Late Night Conversations
Most weeks during the school year I spend Sunday evenings at my university office preparing lectures for the coming week. I leave home after dinner, returning around midnight. With department meetings, committee work, student conferences, and miscellaneous distractions, my week goes much more smoothly if I have those lectures ready in advance.
LaFayette Hall, the history department’s home, usually is nearly empty when I arrive and completely deserted by my departure time. All my faculty colleagues are ensconced in their home offices. Occasionally a grad student labors over a thesis in the first floor sitting room, but most prefer to study in the library with friends nearby for companionship. It’s a welcome luxury to be able to work undisturbed for three or four hours straight. Without distractions, I get more work done than I would at home.
Two years ago my familiar routine was disturbed. On my way out of the building around midnight I noticed a light burning in the student lounge. Thinking someone had failed to extinguish a lamp, I poked my head inside. There I came upon a startled young woman. “Sorry to bother you, miss,” I apologized. “I thought the room was empty. Wanted to turn out the lights.”
“It’s okay for me to study here, isn’t it?” she asked, apparently concerned that I might consider her a trespasser.
“Oh yes, there’s no problem,” I told her. “It’s just that usually no one’s here at this hour.”
“I like the quiet,” she informed me. “Sometimes you need to get away from people to pull your thoughts together.”
“Well, I’ll leave you alone then,” I said as I prepared to leave.
“Oh, no. I didn’t mean you,” she assured me. “I meant my fellow grad students. They chatter too much, you know, complaining about professors or yakking about the latest political scandal. Some nights it’s impossible to get anything done.”
“You’re not a history student, are you?” I inquired.
“Nope, economics,” she informed me.
“I thought so,” I said. “I don’t recognize you from my classes or department socials.”
“You’re Professor Morgan, aren’t you?” she observed. “I sat in on your lecture on the New Deal last semester. I learned a lot about FDR’s economic policies.”
“Thank you, miss. You know my name, I’m afraid I don’t know yours.”
“I’m Valerie, Valerie Sexton. My friends call me Val,” she volunteered.
“Well Miss Sexton, it’s late. I must be on my way. Please make sure the door is secured on your way out.”
“Yes, I’ll do that. Nice meeting you Professor.”
On the drive home I found myself thinking about the attractive economics student. Like most coeds, she wore jeans and a sweat shirt that hid her figure, but I could see she was slender and taller than average. Her soft voice gave the impression of kindness. She looked at me with a direct, confident gaze, not the least bit intimidated by my professorial rank.
But her most remarkable feature was her gorgeous golden brown tresses. I’m a life-long connoisseur of women’s hair, and Valerie’s mane was outstanding—long and glossy with a slight wave, covering her shoulders and reaching part way down her back. She wore it parted on the left, draped across the right side of her face which she tucked behind her ear every so often. Its sun-streaked light brown color was one you don’t see very often. I couldn’t tell whether the highlights were natural or if they had been professionally applied. Either way, the look was alluring.
I’d been a widower for three years by then. In her final days my wife urged me to seek another romantic partner after she was gone. “It’s not good for man to be alone,” she said, quoting a familiar Bible verse, but I hadn’t heeded her advice. Most women my age were buried in their careers or uninterested in sex. Most of my female students seemed shallow and immature. Their interests and mine were miles apart. Valerie was the first woman in a long time who aroused my masculine juices. However, a relationship with her seemed out of the question; I never imagined she might be interested in me.
The following Sunday I looked for Valerie when entering the hall, but the building was vacant. I forgot about her until I spotted the light again on my way out. “Hi Professor Morgan,” she called cheerfully as I stuck my head in the lounge.
“So you’re here again. The library too noisy tonight?” I asked.
“Don’t know. I don’t go there anymore. This is my new favorite place to study—so quiet and peaceful.”
“Well, I’ll leave you to your studies,” I said as I turned toward the door.
“Don’t run off on my account. I’ve been studying for three hours solid. I could use a break.”
It was an invitation I couldn’t refuse. I pulled up a chair and we started getting to know each other. I learned she was the eldest child of a mining engineer. “We moved from town to town out West, wherever my dad could find work. I was the studious one in our family; always had my nose in a book. It was obvious from an early age I was destined for an academic career. I wasn’t into high school sports, although I love to swim and ski, and I wasn’t a cheer leader. So that left me on the sidelines when it came to dating.”
“I find that hard to believe, a young woman as attractive as you are,” I commented.
“Well, thick glasses and braces on my teeth didn’t enhance my popularity. Being taller than most of the boys was another obstacle. Then there were the dreadful home perms my mother insisted on.” She wrinkled her nose in disgust.
“Seems you’ve left those problems behind,” I tactfully observed.
“Thank goodness. College was so much better. The braces came off in my senior year of high school. Then I got contacts and never had another perm. I was still taller than many guys, but that wasn’t such a problem anymore.”
“So why did you decide to study economics?” I probed.
“I was always good at math. The statistics and equations used in econometrics fascinate me. My friends call me a first-class nerd, but I enjoy searching through mounds of data looking for answers to real world problems.”
We chatted for nearly an hour before I took my leave. “See you next week?” she called as I headed home.
“You can bank on it,” I replied. “Same time, same station?”
“I’ll look forward to it,” she said as I departed.
I couldn’t believe how easily Valerie and I fell into conversation. The difference in our ages didn’t seem to inhibit her. Meeting on Sunday evenings became an anticipated routine. At first our late night chats focused mainly on her graduate studies. I gave her advice based on my three decades in the academic world, suggesting strategies for handling her dissertation committee and avoiding common pitfalls in developing her research proposal. She seemed to appreciate having someone willing to listen to her concerns. Soon we were on a first name basis.
My knowledge of economics is rudimentary at best, so our nocturnal talks soon strayed to other topics. As the weeks passed we discovered shared tastes in music and literature. We found it easy to discuss our personal lives. It seemed that no subject was out of bounds.
During our fifth evening together she asked the question I had been anticipating. “Are you married, Roger?” she delicately inquired. I’m sure she noticed my wedding ring and probably suspected I was a philandering professor.
“My wife died two years ago—breast cancer,” I revealed. “I still wear the ring. Somehow taking it off seems unfaithful to her memory.”
