Somewhere around 1976 I negotiated with my wife to get an afro perm. They were popular about then and I found them rather exciting. The thought of running my fingers through those tight curls was just downright erotic.
It would, of course, mean giving up a few months of haircutting in order to grow out her hair long enough to wind around a roller. I'd been keeping her hair short as I had for many years, but that winter I'd sort of eased up on the clippers. Her hair was about the longest it had been in a quite a while, nearly a full 4 inches on top and about 2 inches or more on the sides & back.
Normally I'd have taken her early in the spring for a very short SB&S cut again, but as I said, we negotiated an afro. So the growing out process began despite my misgivings. I'm normally not patient enough to wait while it grows out. Usually I give up part way through the growth period & haul her off to a barbershop or clip her at home myself.
But it did grow. By May it was now long enough to be wound on rollers, so we headed off to a salon. This was unfamiliar territory for both of us because I'd always taken her to men's barbershops unless I was cutting it myself. For the first number of years of our relationship, I did the cutting. Later, after moving to a larger city, I took her to a variety of barbershops. So the salon was definitely a new experience.
We explained to the stylist what we wanted, a very tight afro, tightly curled all over her head. I was aroused just thinking of sifting through my fingers all those tiny little springy curls. The stylist understood perfectly, so off they went to make curls.
Two hours and fifty bucks later, she was curly. It wasn't quite as tight as I'd hoped for, but later that night, I discovered it was tight enough to work its magic on me. And the next night! But by 4 o'clock of the second day, it was clear that the curls were melting. I paid $50 for something called a "permanent". This obviously didn't rate well as a "temporary".
So we marched back to the salon where I had a discussion about my wife's curls. Mr. Stylist was not happy that we'd returned & were now standing in the lobby complaining about his creation. I wasn't happy that I'd given up a few months of wonderful SB&S cuts plus the $50 to end up with what could at best be described as limp hair.
We reached a compromise. He'd fix her hair to be tightly curled more permanently, and I would quit yelling in his face in front of his customers.
Two hours later, my wife was definitely curly, almost frizzy, you might say. But certainly tight! These curls could support weight without straightening!
About two weeks later, her hair was still tightly curled, but the overall shape was gone. Instead of a round curly ball of hair on her head, it now resembled a clown wig with sprigs shooting off in all directions.
Getting out the Osters, I pruned her head back to a previously rounded shape that followed the contours of her skull. And it was still tightly curled.
I found the change of pace from her usual bristly SB&S haircuts to be refreshing. An extra bit of spice in our love-making. About 2 weeks later I thought it might be great to try a new colouring as well. There were few hair colours that we hadn't tried till then. I was anxious to return her to a pale blonde. It was a favourite hair shade I always liked on her.
A free evening shortly afterwards found us bleaching my wife's tightly curled hair. It still wasn't terribly long, so a box of bleach was sufficient to do the job. In those days the bleach was like a super thick, rich shampoo that turned blue when it was on the hair for a few minutes. Wife's entire head was now a blue lather.
One hour later the blue was gone and the final shampooing left a rather orange-looking curly head. Later I discovered that permanented hair should not be bleached as the combination works against both the bleach and the curls. It would not do to re-bleach it again so we left the brassy orange colour and enjoyed what was left of her afro curls. Two weeks later the curls had pretty much had it and the bleaching had fried her hair. It was now barbershop time.
I'd seen a small shop on the far side of the city where I'd been wanting to take my wife for some time. It was the front of the barber's home as he and his wife lived in the back. It was the type of shop I liked, one old-fashioned barber chair, large mirrors on opposite walls, counter loaded with all the accoutrements of the trade such as scissors, hair tonics, razors, combs, etc. The walls were papered with a barbershop motif.
I entered the shop alone the first time to talk with the barber about what I had in mind. "I want you to cut off all my wife's hair." I told him. Then I explained that it was damaged beyond salvation. It needed to be sheared off.
"Cut of all the curly part and all the blonde. She knows it will be an extremely short brushcut when you're done. Just use the clippers and do it quickly because she feels uncomfortable having to get it cut off."
He understood and assured me he would clipper her quickly. "She'd also like you to shave her hairline around her ears and neck with the straight razor & lather. That will make the outline of her brushcut look neater. Don't worry about cutting her hair extremely close. Be sure to give her a very short taper up the back and sides."
This last part about the wet shave obviously piqued his curiosity. "You want me to cut off all her hair with clippers and then shave her with a razor?"
Before he would have time to reconsider or refuse my instructions, I said, "Yes. I'll go get her now from the car and bring her right in." I knew that by telling him that it was she who wanted to be shaved, he'd be more inclined to be sure she really was shaved. It works every time.
