It was an ordinary Saturday afternoon. Donna and I spent most of the morning and part of the early afternoon doing chores around the house. Now it was 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 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.
“I’m going to the mall. While I was out I thought I’d 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 we could do some shopping and get something to eat afterwards,” I added.
My invitation was an automatic offer, 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’d been reading. “I think 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 as the same location for as long as I can remember—thirty years at least. Thousands of men and boys have passed through its doors over the years.
Saturday afternoon usually is Lou’s busiest time 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 men’s 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 trimmed very short. The sides and back were clipped nearly as short as a man’s, and the top was not much longer. I had a hunch that when business was slow one of the other barbers in the shop gave 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 what about 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 concentrated on making sure her customer’s crop of upright hair was perfectly level.
“Did you ever have your hair cut like that?” she continued.
“Yeah, 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, at the time short hair was out. 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 the next one 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 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 neck. “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. “Would you like to be next?”
Donna obviously was taken by surprise. She seemed a bit flustered by Sherry’s invitation. “Oh, no. Thanks, but not today,” she responded automatically. 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 just 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 assured 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’d been patronizing Lou’s shop.
Donna changed the subject and we said nothing more about our trip to the barbershop.
Four weeks later, it was time for another haircut. As I put on my jacket Donna inquired where I was going. “Going to the mall to get my hair cut. I have an appointment with Sherry in fifteen 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 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 should let Sherry cut my hair. You’ve been saying how we need to save money and a haircut 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 idea of her 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 other girls, but I’m not happy with either of them. All they want to do is talk about is their stupid boyfriends. I’ve been looking 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 basically it’s a men’s barber shop.”
“Well, yes. That is a concern, 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-boys 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 Sherry cut her hair, and I didn’t want to dampen her enthusiasm.
This time the shop was not as crowded as on our previous visit. Sherry was waiting for me as we entered. Donna whispered to me, “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 vacant 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 observing intently as Sherry used her scissors and comb 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 neck. “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 nervousness. There was a forced smile on her face as she prepared 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 deep 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 little bit shorter all around—no more than an inch or so,” Donna insisted. She sounded worried 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 till 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 freshly cut ends and announced 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 my regular excursion to Lou’s. Each time Sherry inquired how she wanted her hair cut, Donna replied, “Just a trim.” Her locks remained at the same length—just grazing 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.
In the time between haircuts Donna fixed 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 the haircut for the young customer 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 cut the young man’s hair. His hair was much longer than most of Lou’s usual patrons, hanging well past his collar. As Sherry passed the clippers over his head it soon became evident that he was on the receiving end of a major summer shearing. Donna seemed fascinated by the 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, I’m sure Sherry would be happy to oblige,” 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’ll it be today?” Sherry asked. “The usual?”
“No, 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 good in 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 the tip of her ear. The style she was requesting would remove four or five 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.
“Yes, I think that length would look good 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 short 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 eyebrows. “Well, what do you think about my new hairdo, Jeff?” she asked as she tossed her head and felt the shortened hair whip 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 you would look with short hair. 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 an impulsive 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 off had anything to do with 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. Never before had she expressed an opinion about my choice of hairstyle.
“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 unveiled a long held surprise.
“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.
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 that Donna was closely following the progress of my haircut. The rapt expression on her face told me that she was more eager to see 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 for every three weeks. With her hair now cut short, Donna decided that she needed to accompany me to Lou’s barbershop each time. 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.
With the cool weather of autumn arrived I decided to abandon the flat top and let my hair grow longer again, but Donna’s remained at the same length it had in the warmer months. It seemed that this 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 at Lou’s shop. Donna took her seat and Sherry began combing through 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, I’m thinking about trying a shorter style. I’d like to know what you think.”
“Shorter? How short?” 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 good in this 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 got up and 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 random fashion. This spiked look would be quite a departure from the bob she wore, but the style was feminine and very attractive. “Donna, I think you’d look great in this style,” I stammered, still in shock from this unexpected request. I couldn’t find the words to voice my objection.
Donna waited no longer. “OK, 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 changed the part from the middle to the side and began chopping off long lengths from Donna’s crown. Finally, she trimmed Donna’s bangs much shorter. Instead of cutting a straight line across her forehead, she clipped them in a jagged, irregular line. When Sherry had finished the longest hair on my wife’s head was no more than three inches. It was an amazing transformation. My wife looked much younger. Her beaming smile told me that she loved 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 sad news. “I’m afraid this is the last time I’ll be cutting your hair. My husband has taken a job in another state and we’ll be moving at the end of the month.”
