My Very Own Story by Sean O'Hare
It was quite a few years ago now. I had just finished my last year at business school and was awaiting the results of my exams. I had already been offered an excellent job with one of the large firms and I was due to start next week provided I hadn't totally flunked the exams whose results were expected in a couple of days. Given my track record, and my own perceptions of the exams, I didn't expect this to be a problem.
The selection process for the job were a little unexpected. I always imagined the firm was a little stuffy - dark suits, no individuality, a bit straight-laced. But we were told just to turn up in our normal (student!) clothes for a weekend during which there would be interviews, exercises and a little bit of fun. And sure enough there was.
Most of the weekend was in a country hotel although we were briefly shown the inside of the offices on the way from the airport to the hotel. So much happened subsequently that I didn't remember much about the building or the people except that impression that the building was quite grand and the people were a great deal smarter in appearance than us students.
We were actually rather a mixed bunch in appearance. Some had made quite an effort - and tended to stick out like sore thumbs - while those of us who had followed the guidelines felt quite comfortable. After all even the interviewers and instructors from the firm were dressed casually for the weekend.
I was there with my friend Pat - we had known each other for a couple of years, most recently sharing a room together. In typical student fashion we had allowed our hair to grow long - thick and straight in my case, while Pat's was shoulder length and rather wavy. Naturally we spent most of our time in jeans and T-shirts.
At the end of the selection process, several names were read out as we waited for the coach to take us back to the airport. Both mine and Pat's were included and we were asked to remain behind when the others left. There were 4 of us out of a total of around 20. This organisation didn't waste time - they offered us jobs on the spot, subject to satisfactorily passing our exams.
Pat and I were over the moon and to say we celebrated would be an understatement.
Well, we had got through our exams reasonably unscathed and now we were about to start work. Indeed, the contracts of employment and other information about the firm had been sent to us in advance. We realised that we would need to smarten ourselves up - from our brief visit to their offices and the guidelines in our contract. There was only one statement in the contract: "A smart appearance is expected at all times. This applies to clothing, hair and cosmetics."
Pat and I pondered this. We had been students for several years and now we were moving into corporate life - we needed to get some new clothes. But what? What was acceptable in this environment?
We decided to set out to the shopping mall in the vicinity of the offices where we were to work. We thought that by frequenting the clothes shops likely to be frequented by staff from the firm then we should be able to get some advice from the assistants on what is appropriate.
And so it proved. The assistants were helpful, probably because we went during the morning when they weren't too busy. We tried lots of different clothes - suits, jackets, trousers. However, once the assistants knew where we were destined they shook their heads and said that we should only consider dark suits - both men and women favoured this look - and there was little room for individuality.
We tried on a few and they did look rather good. Perhaps a little austere, but certainly smart.
We finally settled on a couple of suits each, charging them to our newly acquired cards in the expectation that we would be able to pay for them out of our first month's salary.
The assistant asked, while we were paying, if we intended to do anything with our hair. I had noticed that our hair did look in need of attention while trying on the clothes. We said we intended to do something hadn't really considered what we should do or where should have it cut. Neither of us had had more than a trim from each other in the last few years.
The assistant suggested we try a salon nearby - one which was frequented by many of the men and women who worked at the firm and hence should be able to provide guidance on suitable styles.
As we entered the salon it was obviously a fairly high-class place - modern, with lots of mirrors and chrome. We were welcomed by a young receptionist who, when we explained why we were here, asked us to sit in the waiting area, while a free stylist was located.
Pat and I sat down and chatted, a little nervously it has to be said. We had changed back to our student clothes, looking a little scruffy, feeling a little out of place. All the staff were dressed very fashionably and all, perhaps unsurprisingly, had well-cut hair in a variety of styles and lengths. In this setting we felt like rather drab, whereas back in the college we fitted in perfectly. It was disconcerting.
We started to talk about our hair, flicking through a style book on the table in front of us. But it was a little half-hearted. We looked at each other and realised that we were both wondering what we doing here. As we started to gather our things we were approached by one of the stylists.
