“If You Love Me, You’ll…” – Bald and Proud
As I take another day off from traveling, I get the chance to sort my notes and see what other interesting hair encounters I have had.
Many have been young girls, and it would appear, especially in the Florida area, the school year heralds an exodus of girls from the classroom to the barber’s or salon for the ultimate summer haircuts. There have been many stories written about this age group on these sites. The rebellion theme amongst the young is common. So is the theme of wanting to be their own masters and to heck with what others want. Then there are the ones who think they will shock you, and still others who are doing it on a dare, lark or because their boyfriends want them to. Isabel fit into the last category.
I had actually seen her and her boyfriend several times when I was in the Tampa Bay area. They had been cuddling on the beach and walking hand in hand. Raymond had spotted me and my, then, horseshoe high and tight, and we had exchanged smiles. They were staying in a motel just down the block, but I had not spoken to them. A few days later, walking along the beach, there they were, but Isabel was nearly shorn with what could only be described as an inexpert haircut. There were longer straggly patches, and whole chunks that were no more than an inch long. It really looked awful. My memory cast back to when I had last seen them. Both she and Raymond sported ponytails. Hers to her shoulder blades, his almost to his shoulders. Now she looked as though she had been chewed by the garden shears. He was still “intact”.
This time it was me who couldn’t resist. Curiosity got the better of me and I had to go and ask her what had happened. I introduced myself and sat down on the sand next to them. Neither one of them had seen me close up and I detected a gasp when they realized I was “old”. As they are early 20’s, I at 52 must have seemed ancient.
Apparently the two of them have finished their formal schooling and headed to Florida for a three month vacation. They had been dating for four years and intended to get married once they were both settled in their careers. Raymond had just graduated as an engineer of some sort, and Isabel as a translator. She speaks fluent French learned at the knee of her French parents who had come to the U.S. in 1976. They had driven down from Baltimore in his fathers old ford tempo.
They had been in the motel for two weeks when I showed up with my freshly shorn high and tight. Apparently that, and the number of bald and micro-cut women on the beach stirred something inside Raymond. He begged and begged Isabel to let him cut her hair, but she had resisted. Well, she had resisted until two nights earlier.
Isabel was definitely one who was a follower, not a leader, and it was evident that she and Raymond had a leader-led relationship. There were always a lot of “may I”s and “Could we”s rather than speaking for herself. I would also direct questions at Isabel and Raymond would answer. However, eventually I managed to get the whole story.
I had been on the beach at sunset that day. It was an incredible red sunset, one that would have made an artist weep for the purity of colour. I walked along the shore feeling the sand and water between my toes and the breeze on my near-naked scalp. I had passed a young couple and he smiled. I smiled back and went on my way.
Raymond turned to Isabel and said, “There is that woman again? Boy her hair looks great don’t you think?” Isabel fiddled with her brown ponytail and made no comment. Raymond then went and detailed some of the other women they had seen on the beach recently. A shaved girl looked “super”, a buzzed girl looked “sensational”, a geometric shave and colouring and her friend with his high spiked and neon mohawk were “adventurous with style”. Isabel was noticing a pattern here and had concluded that Raymond wanted her to cut her hair, but she didn’t want to.
Isabel had always had a shy attitude about her hair. She was often uncomfortable when she even had her hair trimmed and people noticed. Her face would flare red and she would try to avoid situations where it was obvious. She doesn’t know why, or where it originated, but in defense of those situations, she kept her hair in a ponytail so no-one could tell if it had been cut or not.
As I looked at her hideous crop as she sat on the beach, I wondered if she was indeed talking about herself or someone else! The story continued…
That night as they went back to the motel they had seen me go into my motel and Raymond was determined that he was going to cut Isabel’s hair off. He was going to talk her into it, and she was going to like it. Once they had eaten dinner he said, “Issy, can we cut your hair? Can we make you look as wonderful as the other people we have seen down here? They are really cool, and you would look so good!”
Isabel had repeatedly said no, that no-one was cutting her hair except her hairdresser back in Baltimore. Raymond was pouty and switched on the television and watched the basketball. Isabel hated it when he pouted and would try to cheer him up. He just sat there refusing to be taken in by her ministrations, and knocked back 6 or 7 beers. Finally, Isabel gave up and poured herself a glass of wine and settled down to read. Three of four glasses later she looked over at Raymond and he at her. They communicated with their eyes and both began apologizing and they fell into each other’s arms.
