How Lilian Got Over Her Phobia by EddyZ
He had seen the young woman before. At least three times she had walked by on the other side of the street, hesitating, glaring at the shop. But now she was heading for the door.
He waited for her. The barbershop was empty, the last customer had just left. The last?
“Good afternoon, miss. What can I do for you?”
“Err… could I get a haircut?”
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“Well, I think you are in the right place, aren’t you?”
Her lips grimaced in a nervous smile. “Yeah.”
She took off her coat and he took it from her to hang it away. Clearly she wasn’t at ease.
“I’ve never been in a barbershop before,” she said, apologizing. Again her lips drew together in a nervous grin.
No, he thought, she does not quite belong here, she should visit a beauty salon. She appeared to be in her early twenties, her coat and dress were clearly bought in a fashion house and her looks were well kept.
“I see. Well, have a seat.”
While she did she said: “You see, this is rather odd.”
He waited for further explanation.
“Have you ever heard of a game, called truth or dare?” She looked at him with a quick glance.
“Oh yes, I know that,” he answered
The nervous twitching of her mouth again. “I didn’t… couldn’t answer a question, so they dared me to visit a barbershop.”
“And so here you are. The question is now: what are we going to do?”
“Well…. it is weird.” Her eyes were restless while she handed him a note. “Would you mind to phone this number?”
“No, not at all.”
He went to a door at the back of the shop, closing it behind him.
She was fidgeting in the chair when he came back.
“Well, what did he say?” she asked anxiously.
“I should ask you, miss, how brave you are.”
She looked at him, puzzled. “That is all?”
“Yes,” he lied. He had heard more but was asked not to mention it to her.
“I don’t know how to answer. What does it mean?” She clearly seemed astonished.
“I cannot tell you. You should give yourself a grade for braveness, ranging from zero to ten.”
“What happens when I indicate a figure?”
“Then I must call him again and tell him.”
The girl considered what to do. Giving herself a low grading would show fear and would certainly make a bad impression. On the other hand, a high grade could seem haughty, also to be punished. An average grading then? But couldn’t that be open to interpret weakness? Run with the hare and hunt with the hounds?
She had to take a decision….
“Tell him that I give myself an eight,” she said, suddenly determined.
“Okay.” He went to the telephone again.
The girl had a frightened look in her eyes when he got back.
“Well miss, he said that you are rather brave. He appraises that.”
By now she could hardly control her nerves.
“What does that mean? What are you going to do?”
“You’ll find out. I’m not allowed to tell you.”
Let her slave away, he had been told. Don’t tell her anything but have your way, do just as you want.
“Trust me, miss. I won’t mess up your hair but I am a barber, not a hairstylist. You understand that, don’t you?” The girl was fidgeting in the chair while he brushed her long wavy hair. He nearly felt pity for her while he pondered what he would do. If he had been a stylist he could have given her a Louise Brooks cut. Her face was cut out for that. But he wasn’t. And it would be a waste to give her a man’s haircut.
He tossed the brush on the counter. The girl looked at him with suspicion, following his hands with her eyes. He had been told to frighten her….
He grabbed the clippers.
Her eyes widened, her face grew pale.
“No!” she cried, “Please, don’t do that to me!” Tears welled up in her eyes
“Hey, trust me. I’m not going to shave your head.”
He put a few drops of oil on the teeth, flicked on the switch, flicked it off and placed the clippers back on the counter. He gently bent her head forward, parted her hair horizontally from ear to ear and over the occipital bone and pinned up the upper part. He bent her head further till her chin touched her chest and switched on the clippers anew. She jumped when she felt them on the skin of her nape.
“Don’t be afraid, miss. I’ll only shave your nape.”
The girl cried softly but didn’t move while her nape was shorn.
The barber unpinned her hair that fell down, totally covering the shaved area.
Meekly she waited… but nothing happened.
He loosened the cape and took it away. The girl looked at him, surprised.
“What is next?” she asked
“Nothing. You are ready.”
She began to laugh. No more nervousness.
“You know, the question they asked me was about my fear of having my hair cut. You have cured me of that fear.”
