My Story – Anne
It was the summer of 74. My two brothers had hair down to their shoulders while mine was a few inches longer. All of ours was bleached a sandy blonde from the sun, and pool chlorine. Our hair was hanging in our eyes half the time and we would do this little head movement to swish it to the side. It was usually in somewhat of a bit of disarray. A bit greasy and scraggly about half the time.
My father did not like it. No, he did not like it one bit. I guess he had had about enough. One particularly hot and sweaty day he called my youngest brother, eight at the time, into the half basement we had in our split level house. This is where he had his work bench, some tools, a collection of boxes from the last time we moved and various other stuff. It was a general work and play room. The water softener was off in one corner next to the furnace, and a door to the side yard.
My father was only about 5’4, he always used to say that he came from a long line of shrimps. It was true, thank goodness my mother was taller, my older brother and I were about as tall as he was and would pass him soon.
He had my little brother sit on a short stool, and took out his haircutting kit. I watched through the slightly open door and heard him say, “If you’re not going to take care of your hair, you can’t have it long.” He took the scissors, inserted them about halfway up his ear and cut. You could hear the hair go “crunch” in the scissors, while about 4 inches fell down his shoulders to the floor. He continued around my brother’s head, chopping off at the bottom. His hair wasn’t clean and it didn’t lay well. Despite attempts to even it up here and there, it still looked chopped. My father hated it, now it made him look bad too. It’s bad enough when people think you cut your own kids hair ’cause you’re too cheap, but when it looks like a hack job, there’s no dignity. “I’ll fix this” he said and picked up his clippers, snapped on a guard and went to work. He cut a taper on the back of his neck and it came out pretty good. At least the clippers made it look even. He moved around the side, sliding the clippers up his head as he pulled them away from the scalp at the same time. He popped the guard off, and had a good time tapering the base of his neck. He left some length on top but snipped the bangs off right at the eyebrow. My brother was finished. My father then instructed him to go outside through the basement door into the yard.
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As soon the youngest had gone outside, and his hair was quickly swept away, my father called in Tom, the 12 year old middle child. “Tom, get in here.”
“What for” came the adolescent back talk.
“Just get in here now.” he said with a firm voice.
“All right, yeah, I’m coming”
As Tom got in to the room, and remarked “what?”, my father pointed to the little stool and said, “sit down, you’re getting a haircut.”
“Because your hair is a disgrace, it’s a mess, and I’m not going to put up with it any more.”
He took a comb and tried to pass it through from high on my brother’s head. It moved about an inch and stopped dead.
“I can see this isn’t going to work,” my father muttered to himself. He then took the comb and ran it teeth first up Tom’s neck, turning it out so the teeth stuck out the back of his long hair. He reached over for the clippers, removed the guard and clicked them on.
Tom knew what that sound was and sprung to life. “Hey, what are you doing?”
My father pushed down on Tom’s shoulder and said in a stern voice, “Hold still. I don’t know how many times I’ve told you that you have to wash and comb your hair.” Then he took the clippers and swiped them along the bottom of the comb. The hair fell away from the comb exposing Tom’s neck. Then he took the comb and in the same inverted action pushed it through the tangled hair above Tom’s left ear, and swiped the clippers again. Then behind his ear along the side of his neck and the hair fell away as the clippers clicked along every tooth of the comb. He did the same on the right side, and the mottled hair fell down onto Tom’s shoulders, and slid to the floor. Now enough hair was removed that he could finally move a comb through the top. So he inserted the comb again, lifting the hair on top of his head straight up. When the comb was about 3 inches above his scalp, he slid the clippers along it, humming and clicking with each passing tooth of the comb, and the hair fell away. He did the same again, four more times as he passed across his head. Then he pulled the comb back against the grain of his hair starting at his forehead. The first swipe took four inches of bangs with it. The rest didn’t have much new territory, as my father progressed back looking for uneven strands, buzzing them off as he found them. It actually looked pretty good when he was done, though my brother now had white skin exposed where his previously long hair had shielded his neck from the sun.
I thought to myself, “Well, the boys got one more summer haircut than they thought they’d get!”
My father yelled out “Anne, come here” and a chill went down my spine. I tried to assure myself “but I’m a girl, girls don’t get summer haircuts.”
My father looked at my hair, and became disgusted. “I think I can understand the boys” he said. “But, a girl should take some pride, some care, your hair is a tangled mess, look at this!”
“It’s a dreadlock – or at least it’s going to be” I said in a low voice.
My fathers voice became both stern and exasperated at the same time. “This is way beyond acceptable. Sit down” he commanded, and put the cape around my neck. “I’ll have no daughter of mine looking like some bag lady.”
He grabbed the comb, stuck it in my hair and it wouldn’t budge – at all. He pulled hard and I let out an “Ouuuch!”
Dad already knew from the previous haircut that the sissors were a waste of time on hair so messy and dirty. He put the guard back on the clippers, and clicked them on. He put his hand on the crown of my head and pushed forward a little. “Hold still,” he said.
“What are you doing?” I asked in a panicked voice?
With his teeth gritting all he said was “hold still.”
He took the clippers, inserted them at the nape of my neck and pushed up. I could feel them humming against my head. I could feel the lightness of the hair as it fell away. Then I felt a tug and the clippers made a desperate sound. They had hit a large tangle, and would cut no farther. My father withdrew the clippers, banged them hard on the bench top. I jumped while his action sent the plastic guard flying. Then he tried again. This time the clippers were right against my head. They were so close my hair offered no resistance. He moved the clippers up the back of my head and over the crown. I couldn’t believe what I was feeling. Another pass, right next to the first, right up to the crown and over the top. I was in shock. Then he moved around to the side and moved from behind my ear strait up to meet the 1/8 inch long hair already cut. He moved forward again, and then in front of my ear pushing the clippers up each time till my scalp curved over. The hair on top still hung down over the stubble in most places. Then he took the clippers and placed them on my forehead.
“No, please” I said, and he moved the clippers into my hair as 10 inch pieces of hair fell down my face. He drove them front to back three more times, taking a path of hair with it all the way back to the crown. I couldn’t believe it, I sat there dumbfounded. My long hair gone, completely gone. All the hair I had left was now 1/8 inch long. He continued to pass the clippers over my head catching all the hairs that didn’t conform. I was numb. I just sat there in a pool of hair, quiet. I put my hand on my head and felt the velvet that was now my hair. It felt so strange, so short, so very short. I’ll never forget it.
Now, with that experience behind me, my hair down to my shoulders again, I wonder what it would be like to have a crew cut again – voluntarily this time. I dream about it. As I walk past barbershops and shopping mall haircutters, I take an extra look. Will someone be there getting their long hair cut off crew cut style? Every once in a while I’ll get lucky and get to see one, and it sends chills down my spine. Someday I’ll get the courage up to go in, to sit down and say “crew cut please.”
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