Somewhere in the Midwest…
My sister, Kim, was three years older than me. She was sixteen and I was thirteen, and perhaps out of spite for one another we had grown to become almost complete opposites. While she was disobedient, rebellious, and liked to cut class and run with wild crowd at school. She looked the part, with a tousled Farrah Fawcett hairdo of thick, layered brownish-blonde hair, tight T-shirts, and tighter blue jeans. In contrast, I was introspective, a good student, and (to my sister’s most verdant envy) the apple of my Mom’s eye.
Dad had disappeared from the scene before I could even remember, and my Mom was raising us kids on her secretary’s salary and a weekend job at a boutique in the Mall. Because Mom was pretty busy most of the time, Kim had a lot of free time to get into all sorts of trouble. And with the friends she had, trouble was a speciality. When she and her friends weren’t busy picking on me, they would go off and commit random acts of vandalism, do a little “five finger discounting” at K-Mart or the Mall, or smoke cigarettes and drink beer and Boone’s Farm at the park on the outskirts of town.
Mom would try to ground her or take away her telephone privileges, but when Mom was away Kim would go out or yack away on the phone with no regard for Mom’s attempts at discipline. Even when Mom was home, Kim had a way of pouting and putting on an air of innocence (which I saw right through every time) to have her sentence commuted.
Kim’s incorrigible behavior had grown and grown ever since she began junior high school. The transition to high school resulted in an escalation of vices. Kim had started smoking marijuana and experimenting with other types of drugs. It all culminated in the Spring of 1976. Kim had gotten her learner’s permit, and was beginning to learn to drive. Kim was still learning, so she was only supposed to be driving under the supervision of a licensed adult. Kim had made a copy of the car key, though, and would drive off on her own to go smoke cigarettes, do drugs, and drink alcohol with her friends. On one of these excursions in early March, she backed along a guard rail at the park and caused a lot of damage from the back door all the way up to the front fender.
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Times were kind of tight, and so we couldn’t afford to repair the car. Needless to say, Mom was really mad at Kim, and so she decided to ground her and take away phone privileges for a month. I think Kim was maybe a little sorry for tearing up the car, because she actually stuck to the grounding for about a week. But the next Friday night she lit out again to let the good times roll with some of her friends. That, of course, was the night that Kim was to get a haircut she would never forget.
My Mom had a friend, Leslie, who worked with her at the Mall. Leslie was divorced, too, so she and my Mom had that in common and had become really good friends. Somewhere in her past, Leslie had learned how to cut hair, and she did haircuts for me, Kim, and my Mom. Leslie was quite a bit younger than my Mom, in her mid-twenties, didn’t have any kids of her own, and was, in the early days of my puberty, the sexiest woman I knew for real, live and in person.
Leslie came over that night and spent some time talking to my Mom. Leslie left for a little while, and came back with a K-Mart shopping bag and the canvas bag that usually carried her shears and other haircutting equipment. I was watching a movie on TV, and had had my hair cut a couple weeks earlier, so I didn’t really make much note of all this until later. Leslie just dropped the stuff off in the kitchen and came into the living room to watch the movie with me. I was in heaven, just sitting on the couch next to her.
The movie ended, and I was afraid Leslie would leave, but she asked, “What’s on next?” I told her that the creature feature was starting. I think the movie was Werewolves of London, which I had already seen, but was more than willing to watch again–especially with Leslie (maybe she’d even get scared and want me to hold her hand, I thought to myself)!! The movie was about two-thirds over when we heard my sister, Kim, pull up outside. Leslie said, “Sorry sport, but your sister is here for her haircut,” and she got up and went into the kitchen. I thought even when my sister wasn’t actively trying, she was still ruining my life.
My Mom got up as well when Kim entered the house, and said, “Well, Kim, it’s about time you got back. Did you forget that Leslie was supposed to cut your hair tonight?” Kim was clearly stoned again, and I think a little surprised that anyone but me would be up at that hour, since Mom had to go to work on Saturday. Kim said, “Uh, what haircut?” tossing her wavy brown hair with a practised move of her hand. Leslie popped her head out of the kitchen. “The one your Mom scheduled for you tonight, thinking you’d be home because you’re SUPPOSED to be GROUNDED,” she said.
“Well,” said Kim, tugging at a section of longer hair from the back of her head and giving a look over in the light, “I guess since you’re here you should trim off a half inch or so to get rid of any split ends.” “Yes,” replied Leslie with a little smile, “A half inch…or so, ought to do you just fine.”
