It all started with a joke: I was in college in Seattle and as usual was spending a Saturday at a house party with our group of friends. I wandered in from the backyard into the kitchen where a group of my girl friends were talking in a hurry.
“Oh my god you’d look so good!” I heard my friend Lizzie say to her roommate Mika as I walked in the room. Mika twirled her breast length mess of dark curls.
“Ethan, Mika said she wants to shave her head. Don’t you think it would be so cute on her?” Lizzie said to me.
I looked at Mika with her bashful eyes. I had such a big crush on her and the idea of her with short hair really caught my attention. She was short, about 5”6 and a tiny little thing. I always thought she had a Dolly Parton vibe due to her small stature but giant wig of dark curls.
“Yeah you’d look great.” I said “do it.”
“I’m thinking about it. It would be fun to say fuck it all and start fresh” Mika said.
The alcohol must’ve gotten the better of me because right at that moment, without thinking, I blurted out “If you shave your hair I’ll shave mine”. My hair had grown long since I went to college. My blonde thick curls we’re down past my shoulder now, not unusual for a guy in college. But the moment the girls heard this their eyes lit up.
“Yes!” Mika exclaimed. Her nerves suddenly turning into excitement, “lets do it together! If I buzz mine you’ll buzz yours!” She said jumping up and down.
“Lets do it now” another girl, Annie, blurted.
“I have clippers at home” Lizzie states non chalant. “We could go do it right now.”
By now there was a hubbub in the kitchen and everyone was playing with my hair. What I thought was a throwaway comment was now something I was getting nervous about.
Mika could see the concern in my face. I wasn’t ready to shave my head right then and there.
“Don’t worry. You have beautiful hair and I don’t want to ruin that” she said gently and kissed me on the cheek.
“We’ll see” Lizzie said. Lizzie herself had the longest hair of anyone I knew. Her straight thick chestnut hair fell all the way down to nearly her waist. Why was someone with such long hair so encouraging of others going short?
The conversation dissipated and I was able to move on to another room before the momentum carried any further. But for the rest of the night and days to come I was still stuck with the fear/excitement of getting my head shaved. The thought stuck with me.
A few weeks passed and it never came up again. We continue to go to classes all week and party on the weekend. Most of our friends lived in the same neighbourhood of Seattle and went to college on the other side of town.
I walk leaving class one day when I passed Lizzie and Mika on their way to the parking lot.
“Hi Ethan, do you want to ride with us?” I heard Lizzie shout. Her hair was pulled into a tight top pony. I looked at Mika next to her, her big curls bouncing up and down as she skipped.
“Sure!” I said excited for some alone time to flirt with the girls.
I sat in the back, Lizzie drove and Mika in the front seat. We joked and had laughs as we drove home. Before we got all the way home Lizzie was parking on the street in our neighbourhood where all the shops were.
“Where are you going?” I asked.
“Oh we have some things to take care of first” Lizzie said and their doors opened and they got out. I followed out of curiosity.
In a few moments were appeared outside of Bishop’s salon. It was a walk in only salon full of hipster stylists giving crazy alt haircuts. The exterior had big glass windows all the way around. Inside was a big waiting bench in the middle with 4 barbers chairs on either wall. Each wall was lined with a full length mirror that ran the whole side of the building.
It was the evening so the shop lit up like a beacon onto the street and the whole space was visible. Inside there were two girls getting bob trims on one side of the shop. On the other were two stylists flicking through their phones sitting in their respective chairs.
Lizzie and Mika slowed down and looked in as we approached.
“Are you all going in?” I was shocked
“Haircut time!” Lizzie said as she opened the door, ruffling Mika’s curls. “Come on” Lizzie said grabbing my hand and pulling me in the door.
As we walked in they looked up at us. “What can we do you for?” The first man in the chair said, standing up.
“Well,” Mika started to say nervously looking at Lizzie for encouragement. “I’d like to donate my hair”
“Wow, that is exciting” the barber said. “How much are you looking to donate.”
Mika inhaled. “All of it” she said half-assuredly.
I was shocked. She really was going to shave her head like she said! I didn’t see this coming, or that she’d go through with it, or that I’d have to good luck of getting to watch it!
“She’s going to look so good don’t you think?” Lizzie said as she and I took a seat on the waiting bench. In the full length mirror we were behind Mika watching as she stepped into the seat. I could see her body shaking as she gave us a calm smile. Lizzie had a huge smile on her face and was giddy for the big chop. Mika’s face went sullen as the barber started to tie her hair off into a dozen pony tails.