I was disappointed, but Donna seemed crushed. “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. 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 I asked Donna if she planned to come along. “No, I think I’ll skip it if you don’t mind. My hair’s not that long.”
“Is that the reason or are you not interested in 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 covering her ears. I could tell she wasn’t happy with the way it looked. Her cute pixie style now looked shaggy and overgrown. I had overheard her on the phone asking friends if they could recommend a new stylist for her, but apparently without success.
“Honey, I’m going to Lou’s to get my hair cut,” I called. “Do you want to come along?”
“Well, I really do need a haircut. Do you know if Lou has hired someone to replace Sherry?”
“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 till you’re done.” Harry was about fifty-five, overweight, and always smelled of cheap cigars. I knew Donna didn’t want him getting close to her hair, but it appeared that before long she would have to select among the three older barbers. Of course, there was a chance that she might change her mind and 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 handsome male barber who appeared to be in his mid-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 waited for her response. Donna looked at me with a quizzical 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.
“Yes, I am, she replied. Slowly, Donna rose from her chair and approached him.
“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 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 insisted. Clearly, she was afraid that this new 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.”
“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 the chair. Sherry always had used scissors on Donna’s hair, never the clippers. I saw Donna eye the instrument in his hand with apprehension. Tony obviously had misunderstood Donna’s instructions. He apparently planned to give her a much shorter haircut than Sherry had ever administered.
I expected Donna to speak up, but before she could object Tony switched on the clippers and positioned them at the base of Donna’s neck. “Bend your head down, please,” Tony requested and my wife silently complied. Donna willingly submitted to whatever he had in mind.
He raised the clippers and began mowing the exposed hair. With a few swift strokes he cropped 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 astonishment as large clumps of dark hair tumbled from Donna’s head and landed on the floor.
It soon became evident that Tony was giving Donna a standard man’s haircut, a far cry from the feminine styles Sherry had administered. 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 mowing away her hair. I worried that Donna would be upset when she saw how short Tony was cutting her hair, but there was nothing I could do about it. For better or worse, Donna’s fate was in the hands of her new barber.
Next Tony buzzed the hair above her ears and inverted his clippers to carve her sideburns into sharp darts. Now only the top remained. Would Tony continue cutting the top as short as the sides? Would Donna speak up to stop this assault on her hair? I waited for her response, but she said nothing.
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 massage the moisture into her hair. Donna closed her eyes and seemed to be steeling herself for the final stage of her shearing. Tony continued rubbing her scalp longer than I thought necessary. When he finished, Donna’s hair was tousled in all directions. Then the youthful barber slid his fingers across her crown and clipped off everything that protruded above his knuckles. Methodically, he reduced all the hair on top of Donna’s head to no more than two inches in length. Finally, he attacked her bangs, hacking them shorter than Sherry had ever done. At last, he put down his scissors and took up a brush. He forced the bangs off Donna’s face and parted the hair on the side. The feathered pixie look was gone for good. My wife now resembled a young schoolboy with a neatly trimmed crop. It definitely was a man’s haircut. There was nothing feminine 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 bristles that remained. Then she pushed her fingers through the shortened hair on top, testing the length. I was sure 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 the 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 feminine look to her radically short hairdo.
At first I wasn’t sure that Donna liked the new look, but the longer she gazed into the mirror, the more satisfied she seemed.
“I hope that’s what you had in mind,” Tony offered.
“Well, it’s not exactly the way Sherry cut it, 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 joked.
Tony removed the cape from my wife’s neck and flipped 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 towards haircuts. Actually, I had been thinking about 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. Donna 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 handsome young barber, but I saw no reason for concern. It seemed that Donna and I were deepening our relationship also. Our lovemaking had become more frequent in recent months and more intense too. Donna seemed to be especially insistent after each haircut. I wondered if going to the barbershop was turning her on.
It was early summer 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 mirror 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, this time Donna asked, “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 would 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 good.”
