My wife was off. After 2 months of anticipation she was finally boarding the plane to visit our youngest son in the army. She’ll be gone for three weeks, time enough to implement my plan.
Like most people my age I had worn my hair long when I was younger largely because it was the fashion at the time, not out of any real preference. As time passed hair styles became a free-for-all where any style seemed to be acceptable. So I began to have my wife buzz my head and I occasionally buzzed it myself. Rarely did my hair get much more than an inch long before it would get buzzed usually to a #1 or #2. However, I had always wondered what it would be like to have my head shaved smooth. I had tried to shave my own head when I would buzz the hair without a guard. I usually did this when the wife was off on another one of her extended visits to some family member. In this way my hair had time to grow back enough so it looked like I had buzzed it just before she had returned. I did this because she grudgingly tolerates the buzzcut especially the real short ones and does not like the buzzcut with no guard at all. I could never get the head shave right no matter how hard I tried. There would always be a place I’d miss feeling like sandpaper, it never looked right, I could never get it smooth.
Then, 2 months before she left this time I was flipping through the local shopper and I saw it. The ad read “Traditional Barbershop". That was interesting enough but I then read on. “Tapers, fades, flat tops, head shaves and face shaves." This was it! That was when I decided that when the wife went to visit our son I was going to have my head shaved by someone who knew what he was doing, by a pro. I had just had my usual buzz so my hair would be about an inch long when she left. So for those 2 months I would look at the ad, reassure myself that this is what I wanted. When the wife would ask “what are you reading" I’d dismiss it with nothing or just reading.
So after dropping her off at the airport rather than going directly home I detoured to the barbershop in the town of Stanley. Stanley is the county seat of about 3,000 and is about 18 miles from my home. Being on main street it didn’t take long at all to find the shop and though it was late in the day I walked by in order to see if there were any other customers and, if there were, see what time he’d be opening in the morning. To my disappointment there were 3 other customers but he did open at 8 the next morning. Since I wanted to be the only customer in the shop when I had this done I decided I’d come the next morning.
I went home. It was so difficult to not give in to temptation. Knowing that all I would have to do it walk down the hall to the bathroom, open the cabinet, take out the clippers and buzz my head was a thought I had to dismiss time and again.
Finally, the morning came. I got up, showered, shaved and dressed, got in the car and drove to Stanley. Parking the car I walked towards the shop. Great!! I could see the barber getting ready for the day and no customers. I walked in and we greeted each other.
Knowing I had never been there before he said “Good morning. My name is Joe. Have a seat." He said with a smile. I introduced myself and walking up to the chair.
Sitting in the chair took me back. It has been over 30 years since I had sat in a real barber’s chair. In the past when I had my hair cut professionally it was done at some unisex salon. I took off my glasses and held them in my lap as he placed the cape over me, put the tissue in place and snugging both around my neck. Turning me to the mirror he asked “What will it be today?"
This is the moment I had been preparing for and I was ready. I looked at myself in the mirror and with the most matter-of-fact, confident voice I could muster said “I want you to shave my head."
Without my glasses I couldn’t see clearly but it seemed he had an expression of surprise that turned into one of amusement almost immediately with him simply responding “We can do that."
And with that he reached taking a set of clippers off a hook. I hadn’t seen clippers like these since I was a kid. No unisex salon would have such clippers. Only a barber shop bent on tradition would. Flipping the switch I could hear the sound fill the room as he went right to work. No teasing by cutting the side and back first but right down the middle from my forehead to the nape. In four or five swipes my inch of hair on top and back was gone. Then he continued his work starting just in front of my right ear at the temple, moved to the back so he could cut it with the grain and finishing up on my left side. After being satisfied there were no stray hairs he turned the clippers off placing them back on the hook.
Now with the noise of the clippers gone he removed the cape and tissue and asked “Why are you shaving your head?"
While he placed a towel on my shoulders covering them and my back I echoed “Why?"
“Yes, I mean most customers who go for the shaved look are going bald already." He began to explain as he prepared the shaving cream. “They don’t like the idea of a hair piece, they feel a comb over looks silly and they don’t like looking in the mirror only to see bald on top with fuzz on the sides and back. So they declare defeat and go completely bald. But you are, I would guess, in your mid 50s with a full head of hair and no indication that you are going bald anytime soon. So why?" he repeated.
As he began to place the cream on my head starting with the top I began to explain, “Curiosity I guess. My wife or I have buzzed my head for years and I have tried to shave it myself a couple times. I just never get it right. So when I saw your ad in the paper I decided I had to let a pro do it?" I confessed. “And I’m doing it today because my wife will be gone for the next 3 weeks and if she knew I was here having this done…well, should wouldn’t go ballistic but she wouldn’t be at all happy. She’s okay with the buzzcut but shaved smooth, no way. I figure it will be grown back to what she would consider a tolerable length by the time she gets back"
He had finished with the shaving cream while I answered his question and had begun to prepare the razor. “Okay, I’m actually going to shave you twice. This time I am shaving with the grain of your hair. The second time again the grain. This should make it much smoother and last longer."
Knowing what was coming next didn’t really prepare me for the feel of the razor as he began at the crown and worked his way first on the top moving to the right side, back and finally to the left side resharpening the razor as he felt necessary. He wiped off the excess cream, checked his work and reapplied cream all over my head again. This time though he started at my forehead and worked his way back shaving against the grain. After shaving everything on top and around the crown he began on the right at the temple moving the razor up removing the last vestige of hair there, on the back and the left as we went. After completing the shave he wiped off the remaining shaving cream he spun the chair around and asked “How’s that?"
