I tumbled into bed, exhausted. Only hours earlier, my son had come from school with a note that he had nits. Not lice yet, but if we didn’t take care of those eggs, they would hatch into a fullblown outbreak. It seemed a lifetime ago that my daughter thought it was cool to troll another girl on Facebook, simply because that girl’s mother had addressed their family’s same nit letter with buzzcuts for everyone. My husband had shaved our son into a cleanshaven back and sides crewcut, and after reading the things our daughter had posted on Facebook, we’d cut off her long brown hair and given her a shave, too. I was bitterly disappointed to see that she was a mean girl, and we’d clipped and shaved her punishment without apology. Our daughter was now sporting a completely clean-shaven head. “Aren’t you forgetting something?” Tom asked me.
“We’re sleeping on plastic-covered pillows,” I mumbled. “The comforter has been washed in hot water and bleach, and dried at inferno temperature. You remember this used to be a navy blanket?” I pointed to the sky blue blanket that smelled of bleach. “Yes,” Tom nodded, giving my pony tail a tug. “But there is one member of the family who hasn’t had her hair cut short yet. She’s not a mean girl, so I don’t think we need to shave her, but it’s only fair.” Yikes. The only problem with this plan was that when I went to the drug store for lice-killing shampoo and steel nit combs, when I saw Kaylie with her adorable buzzcut, there wasn’t much choice left as far as hairclippers went. For my husband and son, a cleanshaven crewcut was not a big deal. But our daughter had been more painful. She deserved that clippercut, I had no doubt in my mind. She would learn that lesson the hard way and hopefully never say another mean thing about another girl ever again. When she asked us how long it would take to grow back, Tom had said that depended on when we let her start growing it out. I had decided that when Kaylie started growing out her hair, Ashley could do the same. The only problem was that Kaylie’s mom loved her daughter’s close buzzcut, and I’d even told her it was beautiful and she should consider keeping it. It could be a while before either Kaylie or Ashley had anything but short haircuts.
But the problem for me, right now, was that when I’d bought clippers earlier that night, I had bought what was available. That was one version that cuts hair in any direction, and didn’t come with blade guards. It was a great tool to buzz our son’s head, and it had turned the shorn mess that was our daughter’s haircut into something that resembled a haircut. The other clippers I had bought were called Clean Cut, and they did just that. Tom had given Liam a whitewalled crewcut using those blades, and they’d crunched off a path of nothing but clean skin above the ears and across the back. After we’d buzzed Ashley down, Tom had taken the clean cutting clippers and shorn her bald when she still mouthed off to him, even in a buzzcut. But she was being punished. I hadn’t put mean postings on Facebook. I’d punished my daughter because she’d done so. Still. If you’re willing to give your daughter a buzzcut, ran Tom’s logic, you need to be willing to have your hair buzzed too.
“You know I would never do anything mean to you,” Tom reminded me gently, nonetheless tugging on that ponytail and eyeing the ensuite. We’d used the kids’ bathroom earlier that night clip and shave, and he’d taken the clippers back to our bathroom. It was safer to store them somewhere where they wouldn’t be tempted to ‘accidentally’ throw them away. Ashley’s phone had been taken away from her, and it was sitting in the drawer next to the hair shears and shaving tools, because we knew she would never look there. It was also a good reminder to us that once she had earned her way back into our good books, we could let her have her phone, and possibly let her start to grow out her hair. But I had never had short hair in my life. I had no idea how it would look. I feared I would age by ten years the moment my long ponytail was gone. What if I didn’t have the right face for short hair? What if it made me look boyish? It will grow back, I reminded myself, as Tom led me to the bathroom. He’d set it up with a chair, and laid out the shears and clippers, the comb. I tried not to wince at the sight of the clippers, because he had laid out the orange ones, the ones that shave it clean to the skin, alongside the ones that leave it one length all over. (That length was really short, in case you’re wondering.) Couldn’t he just snip my hair short with scissors, and leave the shaving out of it?
“Are you ready to meet your new self?” Tom asked me, wrapping me in a cape. “Not really,” I laughed nervously. “Be gentle, okay? I’ve never had a short haircut.” Tom began to comb out my hair and said when he was done, I’d never want to wear it long again. I thought he might be being optimistic on that one, but let him comb and wondered if he saw any nits. We’d both noticed that simply hearing the word headlice had made us both itchy. Tom’s clean buzzing would have eliminated that worry pretty quickly, but looking through my hair for eggs or bugs would take longer if it was long. A good short snip would make it easier to identify any problems, I told myself. But a snip, please. With scissors, not those clean cutting clippers, or even that clipper that looked like a space invader. I was going to look like a boy, I knew it.
Seeing my hair spread out across my shoulders, I mentally said goodbye to it wondered if maybe Tom would trim it to my chin. A bob might be cute. That might lighten up my face, rather than make me look old. “Think how happy you’re going to be in the morning when you can wash and go,” Tom suggested, grabbing a piece at the side of my head and snipping. One quick movement and a long strand fell to the floor. I didn’t want to look at the side of my head to see how close he’d cut. I’d felt the blades next to my head, so I knew he wasn’t leaving much. I had done the same to Ashley earlier in the night, so I shouldn’t be shocked that Tom was matching me cut for cut. He’d said wash and go, so clearly he was not thinking I would be left with much to style. I let him guide my head forward so he could trim away from the back, and felt the cold steel of the blades working their way up, felt the new lightness on my head with each quick, forceful, snip. Tom worked quickly, but not sloppily, combing and holding, trimming away lock after lock with a decisively firm snap of the blades. I wasn’t sure I would like the look, but having my husband’s hands on my head, on my hair, felt delicious.