“That must have been very hard on you. Were you married long?”
“Twenty-eight years,” I told her, purposely avoiding her first comment. “I know that sounds like a long time to someone your age, but we were still getting to know each other.”
Then it was my turn. “What about you, Valerie? I don’t see a ring. Do you have a boyfriend?” I asked.
“That’s hard to say. There’s a guy I’m seeing off and on—an econ grad student. But it’s not serious. He says he can’t afford a committed relationship right now, but I think he enjoys flirting with the hot coeds in his classes too much. I get the feeling he’s waiting until someone better comes along.”
“What a cad,” I replied without thinking.
“You might say so, but that describes my position pretty well too—just waiting until someone better comes along.”
Was Valerie hinting that there might be an opening for me? The thought crossed my mind, but I quickly dismissed it. No, it didn’t seem possible I might be that someone.
We began posing philosophical questions. “Do you believe in life after death?” she asked. I did; she didn’t. “What’s the most urgent issue facing humanity today?” I mused. “Global warming,” she responded. Intolerance was my reply. Then one evening in early November Valerie surprised me with a highly personal query. “Tell me Roger, what quality do you find most attractive in a woman?”
She had no way of knowing, but she was opening a very sensitive topic. “Well, I like a woman who’s intelligent and well put together, has a sense of humor, and isn’t taller than I am,” I answered evasively.
Valerie wasn’t satisfied. She pressed for a more specific response. “No, not that,” she insisted. “What really turns you on? When you meet a woman for the first time what do you look for? What gives you a hard on? What makes you think, ‘I’d really like to have sex with her?’”
I shifted uncomfortably in my chair. This was more direct and sensitive than I had expected. It was a loaded question, one I had best handle carefully. I knew the answer, but hesitated. Did I want to reveal that part of my personality? Would she think less of me if I gave her an honest answer? I considered deflecting her probe.
“No more stalling, Roger. Tell me honestly, what do you like in a woman?” she insisted.
“Valerie, this is difficult for me,” I protested.
“It shouldn’t be. You know better than anyone else what turns you on,” she insisted.
“Oh, I know how to answer your question; that’s not hard. It’s difficult because I don’t know how you’ll react and I don’t want to offend you.”
“Go ahead, try me. I’m not easily offended. You should know that by now.”
Despite my reservations, I decided to risk it. “Okay, here goes,” I sighed. “Upon meeting a woman the first thing I notice is her hair. That’s what I look for.” I noticed that Valerie unconsciously stroked her own well-groomed locks. I wondered, did my response make her self-conscious?
“That’s a good start, Roger, but I need to know more. What about a woman’s hair? What about it turns you on? The color? The style? The texture?”
“It’s the length that I look for.”
“So you like long flowing locks like Lady Godiva?” she continued.
“No, with me it’s the opposite. I like short hair on women.” There, I’d said it. My secret was out in the open.
“But I have long hair, Roger, and you seem to like me” she pressed on. “Am I mistaken about that?”
“No, I like you very much, Valerie,” I admitted. “I like your hair. It’s lovely.”
“But you would like me better if I had short hair? Is that what you’re saying, Roger?”
“Sort of,” I answered sheepishly.
“Don’t quit on me now, Roger. I think we’re making progress,” she encouraged me like a therapist with a reluctant patient. “Tell me what you mean. Give me some specifics.”
“It’s a long story.”
“I’ve got the time if you do,” she said. Obviously, Valerie wasn’t going to let me off the hook until she heard the full story.
“Well, as far back as I can remember I’ve been attracted to women with short hair. That’s what catches my attention. That’s what turns me on.”
“But you say you’re attracted to me. Maybe you’re faking it.”
“No. You don’t understand. For me the possibility of short hair is almost as exciting as short hair itself.”
“You’re right, I don’t understand. What do you mean?”
“When I see a woman with long hair like yours, right away I start imagining how she would look with a shorter hairstyle.”
“I think I catch your drift. Are you saying that you picture me with a short haircut when we’re sitting here talking?”
“Well, what exactly do you mean? You’ve got to explain,” she continued with a hint of frustration in her voice.
I could see she was tired of my evasion. It was time to level with her. “When we talk I picture you having your hair cut short.”
“Roger, that’s weird.”
“I was afraid you’d say that.”
“I’m sorry, Roger. I shouldn’t be so judgmental. Please continue.” Now she sounded even more like a therapist. I had never shared this with another person, but I felt safe with Val.
“My condition is called a fetish—an unusual sexual attachment to an inanimate object or a non-genital body part. Some men are aroused by women’s shoes or feet; others are fixated on boobs. Many, like me, obsess over women’s hair.”
“How unusual. I’ve never heard of such.”
“It’s not uncommon. Many people have them, men more often than women. Usually fetishes are harmless, but sometimes, if they get out of control, they can be a problem.”
“What about you, Roger? Has your fetish ever been a problem?”
“Never,” I insisted. “I control my impulses at all times.”
“That’s reassuring,” she calmly replied.
I was encouraged that she hadn’t freaked out at my revelation. I gave her credit for being open-minded. Then came the question I had been dreading. “So, would you like me to cut my hair short; to chop it all off? I’ve thought about it sometimes. I really have.”
“I wouldn’t want you to do it if you were doing it only to please me. That’s not a good enough reason.”
“Sounds like a pretty good reason to me.”
“No,” I said firmly. “If you cut your hair to please me and then detested the result you’d probably hate me for suggesting it. Cutting your hair has to be something you do for yourself.”
“I see,” she told me thoughtfully. “Thanks for your honesty, Roger. I understand this was difficult for you. You’ve given me a lot to think about.”
On my drive home I wondered whether my confession would affect our relationship. Had I been too frank? Would Valerie draw back because of my fetish? Would I see her the following Sunday?
To my great relief, our late night discussions continued as usual. The next Sunday I found Valerie waiting in the usual location. I decided to turn the tables and find out more about my young companion’s romantic preferences. “Last week I told you what I find attractive in a woman. Now I’d like you to tell me what attracts you to a man.”