I returned with my wife in about 5 minutes. In that time, the old barber had apparently gone into his kitchen in the back, told his wife about this interesting haircut & shave, and brought his wife into the shop where she was seated to watch the show. I had already eye-balled the shop & decided where I was going to sit to watch the shearing. Fortunately it was not the seat the barber's wife was occupying. Mine had a view of my wife in both mirrors as well as a good view directly if the barber was right-handed. He was!
My wife sat in the old red leather chair. The arms of the chair were white porcelain. When she was seated with her feet propped on the foot-rest, the barber nodded at her, then pumped up the chair a couple of notches. He ran his left hand through her blondish curly hair two or three times. "Oh yes, I see." was all he said, then reached for a neck tissue. With that firmly in place, the barber shook out blue cape, draped it around my wife and secured it around her neck. She looked strangely small beneath the huge cape with only her feet showing.
The barber took a set of clippers from his counter, brushed out the teeth and applied a few drops of oil with the clippers running. He turned them off, set them back on the counter and selected a comb from a container of sanitary solution. I noticed his wife lean forward to get a better view of him combing this lady's hair. After two tries to get his comb through her curly mop, the barber gave up. He looked at me, shrugged and reached for the shears again.
It was evident to everyone in the barbershop that the only way to deal with this mess of blonde curls was to shear them off. Short! He had a plastic attachment on the clippers, but now he took that off. Instead he changed the cutting head to one that required no attachment. Placing it at my wife's forehead, he began to slowly push it across the top of her head.
The blonde curls piled up in front of the clippers as he mowed her top and crown. The first pile of hair dropped into her lap. The barber was standing in front of the chair and he now tilted her head down towards her lap. He looked at the path the clippers had sheared on her head.
"It got rid of the curl, but the hair is still that funny colour." he said.
"Cut it shorter." I told him. "Get rid of all the colour."
He went to his counter and change cutting heads on the clippers. He ran the new head over the same path of my wife's head. This time there was no blonde left, but there wasn't much hair left either. Her top had been cut to less than a quarter of an inch. I knew that if he was going to taper the sides & back to blend with her brushcut, the lower part would be all but shaved. That thought did not disappoint me.
As he mowed all the hair from the top of my wife's head, I could see the barber's wife squirming to get a better view of this show. She didn't want to miss anything either. She leaned forward as her husband completed each pass across the top of her head so she could watch him drop the cut hair into my wife's lap before her eyes.
When the entire top of her head had been clipper cut, the barber placed his hand under my wife's chin & raised her head to a level position. All her top was sheared down to barely a quarter inch. The hair that was left was her rich brown colour. Sticking out all around the sides and back of her head was the curly blonde hair looking wonderfully like a Brillo pad. With a painted face, she'd have made a great clown.
Evidently the barber thought so too. He set down the sh
ears and began fluffing up my wife's side & back hair by running his fingers through it several times. He placed his hand on her forehead then ran it to the back over the top of her head. I thought he was trying to get her hair to stand up straight. He stood back and looked at her before once again reaching for his clippers. My wife sat looking at nothing in particular. She was fully draped in the big red chair with her lap filled with all the blonde curls from the top of her head. She knew the barber's wife was staring at her.
Clippers in hand, the barber once again changed the cutting head. With his first pass up her neck I could see what he had done. The path he now made was completely white. There was no brown hair left in its wake. This new blade was cutting her hair almost bald. It was his version of tapering the brushcut. Each time he pushed the clippers up through her hair, he would drop the blonde clippings into her lap in front of eyes. And with each pass another bald strip appeared parallel to the last.
He worked around her head, first from the back to her right side. He shaved off everything behind her ear, then over her ear. When that was shaved, he brought the shears up from below her sideburn and carved the path clear up to her temple. As he neared the top where he had already clipped her to the quarter inch, he let his wrist flare out leaving slightly longer pieces that would later be blended into the top.
Satisfied that her right side was sufficiently shaved close enough, he went to the back and began the passes around to her left side. Each pass up her head left the same bald swath, and each new gathering of blonde curls were dumped onto my wife's lap. The pile of hair now resembled a small mound of wool.
A few more passes up her side with the clippers brought him around to the final area to be shorn. As he worked on her left sideburn area, he very slowly slid the clippers up over her temple to gather up the last of the bulky curls. Once again he unceremoniously dumped it in her lap.
All that was left on my wife's head now was a quarter inch of brown hair across the top & crown of her head. The sides and back had been clipper-shaved almost bald. Those areas were white to look at. The barber put his clippers on the counter and walked around the chair to face her. He reached into her lap and picked up the pile of her hair. Holding it in front of her he said, "You will be much cooler this summer." He dropped the pile of hair back into her lap.
He began to blend the bald sides and back with the quarter-inch top hair. Using a smaller set of clippers and a comb, he ran the comb over her head and sheared off the hair that reached through the teeth. Around and around her head he moved several times working to get just the right blending level.
