I’ve learned never to question a woman’s fashion decisions no matter how bizarre, but my enthusiasm for her new style was genuine.  “Donna, you look great,” I enthused.  “I never realized how attractive short hair would look on you.  It’s just that I was rather surprised when you asked Sherry to cut your hair shorter.  You hadn’t given me any warning.”
“Well, it was kind of a spur of the moment decision, you know, with the heat and all,” she said.   I accepted her explanation without question, but I got the feeling that she wasn’t being completely honest with me.  I wondered if watching the young man getting his hair clipped so short had influenced her decision.
“Now it’s your turn,” she said suggestively.  “I think you should get your hair cut shorter too.”
“You think so?” I stammered as I went to take her place in the chair.  She never had expressed an opinion about my choice of hairstyle before.
“Yes, you’ve worn you hair the same way as long as I can remember,” she answered.  “I think you should try something different.”
Sherry then joined the conversation, “What did you have in mind, Donna?” she asked.
“I think you should give him a flat top, a nice short flat top for the summer,” she announced.  Donna grinned broadly at me as if she had just revealed a well kept secret.
“Sure, I can do that,” the barber eagerly agreed.  “What do you think, Jeff?  How about a flat top?”
“Well, I don’t know.  Isn’t that cut just for younger guys?” I protested.
“Not at all,” Sherry continued.  “In fact, I think you’d look really great with a flat top.  Your hair is straight and thick.  With a little encouragement I’ll bet it will stand up real nice.  You should try it.”
“Yes, you definitely should try it,” Donna chimed in.  It seemed that she wanted me to share the experience of a completely new hairstyle.
What could I say?  I was outnumbered, so I agreed to let Sherry give me the haircut I had so disliked as a boy.  As she ran the clippers back and forth across the top of my head I saw Donna closely following the progress of my haircut.  Her rapt expression told me that she was more thrilled with my new hairstyle than I was.
When we emerged from the shop Donna paused to run her hand across the top of my freshly barbered head.  “Nice and short, just the way I like it,” she purred provocatively.
“And I like your new look, too” I responded. 
Donna paused to admire her reflection in a store window.  “I agree.  This is a wonderful style for summer.  I think I’ll keep it this way for a while.”
My flat top required frequent touch-ups to keep it looking sharp so I made a standing appointment with Sherry every four weeks.  With her hair now cut short, Donna decided that she needed to accompany me to Lou’s barbershop on each trip.  In my opinion, she really didn’t need to have her hair trimmed that often.  I suspected that she rather enjoyed getting her hair cut in the barbershop.  By this time Sherry and Donna had developed a warm friendship.  Donna now called to make our appointments so she could chat with Sherry.  The two women shared stories about their pets and exchanged recipes.  Although Sherry was five years younger than Donna, they discovered that they had several friends in common.
When the cool weather of autumn arrived I resolved to let my hair grow longer again.  Donna was disappointed with my decision, but I had never shared her enthusiasm for the flat top look. Her locks, however, remained at the same abbreviated length they had in the warmer months.  It seemed that the short bob was now her permanent look. 
When my wife and I arrived for our January appointments Sherry was waiting for us.  It was an unusually quiet Saturday morning at Lou’s shop.  Donna took her seat and Sherry began combing though her hair.   “What will it be today, Donna?” Sherry asked.  “The usual?”
“I don’t know, Sherry.  I’d like your opinion.”
“Sure, Donna.  What’s on your mind?”
“Well, Sherry, the bob is cute, but I’m thinking about trying a different style.  I’d like to know what you think.”
“What kind of style?” Sherry replied.
“Here, let me show you.”  Donna reached into her jeans and extracted a page torn from a fashion magazine.  She unfolded it and handed it to her barber.  After Sherry studied the photo for a moment my wife asked, “What do you think?”
“Yes, Donna, I think you would look great with this pixie style, but I think we need a second opinion.  Let’s see what Jeff says.”
