Full Circle by Sabrina S.
It’s funny how music can be so evocative. It was Saturday morning, and I sat idly over my post-breakfast coffee, reading the newspaper with the radio tuned on the oldies station, where pop songs from the 60s and 70s reigned supreme. Hard rock is a bit too much for me to cope with early on Saturday mornings as I slowly get into a wide awake state.
That huge hit from 1973, Tie A Yellow Ribbon Round The Old Oak Tree, since the subject of a thousand muzak recordings and an item to be ridiculed, blasted cheerfully from the speakers, and I was transported back to my childhood instantly.
There I was, nine years old, sitting on the waiting chair in the barber’s shop, swinging my legs back and forth, faster and faster, until they became a blur.
My mother sat next to me, her purse held on her knee as if to lengthen the mini skirt she wore. “Don’t do that, Steph, it’s annoying.”
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On the other side of her sat my brother, Terence Michael, or TM as he was always known, since our father was Terence Michael too. TM had a grave look on his face. He didn’t seem to relish his haircuts, and because his hair seemed to grow more quickly than anyone else’s we knew, he was always at the barbers. Our mother still took him, even though he was a big enough boy to go on his own, in case he chickened out and spent the haircut money on comics and sweets. I didn’t get my hair cut at the barber’s. My shoulder-length locks were trimmed every three months by our mother’s dressmaking scissors. But since I was too young to be left alone, I got dragged along to watch TM’s head get pruned at regular intervals.
“Next!” called Joe, the friendly, Brylcreemed barber who always gave TM and I some sweets after TM’s hair had been cut.
It was summer, and the ceiling fan was flapping the pages of the girly calendar Joe had hanging on the wall, making the big breasts of the pouting lady jump up and down in a way that made TM and I giggle naughtily. Tie A Yellow Ribbon was crackling forth from Joe’s old radio, blurry in those days before FM radio was a part of our lives.
TM gave a huge sigh and trudged over to the chair. In an age when boys had long hair, our parents insisted he keep his neat and short in the classic boys’ cut, shorter at the back and sides, longer on top with a fringe that almost met his eyebrows. TM’s hair was a peculiar shade of red; on a girl you’d call it strawberry blonde.
Joe caped him up and stuck that little paper collar around his neck. TM’s head looked small and vulnerable sticking out of the white cape. He saw me watching him and poked his tongue out at me. I waggled my fingers in my ears in return.
“Same as usual Mrs Green?” Joe asked our mother, combing TM’s neat hair.
Mum pondered, her head on one side. TM looked worried. He was already ridiculed by the other boys for having short hair.
“Something shorter for the summer, I think, Joe,” Mum said finally, and TM’s eyes widened in fear. “TM swims a lot in summer. Give him something short that he doesn’t have to comb the knots out of.”
“I don’t want short hair!” TM burst out, his face turning red. “I want to grow it long like Mutt and Collins and the other boys!”
“Long hair is for girls,” Joe said cheerfully, his own hair unfashionably short. He switched the clippers on and spun the chair around so TM wasn’t facing the mirror any more.
Instead, TM was facing me.
And I watched Joe’s hand, holding the clippers, slowly glide towards TM’s head as if in slow motion. The pitch of the clippers changed when they met TM’s thick hair, but Joe pushed them through it, mowing a path straight down the middle of TM’s head.
“Short enough, Mrs Green?”
Mum inspected. As far as I could see, TM’s long, floppy fringe had been sheared off to barely half an inch long.
“I think so,” she agreed, and sat back down to watch TM lose the rest of his soft hair.
I couldn’t take my eyes off the scene. I was fascinated at how quickly the clippers ploughed into TM’s hair and how short, how very short to my eyes, his tufty locks looked afterwards. TM’s head was pushed this way and that as Joe happily – very happily it seemed – sheared off all his hair.
“Hey, TM,” I taunted, “Your ears stick out!”
TM was close to tears. “Shut up, Steph!”
“TM!” snapped Mum. “Any more rudeness and I’ll ask Joe to cut it even shorter!”
Joe turned from red to pale in one second, and clamped his mouth shut. Joe pushed his head forward and revved the clippers up the back of TM’s head, sending a rain of hair to the ground.
Lastly he took up a pair of little clippers and shaved all around TM’s hairline. There was almost an inch of whiteness there now where the hair had been cut away. TM looked very different.
By the time Joe had finished Tie A Yellow Ribbon had stopped playing and something by the Carpenters – I can’t remember what – was on instead.
I couldn’t help it. I got up, walked over to TM and brushed my hands over his shorn hair, wondering if it was as spiky and sharp as it looked. TM ducked his head in embarrassment, but not before I gasped at the softness of his clipped head, soft as a duckling’s baby feathers.