"Hi I'm Chris. I understand you would like some advice on suitable styles for your new jobs."
We mumbled our agreement, and Chris guided Pat towards one of the chairs and I followed behind and sat down in the next chair.
"OK Pat, well what sort of style were you thinking of." Chris was brushing Pat's shoulder length waves, while looking in the mirror ahead.
"Well I'm not sure. I've always had longish hair but feel something may be shorter when I start work."
Chris enquired the name of the company and almost laughed. "I sometimes think I cut the hair of all the men and women who work there. I guess you would like a style that would allow you to fit in with your future colleagues?"
Pat nodded. "Also with the clothes we've just bought. Our hair seems to fit in with our student style, but not our new clothes." I showed Chris the content of our bags and received a nod of understanding.
"Well you've certainly come to the right place. So Pat, shall we get started?"
Pat nodded once more.
"Great," said Chris flicking open a cutting cape and allowing to float down over Pat. Chris fastened it at the neck and lifted the trapped hair so that it gathered on her around her face and shoulders.
What struck me was that at this late stage neither Pat nor I had any idea of the type of style that was worn by our future colleagues.
Pat looked odd, looking trapped by the cape and staring straight ahead. Pat didn't look capable of saying anything and I was about to ask what style was being proposed.
However I was interrupted by a loud buzzing sound. As I looked around to pinpoint the noise I noticed Chris push Pat's head forward and down and in the same instant move a set of hairclippers straight along Pat's now horizontal neck.
I gulped, and I could sense Pat trying to move her head away from Chris's guiding hand - without success. Chris pulled the clippers back, a large quantity of Pat's wavy locks fell away, and a narrow furrow remained behind. But it wasn't narrow for long as the clippers went forward again, with the same result.
After a few more passes I managed to speak. "Wha... What are you doing?"
"Cutting Pat's hair in the style we agreed. Is there a problem?"
"Well yes, actually. You're using clippers ... they're cutting Pat's hair very short."
"Well clippers are very useful for cutting hair - that's what they're for!"
"But that short?"
"Well that's how everyone wears it in your new firm. That's what you both asked for wasn't it?"
At this point Chris's grip relaxed a little and Pat's head shot up. More hair slid away. Rather strangely Pat's reflection looked little different as the sides were untouched. However I could see what Pat couldn't and that was that the 12 inch lengths of hair that once covered Pat's neck now lay on the floor and the back of the head, up to the bone that sticks out at the back, was denuded of hair. It was clipped to barely a quarter of an inch!
As Pat looked in the mirror, a look of relief briefly appeared, perhaps thinking that this had not happened. Then Pat saw a few of the long locks resting in on the cape and a hand immediately shot out from under the cape and went straight to the bare nape.
It wouldn't be an exaggeration to say a scream emerged from Pat. It was a strangled scream, and came out more like a squeak. But it was followed by another - more strangled and more squeaky, as Pat's hand explored and realised the extent of the cropping.
Chris simply said, "Well do you want me to complete the style?"
Pat simply said "B...b...but it's so short..."
"Yes, well that's what you want isn't it? So shall I continue?"
Chris stood to one side, looking at us both in turn, holding the clippers in one hand and periodically slapping them into the palm of the other in exasperation.
Pat was continuing to rub the clipped nape and seemed not to be able to answer. I have to say at this stage I felt a mix of emotions. Seeing Pat's bare nape was so peculiar. Neither of us were ones for tying our hair back and hence, over the last few years, it was a sight I had seen rarely. Seeing it at all, and seeing it in such a naked state made me feel emotions that I did not connect with watching hair being cut.
The other side to this mix of emotions was anger that this had happened to a friend of mine, by a complete stranger without real agreement. Well, OK, without specific agreement. But didn't Chris realise that Pat had always had long hair. That this was a major change to her appearance and not something that should be approached so lightly.
As I analysed these conflicting emotions I became increasingly annoyed. Not with Chris, but myself! For the simple reason that, despite my anger, I wanted to see Pat's haircut completed. I wanted the emotional feelings I was experiencing to continue as more hair was removed, perhaps seeing a new Pat emerge.