The stylist wrapped a paper tissue around her neck. The salon seemed to be in silence in anticipation. Lizzie was smiling ear to ear on the edge of her seat. Her gaze was zeroed in on Mika. The stylist in the next chair was also on the edge of her seat, greedy to see Mika get sheared. For a moment she said there, facing the mirror with her hair in knots and nothing but a tight white collar around her neck. Next to her the stylist pulled a nylon blue cape out of the drawer. She watched as she flicked it out of few time before letting it drip over Mika’s body. It covered her completely nearly touching the floor. Her small body disappeared under it as the stylist snapped it together at her neck.
Mika stylist grabbed his scissors and snipped the first ponytail from her hair and placed it on the counter in front of her. Mika’s eyes widened and we all had a light laugh. I took out my phone and snapped a picture of her while giggling
“Don’t be laughing too much bud, you’re next” Lizzie said to me, loud enough everyone could hear.
I turned to her, confused.
“Remember, you said if she shaves her head, you’ll shave yours”
My confusion now turned to shock. The wheels in my head were spinning rapidly to think of an excuse to get out of this.
“But… I was only joking. I didn’t think we were serious…”
“A bet is a bet” Lizzie said smirking.
The other stylists heard our conversation.
“Is someone trying to get out of their bet?” She said mischievously.
“Well it wasn’t…”
“Oh no mister, I don’t deal well with people trying to get out of commitments” The stylist said standing up.
“A bet is a bet” Lizzie said.
“Come on, up you get” The stylist said grabbing me by the arm on the waiting bench. Then Lizzie grabbed the other arm and the two of them nearly dragged me to the chair.
I plumped down into the chair, my nerves and fear bumbling inside of me. I need to run and get out of here. But it all seemed to be progressing against my will.
I look over at Mika. Her chair was still facing toward the full length mirror so she didn’t have to turn to see me. She gave me a smile of sympathy as I looked at her with wide eyes and fear. “You’ll look so cute” Mika said reassuringly.
The stylist clipped my long hair to the top of my head. A paper tissue was tied around my neck. I was scrambling to find an excuse to think of something.
“Maybe we can just do a mohawk or something fun?” I said, trying to get out of the brutal shearing I feared was coming my way.
“Oh no, a bet is a bet. If she shaves you shave. And I think for trying to snake out of this we should give you something extra special” The stylist said, obviously relishing in my nerves. A red nylon cape filled my vision and landed over me. The red cape consumed me as she pulled in across my body and tied it at my neck. Now that the cape was I was fully submitted to the fate of what was to come. I was now a prisoner to the stylist.
I looked miserable in the mirror. My mass of hair pinned to my head, the neck strip and cape made me look so foolish. It ran all the way down to my feet and with the long mirror I had to take in the full image of myself. I wanted to look attractive in front of Mika and Lizzie but here I was submissive and humiliated.
The stylists unclipped my hair. “Lets get rid of this mess shall we?” She said. And with that she produced her scissors and launched then straight into my forehead and cut bangs straight across my forehead. They foot of hair plopped down into my lap. I looked like lord Fuqua. Before I had time to mourn it the stylists kept cutting at the same elevation and turning my chair.
Fuck, I thought. She’s giving me a bowl cut! The stylists rotated the hair as she cut the bowl cut around my hair. I was rotating so now I was facing the window the outside, humiliated in public. Then the chair rotated so I was facing directly at Lizzie in the waiting area. She was smiling and laughing staring at me and my humiliation. I saw her pull out her phone and take a picture of me as I faced her. That picture would haunt me: My in the chair, only my head popping out from the long red cape, my dry hair covering the cape and just my silly bowl cut and my face on the verge of tears. One of the girls who was getting her undercut bob sharpened on the other side of the salon had finished paying and was giggling at me as she walked by.
My stylist continued cutting and turning my chair and I was now facing Mika. Mika turned to look at me. The ponytails were now all removed from her head and nothing but a short crop remained. She pulled her hands from under the cape and ruffled her remaining hair, smiling at herself in the mirror.
Finally I was turned back to face the mirror and could take in the full ridiculous sight of myself.
“Now lets get to the fun part” the stylist said, ignoring my desolate demeanour. I watched her grab the clippers from the counter. I knew enough about hair clippers to know it was not a good sign when she removed the guard. “We’re going to go extra short since you tried to get out of this once before.” I gulped awaiting my fate.
“Can I watch?” Mika said quietly from her chair.
