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The Barbershop Experience by Sean O'Hare

"Come on James, we haven't got all day."

Today was my monthly lunchtime get together with the girls. A tradition we only dared miss for very good reason. However with David away so much with the new job, including weekends, some necessary chores fell to me. Today's was taking James to get his hair cut - a task David had always undertaken. We let James wear his hair rather long - we preferred it that way - but he knew he had to keep it tidy. At the moment it had grown almost to his shoulders and, although it looked rather nice, it was a little shaggy and hence a tidy up was in order ... provided it didn't interfere with my lunch!

So after getting James tidied up we would be off to my sister's where they would be fed and watered and I could pick them up later.

I had got up rather early to get ready. There was always a little friendly rivalry between us 30-somethings to outdo each other. I had a new white linen suit whose short skirt left little to the imagination and whose tight jacket showed my excellent figure. I was taking out the heated rollers and my hair fell in dark, loose, glossy waves nearly to my waist - contrasting dramatically with the suit in colour. Long hair was a bind. Many was the time I had considered cutting it, often egged on by the gang. It could save hours a week in time. But I liked it and so did David. So it stayed.

So, as I removed the last roller, I stood up and, running my fingers through my hair I thought to myself "Not bad for a nearly-forty something!"

"Ready Mum!" James was looking rather fresh and cool in clean denims and T-shirt. His hair was sticking up a little. I gave a playful pull and pulled a comb through it. "Mummmm, leave it. It'll be sorted later won't it." He escaped and ran outside to wait in the car.

David always took James to a barbershop in a small arcade just outside town. I knew vaguely where it was but had never really taken any notice of it thinking that it was one of those sordid places where men talk about football and Saturday nights! It was even called "The Barbershop". "No appointments required," it said outside which was just as well as he usually ended up being taken when it was needed ... not when it was planned!

As we approached I looked in through the glass doors and noticed it was quite busy. There were 4 chairs, all full, and a number of people waiting. It may take a short while I suppose - but not as long as if I was to ask for my usual regime of wash, lowlights, trim and finish. Three hours minimum! I would imagine men's hair takes a lot less than that. As I opened the door, I was pleasantly surprised. It was not quite what I expected - in fact not too dissimilar to my usual salon. The chrome and red leather which seemed to fill the place was perhaps a bit garish and the barbers chairs would sit more happily in a dentist's than "The Hair Garden."

I walked up to the reception desk and stated "Young James here would like a trim. We are in rather a hurry so as soon as possible please."

The receptionist, a young girl of 16 or 17, looked up from her magazine and stated, "You have to wait your turn."

"Mum!" James whispered. "We have to sit over here. Come on." I was obviously embarrassing poor James who had to put up with the stares of most of the people in the shop. As well as an unnecessarily pitying look from the receptionist.

We sat down on the long bench along the back of the shop. I sat back, crossed my legs and surveyed the scene.

Directly in front of me a guy in his mid-20s with a rather conservative style just covering his ears and collar had just sat down. A cape had been tied around his neck. No gowns here then. A few words were exchanged with the barber who then picked up a large set of electric clippers, turned them on, pushed his client's head forward and then without delay proceeded to pass the clippers repeatedly over the back. He then pushed his head to one side and repeated the operation and then shortly after the other side. With the back and sides virtually shaved the barber seemed to then be intent on blending the top. Within a few short minutes a new style emerged which was certainly much shorter, neater and in some indefinable way, well, sexier. The guy was shown the style with a hand mirror, made a joke with the barber as he rubbed his hand over the shaved areas and was on his way after paying the receptionist.

I let out a totally involuntary gasp which was certainly audible to James and even the barber looked around and, when he caught my eye, smiled. I realised throughout the 15 or so minutes of the cut I had barely breathed, so taken in by the scene as I was.

How peculiar! I took a deep breath and looked along the bench to see a few more people were still waiting before James. I tried not to look ahead but I was drawn to a cut in progress - long layers were being cut off leaving a short bristle effect on the crown of the head - the out came the clippers once again and all the remaining hair at the back and sides was shaved away. The customer looked in the mirror and like his predecessor ran his hand over the cut and then exclaimed, "Now that's what I call a flat-top. Thanks."