“Jeff, come here,” Donna called.  “I need your opinion.”  I walked over to the chair.  She handed me the photo and inquired, “Jeff, I’d like your honest opinion.  Do you think I’d look good with my hair cut like this?”
The picture showed a model with her dark hair cut short all over.  Unlike the smooth, even cut Donna was wearing this style featured jagged, uneven lengths of hair, tossed in a rather haphazard fashion.  I gathered this was called a pixie cut.  This new look would be quite a departure from her bob, but the style was feminine and very attractive.  “Donna, I think you’d look great in this style,” I stammered.  I was still in shock from this unexpected request.  I couldn’t find the words to voice my objection.
Donna waited no longer.  “Okay, Sherry.  Your heard the man, let’s go for it,” she ordered.
Sherry picked up her scissors and wasted no time starting to work on Donna’s hair.  First, she clipped the hair fairly short in back, leaving a ragged fringe along her neck.  Then she cut away most of the length on the sides, partially exposing Donna’s ears.  On top she began chopping three and four inch lengths from the&a
mp;nbsp;crown.  Discarded hanks of hair went flying in all directions, but my wife seemed unfazed.  When Sherry finished the longest hair on her head was no more than three inches.  Then she trimmed Donna’s bangs much shorter. Instead of cutting straight across her forehead as she had with the previous haircuts, she clipped them in a jagged, irregular line.  Finally, she brushed the shortened hairs forward so they framed her face in a fetching border of feathery wisps.  It was an amazing alteration.  My wife looked years younger.  Her beaming smile told me that she was delighted with her new style.  I, on the other hand, was still in a state of shock.
When we returned for our regular appointments the next month Sherry greeted us with distressing news.  “I’m afraid this is the last time I’ll be cutting your hair.  My husband has been transferred and we’ll be moving at the end of the month.”
I was saddened to be losing such a capable barber, but Donna seemed crushed by the news.  “What will I do?  I love the way you cut my hair.  It’s so hard to find a stylist you can trust.”
“Oh, Donna, I’m sure you’ll find someone else,” Sherry comforted her. “There are lots of excellent stylists in this area.  It shouldn’t be that difficult.”
The following month as I prepared to head for Lou’s shop Donna told me that she wasn’t going to accompany me.  “I think I’ll stay home if you don’t mind.  My hair’s not that long.”
“Is that the reason or are you not going back because Sherry’s gone?” I asked.
“Yes, I guess she’s the main reason.  You get used to someone doing your hair and it’s hard to change.”
The next month it was the same story.
After three months Donna’s hair definitely needed a trim.  It was creeping down her neck and hiding her ears.  I could tell she wasn’t happy with the way it looked.  Her cute pixie style now was shaggy and overgrown.  I overheard her on the phone asking friends to recommend a new stylist, but without success.  I wondered how long she would wait before having her hair cut. 
As I prepared for my regular trip to Lou’s I extended the usual invitation to Donna.  “Honey, I’m going to get my hair cut,” I called.  “Do you want to come along?”
“Well, I really do need a haircut,” she acknowledged.  “Do you know if Lou has hired someone to take Sherry’s place?”
“I saw a young guy there last time I went.  I think he’s Sherry’s replacement,” I answered.
“I’m not crazy about going to a male barber, but I don’t have much choice. I guess I’ll come along with you,” she reluctantly agreed.  “Perhaps it won’t be too bad.”
When we arrived at the shop the station that Sherry formerly occupied was empty.  Lou and Mel were busy with customers. The third barber, Harry, sat waiting.  He nodded and rose from his chair.  One of us would be his next customer.  “Howdy, folks,” he greeted us warmly. “Can I help you today?”
Donna turned to me and said, “Why don’t you go, Jeff?  I’ll wait ‘til you’re done.”  Harry was about fifty-five, overweight, and always smelled of cheap cigars.  I knew Donna did not want him cutting her hair, but it appeared that before long she would have to select among the three older barbers.  Either that or she could return home without a haircut.  From the worried look on her face it seemed that this was a distinct possibility.