“Mum, can I have my hair cut like this too?” I cried, stroking TM’s hair while he writhed away.
“Don’t be silly, Stephanie,” Mum replied. “You’re a girl. You can’t have a short haircut like a boy’s.”
And now, all these years later, the soft feel of TM’s hair was under my fingers again if I closed my eyes.
Of course, TM was well in his thirties now. He’d grown his hair long as a rebellious teenager, tried a mullet in the 80s, and his wife Linda finally persuaded him to go for a more conventional man’s haircut a few years ago. Much like the classic little boys’ short back and sides, long on top. He’d gone full circle, it seemed.
And I? I was in my thirties now too, divorced, no kids, and still wearing my hair long. I never did get a haircut like TM’s. I wasn’t allowed to as a child, and then when I discovered boys, they all seemed to like me with long hair. Including my ex-husband.
I smiled at the memory of me stroking TM’s head and my pleas for a crewcut too. Tie A Yellow Ribbon came to a conclusion, and so did I.
“Why not do it?” I asked myself out loud, making my parrot, Hobnob, squawk in surprise. “There’s nothing or no-one to stop me. I’m an adult, I’m single, I don’t have to please anyone but myself.”
Running to the bathroom, I dragged my long hair – a darker red than TM’s – off my face to see what I’d look like with it all shorn off. Not bad, it seemed.
Before I could change my mind, I grabbed my bag and my car keys and drove to the mall, my heart thudding. I played parking space roulette with a battered Ford and, despite a honking horn and arm signals that weren’t in the traffic code, got a parking spot near the shops.
The hair salon I usually got my trims at was on the far side of the mall. But, closer to my car and far more appropriate for what I had in mind, the cheerful red and white poles of a barber’s shop caught my eye.
Joe’s barber shop had long gone, a victim of the long-haired 70s and the influx of unisex salons. Where Joe had hung his girly calendars and sold “something for the weekend” was now part of the new mall I was walking through at the moment.
I hesitated briefly outside the door, looking at the plain white floor covered with hair clippings, the utilitarian black vinyl chairs, and the young boy – it could have been TM – getting his hair shorn with a mutinous look on his face. A radio in the corner was playing rock – Smashmouth’s Walking On The Sun – and there wasn’t a girly calendar in sight. The condoms were in plain view though.
And speaking of TM, who should be sitting waiting for a haircut but my brother himself. Well, it wasn’t surprising. We both still lived in the town we’d grown up in.
I sat next to him. “Fancy seeing you here.”
“Steph!” TM put down the car magazine he’d been reading. “How are you? Lins was going to call you. We’ve got a barbeque happening this afternoon if you want to come.”
“Love to,” I agreed, wondering how surprised the rest of our family and friends would be to see me with a shorn head. A little devil inside me grinned at the thought.
“What are you doing in a barber’s shop, anyway?” TM went on. “Did you see me here and drop in to say hi?”
“Not exactly,” I said slowly, wondering if I should let him know what I was planning to do. Men can be funny when you tell them you’re going to cut your hair short. They get all possessive about your hair, as if it’s theirs and not yours. “I came in here to get a haircut. TM, remember when you were a kid, you must have been eleven or so, and Mum took you to the barbers and Joe cut all your hair off into a crewcut?”
TM laughed loudly. “I could have KILLED her! And Joe! And you for making a big fuss and touching my hair and embarrassing me. God, did the kids give me hell at school, too!” He ran his hands through his hair. It was still thick and red, and hadn’t receded at all. And he was still wearing it in his short back and sides, long on top style.
“Well, I loved the feeling of your hair when it was cut like that, it was so soft and plush,” I went on steadily, “And I’ve decided that now I’m a big girl I’ll get mine cut in a crewcut today.”
“Steph!” TM’s forehead wrinkled in a frown. “You’d cut off all this lovely hair?” He lifted a lock from my shoulder and let it drop back heavily.
I nodded. “You bet. I mean, I’ve had long hair forever. I just want to try something different. I’ve never forgotten that time you had your hair cut really short and I’d love to know what that feels like when the barber runs the clippers through it. It’s only HAIR, TM!” I laughed at the sight of his astonished face. “It’ll grow back!”
TM started to grin too. “You know, why don’t we both do it? I hated my crewcut at the time, but it did feel rather good to touch after I got used to it, I must admit.”
The little devil inside me clapped its hands eagerly. So both TM and I would rock up to his place after our little barbershop episode, food and drink in hand, with clipped heads. Linda would kill me for egging him on. She’s rather bossy and tells TM what to wear and how to get his hair cut and what he can and can’t eat. It was irresistible.
“You’re on,” I giggled, running my hands through his hair and tousling it untidily.
The little kid had finished having his hair cut and his dad was paying the barber. TM grinned at me again and jumped into the vacated chair.