"Next!"

"Flat-top." I looked around to see several of the waiting customers, as well as my two, looking at me questioningly. It was me who had said that. As involuntary as the gasp. How peculiar. I coughed in an attempt to cover up but probably only made matters worse. And I guess I did stand out rather. I wasn't the only woman waiting for their son, boyfriend or whatever but I can unashamedly say I was the most attractive. My appearance did seem somewhat at odds with the surroundings and I was tempted to take Amy outside and wait for James nearby.

"Next!"

"I want the same as my Carl, please." As I looked down to the end of the shop the young girl who had said that was skipping over from the bench, making a beeline for the chair. She was a quite attractive young girl and "Her" Carl turned out to be the flat-topped boy who was now standing next to her and exchanging glances in the mirror in front of them both. The barber was a rather kindly looking man in his early-50s. The girl had very attractive thick hair cascading past her shoulders. I then expected some consultation with this grandpa figure saying something along the lines that this was a big step, what would your parents say and perhaps just a trim this time.

No. The barber rummaged on the working surface and found an old rubber band with which he crudely pulled back the hair, picked up an enormous pair of scissors and, with no ceremony whatsoever, chopped off the tail at the scalp and tossed it in the girls lap. Just like that. The back looked rather bristly and the longer lengths framed the girls face. But not for long. A section was pinned up on top and the barber quickly removed the rest with smaller scissors. Well, at least some length on the back and sides for a girl. The top was then trimmed to resemble the boyfriend's look. Then, out came the clippers and within a minute or two the back and sides had been shaved away quite literally without even a hint of shadow. The poor girl. Poor girl, nothing - she, and her boyfriend were smiling and feeling each other's head and when she was finally allowed to get up they both walked off looking very happy indeed.

"Girls too, unbelievable." Under my breath this time - admittedly a highly strained breath. I couldn't make sense of my feelings here. For sure I had seen women and indeed men with short - or very short hair before but never really noticed it as such. Clearly the act of cutting it - or perhaps seeing the transformation - was an extremely powerful emotion for me. But now, just looking at those bare necks, thinking of those bare temples was having a rather strange affect on me - a feeling that was almost sexual in its intensity. I had never before felt this out of control and I needed to leave this place quickly - whether I wanted to was irrelevant. Thankfully James was now next but one.

"Next!"

A young guy next to James went over and sat down. He said one word - I couldn't hear what - and settled back as the cape was pulled tight. I expected the guy to have his already well-cut hair trimmed and was already anticipating the result. But nothing prepared me for the shock of seeing the barber pick up the clippers, turn them on, position on the guy's forehead and then suddenly haul them back so the curls collected in front of the clippers and a wide, white stripe was left behind. He repositioned the clippers and repeated the action. Again and again until the guy's head was smooth ... or nearly. The guy looked in wonder and proceeded to slowly get up, cradling the back of his head. The barber shook his head and gently pulled the guy back into the seat, gently lowering the back. The barber picked up a can of shaving foam, squirted a quantity over the guy's head and then used a safety razor to shave him smooth.

"Next!"

I heard the call but it failed to register while all this was happening. Once I realised it meant James' turn he had already left the bench and was sitting in the chair, cape pulled with the barber pulling out the hair caught around the collar, and combing it through. James was explaining how he just wanted a trim.

My mind was reeling. All these previous unexperienced emotions. All these men looked so attractive with their new smart haircuts. We had been wrong to insist that James keep his hair so long, hadn't we? Looking at James from behind he could so easily be mistaken for a girl. How could we be so selfish?

I quickly went over to the barber and said "I think James has reached the age where he should have a more appropriate hairstyle. I would like you to cut it short please. Quite short in fact."

"Mum? I would love to have it shorter but you know how dad is."

"Yes, I know. But you have it how you want. Barber will you cut James' hair now."

"Very well. OK James when you're ready please could you lean forward and we'll start."

Slowly James' head went forward. The barber picked up the clippers, placed his hand on James' head and then, without further ado, started to shear the back of James neck. I realised we hadn't discussed styles and was about to say something but I just got engrossed in what was happening. I was wondering how James was feeling - how does it feel to have your neck, covered by hair for so long, suddenly denuded.