Midway through my haircut a darkly handsome male barber who appeared to be in his early twenties emerged from the rear of the shop.  When he saw my wife sitting there he promptly announced, “I’ll take whoever’s next.”  Since Donna was the only person waiting, his announcement obviously was intended for her.  He paused to see what her reaction would be.  Donna looked at me with a pleading, anguished expression.  “Should I go to this new barber?” she seemed to be asking.  I shrugged my shoulders in reply.  “Whatever you think best,” was my silent response.
“Are you waiting for a haircut?” he asked her directly.  She couldn’t delay any longer.
“Yes.  Yes, I am,” she replied.  Slowly, Donna rose from her chair and approached him.  She had decided to put her fate in the hands of this untested young barber.
“Hello, my name’s Donna,” she said, extending her hand.  “You must be Sherry’s replacement.”
“Hi, I’m Tony,” he said.  “Yes, I was hired after Sherry left.  Was she your barber?”
“Yes, I’d been going to her for a couple of years.”
“Well, I hope I can take her place.  Why don’t you have a seat?”
I watched as Tony prepared to serve my wife.  Despite his youth, he was polite and had a gentle manner.  He seemed to be successful in making my wife feel at ease.  As he spread the striped cape around her shoulders he observed, “It looks like it’s been a while since your last haircut.”
“Yes, it’s been several months,” Donna replied.
Tony stood behind her as they both looked into the mirror.  “And how would you like me to cut it today?” he asked.
“Well, I’d like it fairly short, but not too short,” she told him.  Clearly, she was concerned that this youthful barber might clip her hair as short as some of the male customers.
“Short in the back and on the sides but longer on top?” Tony inquired.
“Yes, that’s right,” Donna answered.  I wondered whether my wife had given her barber sufficient instruction.  Her hair had grown out so much since her last appointment with Sherry it was difficult to tell what style she preferred.
“Okay.  Why don’t we get started?”  Tony pumped up the chair and, with no further discussion, reached for a pair of electric clippers.  He fastened a plastic attachment over the blades and approached my wife.  Tony obviously had misunderstood Donna’s instructions.  He apparently planned to give her a much shorter haircut than Sherry had ever administered.  Sherry always had used scissors to cut her hair, never the clippers.  I saw her eye the instrument in Tony’s hand with apprehension. 
I expected Donna to complain.  Surely, she w
asn’t going to let this guy give her such a short haircut, but she remained silent.  Tony switched on the clippers and held them at the base of my wife’s neck.  Their insistent buzzing warned of the serious shearing to come. “Bend your head down, please,” Tony requested and my wife silently complied.  I was astonished to see Donna willingly submit to his command.  Didn’t she realize he was planning on giving her a much shorter haircut than anything she had previously experienced? What was she thinking? 
Tony raised the clippers and began mowing Donna’s shaggy tresses.  With a few swift strokes he stripped most of the hair from the back of her head.   As he neared the crown he left her hair longer, but not by much.  I watched in disbelief as large clumps of dark hair tumbled from Donna’s head and landed on the floor. 
It soon became evident that the haircut Tony was giving Donna was a far cry from any of the cuts Sherry had administered.  This was going to be a standard man’s haircut.  He obviously knew nothing about women’s hairstyles. 
Donna’s hair was now only half an inch long in the back, but she didn’t say a word.  She sat with a worried look on her face as Tony continued shearing away her hair.  I worried that Donna would be upset when she realized how short Tony was cutting her hair, but there was nothing I could do.  For better or worse, Donna’s fate was in the hands of her new barber.
When Tony finished clipping the back, he began on the sides.  He buzzed the hair above Donna’s ears and inverted his clippers to carve her sideburns into sharp darts.  Now only the top remained.  Would Tony continue cutting her crown as short as the sides?  Would Donna speak up to stop this assault on her hair?  I waited for her response, but she remained silent.