“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 other people 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’ll 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. When he finished cutting, he sprayed a fine mist of water over Donna’s head and began brushing her hair into place. The side part remained, but he swept her abbreviated bangs up off her face. Rather than coaxing her hair into spikes, he brushed it into a smooth cap. Donna now looked more like a schoolboy than a middle-aged businesswoman. He handed her the mirror.
Donna said nothing as she studied her new cut.
“What do you think?” he asked.
“I like it,” she tentatively 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 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 concerned. 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.”
For the rest of the year Donna kept returning with me for our monthly appointments. She kept her hair at the same ultrashort length. Each time we returned Tony offered to “take it shorter,” but she politely but firmly declined. The reaction of her friends and colleagues to her new hairstyle had been uniformly positive. Most days she sported the spiky punk look, but sometimes, for a change, she plastered it down into a flapper style helmet. As her hair grew longer she occasionally combed it forward to create a short pixie look.
We showed up fifteen minutes early 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 had been 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 can see why. Are they required to wear their hair like that in the Marines?”
“No, it’s not mandatory, although you do see lots of Marines with their hair cut like that.”
“Do women Marines get their hair cut like that?”
“No, they usually keep it short, but not that short.” I began to worry that Donna might ask Tony to cut her hair like the Marine colonel, 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.”
“What would you say if I got my hair cut like that?”
“I was afraid that’s where you were going. You’re not serious are you?”
“Well, I might be. What would you say, Jeff?”
“I’d say that you’d taken leave of your senses; that you’ve gone over the top; that your fascination with short hair has gone too far.”
“Yes, I’m afraid so. I want my wife to look like a woman, not G.I. Jane.”
Donna said nothing further on the subject. I was afraid I’d 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 think I’ll 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 and her ears were nearly covered by hair. It had been weeks since her hair on top stood erect. The spiky, punk look disappeared as Donna began to comb her hair over to the side again.
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. “Jeff, I’d like your opinion. Do you think I should go back to the pixie or would you prefer to see me in the bob again?”
“Either one would look good on you. Whatever you want is fine with me.”
“Do you really mean that?” she asked.
“Sure I mean it. Either style would look good on you,” I replied.
“But did you really mean it when you said whatever I want is fine with you?”
“You mean you still want to get your hair cut like G.I. Jane?”
“Yes, Jeff. That’s what I want.” She was definite. There was nothing tentative in her tone.
“I don’t understand this fascination with short hair. Where did it come from?”
“I don’t know, Jeff. I guess it began the first time I went with you to the barbershop. Almost from the start I found myself thinking about getting my hair cut shorter. It took me a while to work up my courage, but I’m glad I did.”
“And now you want it cut so short that you’re nearly bald. I don’t understand. Why do you want it so super short?”
“I honestly don’t know, Jeff. There’s no rational explanation. All I can say is that for the past three months I’ve been obsessing about getting my hair cut in that high and tight style.”
“Is this something sexual?”
“It is. I feel myself getting really turned on whenever I think about getting my hair cut.”
“You’re not turning into a lesbian, are you?”
“No, Jeff, it’s nothing like that. You may notice me staring at a women with short hair, but that’s only because I’m imagining how their style would look on me, not because I’m attracted to them.”
“And if you get your hair cut very short like that, will that make you happy?”
“Yes it will. More than anything I can think of.”
“Then who am I to stand in the way of your happiness? Shall I call to make the appointment or do you want to?”
“Oh Jeff. You’re wonderful,” she exclaimed. “Why don’t you call?”
The next Saturday morning, promptly at 9:00, Donna and I walked into Lou’s barbershop. Tony was busy with another customer, but he waved to us and indicated he’d be done in a few more minutes. Harry was busy too, so Donna and I sat next to each other in the waiting area. She shoved her hand through her shaggy hair. I could see that she was nervous about her impending haircut. She reached over and took my hand. I wanted to tell her that she didn’t have to go through with the haircut if she was having second thoughts, but just then Tony finished with his customer.
When Tony’s customer exited the shop, he came over to greet us. “Hi Jeff. Hi Donna. It’s been a while. I thought maybe you found another barber,” he said to my wife.
“No, nothing like that, Tony. Just trying a little experiment, that’s all.”
“I see that you let your hair grow out.”
“Yes, I tried to let it grow out, but it didn’t work. I’ve decided to cut it short again.”
“Well, I’m glad you came back. I’ll be happy to cut it whatever length you want.”