I felt Chris was about to give up, although clearly Pat couldn't leave with a half-finished cut. I felt compelled to intervene, hating to do so as it felt I was doing it for my own ends. I was almost embarrassed as I said, "Pat? Pat, I think Chris should continue don't you. It does seem to be a little excessive, but you can't really leave it as it is can you? I'm sure it's going to look really good."
Pat looked straight at me and almost hissed. "Really? Well just remember it's me sitting here, not you." Then turning to Chris, Pat said, "You'd better finish it then, if you don't mind."
Chris smiled. "Mind? That's why I'm here." Saying this a hand eased Pat's head to one side.
I reflected on those last words Pat directed at me. True, I wasn't sitting there. It could just easily have been me who went first. Who had been led to the chair. Who had been caped, and clippered. I shivered at the thought and was glad that I would be leaving with my hair intact to allow for less drastic attention at a later date.
I was brought out of my personal thoughts by the sound of the clippers once more popping into life. I watched, as did Pat, as they were swiftly lowered to rest on my friend's cheek. And then they were eased upwards into the hair at the temple ... which simply fell away. Chris pulled away the clippers and hair slipped down Pat's cheek and fell to the floor. The exercise was repeated a little further back and more hair tumbled.
I found myself totally emotionally drawn into this experience, but attempted to remain detached from the fact that this was my great friend being ravaged in this way. Watching the long waves that I had become familiar with over the years suddenly disappear to be replaced by an unexpected whiteness was vaguely shocking but totally intoxicating. I couldn't unravel my feelings as I watched this shearing. I felt in the back of my mind that this was irrational. No experience in my life had prepared me for this. But the simple fact was, I was becoming turned on by the scene that was appearing before me. I decided to set aside the analysis for now, and simply enjoy it - if enjoy is the correct word in this situation.
After several more passes the increasing area of bare temple merged with the back to leave a large clipped expanse. The longer hair on the other side still tumbled in large waves onto Pat's shoulders. But not for long as Chris moved to the other side, pushed Pat's head the other way and with several quick strokes of the clippers matched the hair on this side to the length of the other.
We were all silent through this period: I in my new strange world, Pat in resigned shock from the loop on her face, and Chris smiling. Whether Chris was experiencing professional pride in a job well done, or perhaps because enjoying similar emotions to my own as this dramatic change was performed on my friend, or possibly experiencing something else about which I had no understanding, I could not know. But it certainly looked like a genuine smile of enjoyment.
Chris finally broke the silence. "Right, that's got rid of the worst of it." Both Pat and I were rather surprised by this statement - after all it didn't look THAT bad before. Chris seemed to sense our hostility and so added. "Sorry, I did mean the worst of the experience - not the hair! After all there's still some more hair to go."
Not much I thought as I looked at Pat. Chris now stood behind and straightened Pat's head. Pat's hair looked a little strange. Clipped away up to a neat line around the head, above the ears. The hair at the crown was still recognisably Pat's - a few thick waves which ended abruptly at the clipped line
Chris picked up a spray bottle and damped down the waves. Picking up a comb and scissors, Chris then quickly and expertly began to trim, layer and graduate Pat's crown hair until it fell in a neat cap-like shape. A little gel was applied, and a little movement introduced in the hair by the attention of a brush and blow-drier.
It looked as though Chris had completed the task. Pat sat there staring ahead while I sat to one side, admiring the profile that now presented itself. I couldn't help but appreciate the enhancement brought about by these dramatic changes.
There was a distinct pause in the proceedings and I was about to speak when I heard a loud, but higher pitched buzzing. Chris held another pair of clippers and without a word began to trim the hairline further. Trim was probably not quite the correct word - shave probably would be! It was startling to note the short cuttings fly up in a cloud. These clippers sounded much more urgent as if Chris had to forcibly restrain them from moving away from the hairline and attacking the remainder of the short clipped back and sides.