Tony put down the clippers and grabbed a spray bottle.  He pumped a mist of water over the top of Donna’s head and then used his fingers to rub the moisture into her hair.  Tony continued the scalp massage longer than I thought necessary.  Donna closed her eyes and seemed to be relaxing a bit.  When he finished, Donna’s hair was tousled in all directions.  Then the youthful barber slid his fingers across her crown, clipping off everything that protruded above his knuckles.  Methodically, he reduced all the hair on top of Donna’s head to no more than an inch and a half in length. Finally, he attacked her bangs, hacking them shorter than Sherry had ever done.  At last, he put away his scissors and took up a brush.  He forced the bangs off Donna’s face and parted her hair on the side.  The feathered pixie look was gone for good.  My wife now resembled a schoolboy with a neatly trimmed crop.  It definitely was a masculine haircut.  There was not a hint of femininity about it.
Tony offered Donna a hand mirror to inspect her new haircut.  She studied the sides and the back, holding the mirror at different angles.  She ran her hand up the back of her head, feeling the short hairs that remained.  Then she pushed her fingers through the shortened hair on top, testing the length.  I was sure that she would object.  Instead, she asked Tony to apply some styling gel to the hair on top.  After he had rubbed the gel into her hair, Donna took his brush and began lifting locks of her hair so they curved upwards.  “There, that’s more like it,” she said with obvious satisfaction after a couple of minutes.  The spiky tufts that sprouted from her head gave a more womanly look to her radically short hairdo. 
At first I wasn’t sure whether Donna liked her new look, but the longer she gazed into the mirror, the more satisfied she seemed.
“I hope this is what you had in mind,” Tony offered.
My wife’s haircut certainly was not what she had expected, but she didn’t seem dissatisfied.  “Well, it’s not exactly the way Sherry cut it,” she told him, “but I do like it.” 
“I can take it shorter if you wish,” Tony offered.
“No Tony, I think you’ve done enough damage for one day,” Donna replied jokingly.
Tony removed the cape from my wife’s neck and dumped her clipped hair to the floor.  My wife strode toward me displaying her short new haircut and smiling broadly.  “Pay the man, Jeff,” she commanded.
“Wow, that’s quite a haircut, Donna,” I marveled as we drove home.  “I never thought you’d let anyone cut your hair that short.”
“Yes, I’m a bit surprised too.  I guess that coming to this barbershop has changed my attitude toward haircuts.  Actually, I had been considering getting my hair cut shorter, but was afraid to try it.  Tony sure took care of that.”
Donna returned to Tony for monthly haircuts while I continued to patronize Harry.  She and Tony seemed to be developing the kind of friendly relationship she previously had enjoyed with Sherry.  Some guys might have become jealous at the bond that was blossoming between my wife and the good-looking young barber, but I saw no reason for concern.  It seemed that since Donna and I had been coming to Lou’s our relationship also was deepening.  Our lovemaking had become more frequent and more intense.  Donna seemed to be especially insistent after each haircut.  I suspected going to the barbershop was a turn on for her.
It was early June when Donna and I returned to Lou’s for our next appointments.  Harry was occupied with a customer so I sat to wait.  Tony was waiting for Donna.  “Good to see you, Donna.  What’ll it be today?” he asked as she eased herself into his vacant chair.
“The usual,” Donna replied and Tony went to work.  I eavesdropped as they chatted about the weather, the town’s minor league baseball team, and the rising price of gasoline.  It was all very casual and innocent.  Donna seemed relaxed and perhaps more animated than usual.  After twenty minutes Tony was putting the finishing touches on her haircut.  As usual, he presented her with the hand mirro
r so she could inspect his work.  As she peered into the mirror he made his usual offer, “I can take it shorter if you wish.”
Instead of politely refusing his offer as she usually did, this time Donna said, “Do you think I should?”  She stared critically at her image in the small mirror.
Tony didn’t seem the least bit surprised by my wife’s reply.  “It’s up to you, Donna,” he answered.  “Whatever you want.”
“Yes, I know that, but what do you think?  My hair already is shorter than I ever imagined.  Nearly all of the women at work, even those with short hair, don’t have it this short.  I’m afraid anything shorter will be too extreme.”