“That’s only fair, I suppose,” she replied. I sensed she was hesitating, trying to find the right words before proceeding. “Like you, Roger, I have a secret, one that I’ve never shared with anyone else.” I waited for her to resume. “This is embarrassing,” she continued, “but I’m attracted to older men. When I was an undergrad I had an affair with one of my professors. He was in his fifties, I was twenty-one. He said he was divorced. Later I discovered that he and his wife were separated, not divorced. I was flattered by the attention he paid me. He had sophisticated tastes; I learned a lot from him. He was a great lover, very patient and considerate, not like the horny college boys I had slept with before. He knew how to please a woman.”
“How did it end?” I asked.
“I graduated. After commencement he gave me a lovely gift and wished me good luck. I assume he found another coed to screw the next year. I still hear from him from time to time, but we’re friends now, no longer lovers.”
“No hard feelings?” I asked.
“None at all,” she replied. “He treated me well and I learned a lot from him.”
Having shared our secrets seemed to draw us closer. I sensed that I could trust Valerie and apparently she felt the same towards me. We continued meeting on Sunday evenings. Our rendezvous remained secret—just Val and me together in the graduate student lounge. However, when Christmas season neared that changed. “What are you doing for the holidays, Roger?” she asked. “Going to visit your children?”
“Well Suzie’s in France. She tells me she’s going skiing in the Alps with a bunch of friends. Her Old Man wasn’t invited. Not that I’d want to try keeping up with a crew of twenty-year olds on the ski slopes.”
“And your son?” she continued.
“Tim’s working as a ski instructor at Vail. The holidays are his busiest time. He’ll be giving lessons seven days a week.”
“So you’ll be sitting home alone on Christmas Day? How sad,” she remarked.
“You get used to it,” I said, trying not to sound too sorry for myself.
Valerie’s face brightened. “I know, you can come to my place for Christmas dinner. My roommate and I are having a few friends over, you know, people like us who can’t afford to go home for the holidays. We’re going to cook a turkey with all the trimmings.”
“I wouldn’t want to be any bother,” I protested weakly, hoping to be included.
“Nonsense, Roger. You’ll be no bother at all. In fact, you’ll fill an empty chair at the table. If you come we’ll have an even number of boys and girls.”
I had to smile. It had been decades since anyone had called me a boy. “Are you sure about this?” I asked, still not believing my good fortune.
“I’m absolutely sure. I won’t take no for an answer. Three o’clock on the 25th,” she said as she wrote her address on a notecard. “Be there or be square.”
In the hours before that Christmas dinner I was nervous as a school boy preparing for his first date. I was uncertain whether Valerie had invited me out of pity for a lonely widower or if there could be a romantic motive behind her offer. Although our conversations had touched on many personal issues, there was still a degree of reserve in our relationship. The social gulf between student and professor was too wide to be easily bridged. Besides, the university had a strict policy against “fraternization” between instructors and their students. Technically, Valerie was not my student, but our unequal status was a large hurdle to overcome.
I purchased an expensive bottle of white wine as a hostess gift and then thought about a present for Valerie. An hour before the dinner inspiration hit. I rummaged through my dresser until I found a small white box buried beneath sweaters in the bottom drawer. It contained a simple silver bracelet I bought for Mary Ellen before her cancer was diagnosed. Her disease progressed so rapidly and we were so consumed with the chemo and radiation treatments that I forgot to give it to her before she died. It was the perfect gift, I decided—simple, elegant, and not too personal. Compact enough to hide in my jacket pocket until an opportune moment arrived. Still, I worried. Was it too soon for a gift like this? Would Valerie consider it inappropriate?
She greeted me at the door of her apartment. “Roger, right on time. You’re so predictable,” she teased as she took my coat. I couldn’t tell whether she was mocking or praising me. I let her comment slide and handed her the wine. She was wearing a bright red sheath with a revealing neckline. It was the first time I’d seen her in a dress. Her hair was done up in a French twist, revealing her graceful neck.
“You look ravishing,” I said.
Val took my compliment in stride. “Glad you like it. Specially for you,” she whispered in my ear. She had never flirted with me like this before. I congratulated myself on remembering the bracelet. I hoped there would be a private time later when I could give it to her.
The dinner went better than I expected. Val’s friends were a lively, congenial bunch who accepted my presence without undue curiosity. Soon we were joking and laughing like old-time buddies. After the others had left, I stuck around to help with the dishes. “It’s the least I can do after you’ve prepared this marvelous feast,” I explained. Valerie’s roommate had gone with the rest of the gang for a nightcap at their favorite pub. I didn’t know whether she disappeared by accident or by design, but it gave me precious time alone with Valerie. I washed while she dried. When the last dish was stacked in the cupboard I said, “Wait here for a minute,” and went to retrieve the bracelet from my coat.
“Something for you,” I said, handing her the gift-wrapped box. “Merry Christmas.”
“Oh Roger, you shouldn’t have,” she exclaimed.
“Perhaps,” I agreed, “but I wanted to.”
Valerie eagerly tore off the paper, opened the box, and exclaimed, “Roger, it’s beautiful. I love it.” She slipped the bracelet on her wrist and displayed it for me. “See, a perfect fit. How did you know my size?” she joked, knowing that bracelets like that come in only one size.
“Just a lucky guess,” I answered back.
Valerie took my hand and led me to the living room couch. “Poor Roger, you gave me this lovely bracelet and I’ve got nothing for you,” she said with a mock sorrowful expression on her face.
“Please, there’s no need to exchange gifts. I want nothing in return.”
“But you deserve a special gift. Come closer.”
I leaned toward her, not knowing what to expect. Valerie put her arms around my shoulders, clasped her hands behind my neck, pulling me toward her. We embraced, releasing our mutually repressed passion. She thrust her tongue into my half-open mouth. When we came up for air she breathlessly confided, “I can’t tell you how long I’ve wanted to do that.”
We continued exploring each other’s erogenous zones until both of us were fully aroused. “Shouldn’t we wait? What if you roommate comes home?” I asked.
“Oh, Carlie won’t be home tonight. I arranged that,” she said with an impish giggle. That’s when I realized Valerie had been anticipating this encounter as much as I had.
“But I didn’t bring any protection,” I worried.
“Oh, but I did,” she smiled, handing me a familiar foil packet.