I was in total awe as the dark shadow at the hairline disappeared and seemed to climb up the back of the head as the clippers moved up. But it did not appear to be Chris's intention to shave Pat - at least not on this occasion as only a relatively small amount was removed - at the nape, at the temple and around the ears. A small amount perhaps, but they certainly sharpened and enhanced the style.
One thing that was very noticeable was the redness that replaced the whiteness as the shaving of these areas proceeded. A sort of razor burn I assumed, or perhaps a blush of embarrassment at the feelings being experienced.
Certainly I was feeling most peculiar at seeing Pat's hair being clippered in this way. It felt like I was watching something private - an undressing, if you like, but much more personal.
I felt rather hot, rather flustered, rather embarrassed. I felt I had also gone red in the face. Perhaps I had.
The clippers were turned off and Chris whisked away the cape. Pat just sat there staring. I decided to speak.
"Well, it's certainly different Pat. It looks really good though."
"And you will feel comfortable with your future colleagues. They nearly all have similar styles there," Chris added.
"Hmm, well. Comfortable is not a word I would use to describe how I feel at this moment..." Pat sort of whispered, while studying all aspects of the new appearance that could be viewed in the mirror.
Neither did I feel comfortable. Just looking at Pat's crisp nape and precisely cut layers made me feel very uncomfortable. Very uncomfortable indeed. Thinking back to how it looked a mere twenty minutes ago and replaying those twenty minutes in my mind once more jumbled my emotions.
As Pat's hand explored that crisp nape I saw a slight shiver, which may have resembled the extremely large shudder that coursed through me but which I attempted to disguise.
Finally Pat broke the silence by saying, " ...but I guess I'll get used to it, won't I?"
I sort of nodded, not trusting myself to speak as my throat had become very dry. As Pat paid and chatted to Chris, I gathered our things together. They both turned and Pat seemed to be appraising me, looking a little surprised.
"Going somewhere?" Pat enquired.
"Well, sorry, I thought you had finished." I was keen to leave and have a good look at Pat's hair and find out how it felt.
"I have," Pat replied, emphasising the 'I'.
And then it dawned on me what Pat meant. My stomach seemed to sink through the floor and I felt very odd. "Oh no, Pat. Come on let's go."
"We came in here together for the same reason, didn't we. Come and sit down."
"Yes but we didn't know that was going to happen" I said, indicating the mound of cut hair surrounding the chair which Pat had just vacated.
"True, but do you want to be so different from everyone else when we start next week?"
My immediate thought was yes, I think I do actually. I tried to imagine sitting in that chair, having the cape thrown around me and the clippers turning on and my head pushed forward. I didn't have to try very hard, but tackling my emotions associated with my imagination was scary. There was no way I wanted my hair cut like Pat's, but I suddenly realised I wanted to know what Pat had just had experienced.
"Well, no of course not, but...."
Pat came over and placed an arm around me and led me towards the chair in which the dramatic cropping had just taken place.
"Just come and sit down."
It was Pat talking. A voice I trusted, so I approached. Nervously, I sat down. "Look, Pat, I really don't want my hair cut short. You must know how I feel."
"I think I do," Pat replied. I felt Pat's hands run through my hair, lingering at the nape. I lowered my eyes and saw the mass of cut hair around the chair. I raised my eyes and saw Pat's crisp, clipped head in the mirror and I shook uncontrollably. Pat smiled and called softly, "Chris, please will you come over here. I think my friend would like to talk to you."
Chris marched over, grabbed the cape that had so recently enclosed Pat and stood behind me. "Hey that's great. So, you would like me to do something with your hair?"
I nodded. I still didn't want a cropping like Pat's but clearly I was not going to get out of here without some sort of change. My mouth felt very dry and when I tried to explain what I would like, and more importantly, wouldn't like then no words actually came out.
The chair suddenly felt hot and clammy. I could feel it through my jeans clinging to me. I saw myself in the mirror - striped T-shirt, blue jeans and my lovely hair. In reasonable condition, reasonably long, but perhaps a little short on style.