“Donna, with your bone structure a shorter haircut would look stunning.  Another woman might not be able to get away with such an extreme look, but on you it would look great.”
“But what will people say?  Already I’m afraid they think I’m a lesbian.  If you cut it any shorter, they’ll probably start calling me ‘Butch.’”
“Let people talk.  If you try to live your life to please others you’ll always be disappointed because you can never please everyone.  First, you have to please yourself.  That’s my philosophy.”
“Tony, you’re wise beyond your years.  That settles it.  I will do what I want.”
“So you want me to take it shorter then?”
“Yes, take it shorter, Tony.”
“How much shorter?”
“Take about half an inch off the top.  I’d like to see how that looks.”
Tony went to work with his comb and scissors, carefully trimming the top of Donna’s head to the same uniformly short length.  When he finished cutting he applied a dollop of styling gel Donna’s head and began brushing her hair up off her face.  When he put his brush down my wife’s hair stood out from her scalp in a sort of longish buzz cut.  Donna now looked more like a youthful rocker than a middle-aged businesswoman.  
When Tony handed her the mirror Donna said nothing as she studied her new cut.
“What do you think?” he asked.
“I like it,” she replied.  “It certainly makes me look younger.”
“I can take it shorter if you like.”
“No, that’s enough for today.”
Tony brushed the hair clippings from her face and shook out the dark hair that had collected on the cape.  Donna stepped down from the chair and walked to where I sat.  “Well, Jeff, what do you think?” she asked.
“Donna, you never cease to amaze me.  Just when I thought you couldn’t possibly go any shorter, you tell Tony to cut some more off.  Now your hair is shorter than mine.”
“Do you mind, dear?”
“No, I think you look great.  I’m just a little worried.  I’m not sure where this will end.”
“I’m not sure either.  Would you hate me if I let Tony cut it even shorter some day?”
“No, I could never hate you, dear.  Just give me some warning if you ever decide to go any further.”
“I will, I promise.  You’re great, Jeff.  Most husbands wouldn’t be so understanding.”
The reaction of her friends and colleagues to Donna’s new hairstyle was mostly positive.  A few women were shocked, but her male co-workers were uniformly favorable.  It seemed that they were intrigued by her willingness to venture beyond the borders of conventional female fashion.  Most days Donna sported the spiky punk look, but sometimes, for variety, she combed it down across her head into an eye-catching boyish style.  As her hair grew longer she occasionally brushed it forward to recreate a shorter version of the pixie do Sherry had given her. 
For the rest of the year Donna kept returning with me for our monthly appointments.  She kept her hair at the same ultra short length.  Each time he finished her cut Tony offered to “take it shorter,” just as Sherry had done, and each time she politely but firmly declined his suggestion. 
We showed up fifteen minutes ahead of time for our first haircuts of the New Year.  Harry was free, but Tony was busy.  “Hi Donna.  You’re early.  You’ll have to wait a few minutes until I finish here.  I hope you don’t mind.”
“No, that’s fine, Tony.  You go right ahead.”
Tony had just started cutting the hair of a gentleman who appeared to be in his mid-fifties.  With his erect bearing and lean body, I figured him for a retired military officer.  There were a lot of them living in our small community.  His steel gray hair was short already and Tony was cutting it even shorter.  I noticed that Donna was watching his haircut with more than her usual interest. 
When Tony was done and his customer had departed, Donna took his place in the chair. 
“What’ll it be today, Donna?”
“The usual,” she replied.
As Tony began to work, Donna began to interrogate him about his previous customer.  Who was he?  What did he do for a living?  It turned out I was right.  The man who had just walked out of the shop was a retired Marine Corps colonel.   Donna asked about his haircut.  “It’s called a high and tight,” he answered. 
“Why do they call it that?” she asked.
“Because you clip it tight against the scalp and high up on the sides.”
“Yes, I see that.  Are they required to wear their hair like that in the Marines?” 
