One of my favourite stories on the site is Juan Buitini’s “Culture Shock." In it the Author vividly describes his experiences and emotions as his long hair is stripped away to leave him with a Horseshoe Flattop haircut. I mention this as it plays a part in my account.
We have two children; the eldest daughter has gone through her adolescent angst. The younger son, Gavin, who is 11, is a normally well behaved boy but his chief fault is not knowing when to stop. He cannot appreciate just when his behaviour stops being funny and starts to irritate and annoy.
On a recent long train journey, his behaviour was over the top. As parents you threaten the most blood-curdling punishments and when it is ignored you feel helpless and impotent. The rest of the carriage stares at you, with looks ranging from sympathy and pity at one end to disgust and contempt at the other. You feel like wanting to crawl into a deep hole and not come out.
We punished him by grounding and a loss of pocket money. Loss of pocket money is the most effective but it takes weeks for the effects to be felt. I have always hated grounding as a punishment. Gavin is in the house all day, getting under your feet and it almost feels that you are punishing yourself.
I went to bed thinking that his punishment was way too inadequate for his crime. It’s strange how the sub-conscious mind works, as when I woke up I had the perfect idea, related to the story mentioned above. He would absolutely hate a short haircut and you can’t get much shorter than a Horseshoe Flattop. Gavin, I should mention has, like many boys fashionably long hair. It’s way over his ears and flops over his eyes. I hated his habit of flicking his hair out of his eyes, but two seconds later the hair is in eyes and the flick is repeated. I had been meaning to take him for a haircut for weeks but I hadn’t got round to it. I mentioned my idea to my husband, Gareth, I had to explain exactly what a Horseshoe Flattop haircut was.
“Go for it, I know he’ll he absolutely hate it," he replied, his face breaking out into laughter as the implications sank in.
The next day was Saturday, We breakfasted as a family, As Gavin got up I said,
“Gavin, hurry up, Sweetie, I need to take you to get your hair trimmed."
“Urghh, I don’t want to get a haircut,"
“It needs a cut, all that fringe needs taking care of, you must get sick of it falling over your eyes, now go and get ready," I replied sharply.
He left with bad grace. Minutes later he appeared at the car and got in. We drove off.
I drove to the nearby Gents Barbers. When we pulled up outside he complained
“We’re not getting it cut at the Baaar- berrs, are we?"
I blamed myself for this, as he had his hair trimmed at my hairdressers and we had let him grow his hair long.
He got out of the car and slouched at the slowest speed imaginable into the Barber Shop. Even though it was early, the two chairs were occupied but there was no one waiting. I sat down and he flopped into a chair. I spent the time rehearsing my barbershop speak, trying to get it word perfect. He spent it playing a game on his mobile phone.
One chair became free and I had to poke him in the side to say it was time and to stop his game. With the most exaggerated gestures and faces, he made clear that he really did not want this haircut. He slouched his way to the chair with his hands in his pockets and settled himself in. A cape was put around him. I hoped I would get off my spiel word perfect.
“How’s he having it today?" the youngish Barber asked,
I bit my lip and dived in,
“HIGH, TIGHT HORSESHOE FLATTOP, GIVE HIM A NUMBER 2 SHOE." (hey, you’ve got to give him some hair). I spoke as quickly as possible so he wouldn’t understand the jargon. (Hat Tip; Mr Buitini)
The Barber opened his mouth and I waved at him, hoping Gavin would not see me in the mirror. Just as the Barber was about to speak, no doubt to ask if I was sure I wanted this, I clamped my right index finger to my lips and he understood the sign and nodded at me.
He grasped the clippers, quickly put a guard on, switched them on, put his left hand on Gavin’s forehead, pulled his hair back and made a swipe from front to back. It took him less than 5 seconds to do this. I could just see Gavin’s face in the mirror. There was a look of alarm as the clippers started, then his eyes widened as the hair was pulled back, and the look of horror as the Barber made the first swipe was priceless.
I sat down, making sure I could see his face in the mirror. It took three goes to remove Gavin’s top. I watched his face, it went from horror to self pity and I could see him biting his lip furiously. When his side was removed the eyes began to well with tears but with more furious biting, he did not actually cry. It’s odd that a short haircut makes a boy look younger, with no hair framing his face, his eyes stood out and he looked so young and vulnerable. I almost felt sorry for him but then remembered the train and thought that he deserved all he was getting. All his hair had been stripped away and he had just about regained some self control. The Barber slipped off the guard, shoved his head down again and totally removed the hair on his back. When he saw the side disappearing was a cue for more lip biting and tears in his eyes.
He thought his ordeal was over but the Barber then carved out the shoe in the Horseshoe. He had stopped biting his lip and the tears had dried up and the look had been replaced by one of sullen resentment.
I had enjoyed our revenge and was startled when it was over.
“Will that do, Madam?"
I walked over and examined my newly shorn son. The hair had not been totally removed on the back and sides and I remembered the story.
“Can you shave his back and sides clean?"
“We don’t do wet shaves, but I can run the ultra close clippers over him which gives the same effect,"
“oooh, yes please ," I said
He rummaged in a drawer and pulled out a new pair of clippers, a higher pitched note this time. A cue for more lip biting. The Barber moved the clippers in little up and down movements. When he saw the white scalp, his eyes again got teary but he did not cry. This phase of the haircut took longer than the stripping away of his long hair and when it was finished the back and sides gleamed white. His eyes had now dried and now blazed with white hot fury.
I was summoned again,
“That’s fine," as I gave an invisible thumbs up to the Barber.
My skinhead son was released and he leapt out of the chair, his eyes blazing with fury. I prepared for a scene but to Gavin’s credit he bunched his fists but didn’t say anything. I paid the Barber and we went out with my newly skinhead son rolling his eyeballs. We got into the car.
“LOOK WHAT YOU’VE DONE TO ME, LOOK WHAT YOU’VE MADE HIM DO TO ME," he screeched,
“IT’LL TAKE YEARS AND YEARS TO GROW BACK," he exaggerated,
“MY FRIENDS WILL TEAR ME TO PIECES OVER THIS," he wailed.
“Good, Gavin, I hope your friends do tear you to pieces, perhaps you will think twice about showing us up in public again,"
This hit him the solar plexus,
“In fact, if there is a repetition, you will back in the Barber’s chair and I will be telling the Barber to shave off ALL of your hair, Do I make myself clear?
He spent the rest of the journey chuntering to himself, how it wasn’t fair, how he didn’t deserve it, how his friends would make fun of him. After each moan he would massage his bristly head and I desperately tried not to laugh. We got home, he leapt out of the car, shot into his room and he didn’t reappear except for meals.
At our evening meal, he slunk in, Abbie, his sister said
“Oooohh, Gavin, I soooo love your haircut, it’s so sharp, so military, you could set a trend."
I knew that he knew that she would waste no time in telling all of his friends about his haircut and any hope he had of keeping it a secret even for a few days had gone and he was going to be in for a hard time.
Mr Buitini had to have his hair short for years, I don’t think I’ll keep his hair short, it will take him months to grow back but it’s nice to have another sanction.
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