After the holidays Valerie and I began dating openly. My male colleagues kidded me about “robbing the cradle,” but I knew they were jealous. We weren’t living together, but Val spent much of her time at my home—it was far more comfortable than her cramped apartment. Besides, my kitchen was better equipped for preparing our dinners together. She did the grocery shopping with my charge card and I took care of the cooking.
We kept our Sunday appointments, much as before. This ritual deepened our relationship. Our conversations ranged widely, but my fetish remained a sensitive topic.
One evening in mid-March Valerie startled me with an unexpected announcement. “Roger, I’m thinking about getting my hair cut. Don’t be surprised if next week you see me with a new, shorter hairstyle.”
“Valerie, please,” I pleaded. “Don’t cut your hair just because I have this obsession. It’s my problem; I don’t want it to be yours.”
“And what’s wrong with wanting to please my man? I’m happy having you as my lover and want you to be happy too.”
“Valerie, this is so messed up. I don’t want you to cut your hair. Leave it just the way it is,” I insisted.
“Roger, admit it; you really do want me to cut my hair. I’ve done some homework. I know this fetish is a really big thing for you. For a brief moment you were painfully honest with me and I appreciate that, I really do. I’m not a big fan of short hair, I admit it. Sure, there are bad hair days when I could chop it all off, but mostly I enjoy being a girl and a fun part of being a girl is having long flowing locks.”
“Okay, that settles it,” I interrupted. “You enjoy your long hair and I want to see you happy. Let me continue imagining your hair cut short while you keep it long. That’s what I call a win-win situation.”
“Roger, it feels like we’re going around in circles. Let’s stop this talk about my hair and find a topic we can agree on.”
“And what would that be?”
“Let’s talk about love. Roger, do you love me?”
I hadn’t seen this question coming, but it was easier to discuss than my fetish. “I do Valerie, I honestly do love you,” I declared.
“I believe you, Roger. And I love you too. But why haven’t you told me so before? Why did I have to pry it out of you?”
“Because if I told you straight out it seemed like I was being unfaithful to Mary Ellen.”
“I know you loved your wife very much, Roger. After all, you two were married for twenty-eight years. People don’t stay married that long unless they’re deeply in love.”
“I’m glad you realize that, Val.”
“So I’d like to know more about Mary Ellen. You must have pictures of her around somewhere.”
“I took them down before you started coming over,” I admitted.
“You need to show them to me. You’ve been hiding them. I want to know you, Roger. I want to know all about you, and your marriage to Mary Ellen is a big part of who you are.”
I found the family albums I had stashed on the top shelf of my bedroom closet. Valerie and I sat on the couch looking at thirty-year-old snapshots.
“Mary Ellen was a beautiful woman, Roger. And you were pretty good looking too,” she remarked while viewing our wedding photos. A few pages later Valerie remarked, “There she is with a short haircut. When did that happen?”
“Around the time Suzie was born. One day she went out without telling me and came home with her hair chopped off. She said it got in the way when taking care of the baby. She kept it short from then on.”
“Did Mary Ellen know about your fetish, Roger?”
“Well, we didn’t discuss it until much later, but I’m sure she figured it out. I praised her haircut so effusively and our sex life improved rather dramatically. She would have been awfully dense not to put two and two together, and Mary Ellen was a very savvy woman. She knew, I’m certain of it.”
Val challenged me. “And you didn’t stop her from cutting her hair, did you?”
“No, but she didn’t ask my permission or warn me in advance,” I protested. “If she had I would have told her not to do it like I did with you.”
“Then I guess I’ll have to surprise you,” she said with a mischievous twinkle in her eye.
I must admit the prospect of seeing Val with a short haircut really turned me on. Some nights, after she went back to her apartment, I masturbated off while fantasizing about my girlfriend sitting in a beauty salon as a stylist wielding a sharpen pair of scissors sent piles of Val’s gorgeous brown hair tumbling to the floor.
Late in May, during our first hot weather of the year, Valerie began dropping not-so-subtle hints that she was seriously considering cutting her hair. “Sure is hot out,” she declared after hauling in a load of groceries. “I’m going to duck into the bathroom and pin my hair up.”
When she emerged I said, “You look real sexy with your hair up like that. You know you have a beautiful neck.”
“I bet you’d like it even better if I didn’t have to pin my hair up to show off my bare neck.”
“Could be,” I answered evasively.
“Well, mister, if this hot weather continues much longer you just may get your wish.”
“Hmmm. Is that a threat or a promise?” I asked playfully.
“That’s a promise, buster. You can take it to the bank,” she declared.
On nights when we did not sleep together I continued dreaming about Valerie with short hair, picturing her tawny locks cut in a variety of abbreviated hairdos, each one shorter than the next. When we were together I couldn’t stop staring at her alluring tresses. Was she really prepared to take the plunge and convert to short hair? Would she finally make my dreams come true? I was certain she would be a knockout in any of the styles I imagined. But would she be satisfied with the result? That was my greatest concern. I didn’t want to be responsible for puncturing her self-esteem.
Then one Friday afternoon in June Valerie called and asked me to pick her up at an unfamiliar address downtown. “Sure, I can be there in twenty-five minutes,” I answered.
“After you get me let’s go out to dinner someplace nice,” she said before hanging up.
“Any special occasion?” I asked.
“Check your calendar, mister. It’s our six month anniversary.” I looked down at my watch. It was June 25. Exactly six months after we first made love on the couch in her apartment.
“Of course,” I declared. “We need to celebrate.” I changed into my best slacks and summer sport coat and headed toward the address she had given me. It was a part of town I didn’t usually frequent. I was puzzled. What had drawn Valerie to this gentrified neighborhood of high priced shops and exclusive restaurants?
I drove slowly down the street checking the storefront numbers. I spotted a slender, smartly dressed woman standing near the curb with her back to me. From the rear she resembled my girlfriend, but I couldn’t be sure. Then she turned and waved in my direction. It was Valerie, all right, but she had short hair! Either she had got her hair cut or she had purchased a first-rate wig. From a distance I couldn’t tell.
At first I couldn’t believe my eyes. The honey brown tresses that formerly hung to the middle of her back now stopped abruptly just below her chin in a stylish bob. Eighteen inches of lovely hair had magically vanished. Deep, full bangs brushing her eyebrows now covered her forehead. Her part had been repositioned from the side to the center of her head. It was a stunning transformation. The elegant style she wore was not one of the radically short cuts I dreamed about, but it was a perfect choice for her classic features. Her college girl look was gone, replaced by a sleek, sophisticated coiffeur. Now she could pass for an accomplished professional woman—an aspiring young lawyer or rising junior executive perhaps.