They went into the kitchen, and my Mom said to me, “Why don’t you shut off that TV and come in to watch Leslie do her work.” Having already seen the movie, I was more than happy to go watch Leslie (heh heh heh), even though I had no idea at that juncture the kind of show for which I was in store. As I got into the kitchen, Kim had already sat down on the metal chair from our dinette set that Leslie used as her “barber’s chair” when she came over to give us all haircuts. Kim was holding up her hair while Leslie secured a large sheet around Kim’s neck. Leslie usually used a normal barber’s cape (she had very sharp and professional barber’s shears, too), but tonight she said, “I misplaced my normal cape recently, so I put this sheet together as a substitute.”
With the sheet fastened, Kim dropped down her hair and Leslie began to brush it out with a large bristle brush. Moving around the chair as she brushed, Leslie affected to stumble on the sheet. She said, “This sheet is too large. I better get it out of the way so I don’t hurt you tripping over it with the scissors in my hand.” That said, she proceeded to tie down the ends of the sheet in such a way that Kim was quite snugly secured to the “barber’s chair.” “That’s not too tight, is it Kim?” Leslie asked when she had finished binding Kim to the chair, again smiling, and this time exchanging smiles with my Mom. Kim shook her head in the negative, in the process shaking all that thick, wavy hair of hers around so it hung well down both the front and back of the sheet.
Mom said, “Tell Kim about the present you brought while I go get my camera.” “O.K.” Leslie said as my Mom left the room. “You see, Kim, your Mom is very concerned with the reasons behind your recent car accident. She knows that you drink and smoke, and out of concern for your safety decided you needed to be punished in the hopes that you’d change your wicked ways.” With that, Leslie went to the kitchen table and pulled small box out the K-Mart bag. “So,” Leslie said, “I brought this present. It’s a present for you, in the hopes that you will straighten out your life, and a present for your Mom as well.” Opening the box, Leslie pulled out a set of big, maroon hair clippers, and went over to plug them into the wall socket by the kitchen counter.
My Mom returned with her camera, a Kodak with the old kind of flip-flash. Mom said, “This is the ONE way I could think of to invoke a punishment that would remain in effect without your disregarding it or wheedling your way around it. I’ve asked Leslie to cut off just a bit more than a half inch or so of your hair. I know you’re quite proud of it, so in the time it takes to grow back into a more flattering style I hope you’ll reconsider the strain you put me through acting the way you do.”
My jaw kind of dropped a little, because I knew from my barbershop days as a little boy the kind of cruel cutting those clippers were capable of! But Kim wasn’t really registering yet what designs Mom and Leslie had for her wavy brown hair. “We’ll start out by trimming this up in back,” Leslie said, turning the clippers on with a loud brrPOP. Leslie took a big comb and lifted a large section of Kim’s hair up from the back, whisking it off with a pass of her clippers. The large, wavy mass of hair made a dull plopping sound as it dropped to the kitchen floor at Leslie’s feet. A couple more passes had clipped the back of Kim’s head down to a very short pageboy length. At this point, I still don’t think Kim knew exactly how short it already was. And she certainly had no clue how short it would eventually get!!
Leslie was clearly enjoying herself. She was smiling and humming along with the clippers. She finished the back and moved to the left side. Again combing up a large mass of hair, and clipping it off–this time to the front–dumping a lapful of shorn locks down the front of the sheet. “OH MY GOD!” Kim cried, when she saw how much hair was dropping off into her lap, “Leslie, you’re cutting off all my HAIR!” “Mmmm, hmm,” replied Leslie as she moved to the right side of Kim’s head, “All OFF. It’s got to be short for time to pass on the sentence of your punishment.” Using a backhand clipper technique, Leslie continued to rain brown curls over the shoulder and into the lap of the slightly stunned Kim. “Before I can do any REAL cutting, I’ve got to get even MORE of this out of the way,” announced Leslie, as my Mom began to snap a couple of photos. Kim was really starting to squirm, now, testing the knots in the sheet, but the sheet held her tight in its little cocoon.
