The temperature foretold my fate. It was warm and school had just let out. Summer haircuts were inevitable. I still don’t understand what the urgency was other than minimizing the maintenance of parenting. Predictably, and shortly after our first Saturday summer breakfast my mother declared we were going downtown for “summer haircuts.” This meant the length that I had accomplished to preserve all year would be at risk and the negotiation ensued. We lived in a small but relatively progressive southern community if you can imagine that. None the less, all the girls seemed to have the same long boring straight hair that could occasionally pulled back into a pony tail. For some reason I longed to be like them but at the same time hated the acceptance that compliance rewarded.
My mother believed otherwise, insisting that my “summer haircut” would be a short ear length bob. Often it was really short and even above my earlobes. This usually occurred when she took me to the barber and I was bobbed higher than my nape and the remaining hair was buzzed to the skin finishing the cut. Although it was against my desire I was always aroused by the hum of the clippers and the sensation they left on my tightly shaved nape. This proved to be the inspiration.
So, my mother in her usual fashion declared it was time for our usual trip for summer haircuts. My brothers both knew their fate. The barber would without hesitation take the clippers to their head and “peel them down to the wood” as they would say. I would get my usual too short bob…but not this time.
I stood my ground declaring my desire to keep my long hair. My mother would have nothing of it and I was ushered to the car. The three of us sheepishly entered the barber shop followed by my mother. It was busy as you would expect with several other boys getting their “summer cuts.” When our turn came my brothers were up first and to my surprise they were resistant. This was a strategy that did not work out well. Their usual buzzcuts were aborted with my mother instruction the barber to give them their money’s worth. “Skin?’ the barber inquired. My mother defiantly nodded. Both boys were quickly separated from their locks as the barber shaved them bald with impressive efficiency. I was next.
As I sat in the chair my mother instructed. “Whatever she wants but short and shaved off her neck in the back.” I was caped and sat quietly. My mother returned to the waiting area with my brothers. The barber inquired “How would you like it. Your mom said short.” I looked up with a calm determination “Skin, just like them.” Shocked, she looked to my mother who was reading a magazine. A bit more empowered I stated “You heard her say whatever I want. Shave my head bald.”
Surprisingly, the barber smiled. “I used to shave my head when was your age! All the way?” “Yes ma’am.” I replied.
She took the clippers directly to my forehead and began to peel my locks away as my mother looked up from her magazine and gasped. She nearly came out of the chair but then she noticed my smile. I had taken control…