Val hurried to the car and slid into the seat beside me. “Surprise!” she exclaimed, with an excited grin reaching from ear to ear.
“Val, you’ve cut your hair!” I exclaimed, so delighted and surprised I couldn’t think of anything more intelligent to say.
“Well, not exactly. Antonio cut it,” she informed me. “He’s the one who suggested I would look best with this style. So, what do you think? You like?” she asked as she turned her head from side to side; whipping her shortened hair so it provocatively brushed across her cheeks then fell back into place. “I could never do that before,” she declared joyously. “I feel so free.”
“Val, it’s amazing. I’m flabbergasted. I suspected you would look good with a shorter style, but I never imagined anything like this. And you have bangs,” I observed.
“Yes, Antonio said they went with this style. You approve?”
“Honey, you look gorgeous! You were beautiful before; now you’re a total knockout. I love it, but what do you think? Do you like it?”
“I do. It’s a hairdo that never will go out of style. My long hair seems so passé by comparison.”
“You’re right; this is a timeless look which accentuates your smile and lovely cheekbones. The bangs call attention to your eyes. How did you find this place anyhow?”
“I asked Marie, the secretary in the econ department. I’ve always admired her smart haircuts. This is where she gets her hair done. She said Antonio is the best, and she was right. I came here with no specific style in mind. I told him I wanted something shorter, something that would look good when I go on job interviews. He took it from there.”
“What’s in the bag?” I said, pointing to the plastic bag she clutched in her hand.
“Oh that, that’s a gift for you,” she said as she passed the bag to me. I opened it and spied the remnants of Valerie’s golden brown hair inside.
“What am I supposed to do with this?” I asked dumbfounded.
“Oh, you might use it to stuff a pillow,” she suggested. “Or you could just keep it in your drawer as a reminder of how I used to look.”
“I’d much rather admire the way you look now,” I told her.
“Yeah, I kinda thought that’s what you’d say,” she said with a satisfied smirk.
All though dinner I could hardly keep my eyes off Valerie and her stunning new hairdo. When the waitress came with the dessert menu I chased her away with an abrupt command to bring the check immediately. “Roger, I know you’re hot to trot, but you didn’t have to be so rude to our poor server. She’s just doing her job,” Val scolded.
That night Val saw my fetish fully revealed as I brushed her shortened hair, ran my fingers through her marvelous bob, and kissed her exposed neck. “My, my, you are an energetic lover tonight,” she cooed. “I should cut my hair more often.”
The next morning over breakfast Valerie initiated the most serious discussion of our relationship to date. “Roger, didn’t you tell me that shortly before she died Mary Ellen said she wanted you to marry again; that she wanted you to find happiness with another woman?”
“She did, you know that, Val.”
“Then why are you resisting her dying wish? I’m not sure there’s a heaven, but if there is she’s looking down on us, really pissed at you for being such a blockhead.”
“Valerie, what in the world do you mean?” I asked.
“Roger, it’s so obvious. When are you going to propose to me?”
I certainly wasn’t prepared for this development. “What did you say?” I declared.
“I think you heard me,” she said frostily. “When are you going to propose?”
“I don’t know. I hadn’t thought about it,” I stammered.
“So you think we can just go on like this—sleeping together, almost living together—without talking about marriage?”
“I don’t know. Is that what you want?”
“I can’t believe you haven’t figured it out by now,” she exploded. “I seduce you on Christmas; then I practically move in with you; I let you parade me in front of your colleagues like a like a prize heifer at the county fair. Yesterday I get my hair chopped off to please you. I thought that would do it; I really believed that would seal the deal. I’ve done everything I can to satisfy your needs, but somehow you remain oblivious to mine.”
“Val, honey, I had no idea. Do you want me to propose? Is that want you want?”
“What I want, Roger, is to know where I stand,” she demanded. “Does our relationship have a future or not? I need to know.”
“Why can’t we take our time and see what develops, Valerie? I don’t want to rush into anything,” I said, trying to defend myself, but failing rather spectacularly.
“Well, Roger, I can’t afford to take my time. Next month I’ll be twenty-eight and I hear my biological clock ticking. I want to have babies, several of them; I want to be a mother. And I won’t be an unmarried mother. I want my children to have a father. A real, honest-to-goodness father who will be there to change their diapers, take them to doctor’s appointments, go to parent-teacher conferences and piano recitals and soccer games. I’d like you to be their father, Roger. I’d like that very much. But if you’re not going to step up to the plate; if you’re not willing to make a commitment; if you just want a young chick to sleep with and nothing more, then I’m afraid I’ll have to start looking for another lover.”
“Val, please understand,” I pleaded, “I’ve already raised one family. I’ve done all those things you talk about. I figured those days were long gone.”
“Perhaps that’s the way you want it—to enjoy having sex with your live-in girlfriend, to show off your young conquest to your faculty colleagues, to have a nice stress-free relationship with no strings attached. If that’s all you want, I’m sorry, but you’ll have to find yourself another girl. I can give you some recommendations if you like.”
Without giving me a chance to reply, Val turned on her heel and stormed out of the house, slamming the door behind her, leaving me in a state of distressed agitation. I hadn’t seen this explosion coming. Sure, she had talked about having children. I knew that was important to her, but I figured she had plenty of time. I never realized she was thinking about having children with me. I was too old to be a father again.
I called her each evening that week, leaving urgent messages on her machine, none of them returned. Sunday I went to my office at the usual hour, nursing the faint hope that I might find Valerie there. I checked the graduate student lounge, but it was vacant as I feared it might be so I climbed the stairs to my second floor office.
Around eleven o’clock I was surprised by a soft knock on my door. There, looking drawn and red-eyed, stood Val. I was happy to see her, but didn’t know what to expect. “Hello, Roger,” she said softly. “Can we talk?”
I rushed to her side and gathered her in my arms, praying she wouldn’t push me away. To my great relief, she returned my embrace. “Val, honey, I’ve missed you.”