“Of course dear, you’ll love the show.” My chair was rotated so that I was now facing Mika’s chair. In turn, her chair was turned to face me.
“Say goodbye to your hair” my stylists said. I squinted as I heard the clippers approach my head. The stylists put one hand on the back of my head and pushed it forward while another hand pushed the clippers across the top of my head. It was like she was pushing my head into the clippers. They ran straight down the middle of my head. A torrent of hair fell into my lap.
Meanwhile, Mika’s stylist used a guard on her clippers and was going over her head reducing her short crop to a tight buzz. Little tufts of hair were now covering her cape. But she was distracted from her own buzzing by watching my shearing. More like a total peeling. I was embarrassed with so many people watching me. I looked down at my lap to the pile of hair that was once on my hair. Foot long pieces covered me now. My stylist moved onto my back. She put her hand on top of my head and pushed it forward and held it there. Then I felt the clippers grinding up my neck. I would see lizzies legs as she approached the chairs. I couldn’t see her face but I could see her petting her nearly waist long hair.
“They are looking so good” she said gleefully.
“Oh this ones going to be so handsome and clean bald.” My stylist said.
“This ones s right punk now. No more of those old curls huh. Bet you’re rethinking this decision” mikas barber said.
“I was thinking” Lizzie said, “I think this is still too messy for her. Let’s do a #1 fade on the sides up to a more flattop”. Mika shifted in her seat and but the barber put his hand on her caped shoulder.
“That’ll look sharp” her barber said.
“And this one” Lizzie said, speaking to my stylist. “ I’m loving the bald look, can we go any shorter?”
“You want me to make him a cueball” The stylist said. I gulped and felt it against the tight collar.
“Yeah lets get him shiny”Lizzie said, jumping slightly in excitement.
By now the stylist had clippers all of my hair off. As their conversation was finished I was covered in my hair, on my shoulders, in the lap, and lining the chair around me. I was humiliated.
I heard the sound of shaving cream coming from the can and soon felt the cool lather on my head. I turned to look at myself in the mirror. How did I get myself into this situation I thought? Barely 30 minutes ago I have a luxurious head of hair. And now I was stripped to nothing. I looked so stupid with the shaving cream on my head. I turned back to mika as my stylist started scraping my head with the razor.
Mika looked completely downtrodden. She was no longer smiling or joyful or even amused at me. Her face just looked empty. The barber had taken her once cute crop down to a very masculine unflattering flattop. He’d taken the balding sheets around her whole back and sides so it was pure skin all around. On top was a little square of hair about 1/8 an inch long.
Lizzie was gleeful as even looking on. That’s when I realized— it wasn’t Mika who has initiated all this. Lizzie was the one who had instigated this and tricked both of us into these humiliating haircuts.
“Are you going to get your hair cut?” I asked Lizzie pitifully.
“Oh me?” She said petting her long tail, “oh no I wouldn’t look good with short hair. Plus I like to keep it long to attract the boys.”
Mika stayed silent but did look up when she said that before the barber pushed her head back down.
My stylist was finishing my razoring and clearing off the remaining foam with a towel. Almost simultaneously both Mika and I’s capes were removed
As we stood up Lizzie started rubbing our bald heads “oh you two. So cute!” Neither of us said a word and just looked down.
Lizzie paid and took both of our hands as we walked out the building.
“You two were so good and well behaved in there. Let’s treat you to something special.”
We walked the few blocks back to where Mika and Lizzie lived. Lizzie took both of us into her room and set up two chairs next to each other.
“Sit” she said.
Feeling completely broken and forlorn we took our seats. What’s the worse that could happen?
I felt a blindfold around my eyes and heard her do the same to Mika. The room fell silent. Then I felt lizzies hand at the base of my bald neck. The sensations in my body started to fire in all cylinders as she began rubbing my head.
“I’m so proud of you two. I know you Ethan. I know what you’ve been looking at on the internet and how much you wanted someone to make you shave your head. Well you’re welcome. And you my sweet Mika, always wanting to be a tomboy but too afraid to make the jump. Both of you wanting so badly to be shaved. And now look at you both— too shy to say what you really want. But I made it happen.” Lizzie said slowly and seductively.
“And now” she continued “I’m going to leave the rest up to you.”
Lizzie removed my hand from my head. The amazing sensation when away. I heard her walk back, leave the room and shut the door. Then I heard the front door open and Lizzie leave through it.
Mika and I were left there in dark silence. My heart was racing a mile a minute. We both sat their, side by side for a moment. And then I felt mikas hand on the back of my neck.