Having got the top just right, he again used the small clippers on her sides and back. I had thought these areas were already bald, but as these small shears were run over her head, more short hairs were clipped off. I could see them flicking from the teeth of the clippers as the shears were moved over her head. When it looked good enough, he used a smaller pair of clippers again to buzz all around her hairline. These clippers were even used on the hairline of her forehead to make that line perfectly even. No other barber had ever shaved the front line of her forehead.
When he was almost finished, his wife got up from her seat. I thought she was bored enough that she was going to retreat to her kitchen for a cup of tea. Instead she went to his counter and picked up a lather mug and a shaving brush. Going to the sink in the corner, she turned on the water and let it run until a faint steam was visible. She then began working up a lather in the mug with the brush by working it round and round in the cup. I could see the froth beginning to ooze over the edge. All this time her husband was still shearing strays off my wife's head.
When the old lady had enough lather, she stood beside her husband. The barber said nothing to her, but laid down his scissors and comb. The old lady then lifted the brush full of lather from her mug and began to brush it around my wife's nape and hairline. She worked it into her neck and swished it many times on my wife's skin to increase the density of the soapy lather. Setting down the mug on the counter, she held one of my wife's ears while she lathered all around it in preparation for the outlining shave. Swinging the chair around, she then lathered up the other side of my wife so that she was now fully soaped on three sides.
The barber lifted a straight-razor from his counter and stropped it several times to bring up an edge on it. Then he laid a small towel across my wife's right shoulder. She was now completely prepared for her wet shave, but I didn't understand why he lowered the position of the chair by pushing forward on the handle. But in a second or two, the reason was clear.
The barber handed his wife the straight razor. The old woman began to shave my wife.
"My hands are no longer as steady as hers." he explained. With great dexterity the old lady wielded the razor. I could hear a strong rasping sound as the hair was sliced off under the lather. With every second stroke of the razor, she wiped the lather on the towel. She began at the nape, cleaned off that area, then attacked the sideburns. The sideburn was shaved off even with the top of my wife's ear. There was no little dip in front of the earlobe. The dark nibs were obvious where the sideburn was supposed to be. Then the outline was neatly shaved around the ear just a fraction of an inch into the hairline. When she was finished, it was obvious that it had been shaved with a straight razor.
The old lady was good and seemed to enjoy her contribution to this short haircut. Dabbing a bit more lather on the back of my wife's neck, the lady loosened the cape and shaved a couple of inches below her neckline where the cape had been tied. Using a warm wet cloth, she washed off the traces of remaining lather and rubbed in a soothing after-shave.
The barber now resumed his business of tidying up the brushcut. Applying hair goo with his hands, he massaged my wife's head with some kind of gel, taking care to ensure every hair on her top was coated with the stuff. From my vantage point, it appeared somewhat stiff and waxy. He used a brush to try to coax her hair to stand up, but it seemed too short to obey. Eventually with more goo and more brushing, he convinced her hair to rise to attention. Her hair soon looked like a relative of the hedgehog family.
The barber's wife had remained standing close to the chair. She now turned the chair so my wife was facing towards her. They smiled at each other and the old woman reached out and ran her hand over my wife's upright bristles.
"Is very beautiful," she said. "Cool for summer." She also couldn't resist running her hand up the back of my wife's head at least twice. There was almost no hair at all on the back or sides, and I could tell the old lady enjoyed the sensation of the shortest bristles giving way under her hand as she brushed her hand against the grain of the hair growth. She left to return to her kitchen.
With the brushcut completed, the barber untied the cape. The huge pile of brassy curls and short clippings rolled down the cape and fell to the floor to the right of the foot-rest of the barber chair. The barber brushed off her neck and forehead to get rid of any stray hairs. My wife stepped down from the chair and placed her right hand on the back of her nape, and while looking in the mirror, did the same thing the barber's wife had done. She raised her hand up the back of her head feeling the tiny bristles flip as she moved her hand against the grain of her hair. She did manage a small smile.
"Well, there are no more curls," she said.
This brushcut occurred in 1976. Since then I have had my wife barbered countless times. In the 30 years since, she's had flattops, buzzcuts, complete headshaves, bobs, bowls, mullets, mohawks, a variety of SB&S little boy haircuts, a Mr. T. mandinka style and face shaves. But no more curls. I've taken her to barbers and barberettes. I've sheared and shaved her myself so many times that I couldn't count. She's been bleached platinum for years and had her hair dyed every colour of the rainbow. She's been greased with everything from hair gel to eggs & mayonnaise for conditioning. And the butch wax used to hold up her flattops would keep her hair upright in the worst hurricane. But never since this barbershop shearing has she ever had curls again.
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