“I’ve missed you too, Roger. I’m sorry I didn’t return your calls, but I was upset and angry.”
“I know we need to talk, Val. I’ve got a lot of apologizing to do,” I told her.
“Roger, please, let me go first,” she insisted.
“Okay, first you, then me.”
“I was upset, as you could tell. Getting my hair cut was a traumatic experience. I sacrificed my crowning glory to satisfy your fetish. And then you told me you weren’t ready to get married. I hoped that when you saw me with my hair cut short you’d realize how crazy I am over you. I ran away because I needed time to think. I’m sorry if I hurt you, Roger, but I was hurting too,” she apologized.
Now it was my turn. “Val, it’s me who should be apologizing. I was being selfish; I wasn’t thinking of your needs, only my own predicament. You looked so terrific with your hair cut like that; I had no idea you were hurting inside. Your ultimatum was totally unexpected, something I wasn’t prepared to deal with.”
“That was my fault; I know there are other, better ways, to let you know what I’m feeling. I shouldn’t have sprung it on you like I did. I should have prepared you.”
“No, it’s not your fault,” I insisted. “You told me what was on your mind and I responded like a selfish fifty-six-year-old blockhead.”
“Roger, your age has nothing to do with it,” she swore.
“Yes, it does, Val. You see, I’ve been a father, I still am a father, and I know how demanding parenthood can be. When our kids finished school and left the house Mary Ellen and I congratulated each other. Our job was mostly done, we thought. Now we could relax and enjoy some of the fun things we missed while raising Suzie and Tim. We never anticipated that cancer would rob of us those golden years together. So when you presented me with the prospect of fatherhood all over again I freaked out; I panicked. While I love being with you and feel much younger when we’re together, being a father again at my age is something I never imagined. Frankly, the thought scares me.”
“Motherhood scares me too, Roger. Bringing new life into the world is an awesome responsibility. I think I can be a good parent; it’s something I’m willing to try, but I don’t want to do it alone. I think you would be an excellent father. You’re kind, understanding, intelligent, and rather good looking. You’ve done it once and I’m sure you can do it again, even at your advanced age. But if you’re not interested, if you’re not willing to work with me on this, I’ll have to let you go and look for someone else. It will be the most difficult thing I’ve ever done, but that’s where I’m at.”
“I don’t want to lose you, Val. You’ve forced me to do some hard thinking. There’s nothing I’d like better than to spend the rest of my days together with you. Until you raised it, I hadn’t thought about marriage. Frankly, I never imagined you’d want to marry a man old enough to be your father. But I love you, and if that’s what you want, I’m willing to marry you. Thinking about being a father again brought back memories, most of them happy, of when Mary Ellen and I were raising our two youngsters. It will be different being a father at my age, but it will be wonderful doing it with you by my side. There’s an actuarial probability that I’ll not live to see our children graduate from college, but I’ve accumulated a substantial amount in my retirement account. If I continue teaching until I’m seventy, which I intend to do, there will be more than enough to pay for their education in the event of my demise. So, if you’re willing, I’m willing.”
“Roger, if that’s your idea of a marriage proposal, it’s just about the worst one in history,” Valerie declared with feigned indignation. “You’ll have to do better than that before I give my hand in marriage,” she said, a smile creasing her face for the first time.
I dropped to one knee and took her hands in mine. Looking into her tear-stained eyes I said with all the sincerity I could muster, “Valerie Marie Erhard, I love you with all my heart. I want to spend the rest of my days with you. My fondest wish is for you to be the mother of our children. Please continue bringing joy to this aging professor and do me the honor of becoming my bride.”
“That’s much better, Roger,” she teased. “I suppose I ought to respond in kind.” Clearing her throat, she began, “Roger Morgan, you do me a very great honor asking me to marry you. When we first met I saw a kind, thoughtful, rather lonely man. As we got to know each other I said, ‘This is the kind of man I’d like to be the father of my children.’ It took a while before I realized you were the man I wanted to be the father of my children; you are the man I want to marry. I love you and have almost from our first late night conversation. I would be proud and delighted to be your wife.”
We planned a September wedding. Valerie worked like a fiend to complete her dissertation by June. “I want to be Dr. Erhard for at least a few months before I become Mrs. Morgan,” she informed me. Early in July she accepted an assistant professor position at the nearby community college. “Now there will be two professors in the family,” she proudly informed me.
Our outdoor wedding took place in a forest grove on a warm Saturday afternoon. It was an intimate affair. Suzie flew in from Paris and Tim drove from Colorado. Val’s parents were there and a few friends from the university. Valerie looked radiant in a strapless gown and her freshly trimmed sun-streaked hair.
That night as we settled into the king-sized bed in our hotel’s honeymoon suite my bride whispered in my ear, “Roger, last week I stopped taking my birth control pills. I want to make a baby tonight.”
Although the thought of having a child in college during my seventies scared me silly, I was powerless to refuse my gorgeous young wife. We made love twice that night and once more in the morning.
Our daughter was born ten months later. She’s a beautiful little girl with light brown hair just like her mother’s. We debated what to name our child. Valerie wanted to christen her Mary Ellen to honor my first wife, but I resisted. I didn’t want to be reminded of her every time I called my little girl. I suggested calling her Eleanor like Mrs. Roosevelt, a woman I greatly admire. This time Val objected. We compromised and called our child Emily Rose. Her initials, E.R., suggesting the president’s wife.
As our daughter grew, Valerie juggled the dual responsibilities of motherhood and college teaching. I helped as much as I could, but most of the burden rested on her shoulders. In short order she was pregnant again. One evening after Valerie put our daughter to bed and I finished stacking the dirty plates and glasses in the dish washer we both collapsed on the living room couch. A game show was playing on television, but neither of us was paying attention. It was time to catch up on the day’s happenings and review plans for the day ahead.
“I have a hair appointment at four tomorrow, so you’ll have to pick up Emily Rose from daycare,” Val announced.
“Okay, I can do that,” I replied, not suspecting anything out of the ordinary.
“Roger, I should warn you I’m going to come home with a different haircut,” she said.
Suddenly, she had my undivided attention. “What kind of a haircut?” I inquired.
“Something shorter and easy to care for. I know you love my bob, but it takes too much time to whip into shape after I shower. I need a wash-and-go style.”