So there I was without a hair on my head. Nothing there but I found he wasn’t done. He said “Now for my next trick…" as he applied and messaged some lotion on my head. He then buffed my head and on removing the towel I saw that my head shown, reflecting the light.
“I never thought I’d look this great!" I exclaimed adding “You do great work. I could have never gotten it to look like this."
We talked about how my wife would not be pleased but that I’d just have to come in the spring to have this done again when I wife is off for another extended visit. But I was please with myself. I now had a little less than 3 weeks for my hair to grow to around ¼" which would be tolerable to the wife. So when she did return it had all worked out and she we never the wiser.
So there I was without a hair on my head. Nothing there but I found he wasn’t done. “You really ought to put this lotion on your head every 4 or 5 days for the next 3 or 4 weeks or so. You’re head isn’t used to being without hair and the sun and weather can cause problems. Here, I’ll apply the lotion the first time so you’ll see how much to apply and I’ll give you some to take home." I nodded agreement and with that he applied the lotion all over my head. “This will help keep you head moist even though you are growing it back right away. Leave it on your head for about 8 minutes then either wipe it off or go into the shower and just wash it off." He instructed.
“It doesn’t smell all that great." I commented. “It sort of tingles too."
“You’ll see what a great job it does." He reassured me. With that he wiped off the lotion, cleaned up my totally bald smooth head. As I paid him he gave me a jar of the lotion. “Here is that lotion I mentioned. Remember, use it every 4 or 5 days over the next 3 to 4 weeks."
I noticed there was no label on the jar but I was ready to accept what he’d said, after all, I’d never had my head completely bald before. I usually shave my face about every 4 or 5 days while in the shower so I figured that would be the perfect time to apply the lotion. So in 5 days when I shaved I dutifully applied the lotion to my head with in distinctive smell the same and tingling again but it came off easy enough in the shower. Five days later went through the same routine but I was beginning to get a bit anxious as nothing had grown on my head. “He must have shaved me real good." I thought to myself.
By the time the next 5 days passed I was not noticing any hair regrowth at all almost 2 weeks now. The wife was coming home in another week and a half and if my hair didn’t have a sudden growth spurt I’d still be bald when she returned. Five days later I did the same routine with the lotion then as I was showing it off for the fourth time it occurred to me…how could I be so stupid this isn’t a moisturizing lotion, it is hair removal cream. It has been eating away at any regrown hair and the hair follicles all this time. I decided to run an experiment. I applied the cream to my newly shaved beard. “We’ll see whether it grows or not in 4 or 5 days." I told myself.
Four days later, more than a enough time for me to have enough stubble to shave my face again, and there wasn’t a single bit of growth. I looked at myself in the mirror. No hair on my face and no hair on my head and the wife is coming home in 5 days. With a firm note of resignation in my voice I said to my reflection “I give up." Then surprising even myself as I opened the jar yet again I continued “In for a penny, in for a pound." And I applied the cream to my head for the fifth time and my face now for the second time. After waiting the appointed time and washing the cream off, as I rubbed my still bald head and said “One more time before the wife’s home and then I’ll have hell to pay."
Five days later as I went through my new routine of applying the depilatory cream to my head and face. In the interim I had decided to not confront the barber. What would be the point? The damage was done and he’d deny any knowledge anyway. I got in the car to pick up my wife at the airport. To soften the surprise and to delay her reproach I wore a baseball cap. After greeting her I knew she knew something was different right away. After helping her place the luggage in the car and both of us getting in the car she looked at me and asked “What did you do?"
“Well…" I said sheepishly as I removed my cap. I wished I had a camera to take a picture of her expression. I was surprised too. I thought she’d be peeved and yell at me. But with a pleasant surprise she said “You’re kidding." and immediately placed her hand on my head, caressing it. “Could it be any smoother?"
As we drove home I told her the story of the barber, of my intentions of my hair being about a quarter inch long by the time she returned, the experience with the depilatory cream and how I’d start growing it back right away.
“You can start growing your hair back if you want but it won’t do much good." She replied in all seriousness.
“Why?" I asked.
“Because that cream is supposed to be used every 4 or 5 weeks. You’ve been using it every 4 or 5 days for nearly 4 weeks. Some of your hair may grow back but most of it won’t." she replied.
“How do you know this?" I asked surprised.
“I saw you reading that ad for that barber over and over again. I know you. I knew that the moment I left for more than a couple weeks you’d go there to have your head shaved. So I went online. Found that depilatory cream. I gave it to the barber and he agreed to use it on you and to give you instructions to continue to use it passing it off as moisturizing cream…No honey, you are bald, bald for good." She said with a smile.
“I thought you’d be pissed." I replied.
“No, it was never cutting your hair short or buzzing it to stubble that I didn’t like. It was the stubble itself. And now I won’t have to bother with the stubble on your head or your face. What can I say, happy birthday, happy anniversary, Merry Christmas all in one. I think we’ll both enjoy this." She answered.
She was right on both counts. I tried to grow my hair back but probably only a quarter of it did. So I shaved it off and put more of the cream on and now a year later nothing will grow. She was also right when she said we’d both enjoy my shaved, shiny, permanently bald head.
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