What A Mistake To Make – Grumpy
My name is Jenny, and this is the tale of what happened a long time ago. Every two months mom would take my younger brother Dan and me to the local barber shop. My brother got a complete short haircut each time, and I would get my bangs cut every time, and the ends of my long hair trimmed every other time. But every year, at the beginning of summer, mom would take us for our “summer haircut”, something we both disliked.
Dan’s hair was always short, but for the summer he always got a crewcut, which he hated, for reasons that escaped me at that time. My summer haircut was much less dramatic. It was the one time a year the barber would get to really cut my hair and not just trim it. During the year it grew longer despite the trims, but whatever had grown since last summer would be cut off during my summer haircut. This was not really measured, but my hair would come down to about mid back by June or so, a length I really liked. But then 4 to 6 inches had to go. That wasn’t really so bad. The thing I hated most was that for the summer mom always had my bangs cut short, and tightly curled, to make sure my forehead would be exposed to the sun.
It had been the same routine for several years already. The year I’m recalling now was the summer before I turned 12. We got to the barber shop on a Tuesday afternoon. I remember this specifically, because there was a new boy, Frank, who was learning the trade, and who had started the day before. He had spent his first year at a hairdresser school and started getting some practice by helping out our barber. Needless to say he needed close supervision, on only his second day. Frank was just starting on an old man when we arrived at the shop. Mom got into the typical smalltalk with the barber, explaining that we came for our summer haircuts. She explained that he shouldn’t listen to any plea bargaining by Dan but give him a nice and fresh crewcut. She also told the barber that I was turning 12 soon, so he should make sure my hair would not get in the way of all that tanning sunlight. “We can’t have her appear with a white forehead at her birthday party” she explained. Then she told the barber she was going to do some shopping and would come back for us later.
We observed the boy giving the old man his crewcut. From the talk between Frank and the barber we understood that the boy was becoming quite handy with the clippers. When the haircut was done the barber taught Frank how to get rid of the excess long eyebrow hair which older men get. He had to comb the eyebrow from the side towards the nose so the hairs would stand on end, and by moving the clippers over the comb any excess hairs would be trimmed. When this was done the old guy put his glasses back on. They were small, thick glasses. He checked his haircut out and complimented the boy. Then he asked to trim his eyelashes a bit, because they would touch his glasses and he found this annoying. The barber took this opportunity to explain to Frank how to do this, and to be very careful not to cut the man.
“Frank, I have to run an errand for a bit. You can start with the boy already. You’re already very good at giving crewcuts, so you shouldn’t have any problems, but if you do, just wait till I’m back then. Oh, and no bargaining. Mrs Jones will not be satisfied if you leave more than half an inch.”
Dan reluctantly walked over to the chair. Frank pumped up the chair to the right height and started working his magic with the clippers. He sure didn’t look like he was just starting to learn the trade, and he made all kinds of funny moves with and without the clippers, which made the haircut a lot more pleasant than the years before. When Frank was ready he told Dan he would trim his eyebrows “like a real man”. Of course his eyebrows needed no trim, but if this could make him feel like a man, what the heck. Frank tried the comb and clipper trick he just learned, but apparently the hairs were much shorter, because he needed a thinner comb or the clippers wouldn’t cut any hair. When this was done he exclaimed “Wow, these lashes must be really bothering you a lot. We’ll fix that in no time. Just close your eyes for a bit, no not tight, just close them slightly… that’s better. Hold on…” snip snip… “Now the other side…” snip snip… “All set!”
“Your turn, young lady! Right this way.” I felt a bit uneasy, because the barber had not yet returned, and he had not really explained to Frank what needed to be done to my hair. But then, this could be my chance for getting my bangs cut less short than when the barber would do it. I sat down in the chair, and with one smooth throw Frank had the cape around me. He quickly pulled my hair up and fastened the cape around my neck. I wanted to explain that I would make sure my hair would not block the sun so he didn’t need to cut my bangs short, but he didn’t even give me a chance. “Trust me” he said. “I heard exactly what your mom wanted. I’ll make sure your pretty head gets a lot of sun this summer. And no arguing. Just relax and we’ll make you pretty right away.”
Frank first tied my hair together in a ponytail and then snapped on the clippers and moved behind me so I couldn’t see what he was doing. I was really getting uneasy, because the barber never used the clippers on me before, only scissors. But then, Frank was much handier with the clippers, or so it seemed. The clippers moved up the back of my head several times, then around my left ear, then the right ear, and finally all over the top of my head. It couldn’t have taken more than two or three minutes. The clippers went silent for a moment and Frank dropped the ponytail in my lap. “Here you go” he said. “This is a souvenir of the young girl you were before. Consider yourself a real woman from now on.”
I didn’t know whether to cry or not. This was not at all what I had expected to happen. Frank changed an attachment on the clippers and said: “Now we’ll make sure your head gets the extra amount of sunlight your mommy has asked for. We’ll get rid of the half inch and go for three eighths. That should do just fine.” He moved the clippers from front to back over my head. Then he went to work on the back, without the attachment, like he had done with Dan and the old man. Finally he said, “Maybe I should shave the back as well. I don’t know. We’ll wait until my boss returns to decide. In the meantime I’ll have a look at your eyebrows. Women don’t like heavy eyebrows, so we’ll take care of that right away.”
He tried the comb and clippers trick again, but wasn’t satisfied with the result. He then tried a smaller comb. Still not satisfied. Finally he forgot about the comb altogether and just ran the clippers over my eyebrows. I looked in the mirror and could not see my eyebrows anymore. When he was done, he looked at his handywork and then said, “Well, Jenny, one more thing to go and you’re all set. Just close your eyes and I’ll give these lashes a nice trim. They’re way too long to go with your new haircut.”
This was something I really really didn’t want him to do. So I tried pleading: “Oh please don’t cut my eyelashes. Every girl has long lashes. I don’t want to have my lashes cut. Please?”
“Young lady, your mom has clearly said there was no bargaining. You just close your eyes now or I might cut you by accident.” I had no choice but to do as he said and after a few snips the lashes I had always been proud of were gone.
Frank ordered me to stay in the chair, and wait for his boss to get back. This didn’t take long. Frank had just swiped the floor and put my “souvenir” in a bag for me to take with me when the doorbell rang.
“Ah, I see you’re already done. Good work.”
But Frank asked: “Well boss, I was unsure whether you would want to do some shaving in the back and around the ears, but I was a bit afraid to do it myself.”
“Good thinking Frank. I think this cut indeed requires some shaving. Please apply some lather up to here…” He pointed somewhere near the top of my left ear… “and I’ll just run to the bathroom. Be right back.” Frank prepared some lather and covered the sides and back of my head with it, up to about an inch above my ear. The barber returned shortly after that, and moved right in with his straight razor. The last bit of hair was scraped from the sides and back of my head, and then I was towelled off.
“You’re all set for a sizzling hot summer Dan. Off you go now. And where did your sister run off to?”
I could hardly say a word anymore. It was little more than a whisper: “I’m not Dan sir. I’m Jenny.”
Then I burst into tears, while the barber started shouting: “Frank! What have you done to this lovely girl? How could you! Get out of here! I never want to see you again in my life!” Right at that moment the doorbell rang again, and my mom entered the shop. I jumped out of the chair, threw the cape off and ran to her. I threw my arms around her and cried and cried…