As Kim squirmed in the chair, a lot of the hair that had collected in her lap slid down and collected in a pile on top of her boots. It was amazing how much hair was littered around the kitchen floor, as Leslie continued at her task, relentless with the clippers. Returning to the left side, Leslie scooped up Kim’s hair again with the comb, and shortened it bottom-of-the-ear to top-of-the-ear length. Leslie stepped back to admire her work. “Much better, now we’re cooking” she said, turning to give me a big wink. POP! went another flip flash bulb, catching the first BIG tear welling up in Kim’s big, brown eyes. Moving quickly to the right side, Leslie clipped it to the top of ear, matching the left side. “I hope you’re all happy, now,” Kim cried, eyes puffy and full of tears, kicking at the pile of golden brown hair at her feet. “I’ll be good from now on,” Kim hiccoughed through a mist of tears. “Just even this up, Leslie, so I can get a shower and go to bed.” With that, Leslie turned off the clippers. “She wants me to even it up, Julie,” Leslie smiled, looking at my Mom. At the same time Leslie was running her long fingers up and through Kim’s boyishly short hair, her sexy red fingernails fluffing out Kim’s brown hair in the back and on top. “Even it up, then,” Mom replied, “That’s what those extra clipper attachments are for, aren’t they.”
“Mmmm, hmmm,” nodded Leslie as she fastened a 1/2 inch blade guide to the end of the clippers. brrPOP! went the clippers again when she turned them on. “What ARE you doing now!” wailed Kim as Leslie firmly pushed her head down and placed the clippers at the bottom of Kim’s neck. My Mom moved quickly to the back of the kitchen to snap another photo, this time of a wide, buzzed strip up the back of Kim’s head. “OH, GOD!” wailed Kim again, as the clippers pushed another pile of hair over the top of her head and down onto the front of the sheet. Leslie grabbed the longer hair on the top of Kim’s head to help keep her still in the chair, moving faster now with the clippers, taking off clump after clump off hair. The clippers made a brrzazzing sort of noise as they bit into the thick hair, rolling first up and around the left ear, then the right. The top, which was still quite long, came off last, as Leslie picked up the long bangs and stripped it all off, tumbling down the back of the chair.
“That’s even,” said Leslie. “But NOT a sentence severe enough for what you’ve done recently, young lady!” Moving again to the box, Leslie switched the clipper to the smallest blade guide, a 1/8 incher! My Mom moved over to my side and ran her hand through my longish, David Cassidy style, hair. “I hope you’re learning a little lesson here, too,” she said. I justed sort of nodded, still quite stunned by the whole show. Meanwhile, Kim was sniffling and fighting back tears. Leslie brushed them away, along with some stray hairs before brrPOP! the clippers came on again with their latest attachment. This time the shearing was quick, the itchy little clippings taking Kim’s haircut from 1/2 to 1/8 inch, sticking to her face, wet with tears, and sliding down the back of the sheet into her clothes, making her squirm in the chair once again. My Mom snapped a couple more photos, including one of the ENORMOUS pile of hair on the floor. “Do you think you might learn a lesson by the time this grows back?” she asked Kim, picking up a handful of hair from the floor and raining down on Kim’s head. Kim shook her head and nodded yes.
Leslie pull a mirror out of her bag to show Kim her new style. She looked over at me and said, “What do you think?” I swallowed hard and let out a little squeak. It was all I could muster. Leslie laughed, then held the mirror up to the puffy-eyed Kim. Then Leslie went around the chair. She stopped, and slowly ran her hand on top of Kim’s head. “Kind of like suede,” she said.
She undid the sheet, knot after craftily tied knot, and then removed it, letting the remaining hair fall from Kim’s lap onto the floor. Kim’s hand flew to her head, and her tear-puffy eyes darted left and right, staring at all the hair that once used to ornament her head. Leslie moved around and wiped more tears from Kim’s eyes. “Before you do anything bad again,” Leslie admonished, “I hope you’ll remember this little punishment and know that I’m just around the corner waiting to discipline you again.”
“Thanks, Leslie!” chirped Mom, stroking Kim’s suede-sheared head as she put the camera down on the counter. “And thanks for staying so late.”
“Any time,” Leslie replied, looking over at me and winking, “You know I always enjoy giving these kids their haircuts.”
Sis actually reformed after her shearing. She became involved in the drama club at school and went on the community college. She met a nice guy named Doug, a firemen, and while Kim domineers him to some extent, Mom keeps an eye out. Although I’ve looked and even casually asked, Mom says she lost the photos. But I think she still has them hidden away, ready to share them with Doug if he ever really needs help getting Kim to toe the line.