I didn't see it for long as my view was suddenly obstructed by the cutting cape billowing down in front of my eyes and enveloping my body. It was light, but it felt like it was made of lead so heavily did it weigh upon me. I could see a look of fear - fear of the unknown perhaps? - as I caught my reflection in the mirror.
My hair was trapped within the cape as Chris fastened it tightly about my neck, before flicking it out and arranging it carefully so it fell forward onto the cape, contrasting in its fairness with the black cape.
Chris brushed my hair until it shone. I reflected on the fact that my hair looked pretty good in its typical student style. I really liked it the way it was. Why was I sitting here? I needed to think about this carefully.
My emotions from earlier now seemed to be in check and common sense returned. I even smiled, acknowledging to myself that I looked pretty good as I was.
Chris saw the smile and interpreted it as a signal that I was happy to start. To have my hair cropped short.
"Right, so you're ready. I have to say your hair is particularly thick and well conditioned. It is rather a shame that it has to be cut short."
My mind raced. Well that's all right, you're not going to cut it. I like it thick and long too. Unfortunately I hadn't said anything to stop Chris from proceeding.
If I keep quiet most of my hair will be gone in a matter of minutes. Sitting there, watching myself in the mirror, I tried to imagine myself with Pat's hairstyle. I couldn't ... or didn't want to.
I wanted to speak but found, as I opened my mouth, that I was so short of breath and my throat so dry that I couldn't say a word.
I saw Chris pick up the clippers - the large heavy ones - that had ravaged Pat's hair so swiftly and effectively only half an hour ago.
The emotions that had welled up in me as I watched Pat, began to stir once again. I didn't expect that. Not at all.
"Right, head down and we'll soon be over the worst of it." Smiling. Perhaps, at the memory of the earlier confusion. Or perhaps at the thought of ridding my head of its burden.
I looked at myself in the mirror. Admired my glossy, thick, blonde hair. It was part of me, and always would be wouldn't it?
Chris stood beside me, looking questioningly at me in the mirror. After I had just sat there for seconds, that seemed liked hours, with a whole range of emotions playing across my face, I saw Chris slowly raise a hand, place it on my crown, and then felt the pressure applied to lower my head.
I continued to look in the mirror, but realised my view was becoming obscured. It was my hair. My head was going forward and my hair slipped forward.
I suddenly heard a very loud buzzing noise and saw, out of the corner of my eyes, just before my view was totally obscured, those big black hairclippers moving towards me.
It was now or never. I knew what happened next. I had watched Pat. Pat, what was it like, I thought. I needed to know. Immediately!
I couldn't believe I had allowed things to go this far. I needed to get up. Or say something. But my throat was very dry.
I opened my mouth, not sure exactly what I was going to say, when suddenly I felt cold metal at the back of my neck. And a curious vibration. The shock of the coldness was like being winded. The words I was trying to form came out as a sort of high pitched "AAHHHH!" and I felt my back arch involuntarily causing my head to rise a little. Chris soon remedied this by applying a little more pressure than before to keep me looking straight down into my lap. Of course I could see little because of my hair, but I could certainly feel its softness on my cheeks and smell its freshness.
And then I felt the coldness move further forward. I felt the vibration, not just where the clippers touched, but increasingly throughout my neck, my head, my shoulders. A tingling rose up my spine to meet it and it felt like my hair was standing on end. Presenting itself to meet the clippers.
I couldn't believe how I felt at this moment. The discovery of how I could be affected by the simple act of a haircut when I watched Pat earlier was a revelation. But nothing had prepared me for this.
In the back of my mind the thought continued to nag at me that I shouldn't allow myself to undergo this transformation. That next time I saw myself my hair will have been clippered away.
The clippers continued to move along my neck ...
Last chance. I could imagine how I looked from someone else's viewpoint. Vulnerable. Neck exposed. Hair hanging down.
And then the tone of the clippers changed abruptly, and I felt a sight tugging. The noise increased in pitch and the tugging became greater as the clippers moved forward.
