It had been weeks of waiting. I had gone all off the second semester of my sophomore year of college without cutting my hair. I was slowly inching my way towards summer and my return home from a study abroad trip to Lithuania. “James Garner. World Travler.” was certainly not a title I would have pictured myself with, but hearing about my college’s Biology program linked with a semester in Europe seemed like the perfect way to get myself out of my comfort zone while studying towards my major. I wasn’t a huge fan of how long my hair had grown, but I sort of like the change to my usual style. While most of the other male students on my “study abroad” had found solid barbershops to get haircuts along the way, I had trouble convincing myself to stray from the salons that my mom had taken me to back home.
I had felt pretty disconnected from my friends and family, but calling and emailing my girlfriend, Kari, back home helped keep me from becoming home-sick. Kari was a year younger than me. We both went to the same college in Ohio. She and her brother commuted while I stayed in a dorm on campus like most students. Her brother, Adrian, was insanely athletic, playing baseball and basketball for our high-school and baseball for our college. Kari, however, was simply a fan. She had enjoyed cheering in high-school. Kari was just 5’2 and had dirty-blonde hair that reached the small of her back. We both served on student government in high-school and had been dating since my junior year.
She often commented on my long hair after I emailed her pictures of me on some of the hikes we took, but she seemed more surprised and impressed by any means. I remember her mentioning that she preferred my short-cropped haircut, but I did not have any definite plans to change my hairstyle. Besides, my long hair kept me warm in the colder areas of Europe throughout the spring. Even a decent amount of the students on the trip had also grown their hair out over the semester. It didn’t seem out of the ordinary to have my hair almost touching my shoulders.
I grew up with my mom just loosely controlling my hair. She would take me to her salon with her every month and a half or so, and I got used to sporting a medium-length haircut for most of my life. Looking back, it seemed that I had the longer quiff on top with clippers on the sides since I was in middle school. I got in such a habit I probably couldn’t have told you what guard I had on the sides; maybe a #3 or #4 at the shortest.
Arriving home in Southern Ohio, everything seemed normal. However, the heat of late May and early June was in full swing. I was met by my parents at the airport and went through a similar jetlagged routine that all cross-continent travelers go through. As I climbed into bed my first night home, I made sure to send my girlfriend a text telling her I was home and that I wanted to see her as soon as she was availible.
As my strange sleep schedule started to figure itself out, I decided to visit my mom at work the next day as I didn’t have much of a chance to talk to her the night before. I remember sitting down in the office chair across from her desk and noticing her studying my long, unhealthy hair.
She commented, “Gee, I need to remember to book you for an appointment with Cindy this week to settle your hair situation.”
This was the first time I had realized that my hair was in noticeably rough shape. “Oh, I guess… Yeah, it has been a while, but I’m in no rush.”
“Well,” she replied, “It works out well. I was just thinking of calling her to schedule one for myself the other day. I’m sure all that hair has been driving you crazy. You’ll be able to sort it out before the summer heat really starts to get brutal.”
That was the last time we had talked about my hair at her office. I had planned to go see my girlfriend after that lunch. I stopped home to grab the souvenirs I got her and headed towards her house. As I drove, I passed by a barbershop and contemplated stopping in and getting my hair cut, but decided against it, wanting to see Kari and not keep her waiting. As I pulled into her neighborhood, I thought back to my mom’s reaction to my long hair and hoped that Kari wouldn’t share a similar, immediate distaste. I parked, got out, and rang the door. As the door opened, I was greeted by my girlfriend with her long hair cut into a much shorter style. Kari’s dirty blonde hair was now cropped into a smooth, shoulder-length bob. I first hugged her and gave her a kiss, but I quickly reacted to her recent hair transformation.
“Your hair!” I exclaimed with laughter and surprise in my voice, “That’s wild! It looks great! I had no idea you did that… or even that you were thinking about it.”
“Yeah, me either! I just sort of saw a couple pictures I liked online and went and got it chopped,” Kari explained as she ran her hands through her hair, showing me the different angles of her cut. She continued, “I didn’t realize how long yours had gotten,” as we started to walk towards the family room and kitchen area.
“Ha, I guess it snuck up on me. I didn’t think it was this noticeable until today,” I told Kari.
As we continued, I heard a deeper voice in the kitchen as we turned the corner of their entry hallway. There, at the kitchen island, stood Adrian, as broad and fit as ever, slicing various vegetables in his sweaty workout clothes. This was a common sight I had seen before, but, to my surprise, Adrian’s hair was buzzed into a clean, sharp buzzcut. Maybe a quarter-inch long on top, with a skin-fade on the sides, Adrian’s new do just furthered his militaristic, athletic swagger. He picked up his plate of veggies, his phone, headed my way. He noticed me and gave me a nod and a pat on the back, listening for a response in the conversation he was having on his phone.
As he headed up the stairs, I turned to Kari, asking, “Adrian buzzed his hair??,” with more shock and confusion that I had asked her about her haircut.