“You know I’m not opposed to you trying a new hairstyle, especially something shorter,” I told her, struggling to restrain my enthusiasm.
“I guess I should have realized you’d be in favor of a shorter haircut. I hope you’ll like my new look.”
“I’m sure I will, but can’t you reschedule your appointment for Saturday?”
“Why’s that, Roger? Don’t tell me you want to come along.”
“Exactly. There’s nothing I’d like more than to watch your hair being cut.”
“It’s an unusual request, but I suppose it can be arranged, on one condition.”
“What’s that?” I asked, having no idea what she had in mind.
“You’ve got to get your hair cut first,” she announced with a gleam in her eye.
Suddenly I became defensive. “What’s wrong with my haircut?” I demanded.
“Frankly, Roger, it’s pathetic. You’ve been trying to hide your bald spot with that lame comb-over and it’s just not working. If I’m going to get my hair cut the way you want, you’ll have to do the same for me.”
“And what exactly did you have in mind?” I inquired.
“I want to see you bald, shaved clean and shiny as a billiard ball,” she answered without hesitation.
“Why?” One feeble question was all I could utter. I was too shocked to say more.
“Bald men are incredibly virile and sexy. I could really get off making love with a studly bald lover.”
Val’s reasoning was enough to persuade me. If she wanted me to be her bald lover, I was ready to oblige. “If you put it that way, I suppose I have no choice,” I conceded. “When should I do it?” I asked.
“Tomorrow after work,” she replied instantly.
“I suppose I could stop at the barber shop on my way home,” I told her.
“No. You come straight home. I want to shave you myself.”
“How long have you been thinking about this?”
“A while,” she answered evasively. “Tomorrow night, after Emily Rose falls asleep, I’m gonna be your barber.”
“Playing Delilah to my Samson?” I asked.
“Yeah, something like that,” she grinned.
Friday evening, when I arrived home, Valerie was waiting for me. A gift wrapped package sat on the kitchen table. “A present for you,” she announced. I opened the box to find a Wahl home haircutting kit.
“We probably won’t need all those combs and scissors, but I thought the clippers would come in handy,” she informed me.
After three story books and two songs Emily Rose finally closed her eyes and I tiptoed out of her bedroom. Valerie was waiting in the kitchen. She had draped a white towel over a stool in the middle of the room. The clippers were plugged into a socket on the wall. “Ready for your haircut, mister?” she dared me. When I nodded my assent she ordered, “Well take your shirt off and we’ll get to work.”
It seemed that Val had taken on a new persona. My gentle wife had morphed into a gruff, determined, androgynous person. I suppose this was her imitation of a military barber.
I did as she told me and sat down on the stool after stripping off my shirt. Val placed the towel around my shoulders and said, “Buster, we’re gonna get you looking shipshape in no time at all. You’re gonna look so much better when we get done with you.” To my surprise I found I kind of liked being bossed around by Val’s new alter ego.
The kit came equipped with guards of different sizes, but Val ignored them. She was going to use the naked blades without any shield to shave me as close as possible right from the start. Val switched on the clippers and placed the buzzing instrument at the base of my neck. She held them there for a moment, allowing me to feel the vibrations coursing down my spine. Perhaps this was a maneuver to heighten my anxiety or maybe it was intended to amplify my excitement; I couldn’t tell which. Moving very deliberately, Val steered the pulsating clippers up into the gray hair on the back of my head. I felt them roughly massaging my skull. I’d never had my hair cut this short, yet I found the experience strangely exciting. Slowly, I managed to relax and let my lovely barber take complete control.
Val seemed determined not to miss a single blade of my hair, repeatedly guiding the clippers back and forth across the back of my head. This was much more than the routine shearing I had experienced so many times at the neighborhood barber shop. She was giving me a tender, prolonged treatment. Standing behind me, I couldn’t see her expression, but I got the distinct impression that my haircut was giving her as much pleasure as it gave me.
“There,” she announced as she withdrew the clippers from the bared portion of my head. “Now for the sides.” There was nothing I could do to halt her determined shearing. I sat speechless and motionless as she ran the clippers through my sideburns and up to my temples. Clumps of severed hair tumbled down my shoulders, landing in a pile on the floor. My arousal steadily heightened as Val exposed the pale skin covering my skull.
When she stepped back to inspect the damage she had inflicted, a satisfied grin spread across her face. “You’re looking much better, mister. Not much longer now.” Val stood directly in front of me, positioned the buzzing clippers above my forehead and ruthlessly drove them through the sparse hair that remained on my crown. Cool air brushed against my scalp where I never felt a breeze before. Valerie certainly seemed to be enjoying herself. Her pleasure in shearing me revealed a side of her personality I had never witnessed before. My undeniable excitement was another novel sensation. I wondered how this would end.
Finally Val switched off the power, indicating the conclusion of my ordeal. I ran my hand across the unfamiliar terrain on top of my head. Instead of three inches of thinning gray locks I discovered only a rough stubble. “Can I take a look?” I inquired.
“Not yet, buddy,” my barber replied. “I’m not done with you yet.” Val set the clippers down and grabbed a can of shaving cream she had placed out of view on the kitchen counter. She squirted a dollop of lather in her hand and began massaging it onto my nearly bald head. “You know we’ve got to get you completely clean,” she informed me.
I tried to relax when she approached with a safety razor in her hand. I’ve shaved my face nearly every day of my adult life, but this was a totally new experience. Val carefully scraped the blade across my scalp. As she worked she softly cooed in my ear, “You’re gonna look so sexy when I’m done with you. All the girls are gonna want to fuck you, but you’re mine, understand? No messin’ around.” From the tone of her voice I could tell she was as turned on as I was.
It was ten minutes before Val wiped the last trace of foam from my head. I started to get up off the stool, but she pushed my back down. “One last touch, mister,” she said as she rubbed a few drops of baby oil onto my denuded dome.
She followed me into the downstairs lavatory where I stood staring into the mirror above the sink. “So, what d’ya think, mister?” she asked.
“It’s so different,” I stammered.
“And so sexy,” she added, coming up behind me and caressing my head with both hands. “I think we better continue this discussion in the bedroom.”
“Not so quick,” I countered. “Now it’s your turn.” I grabbed the clippers and motioned for Val to take a seat on the stool I had just vacated.