After about ten minutes of non-stop cutting, I glanced at the floor and saw what I expected- strand after strand of my hair, cut off and discarded. I tried to remember how long it was before the snipping started, and determine by the length of what was on the floor how much might be left, but each snip next to my scalp assured me that I was overthinking this. My hair was going to be buzzed off, probably with the even clipper, if Tom didn’t do so simply with the shears. But as he continued to snip, I felt something else- a new lightness that was sort of liberating. I’d often looked at women with short hair and marveled at how confident they were, how professional some of the women who walked into my office with closely cropped hair looked. They had a badass quality to them that said you shouldn’t mess with them. Maybe that was what Tom liked about Olivia. Maybe if I was a mom with a badass pixie cut, my daughter wouldn’t have thought it was okay to troll a girl with a buzzcut on social media. I sort of got lost in my thoughts as Tom continued snipping, and I barely noticed when he started cutting the top. It was only when the sound of snipping scissors stopped, but he started to hold my hair taut and glide across it with the blade of the shears that I paid attention. More and more hair fell to the floor as I felt the slicing across the top.
Tom then plugged in my hairdryer and started to direct the strands that were left, pushing them with his fingers, blasting the short-snipped areas to see if he’d cut them evenly, directing them with a comb. “Almost done,” he announced, turning off the dryer and taking the space invader into his hand. “Chin down,” he said and snapped on the clipper, gliding it up the back of my head and listening with a smile as it plowed through my nape and took away more hair. “This is so hot,” he added, rubbing the nape with his fingers. Wow. That sent chills up my spine. It was hot. It also felt an awful lot like his fingers were brushing bare skin. Gulp. I wasn’t shocked when he angled my head sideways and plowed the space invader over the sides of my head, blending the shaved back with the sides. But I caught a glimpse of the top and it was darling. The blades had sliced away into a wispy, cute as hell look that was indeed very short, but so cute. With the buzzed up sides, I didn’t look old. I looked like Miley Cyrus or Katy Perry. I looked twenty-five and fearless. I would never be scared of a short haircut again.
“Well?” Tom asked me, as he blew off the last of the cuttings with my dryer. “I think you’re getting lucky tonight,” I grinned. Tom laughed, and took the comb to the sides. “You can go with an actual part, sort of a hard stop from the top to the sides, if you want to,” he said, combing the hair toward the centre, and revealing an expertly shaved side. “Or comb it down, to look a little more blended. Like, if you don’t want to look like a punk rock mom at work.” Hm. I kind of loved it. Like, I needed to buy a leather jacket and yes, actually, our kids would be getting buzzcuts for the foreseeable future. Ashley wasn’t growing hers back, and neither was I. Tom being the responsible man that he is, swept up the cuttings and threw them away just in case there were any nits he hadn’t seen while cutting. He barely made it back inside before I took him back to bed, and this time, I did not fall in there ready to collapse. That little haircut was magic. I felt pretty in it. I felt young and fresh.
When I dropped Ashley at school the next day, two of her friends actually laughed in her face when they saw her shaved head. I wanted to jump out the car and throttle them, but I didn’t need to. Kaylie walked up to her, patted her newly-shorn pate and smiled. “Bitchin haircut,” she said. “It’s growing on me,” Ashley replied. “Actually, it’s not growing. It probably will never be allowed to grow ever again. But I’m getting used to it.” I wanted to feel bad, but I couldn’t. Ashley had learned her lesson and her friends were not the kind of girls I would want her to be friends with anyway. Kaylie would prove to be a much better friend and now that I had my own little buzzcut, I didn’t think Tom would ask about Olivia quite so much. People either loved my new look or they hated it. And I discovered quickly that people are not shy to give you their opinion, whether or not you’ve asked for it. It made me glad I had given Tom the freedom to cut it as he pleased. Now, when I meet people, I know that if they are judging me for having short hair (you would not believe the number of people who assume that short hair equals lesbian,) I know they aren’t people I’d want to call friends anyway. I’m glad we taught our daughter that there is more to life than looks, or the length of your hair when it made an impression on her and she’ll keep that lesson.
We eventually did spring for another haircutting kit, this one with titanium clippers and a whole assortment of guards to make any length possible. But every summer, the boys freshen up their looks with whitewalls, and even when I realized that Kaylie was keeping her hair short, and Tom and I decided to let Ashley grow hers out, she has never gone longer than a pixie. When she and Kaylie were spotted by an agent as they ran around a soccer field, looking every bit like a sporty girl you want your daughter to look up to, they both signed modelling contracts and you might see them in print ads for athletic wear. Olivia and I made sure that their contracts stipulate that they can’t change their hair without their agents’ permission. This has meant that we don’t homecut anymore, but instead the agency pays an expensive stylist to shave them into cute little haircuts. Tom still cuts my hair, though, and I don’t pay him with money.