My brother did look a little concerned as the barber switched on the biggest, blackest clippers I’d ever seen and wordlessly ploughed them into his hair.
“Short enough?” said the barber, after one swipe of the clippers saw a neat pathway mown straight down the middle of TM’s thick hair.
“Er,” said TM, “Yes, yes, it is.” And with that the barber was into it, swiftly nuzzling the clippers through TM’s hair and causing it to rain over the back of the chair and onto the floor. The radio blared “Smooth” by Santana and Matchbox 40, barely discernable over the revving clippers.
I was fascinated watching how quickly the clippers changed TM’s looks. I’d only ever had scissor cuts, the quiet SNICK of the blades leisurely trimming my hair. Even a trim took a while, with my stylist pinning up layers of hair and gradually bringing them down and cutting them. But TM’s shearing was over in ten minutes, the barber swapping clippers and using small ones to shave down TM’s neck and around his ears. The clippers rode across the back of his neck, shaving his hairline into a masculine straight line. A dust of powder, a flick with the brush, and TM was finished.
He ran his hands experimentally over his head and grinned at me. “Come on, sis, have a feel!”
I was far more self-conscious as a thirty-something than as a child. Awkwardly I walked over to the chair and lifted a hand to TM’s spiky head. I gasped. Yes, it was just as soft as when he’d been a child. My hand glided over his crewcut; I didn’t want to take it away.
“It feels fantastic,” I said finally, forcing my hand to leave his head and letting him get out of the chair. “That’s it, I definitely want the same.”
No sooner had TM’s backside left the chair than I was in it, putting my feet on the footrest and looking at my long-haired reflection.
“You want a haircut?” said the barber, raising his eyebrows. “We do women, but we usually charge a bit more.”
“I want a man’s haircut,” I replied. “A crewcut, the same as my brother here.”
“Are you sure?” said the barber. He was somewhere in his forties. He probably had a wife at home who wore her hair in a polite bob or really long or something nice and feminine, anyway.
I nodded, lifting up my shoulder length hair for the last time so the cape could be fastened around my neck. A little paper collar was tucked in under my T-shirt.
“Number three coming up, then,” said the barber, still sounding a bit amazed. He dusted TM’s hair from the huge black clippers and oiled them before flicking them into life. They didn’t hum quietly, they grumbled and growled. They drowned out the flashback of Springsteen’s Dancing in the Dark.
My heart lurched for a moment. Was I doing the right thing? What if I hated it? It would take months to even achieve a chin-length bob. Then I thought of TM’s soft bristles, and knew that beyond anything, I wanted my hair to feel the same.
I wore my hair parted dead in the middle. As I watched my reflection, with the black clippers homing in on my head like a nuclear missile, my part suddenly disappeared as the clippers bit into my hair and ran straight down the middle of my scalp.
It felt peculiar and tickly; the little comb guide lifting my hair from my skin and the vibrating blades chewing through it. It tugged a little, but pleasantly.
The barber lifted his arm from my head. I caught a faint scent of deodorant and aftershave. “Short enough for you?”
I gasped at the sight of my long hair reduced to less than half an inch. A lovely dark russet red, it stood to attention in a two inch wide swathe down the middle of my scalp. Hesitantly I lifted a hand from under the cape and touched it, running my fingers over it – it was now too short to run my fingers through! To my delight, it felt even softer and plusher than my brother’s hair; thick and warm and furry. I nodded frantically. “Perfect.”
With that the clippers delved into my hair again. I closed my eyes briefly to let my other senses take over. My ears followed the roar at the clippers travelled from my forehead to my crown. My skin tingled as the clippers rode over it and through my hair. I was aware of nothing else but what was happening to my head; if people were peering through the big window at the front of the shop, watching in amazement as a woman got her long hair shorn, I neither knew it nor cared about it.
At last I opened my eyes to see TM looking at me with a concerned expression on his face. I grinned at him and he gave a relieved smile in return.
Two more passes and the top of my head was clipped. Again and again the barber ran the clippers over it, making sure it was even. I began to feel aroused at the sensation. Now that was something I hadn’t bargained on!
Abruptly the clippers moved to my cheek, and with one long, practiced stroke, glided up the side of my head, shearing off all the hair in front of my ear and around my temple. My silky locks dropped to my shoulders and slithered to the floor and my knees.
I felt very vulnerable and naked as the barber gently bent my ear forward and clipped around it, sending more clumps of hair floorwards. Was this how TM felt when he watched his hair get shorn?
The woman in the mirror now had long red hair on one side of her head and a short, very short, pelt on the other, with a neat pink ear permanently visible for the first time in her life. I liked the way she looked. I also liked the way she was getting turned on by the clippers buzzing her hair away. This woman had become, in one morning, a very interesting and very attractive person as her hair disappeared.