“Good. Let’s stop talking and get to work.”
Donna flashed me a nervous grin as if to say, “Well, here it goes.” I watched mutely as she marched over to the chair and took her seat. Tony followed and spread his cape over her shoulders.
“So, what would you like, Donna? Just like before?”
“No, Tony. Not today.”
“So, do you want something longer like the pixie you had when you first came in here?”
“Nope, not that either.”
“You want something shorter then?”
“That’s right, Tony. Something shorter.”
“How much shorter?”
“I want you to buzz it short all over and flat on top.”
“You want me to give you a flattop?”
“No, I want it high and tight.”
“Just like the Marines, right?”
“That’s right, Tony.”
“And your husband is okay with this?”
“Yes, Jeff says I should go for it.”
“So what are we waiting for? Let’s get started.”
Tony removed his clippers from their hook and dropped a few drops of oil over the blades. He clipped a metal attachment over the blades and switched on the power. I watched Donna’s body tense as she waited for her shearing to begin.
Tony stood behind the chair and pumped a couple of times so Donna rose in the air. My wife looked straight ahead into the mirror and Tony raised his clippers to the base of her neck. “Any time you’re ready, Donna,” he solemnly announced.
Donna bowed her head and silently waited for Tony to begin. He placed his clippers on her bare neck and guided them up into her shaggy locks. The clippers climbed up the back of Donna’s head peeling off a thick layer of dark brown hair. When Tony reached the top he withdrew the clippers, revealing a broad path of shortened hair. Immediately he returned the clippers to the base of Donna’s neck and made another run up her head, widening the shorn area on the back of her head. This was much shorter than anything he had done before. Only an eighth of an inch remained in the areas he had clipped. Beneath the dark stubble I could see her white skin gleaming. It took Tony only a few minutes to finish shearing the back of Donna’s head. Clumps of her hair now covered the floor beneath his feet and littered the cape.
Tony next moved to Donna’s side. She lifted her head and looked in the mirror. From the front she looked pretty much the same as when she had entered the shop, but I knew that soon would change.
Tony pressed his clippers into the hair above her cheek and the sideburn disappeared. As he pressed up the side of her head more dark hair tumbled onto the cape. Soon Donna’s ear stood exposed as the patch of short hair extended nearly to the top of her head. When Tony had clipped the last hairs from her right side, he shifted to Donna’s left side and repeated the process.
When Tony finished with the sides he paused for a moment. Donna remained sitting perfectly still, looking directly ahead. The image in the mirror was a rather curious sight. With the sides clipped close and the top still about three inches long, Donna looked like a hair stylist’s mistake. “Don’t leave me looking like this,” she pleaded.
“Don’t worry, Donna, it’s only temporary.” Tony switched attachments on his clippers. He snapped a large plastic comb-like device over the blades. “I’ll use this to reduce the length,” he announced. He switched the clippers back on and positioned them just above her forehead. He slowly drove the clippers into her hair. Donna closed her eyes as clippings rained down on her nose and face. When he reached the back Donna had a two-inch wide groove down the middle of her head. Her eyes widened and her mouth dropped open when she spied the result of Tony’s first pass. Donna said nothing, but closed her eyes again as Tony continued leveling the hair on top of her head.
With four more passes Tony had reduced all the hair on top of Donna’s head to less than an inch in length. This haircut was a longish brush cut, but still far cry from the Marine colonel’s high and tight. Tony took a soft brush gently and dusted the hairs that had fallen on Donna’s face. I wondered if he were finished with the haircut. Donna, too, shared my concern.
“You’re not done yet, are you?” Donna inquired.
“Would you like me to take it shorter, Donna?”
“Yes, that’s the idea, isn’t it?” She seemed almost eager for the scalping to continue.
“Sure, I just wanted to give you one last chance, that’s all,” he explained.
“Just keep going,” she said sternly.
“Okay, I’m not done with you yet,” he assured her.
Tony approached Donna with a spray bottle in his hand. He sprayed a fine mist of water on her head and picked up a stiff brush. He pushed the hair back off her face and coaxed the short hairs on top to stand upright. Then he returned with the clippers. This time he removed the plastic guide and the bare silver blades hovered above Donna’s head.
“You need to sit perfectly still while I buzz the top,” Tony ordered.
Donna sat rigidly erect, bracing herself for what was to come.