“It’s not mandatory, although you do see lots of Marines with their hair cut like that.” 
“Do women Marines get their hair cut that way too?” 
“No, they usually keep it short, but not that short.”  I began to worry that Donna might ask Tony to cut her hair even shorter than usual, so I was relieved to hear her say, “No, not today,” when Tony asked his usual question at the end of her haircut.
On the ride home Donna was unusually quiet.  Finally, as we neared our home, she began questioning me.  “Did you see that marine who got his hair cut ahead of me?”
“Yes, of course.  Why do you ask?”
“Well, I wondered what you thought of his haircut.”
“It’s pretty a standard military haircut, but you don’t see it very often on civilians.”
After a long, pregnant pause she dropped her bombshell.  “Wh
at would you say if I asked Tony to cut my hair like that?”
“You’re not serious are you?”
“Well, I might be.  What would you say, Jeff?”
This time, instead of trying to humor her, I told Donna what I really thought about her short hair fixation.  “I’d say that you’d taken leave of your senses; that you’ve gone over the top; that your obsession with short hair has gone too far.”
“That bad?” she remarked sorrowfully.
“Yes, I’m afraid so,” I told her.  “I want my wife to look like a woman, not G.I. Jane.”
Donna said nothing further on the subject.  I could see that I had hurt her feelings, but I had to let her know how I felt.
The next month, as I prepared to go for my haircut I asked Donna if she was coming along.  “No, Jeff.  I’m going to let my hair grow out for a while.”  When I got to the shop Tony asked where my wife was and I explained that she had decided to wait longer between haircuts. 
The following month it was the same story and the next month too.  Donna’s hair was beginning to look downright shaggy.  Her bangs were getting in her eyes again and her ears were nearly covered by hair.  It had been weeks since her hair stood erect.  The spiky, punk look disappeared as Donna began to comb her hair over to the side again.  Her mood seemed to change along with her appearance.  She didn’t act as cheerful around the house and wasn’t interested in going out.  Our lovemaking became more and more infrequent.  She was showing signs of depression.  When I asked what was bothering her she said there had been a lot of pressure at work lately, but I suspected she wasn’t being completely honest with me.
One evening I came up behind her as she was brushing her hair in the bathroom.  She was scowling as she studied her image in the mirror.  “What’s the problem, hon?” I asked.
“Just trying to make up my mind what to do with my hair,” she answered.  “I’d like your opinion.  Do you think I should go back to the pixie or would you prefer to see me with the bob again?”  
I knew this was a loaded question, so I took the coward’s way out.  “Either one would look good on you.  Whatever you want is fine with me.”
“Do you really mean that?” she asked.
“Sure, either style would look good on you,” I replied truthfully.
Donna wasn’t satisfied with my answer.  “But you said whatever I want is fine with you.  Do you really mean that?”
Too late I realized that she had not given up on the idea of the high and tight.  “You mean you still want to get your hair cut like G.I. Joe?”
“Yes, Jeff.  That’s what I really want.”  Her tone was insistent, pleading.  It was clear that this was the reason for her dejection over the past months.  She had tried to respect my wishes, but it wasn’t working.
“I don’t understand this fascination with short hair,” I confessed.  “Where did it come from?”
“I don’t know, Jeff.  I guess it began the first time I went with you to Lou’s barbershop.”
“So you’re saying this is all my fault?” I joked, trying to lighten the mood.
“No, not at all,” she said. “It’s something that was buried deep inside of me.  That first trip to the barbershop released it.  Almost from the start I found myself thinking about getting my hair cut shorter.  I thought the urge would fade after a while, but it only grew stronger.  It took months to work up my courage, but I’m glad I did.  Sherry helped me feel safe taking the plunge.”
“And Tony?” I inquired.  “What’s his part in this?”
“Tony makes me feel brave,” she confessed.  “He seems to sense where I want to go and he’s willing to take me there.”
“And now you want him to cut your hair so short that you’re nearly bald.  I don’t

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