I watched almost hypnotised by the progress of the clippers. The barber then released his grip allowing James head to rise slightly. He was grinning widely. His head was pushed to one side and the barber peeled off the hair at the temples; this was quickly repeated on the other side. He then began to tidy up the top layers. I saw James looking in the mirror and, as he caught my eye, he uttered a single word - "Awesome!" I had to agree. It certainly looked it.

I could only imagine that the experience of those cold metal clippers on his neck, all that hair falling around him, the cool air around his neck might be equally awesome.

As the barber was finishing off I was vaguely aware of someone talking to me rather impatiently. "What? Sorry ...."

"I said 'Next'. Madam, you appear to be the next in line so please would you come and sit over here so we can get on. There are other people waiting." The barber who had given the girl her flat-top in the corner was staring straight at me - cape in one hand, comb and scissors in the other.

Panic hit me. I couldn't fathom why. Surely he realised I was just accompanying James. My mouth went dry. I couldn't talk. For a split second I almost felt pressured to go forward. I could almost imagine the clippers on my neck. I could almost imagine all this troublesome hair falling around me!

But only for a split second. "Err, hardly. I'm with the kids." The barber's eyes then moved away from me to a young guy sitting next to me. He got up and walked over.

"Thanks mum. This look is really awesome." I reached out and felt the back of his head - a shiver ran down my spine as I thought that just ten minutes before it was covered by a lifetime of soft flowing hair. Well James couldn't be happier, could he.

"OK James, let's go." I sat down as he went over to the receptionist to pay. I could see myself in the mirror on the opposite wall and, like earlier, thought not bad considering. In fact not bad full stop. Attractive face, good figure, long sexy legs emerging from the short skirt. And great hair of course. Perhaps a little overpowering - being very long and very thick - perhaps a few layers around the face next time.

I reviewed the events of the last hour or so and still could make little sense of my feelings and emotions. Was it all imagined? I looked as James chatted to the receptionist - it looked as though James had made a conquest with his new look with the receptionist examining James's haircut. She collected her moderately long curly blond hair and studied her profile in the nearby mirror. James nodded, and they both laughed as she let it go.

And then I heard that word again.

"Next!"

I looked up to see I was the only person on the bench. "Er, no. As I explained I'm with my boy."

"Yes, and we've cut his hair. Now it's your turn."

"Come along then or I'll start thinking you don't want all your hair cut off."

I don't, I thought. I recapped the last hour.

"Well, are you ready?"

I felt panic. I felt trapped. I needed to leave. I got up. I know I did. I could see myself in the mirror. Surprisingly I could see myself, not walking to the exit but towards the barber chair. Even more surprisingly I sat down. It was like watching someone else. I sat back and crossed my legs - I looked almost relaxed. It was like watching someone else - someone with long dark hair in a barber's chair about to undergo some transformation. My feelings of anticipation and excitement increased. I would love to watch this. I studied how my long, wavy hair cascaded around my shoulders, on my chest and could feel resting on the chair behind. For hair so long, it really was immaculate. So I had to remind myself that it was me sitting here ... so the transformation wasn't going to happen. No way. I started to get up.

"Please could you lift up your hair while I fix the cape." Inexplicably I sat down and did precisely as asked. Why? I now saw myself almost in the classic glamour pose. I felt like pouting and then realised that if I stayed where I was I wouldn't be able to look this sexy for much longer.

And then the cape floated down past my eyes and came to rest. The barber then pulled it tight around my neck and fastened it. The presence of the cape felt like a straight jacket. I couldn't move.

"Please could you release your hair now." I let it go and it looked even more full, more curly, and much longer as it covered the cape.

I suddenly realised that this might happen and then relaxed as I realised we hadn't even discussed styles. The barber picked up his clippers and fixed a guard. I watched as if this was something remote, nothing to do with me. Why was he sorting out his clippers when we should be discussing possible styles - my plan was to discuss, pretend to consider a few and the excuse myself saying I'm not quite sure. And then run. How did I get here?

