When I came out of the shower I found my husband fiddling with my phone, glancing through the photos in my “favorites” folder. I could see that he was agitated by the way that his long red beard quivered from his heavy breathing.
“Looking for something?” He was so intent on searching my phone that he didn’t even notice me come up.
“Yes, the pictures of that bloke you’re cheating with”, he hissed. “I should have known. You’re never in the mood for me but you still wear your nice lace underwear and work out. You have photos of this other bloke on your phone.”
I was stunned to hear that. I am most certainly not cheating on Roman. “Go ahead, look through the photos on my phone. Look at my messaging app and phone call records. Take a good look at the bloke in the photos and tell me if you know who he is. Go on, tap the pictures and zoom them up as big as you need.”
I waited as Roman studied the photos of the “other bloke” in more detail. Sure enough, his eyes grew bigger when he recognized him.
“That’s me, when we were first married.”
“Yes, that’s right. You didn’t even recognize yourself and thought I had a new lover. There’s the clue. You don’t look much like the man I married. The man in those pictures was urbane and sophisticated with his handsome clean-shaven face and short, textured spiky crewcut.”
Roman fingered his mid-chest-length beard. I hated that thing but it was his choice how to present himself. His hair was now at mid-back, but he usually put it up into a man bun. I hated this too, but I understand that it’s usually unwise for a woman to comment about a man’s hair to his face.
“That’s what it is? You used to not be able to get enough of me. We were two gingers against the world.”
“Some women are visually-stimulated to a degree, too.” Of course I still love Roman as a life partner and housemate, but I don’t find him sexy like this. He looks too much like a dwarf or old-time wizard in a fantasy film.
“At least you’re not cheating on me.”
“I would never dream of cheating on you. I’m not seeing anyone else. I admit that I like to look at old pictures of you and remember the early years.” Please, Roman, take the hint. I would be attracted to him again in that way if he looked even a little like the way he used to.
“Does this mean you don’t like my beard? I thought it looked handsome.”
“No, I don’t like your beard. I want to see your attractive face. That beard covers the whole bottom half of your face, plus it usually smells dirty. I don’t want to kiss that ratty thing.”
“And that means you preferred my hair super short, too.” Roman was quick to put two and two together. I loved the look he had when we first met: buzzed back and sides with about an inch on top, textured and styled into mini-spikes. It was similar to the haircuts that were popular among young men when I was a teenager discovering boys around the turn of the new millennium.
I nodded. “You looked gorgeous. I’m sure you’re still stunning under there somewhere. I didn’t just marry you for your looks, of course, but it’s a nice bonus.”
“If I shaved my beard and cut my hair, would you find me sexy enough to want to get it on again, like when we were first together?”
“Probably.” Without a doubt. I didn’t want to promise too much and I didn’t want to make him feel bad by being too eager, but I did want him to reach the right conclusions about how to be attractive to me.
I said nothing more about the issue that day or the next. We carried on as usual in every aspect of our daily lives. It was enough that Roman knew that I wasn’t cheating and had a clue as to how to get me to desire him again.
One Thursday evening, I came home from work to find Roman already home. I could see the difference immediately: he had cut his beard so that it ended right past his chin instead of at mid-chest like an 1849 gold prospector.
I gave him a hug and nuzzled his nose a bit before kissing his forehead, but I didn’t go beyond that. He seemed a little disappointed that he wasn’t getting a bigger reward, but it had been a long time since I had given him even that much.
On Friday night he told me that his colleagues had responded favorably to his shorter beard. Some of the women had expressed a desire to see his bare face, now that it was just a little bit easier to imagine him having lips and a chin. “They said I look younger and less like a mountain bandit. My boss said I look more intelligent and educated with less facial hair. That was horrifying, to think that people thought I was backward and uneducated, possibly even criminal as well.”
Roman was up before me on Saturday morning and had already locked himself in the bathroom but I didn’t hear the shower yet. He was in there a long time before the water started running.
When he finally came out I gasped and ran to him, throwing my arms around his neck. I covered his newly-bare face in kisses, even the tip of his chin. He had shaved. I couldn’t stop nuzzling his smooth cheeks. He was still gorgeous under that massive beard, after all.