And then abruptly it subsided as it reached most of the way up the back of my head. I felt a strange sliding sensation in my hair, like something pass over it. I saw something moving through the veil of hair that surrounded me, and realised that the cut hair was slipping over the remaining hair before it hit my shoulders and then continued down the cape and into my lap. I felt, rather than saw it, in my lap. It seemed to be weighing down the cape as if it weighed pounds but, in reality, was probably just a product of my heightened senses.
Before I had adjusted to this sensation, it started again. Was I ready for it this time? No way! I was continuing to have difficulty breathing, and each breath was like a small gasp. Hopefully not audible to others, but I could do little to disguise it.
I was imagining how I looked. The thick, fair hair that once hid the back of my head was disappearing fast. A wide track would be forming. Would my blonde hair look different from Pat's dark shadow?
Again and again the clippers passed. Was it my imagination or could I feel cold air from the overhead fans on my nape?
I had greatly difficulty controlling my emotions. I succeeded but it was difficult as I felt, and indeed saw, my hair falling away.
And then Chris's hold was relaxed which allowed my head to rise. And little appeared to be different. The hair continued to rest on my shoulders as I looked straight ahead. But I saw mounds of blonde hair in my lap and, mixing with Pat's dark hair, on the floor.
I couldn't resist. My hand shot out from under the cape to the back of my head. And, sure enough it was gone. I had expected it to feel quite stubbly, but it was soft unless brushed upwards ... and I wasn't able to describe that sensation and I'm still not. It can only be experienced.
But, unlike with Pat, there was no questioning about whether to continue or not. My hand was lifted away and placed on the arm of the chair. My head was pushed to one side and Chris placed the clippers on my cheek and slowly eased them forward. The whole experience started once again - except it was heightened as I could see the clippers advance up my cheek and into the thick hair at my temple. I saw the hair fall slide away and hit my bare arm now lying outside the cape. It was like an electric shock. My arm literally jumped. As with Pat I saw the line of clipped hair recede until I presume it reached that at the back.
Chris quickly moved to the other side and repeated the exercise.
I tried to keep my expression neutral. But I saw it change from fear, through wonder, to excitement. My emotions were on a roller coaster.
My head was straightened, the crown hair damped down and, just like Pat it was quickly and expertly layered through. As Chris worked it was difficult to see the full effect. I could see I had ears! Quite nice ears actually. Just the right size. The hair at the sides barely showed. Being fair it appeared to have blended into the scalp - but the sharp clippered ends would catch the light and show their true colours.
Once the longer lengths had been styled out came those smaller clippers. And the noise they made was incredible. Between a whine and a scream, which was loud but got louder as they passed around my ears. I felt them shave away the hair at my hairline. Momentarily Pat stood back and ran a hand over the clippered back and sides. And then Chris nodded, as if coming to some decision, and started with the clippers once more. I could feel what was happening. It was something different than with Pat. The whole expanse of clippered back and sides was disappearing under those clippers. Not only would it look like the fair hair had been shaved as it blended into the scalp - it would be shaved.
Throughout all this my emotions were at a high, an all time high. If anyone had said that this experience - this haircut - would have had so much of an impact on me then, and subsequently in later life I would laughed. But now I just wanted to get home and come to terms with how I felt. Perhaps discuss it with Pat although surely Pat couldn't feel the same.
The clippers turned off and Chris held up a mirror and I shrieked, not in fear as all that was now behind me (well, mostly) but pure pleasure. The whole affect just looked so neat, so precise, so right!
Chris looked at me, then looked away, almost in embarrassment at my pleasure.
I sat there for some time, taking in my new appearance. Moving my head from side to side. Running my hands over the bare nape. And loving what I saw.
I got up sending my cut hair flying everywhere. Pat came over, smiling. I paid and we walked out together.
As we left, I put my arm round Pat, and Pat did the same with me. It was only seconds before Pat found my bare nape and I found Pat's. We turned towards each other and smiled ...
... And so that, my friends, is how I became shorn!
THE END (or perhaps it was just the beginning?)