She rubbed with one hand her nape underneath her hair.
“It feels good. Childish of me to be so scared. I’m sorry and ashamed.”
“You have been a brave girl, miss.”
“What do I owe you?”
“Nothing, I liked it and I’m glad that I have been able to help you. You said it was a game, didn’t you? I only should like to know your name.”
“It is Lilian.”
“Well, Lilian, you may go back to your challenger.”
Exactly one week later she was back. He was finishing his last client at that moment when she entered the shop.
“Hallo, Lilian, take a seat. I’ll be ready soon.”
After the client had paid and left he asked: “What brings you here? Another dare?”
She smiled. “No… or yes, but not in the same way. When I had been here last week I went that night to my friends. They looked at me and were surprised. ‘We thought that you would go to a barber,’ they said. ‘Well, I did,’ I answered, but they didn’t believe me.”
“Wait a minute. I made a phone call to one of your friends.”
“He hadn’t come yet. He came later. Anyway, I lifted my hair and showed them my shaved nape. ‘That is not what we had in mind,’ they said. ‘You had to be freed from your fear.’ ‘But I am freed,’ I assured them. I must tell you now about my fear for beauty salons and hairdressers. It started when I had just graduated from high school. I went to this town to make acquaintance with the university for which I had been enrolled and where I should enter in September. During high school I had my hair grown and it reached to my hips. I saw a lot of coeds with cute short hairdos and suddenly I felt so girlish with that long hair. ‘Come on,’ I said to myself, ‘you are no longer a high school pupil.’ Besides it was summer and very hot. So I decided that I needed a haircut. At the information-office of the university they told me that there was a salon nearby, frequented by students. It turned out to be a busy unisex salon with a row of twelve chairs manned by quick-working barbers and barberettes. I had never been to a beauty salon, my mother trimmed my split ends, and when it became my turn I didn’t really know how I wanted my hair cut. The whole situation embarrassed me and I only said; ‘Short’. The barber grinned and said Okay. But he didn’t give me time to argue. I had not the courage to ask him much, being only 18, no experience with haircutting , while I was impressed by this busy shop. I couldn’t see what he was doing, everything went so quick, he told me nothing and before I knew he had given me a crewcut. I could just restrain myself from crying when I saw all of my long hair on the floor. It had been such a traumatic experience that I never again entered a salon.”
“So this had been the first and last time before you came here to me?”
“Yes. Well, my friends told me that I should go back for a real haircut. They were not convinced that my fear was over until I did that. Well, I thought back how I felt when you shaved my nape, how it had aroused me. I have made up my mind… I want to feel them again, but this time all over my head.”
Lilian looked at him expectantly. The barber was amazed.
“You want me to run the clippers over your head? Cut off all of your hair?”
“Not all of it. Leave me bangs in front.”
“Are you sure?”
“Yes I am,” she smiled. “I’m no longer afraid, I trust you.”
“Well, sit down,” he said, still wondering. He remembered her nervousness when she had been here a week ago. Though, she seemed very calm and relaxed now. He caped her.
“You should know that there is no way back once I have started.”
“I know but I won’t chicken out. I want to show my friends that my fear doesn’t exist any more.”
“Okay, here we go then.”
He bent her head to her chest, grabbed the long hair with his left hand and lifted it. He switched on the clippers and started at her nape, upward to her crown, leaving only stubble in its wake. Path after path he repeated the movement, parallel to the former. Still holding the bulk of her hair in his left hand he mowed through the hair behind and in front of her right ear up to the temple. He moved to the left side and at last the hair on top was severed from her scalp. Again and again he moved the clippers over her head till all of her hair had been cut near to the scalp. Except for a cowlick in front, still rather long. With a straight razor he shortened it till it just reached her eyebrows. He dusted off her head and face and pulled the cape away.
“Well, is this what you want?”
She rubbed with both hands her head and smiled.
“It is terrific. Thank you so much!”
“It is a big difference.”
“Yeah, my friends will be amazed.”
They were. They hadn’t believed that she would opt for such a radical change.
“The step to a fully shaved head shouldn’t be far away…,” they said.
“Are you now convinced that my fear has gone?”