After breakfast as we cleaned up I could see a mischievous gleam in his eye. I had a suspicion of what he had in mind but didn’t dare to hope. He had left his hair in a messy bun and not washed it in the shower.
Please, don’t just get an undercut and leave the stupid man-bun, or simply cut the ponytail at the base of the neck and leave it at that. This could still theoretically go wrong. After all, here was a man who thought that a big, dirty, biker beard was handsome. I couldn’t trust his taste. On the other hand, he had had decent taste when we first got together. Perhaps he was only pretending to be clean and well-groomed because he knew that he couldn’t get dates if he looked like Cro-Magnon Man, and forgot this fact once we were married.
“I bet you’d love to do the honors and snip off the man bun.” Boy would I ever.
Roman handed me kitchen scissors to cut off the man bun right at the base. I never hesitated a single moment as I hacked through the hair. It was only after I held the severed man bun in my hands that it occurred to me that he would need a follow-up haircut in order to look presentable.
“I think a professional should take it from here.” Roman was right. “But of course you want to come and watch. I made an appointment for that, at the salon inside the covered market.”
Salon? Did this mean that he was planning on a still-longish style, maybe a 1990s center-parted curtain cut like Hugh Grant, or worse, a mullet? He knew exactly what I liked, so perhaps he was trying to surprise me.
When we got there, I saw that it was a “family salon”, suggesting that there was at least one barber. A very young barberette was waiting in front of a workstation with clippers hanging up next to the mirror. The other workstation was more like a women’s beauty salon with a plump older woman rolling the hair of an old lady on perm rods.
“Hello, I’m Roman.”
“I’m Diane. I handle men’s cuts around here. My mother does ladies. I used to work at my grandpa’s barbershop until he passed away.”
“Yes, I remember your grandfather. My dad used to go to him. Oh, this is my wife. She finally made it clear that she hated my man bun, so I let her hack it off. Now it’s up to you to clean up the mess.”
“You told me what you wanted on the phone. That still good?”
“Yes. Have at it!”
I see. Roman had given instructions over the phone so that I wouldn’t hear the consultation. He knew I would enjoy the suspense.
Diane had him caped up in no time. She did not wet down his hair, but she did section off the top. I saw her insert a tissue at the neck of the cape. At least the neckline would be clean.
Diane was very young and quite pretty, but I could see she was a true professional. Some women don’t want their husbands going to hot young barberettes, but I felt that I could trust Diane, and more importantly, I could trust Roman. Besides, he had chosen Diane at least in part because he was familiar with the work done by her grandfather; if he had seen fit to let her work in his shop, she must be good.
She ran her hands through the messy mullet that I had given Roman, feeling his head for bumps. I knew that his head shape was good and that he didn’t have any lumps or bumps that would interfere with clipper-work.
Diane picked up a comb and a pair of clippers. She did not attach any guards and began cutting his nape hair clipper-over-comb. This was pretty close to his scalp. She continued in this fashion all the way up to his crown, then extended the cropped sections to the left and right until his ears were exposed. I realized that she was just taking off length as a preliminary step as she turned off the clippers and snapped on an attachment.
I couldn’t see which attachment it was, but I could see a clear difference between the sections that she had cut clipper-over-comb and the newly-buzzed parts. As I watched she changed the attachments several times to taper down toward his neck and sideburns. I was satisfied to see the smooth, clean taper down to nothing at his nape, which she carefully cleaned up with edging clippers. Diane was keeping the neckline softly blended and natural, but she did go up and over around the ears plenty of times. Roman must have told her that I like a clean ear line.
Finally she took down the top. It occurred to me that she could just leave the top as-is, which would look dreadful, but if Roman was trying to tease me, she might. Diane combed through the top hair, then parted it on the right. She sprayed some water on it, then began grabbing some hair between her fingers. At about an inch or so from the scalp she snipped the hair with her long, mean-looking shears. Good, it was going to be a crewcut.
Once Diane had reduced the entire top to about an inch she inserted the comb at the edges to blend it into the back and sides. Next she blasted Roman’s head with the hairdryer, then switched to thinning shears to texturize. When she was all done she rubbed a little bit of product in the top to make it stand up in very short spikes. Here was the Roman I remembered!
That Saturday afternoon after we got home from our usual grocery shopping, I led Roman into the bedroom and he finally got what he wanted.