She blanched. “No way I’m gonna let you use those clippers on me. You know I’ve got to look respectable for work.”
“I won’t shave you bald,” I told her. “I’ll just administer the shorter haircut you’ve been talking about.”
“You know absolutely nothing about cutting women’s hair. Sorry Roger, but I’m not letting you near me with those clippers.”
“Okay, you’re right,” I acknowledged. But can we at least discuss your new style?” I implored her. “If you haven’t decided I’d like to have a say.”
“Roger, only because I know how important this is to you, I’m going to say yes,” she replied. “But I’m warning you, I won’t go in for one of those extreme styles you love so much—no buzz cut or crew cut, no matter how much you beg and plead.”
“Yes, Val, I know,” I conceded. “Nothing too wild. I know you’ve got to look professional on the job.”
The next evening, after Emily Rose fell asleep, I presented my wife with half a dozen photos, each one showing an attractive young model with a different sort haircut. Valerie shuffled through them, considering the alternatives I offered. “No, too short. Too extreme. I could never wear this one. Out of the question,” she remarked, quickly rejecting four of them. A minute later she handed me the two she hadn’t vetoed. “I could live with either one of these,” she told me. “You decide.”
One photo showed a dark-haired model with a bouquet of short spikes arrayed across the top of her head. A brief irregular fringe adorned both her brow and her hairline in back. It was an untamed, carefree look, a radical departure from her neat, professional bob. “I thought this might be fun for a change,” she remarked and I agreed.
The second image revealed a young woman with light brown hair, a shade or two lighter than Val’s color. She wore a super-short pixie cut. Only the hair toward the front of her head was longer than three inches and the rest was considerably shorter. The model’s ears and neck were fully exposed. Right away I recognized this would require using the clippers with a number four guide. The longer hair on top of her head was brushed forward into a stylishly tousled swarm covering most of her forehead. The contrast between the longish top and the extremely short back and sides was eye-catching and exciting, yet feminine.
My fetish was fully engaged. “Wow! Both of them are really cool,” I excitedly declared.
“Yeah, I thought you’d like them,” she said with an air of resignation.
Either one would be a big change. I didn’t know what to say. “Which one do you prefer?” I asked.
“I could live with either one,” she informed me. “It’s your choice.”
“I like them both,” I told her.
“Tell you what,” she said. “You sleep on it. Don’t tell me which one you’ve picked. When we go to the salon tomorrow give the one you’ve selected to Antonio. Surprise me.”
“And you’d be good with that?”
“Yes, I can handle that, lover,” she purred in her most sultry voice.
That night we made love with a renewed passion spurred on by my anticipation of another major makeover.
We dropped Emily Rose at the babysitter’s at nine and we pulled up at the salon ten minutes ahead of Val’s scheduled nine-thirty appointment. Antonio, who remained Val’s stylist since her big makeover three years earlier, was waiting for us. He greeted us in his usual effusive fashion. “Ah, Professor Morgan and Professor Morgan, so good to see my favorite couple.” Then, speaking to Valerie, he said, “I understand we’re doing another major makeover today. Have you decided what you want?”
“You’ll have to talk with Roger about that,” she told him. “He’s in charge today.”
“So that’s how it is,” he said with a meaningful wink. “Valerie, why don’t you go with Jessica to get your hair washed while Roger and I discuss your style?”
My wife headed for the back of the salon with the pert young assistant while Antonio and I conferred. “So what are we going to do to your lovely wife today?” he asked in a conspiratorial tone. “Something wonderful, I hope.”
“Here’s what I have in mind,” I said, handing him the photo of the model with the boyish cut.
“Ah yes, this will be exquisite,” he said, approving my choice.
Ten minutes later Antonio and I greeted Val as she came into the cubicle with her head wrapped in a white towel. “Now, lovely lady, we begin your second transformation,” the stylist announced. “Are you ready?”
“Sure, let’s get started,” Val said as she settled into the chair. Despite her apparent readiness, I read the tension in her face. She bit her lip and stared straight ahead as Antonio began combing her damp locks.
“Relax, my dear. You’re going to look even more beautiful when we’re done,” he assured her.
“I’m sure I will, Antonio. It’s just that I’ve never had my hair cut so short. I don’t want to look like a boy.”
“Although this will be short, it’s not a boy’s haircut. You can be sure of that.”
Then he carefully sectioned her damp locks, pinning the hair atop her head. The sound of the electric clippers roaring to life startled Val. “You know we’ve got the clip the back and sides quite short for this style, don’t you?” Antonio asked.
“Yes, of course,” Val replied. “It’s just that I’ve never had my hair cut with clippers before.”
“Just relax and enjoy,” her stylist advised.
I watched with growing excitement as Antonio systematically buzzed the back and sides of Val’s head until only a brief light brown pelt remained. The hair at back of her neck was cut square across and her sideburns were as short as a man’s. She smiled at me gamely, as if to say, “This is all for you, buster.” I never loved her more.
Antonio unbound the hair on top of her head and began wielding his scissors with abandon. The style I had selected called for shorter hair at the crown and progressively longer strands towards the front. When the cutting was done the stylist employed his brush and blow dryer to skillfully arrange Val’s new hairdo into a perfect copy of the picture she had given him half an hour earlier. My wife looked absolutely fantastic in her new, boyish haircut. But what would she say about this radical new look?
Antonio held the hand mirror behind her head as Val thoughtfully inspected her distinctive style. She withdrew her had from beneath the cape and tentatively checked the unfamiliar length. “It certainly is short, isn’t it?” she mused. “But I like how the longer top counteracts the shortened lower section.”
“You like?” the stylist ventured.
“Yes, Antonio, I do. I never imagined it would have my hair cut this short, but I’m glad I did. And Roger is too, aren’t you, honey?”
I didn’t need to answer her question. My satisfaction was evident from the smile on my face and the bulge in the front of my pants.
Val and I walked out of the salon hand in hand. When we reached the parking lot she said, “I told the babysitter we’d be back to get Emily Rose at noon. That leaves us enough time for a quickie.”
As we sped back to our bedroom I silently thanked my lucky stars for our random encounter in the nearly deserted academic building and the late night conversations that followed.