“I only want to please you,” said Isabel. “I only want you to love me, and to make sure you are happy.”
Raymond looked at her. “You will let me cut your hair?” By now both were a bit the worse for wear from the alcohol and she nodded. Raymond immediately got the scissors from the sewing kit and with much giggling tried to cut off her hair. After 30 minutes he fell asleep.
In the morning, hung-over Isabel stepped into the bathroom and saw her reflection and screamed. Raymond, head pounding like a hammer on a nail, staggered in and gaped in amazement. “What did you do?” he squealed.
“What did I do? Are you mad?” shrieked Isabel. “You did this last night when we were tipsy.”
“Wow,” was all he could manage.
The two of them tried to focus their thoughts and emotions at this stark reality. They both drank copious amounts of coffee, orange juice and water and then crossed the road to the beach. Isabel was feeling acutely embarrassed and kept the towel over her head, but once in the water her hair all matted together it was hard to tell whether it was a bad haircut or the effects of sand, salt and wind, so she dispensed with the cover. This was when I came upon them.
After we chatted about what she could do I thought I should at least offer a bit of advice I had picked up along the way. “If you want a pretty cut and a stylist who will try and repair the damage, go to a salon. Not a unisex boutique, but a good salon. If you just want it sheared off, go to a unisex quickie cut. They will give you a good short style that will fix most of the problem. For anything else, go to a barber.
Raymond’s eyes lit up at the word barber, and he said they could go right away. I asked Isabel, “What do you want to do?”
Raymond answered, “She said she wants to make me happy, so let’s go now!”
Isabel got up and said, “I guess a short cut will be fine, I wish it never happened!”
I thought to myself that being young and making mistakes is a really hard way to begin life… It seems all backwards.
The next day I saw them on the beach. Both were in baseball caps and I could see that neither had much hair to speak of. I waved and went over. “So what did you end up doing?” I asked. Raymond whisked off her baseball cap and there was a really sweet little blended crew cut. About half an inch long on top and blended to a skin shaved nape and hairline. I told them it looked beautiful, and indeed it did. They had gone to the barber’s and Isabel had begged the barber to not shave her bald even though Raymond wanted that so much. He agreed that it was her hair and she could have whatever option she chose that he could do with the hacked mess.
He caped her and simply used scissors to make everything one length. As the shortest pieces were about an inch long, that was his starting point. Hair cascaded everywhere and Raymond was having a wonderful time watching this. Next the barber fired up the clippers and with a guard ran them up the back of her neck. Isabel shuddered at both the sound and the unfamiliar feel of the vibrations. He pushed her head down and took the hair off to the crown and around the ears to the temples. Next he changed the guard again and repeated the process only stopping at the occipital bump and just above the ears. Hair was flying and cascading everywhere and Raymond was moving closer and closer. Once the sides were blended, the barber used the clippers over comb technique to reduce the inch on top to a half inch. Lastly he shaved the hairline. All this while Isabel had been sitting there, not a word, not an emotion. Just blank, thinking about her beautiful hair and how it was all gone.
Raymond was so turned on with all this, as soon as he could he reached out and rubbed her head. The barber was really pleased with the results and as he took off the cape, Isabel saw for the first time what she really looked like. She actually gasped. She then looked at herself from every angle and hoped she would get used to it. She then put on the cap she had brought with her. At that point she started to walk out but Raymond wasn’t behind her. She turned and he was in the chair. The barber picked up the clippers and simply removed the guard and took a long swipe and reduced his long hair to stubble in a few strokes. Isabel stood there amazed, and then giggled. She had never seen Raymond with anything other than long hair. Now he was reduced to stubble. Once paid, they walked out arm in arm. I asked to see Raymond’s head, and he took off his cap. He hadn’t wet shaved, just the no-guard clipper job like my landing strip. I complimented them both and actually informed them that they could do a lot for each other now, that there is nothing quite as sensual as the freshly shaved human head.
None of that would have happened if Isabel were a little more secure in herself as a person. Perhaps she will learn that one doesn’t need to please others all the time, that one doesn’t have to sublimate to another’s wishes. If he is not happy with you with hair, then he won’t be happy with you without it either. However, that is something all youngsters have to learn. What are the limits of “me” and “mine” and where does the line blur.
Growing up… sure is hard, been there, and hopefully, done that. Best of luck you two!
Bald and Proud