I was starting to feel left out after seeing Adrian’s clean buzzcut and Kari’s simple bob. Suddenly I was having doubts about my current shaggy, lazy-looking hair.
“Yeah, it was bothering him for baseball, so he had me buzz it before their post-season started,” Kari explained.
“You buzzed his head?!?!”
“Yeah, we found some cheap clippers in the spare bathroom, so we just clipped his hair until it was the length he wanted. He ended up having me use the shortest guard we had all over. We do something else now, but there was a lot of hair on the ground when we were done.”
I sat there, dumbfounded. My girlfriend had turned into a makeover specialist over my time in Europe.
As we headed over to their living-room couch, I could feel her eyeing my long hair. “When are you getting that cut?” she asked.
“My mom has to make an appointment but probably soon… I hope.”
“You’re still going to the lady salon? I could just cut it myself and save you the time and money.”
She brought up a good point. Then again, I didn’t feel very comfortable getting out of my comfort zone with people handling my hair.
“Eh, I don’t know. I can probably figure something else out. Plus, you don’t know how to cut other styles like mine,” I whined as Kari rolled her eyes.
“It’s just a haircut,” she pleaded, “It grows back, and it’s just in time for summer. No one from school will see it if you don’t like it. C’mon, nice and cool and short.”
“But you don’t know my hairstyle, Kari!” I exclaimed with a slight chuckle. “You only know buzzcuts, silly.”
“What’s wrong with buzzcuts?” She asked with a smirk and a raised eyebrow.
Woah. Kari was really suggesting to buzz my 7-inch mop into a clean military crop. It was way out of my comfort zone, but secretly, a part of me always wondered what it would be like to walk into a barbershop and request for it to be buzzed off.
“I mean… I guess… I can, sort of, picture trying or… for you.” I stammered
“SO YOU’LL DO IT?!?” Kari exclaimed, jumping up from the couch.
“I can try…” I admitted as Kari ran into the bathroom.
She quickly pulled up a bar stool from the kitchen and laid out her clippers, scissors, and equipment on the island in front of her. She came to the couch and grabbed my hand, pulling me towards my new hair appointment.
As she plugged her clippers in, I asked, “So what’s the new here? Do you just progressively just buzz it shorter?”
“Kinda sorta. I have an idea of how long each is so I can get a headstart this time,” Kari told me as she popped on a guard, threw her hair into a (short) ponytail, and fired up her clippers.
“Okay, hun, just make sure to leave something there.”
“Of course!” She guaranteed.
Without hesitation, Kari placed the clippers at my hairline. She turned the clippers on as my heart skipped a beat. All I could do was close my eyes. On her tip toes, she balanced herself with her spare hand on my mid-thigh. She took a deep breath and started to push the clippers up my crown. Instantly, the sound of the clippers changed as it mowed my hair, but just centimeters in, the clippers made an ugly noise and started to stall.
“Huh, I wondered if this would happen.” She told me. Before I even had the chance the ask what she meant, Kari was holding chunks of my hair in one hand and was sawing through them with the scissors in her other hand. Kari threw chunk after chunk of my 7-inch hair into my lap.
45 seconds later, my jeans and my T-shirt were covered in 80% of my hair. My neck started to itch as Kari grabbed her clippers again and started buzzing. This time, to her success, my hair was getting buzzed right down to the scalp. Pass after pass, I could feel my hair was almost completely gone.
As I saw hair fall to the floor around me, I asked her, “What guard are you using?”
She replied with a chuckle, “A #1.”
I must’ve had quite a stressed reaction as she quickly reassured me, “No, no, trust me; this looks great.”
Moments later, as she put on the finishing touching around the edges, my head was buzzed entirely, and all my long hair rested on the floor.
Kari marveled at her work, but quickly changed tones when she pouted about her hair. “I just wish I could do something this wild and drastic. Just buzz it all off and start fresh.”
I had never heard Kari talk about her hair like this before. Moments of silence past as I brush the hair clippings I could get off my shirt and pants. I walked over to my phone and checked my haircut in the camera. Pleased with my new buzzcut, I turned to Kari, who was adjusting her ponytail.
“You always know best with this kind of stuff, babe,” I told her as I heard the working of scissors from across the room. A second or so later, Kari held her severed ponytail in her left hand and her scissors in the other. Kari now had a choppy pixie cut around her face. My jaw dropped as she tossed her ponytail onto the counter and sat on the stool. She continued to pull up long chunks of dark blonde hair and would chop them as close to her head as possible.
“Can you help finish this for me?” She asked, holding out her clippers to me. I flicked the switch and started on. To my surprise, Kari’s jaw and face made a buzzcut look perfectly natural.
I switched off the clippers, and she turned to me, nervously asking, “Does it look kinda okay?”
I took a step back, avoiding the piles of buzzed hair on the ground around, and realized how great the buzzed look suited her. I just smiled and told her, “You really do know how to get someone out of their comfort zone.”