Tony switched on the power and aimed his clippers at the top of Donna’s head. He inserted his comb into her shortened locks so a fraction of an inch of hair protruded from the teeth. Slowly he lowered the blades into her dampened hair and plowed a straight path across the top of her head, slicing off tufts of dark hair. He flicked his comb to toss the clippings to the floor, and continued to methodically mow the top of Donna’s head.
I watched Donna as she followed Tony’s movements in the mirror. Her face was deadly serious as she followed every pass of the clippers. Her eyes were fastened straight ahead. Her head never wavered. She seemed unaware that the other barbers and customers in the shop had stopped to watch her haircut. Clearly, this was a sight they had never witnessed before.
Tony worked his way to the back of Donna’s head, carving a perfectly flat surface of dark bristles across the top. When he reached the back he put down his clippers and returned with his brush and a blow dryer. He attacked the top of her head, coaxing every hair to stand erect. Once again he resumed with the clippers, making another series of purposeful passes across the top, each time removing another fraction of an inch. When he stopped very little hair remained on Donna’s head. A ridge of dark hair no more than half an inch long stood at attention above her forehead. Towards the back of her head the hair was scarcely a quarter of an inch. The sides were shaved close so that white skin gleamed beneath the stubble. Her haircut was nearly an exact replica of the cut she had admired on the Marine colonel, only my wife made it look much more dazzling. Her exquisite ears stood completely exposed on the side of her head. Her dark brown eyes shone with a new intensity.
Once more Tony groomed the top of Donna’s head. At last he was satisfied the every hair was trimmed to the correct length. He stood in front of Donna and held a small hand mirror behind her head so she could examine every detail of the haircut. When my wife had nothing to say, he spoke. “Well, Donna, what do you think? Is this what you had in mind?”
Donna drew her hand out from under the cape and slowly passed her palm across the top of her freshly cropped head. As she repeated this motion a second and third time a broad smile spread across her face. “Oh, Tony,” she exclaimed. “It feels so good. It’s even better than I imagined.”
“Glad you like it, Donna.”
“Tony, I love it,” she exclaimed. “Jeff, come here. You’ve got to feel this.” I got to my feet and walked to her side. Donna took my hand and guided across the top of her head. I felt the short hairs as they tickled my palm. “What do you think, Jeff? Do I look too butch?”
“Honey, you look just fine.” It was strange, but I actually liked my wife’s new look. Her hair was awfully short, but her face had never been so alive. Obviously, it made her happy, and that was the most important thing for me.
“I can take if shorter if you like,” Tony offered, half in jest.
“No, Tony. Not today,” Donna answered.
“One more thing. Usually with a cut like this, I shave the neck to give a clean line.”
“Sure, go ahead,” Donna ordered.
Tony unclipped the cape, pulled the tissue from around her neck, and dumped a pile of dark hair clippings onto the floor. He returned the cape to her shoulders and took a handful of lather from the dispenser on the counter. He applied the foam behind her ears and down her heck. Using a straight razor, he scraped away the white foam, revealing a neck bare of hair beneath a crisp dark line of dark hair. Finally, he wiped away the excess lather with a white towel and splashed a handful of bay rum on the freshly shaved skin.
Tony removed the cape and Donna rose from the chair, still marveling at her new look in the mirror. Repeatedly she ran her hand up the back of her neck. It was clear that she was enjoying the novel feeling of her shortened hair. “Jeff, pay the man,” she ordered and I did as I was told.
As we headed for the door Tony called to us. “See you in four weeks?”
“We’ll be back,” Donna answered.
As we walked back to the car Donna threw her arms around my neck. She was practically bursting with glee. “Thank you, Jeff,” she cried.
“For what?” I asked.
“For being so understanding. I don’t think many husbands would allow their wives to get scalped like this.”
“I could see this really means a lot to you. I don’t understand your fascination with short hair, but I didn’t want to stand in the way of your pleasure. Besides, I had an ulterior motive.”
“Oh? What’s that?”
“Well, I’ve noticed that each time you get your hair cut our lovemaking improves by at least one hundred percent. I was kind of hoping that we might skip dinner out tonight and go straight home”
“You think so, do you? Well, let’s not wait any longer to see.” She grabbed my hand and practically dragged me to the car. I knew I’d done the right thing.