The barber worked his way around my head. “How are you doing there?” he asked, undoubtedly nervous I was going to yell “Stop!” or burst into tears, I think.
“Fine,” I assured him. “In fact, those clippers feel really funny. I like it.”
The barber sighed with relief. Overall, this was quite an experience for me. At my usual salon I know all the girls by name. Letting this anonymous man, not even the familiar childhood Joe, relieve me of my locks dispassionately, was such a departure from my regular way of life it excited me mentally and physically.
The barber steadied the top of my head with one hand, his fingers feeling odd on my newly mown hair. With his other hand he drew the clippers firmly up the back of my neck so they tickled my nape, then up, up, up the back, deleting many inches of preciously tended hair in a howling, growling swoop of the blades.
Wordlessly the back of my head was shorn. I watched intently in the mirror, straining to see what was going on and getting the occasional glimpse of falling strands as the barber shook my long hair from the blades after each throbbing pass through my hair.
My neck felt cold as my hair was shorn away. In fact my entire head was feeling a lot cooler where my crewcut had been clipped. It felt like every little short hair was sticking out from my skin in amazement at the reduction of its length. A funny, tickly feeling; I loved it!
Delicately the clippers nuzzled behind my other ear, and I prepared to watch all the hair at the side of my head fall to the white tiles. Acres of soft red locks dropped away as the warm blades nibbled up my head. I was grinning like a fool, watching my haircut intently and almost climaxing in the chair with each firm stroke through my hair.
TM was grinning back at me, watching his little sister get the haircut she’d begged for when she was nine years old. He was unconsciously running his hands over his newly shorn head, ruffling his crewcut back and forth.
A warm hand steadied my head again. I watched the clippers come close to my cheek and heard them howling in my ear as they rose to meet my hair and clip it all off. All too quickly the last long strands were buzzed away and dropped to my knees, and the woman in the mirror was left with no long hair anywhere on her head.
I looked like a completely different person. My wide mouth with its deep copper lipstick was even wider, my eyes bigger, my cheekbones more prominent without the soft curtain of hair hiding them.
The barber switched the big clippers off and the shop seemly deadly quiet without their powerful motor echoing off the uncovered walls.
He picked up comb and scissors and dragged the comb up through my hair, snipping so rapidly the blades were a blur. What a wonderful sensation! I almost purred in pleasure feeling the comb lifting my clippered locks up the wrong way. Tiny, tiny snippets of hair rained down on my neck and face as the barber cut it shorter around my hairline and evened it out, going around my head no less than three times with his scissors clattering like castanets.
“How d’you want the hairline?” asked the barber finally, picking up the little clippers he’d used on TM’s neck. “I think you should keep it natural, not straight across like your brother’s.”
He showed me my hair in a hand mirror. I gasped at the sight of the back of my hair, cut so close it lay like a deep red pelt, smooth and shiny against my skin. It was the first time I’d ever seen the back of my ears. My hairline – shorter even than the hair higher on my head thanks to the magic comb and scissors – formed a “w” shape that I liked immensely. “Natural,” I agreed.
With that the barber pushed my head forward and shaved stray hairs from low on my neck. He pressed the little clippers quite hard into my skin, another alien sensation I’d never experienced at my usual salon.
Then I had the dusting powder, and the big brush flicking away the miniscule clippings from my skin. The little paper collar and the cape were whisked away and I saw myself in my favourite white T-shirt and jeans again, familiar clothes for an unfamiliar person.
I touched my hair with shaking hands. Oh, it felt wonderful! Magnificent! So, so short! I ran my hands back and forth over my head, along the top, up the back, up the sides, marvelling at the feeling.
TM couldn’t resist touching it either. “Wow!” he gasped, “It’s beautiful!” We stroked each other’s clipped scalps, giggling like the children we once were. My hair was even softer than his; both our haircuts looked spiky and punky and fun.
“My treat,” said TM, handing money over to the barber.
“Come back soon for a trim,” suggested the barber. “You’ll need regular trims if you want to keep it that way.”
“Sounds good to me,” said TM, taking a last look at his new, crewcut self in the mirror.
“Me too,” I agreed, silently declaring that I would only ever get short clipper cuts in future and long hair was definitely OUT!
For TM, he’d truly come full circle with his haircuts (I just hoped he wouldn’t go through the long hair and mullet stage again). For me, I’d closed the circle I’d opened when I was a child and finally got the haircut I’d wanted back then.
The sensation of the clippers ploughing through my hair was still in my brain and I revisited, in an instant, Joe’s barbershop, with TM getting his first crewcut.
But now in my imagination, my mother nodded, and I clambered into the chair.
(c) Copyright 2000, Sabrina S. Comments welcome to email@example.com