He raised the clippers for some reason as if he intended to use them. He stood to my right side and with his left hand cradled the back of my head and, I could feel, lightly gripping my hair stopping me from moving easily. Gulp!

In the mirror I saw me, surrounded by hair and standing next to me a man with the tools and inclination to remove it. I looked up and rather tartly said "I don't know what you propose but we have yet to discuss styling options. So would you stop."

"I believe I said that if you don't sit down then I'll believe that you don't want all your hair cut off."

"Yes, you said that."

"And you sat down?"

"Yes, but ..."

And then the clippers started. Time seemed to slow to a crawl as I saw the cutting machine approach. Closer, closer until it was resting on my forehead.

The reflection in the mirror still looked like someone else but the vibration was real. The sense of excitement, anticipation, fear were all very real.

And then it started. The clippers were hauled slowly back through my hair - coughing and choking on its thickness until, like an engine racing out of gear, it completed the first pass of its journey. In the mirror I saw the familiar sight of my long dark hair framing my face ... except neatly bisecting it was a two-inch wide path resembling a shaving brush. It was a little under half an inch long and stood perfectly.

The barber repeated this action several more times and then turned off the clippers. My crown was now short all over but the thickness of my hair meant the long lengths still looked reasonably full. The overall effect was quite striking in a punkish sort of way. This guy certainly knew his stuff.

He stood back to admire his handiwork. "I have chosen not to cut it all off as you requested." He wouldn't have interpreted that literally and shaved me bald - would he? "You will have a short flat-top style. If you then decide you would like it all cut off then I would be happy to do it for no extra charge."

I bet you would. "No it's fine as it is. Thanks."

"OK. Will you lean forward please."

No choice. I was firmly pushed, the clippers were picked up and the guard flicked off. And it started - again and again I could feel the clippers carry out their task. Hair was everywhere. Yes, the clippers felt cold on my neck. Each pass was like an electric shock and felt wonderful. Yes, my neck felt cooler. Yes, my head felt lighter. And my emotions were running out of control, quite literally. A couple of stifled groans escaped - perhaps hidden from the kids but certainly not to the barber who when he finally allowed me up was grinning broadly. I blushed! I then took in my appearance. A minute before I had a brush-like crown surrounded by masses of hair. The brush now remained but nothing else did - back and sides clipped to the skin - and my emotions hit me once more and the barber waited while I composed myself. I did but then saw the long thick lengths of hair collected in my lap, resting on my shoulders and most of all covering the floor. There was just so much and once again I gave into my strong feelings. Was there no end to these wonderfully strange sensations?

"OK, now the top needs a little trimming." he spent several minutes with comb and clippers, then scissors to get a perfect flat top look. "You have perfect hair for this look - each hair is standing to attention and will continue to do so." His hand passed over it several times and sure enough it stayed perfect ... and guess what this did to my emotions!

"And finally I will shave hairline to give an overall smart effect." And he did and I won't try to describe how this felt. Awesome perhaps!

And the cape was whisked off, giving me a chance to take in the new look. I had yet to see the extent of the cropping at the rear and when a mirror was held up I nearly fainted. There was nothing ... and it looked so right. So perfect. The overall effect was stunning - it completed my new suit perfectly, which was now not hidden by masses of hair.

So engrossed was I in my own feelings I had failed to notice that everyone else in the shop was looking and as I looked up there was a spontaneous round of applause.

James said "Awesome" and we were ready to go. Or nearly, I had just had to pay.

The receptionist was dumbstruck. She just stared. I couldn't resist. "So are you going to do it too?"

"I, er, think so."

"Then it has to be now. Would you let me start it for you?"

A nod. I led her to the chair I had just vacated and fitted the cape which the barber handed to me. We exchanged looks in the mirror. She smiled and nodded and once again the clippers started their work.

I was in heaven but decided I had James to look after so I left the receptionist in the capable hands of the barber and left with me contemplating how I would get new opportunities to exercise my new found interest.

I dropped James off and set out for the restaurant. As I approached the table my friends looked up with expressions ranging from shock to awe.

As I looked down at them, all I could see was hair that would look much better elsewhere ...