Claudine’s Story

1 Star2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 Stars (19 votes, average: 4.42 out of 5)
Loading...

Story Categories:

Story Tags:

Views: 5,436

Claudine’s Story

Hello.  My name is Claudine, Claudine Kelly.  You called last week and left a message on my answering machine.  You said you were collecting stories from women with very short hair for a book you are writing.  Well, I checked with my husband, because this story is as much his as it is mine, and he said okay.

The abridged version of my story is that I shed my long hair twenty years ago and have kept it short ever since to please my husband.  But the full story is much more complicated.  I hope you find it interesting.

I met Richard when I was a senior nursing student.  At the time he was in his second year of med school.  I was working part-time as an aide at Boston University Hospital.  We passed in the hallways.  I noticed him and I guess he noticed me.  Anyway, one evening I was eating a late dinner in the employees’ cafeteria when he sat down at my table and introduced himself.  In short order he said he liked the way I looked and wanted to get to know me.  I should mention at this time my hair was quite long, down toward the middle of my back.  It was then, and still is, a dark auburn shade, more brown than red, and rather attractive if I do say so.

Well, one thing led to another.  Richard and I began studying together.  Soon we were inseparable.  I got a B+ in Organic Chemistry thanks mostly to Richard’s personal tutoring.  I discovered that not only was he very good looking, but he was brilliant, the most intelligent person I’ve ever known, and a kind, compassionate human being besides.  I fell head over heels in love. By the time I graduated we were planning our wedding.  After we married I got a job in the intensive care unit at Massachusetts General where Richard did his internship and residency.  I provided most of our income during that time, but as soon as Richard established his practice in pediatric surgery I quit to have our first child.  Two more followed in quick succession and I’ve been on “extended maternity leave” raising our three sons ever since.

During these years I kept my hair long even though many of my girlfriends adopted shorter hairstyles after their children came.  I gradually let it grow even longer mainly because Richard adored my long hair, or so I thought.   I knew that most men preferred long-haired women.  Although I detest vanity in most things, I must confess I was exceedingly proud of my hair.  Women always said how much they envied me.  Men were attracted by it and I admit that I enjoyed their attention.  At the time of this story my auburn mane extended nearly to my waist, about two and a half feet from my crown to the blunt-cut ends.

Our oldest son, Tommy, had just turned six, when I discovered Richard’s dirty little secret.  Now, I don’t want to give you the wrong idea.  Richard has never been unfaithful, at least he hasn’t had an affair.  But he has been dishonest about important things, and for me that was almost as hard to take.  You see, my husband has built a reputation as one of the most caring and charitable physicians in our community.  There’s not a week goes by that he doesn’t operate on one or two needy kids without charge.  He’s on the board of the Children’s Hospital and makes sure all his colleagues contribute to their fundraising campaigns.  He challenges them to match his sizeable pledges.  Sometimes I wish he wasn’t so generous, but I guess that’s one reason I fell for him in the first place.

As I said, it was twenty years ago that I discovered my husband had been lying to me.  He came home late one evening after he had called to say he had an urgent consultation on an upcoming surgery.  I didn’t suspect a thing because these late meetings were a regular occurrence in our household.  I fed the boys and put them to bed.  Richard arrived home around nine and said we needed to talk.  That’s when he dropped the first bombshell.

He admitted that he was not at a consultation.  He had been having drinks with his old girlfriend.  I knew I wasn’t the first woman in Richard’s life.  When we started dating he told me about Maria, the Puerto Rican beauty, who taught him about sex.  I didn’t really mind because I wasn’t a virgin when we met either.  Anyhow, Maria mysteriously disappeared after their junior year of college—vanished without a trace.  I figured she must have run off with another guy, but it was difficult to understand why she would dump someone as wonderful as Richard, especially a man with his excellent financial prospects.

Getting together with his old flame and then lying about it was bad enough, but I was totally unprepared for what came next.  Richard informed me that the reason Maria dropped out of college was because she was pregnant with his child.  He told me he had an eighteen-year-old daughter named Grace he had never known about.  I found it hard to believe that Maria would willingly have a child without a father, especially one as wonderful as Richard.  Remember, this is back when being a single mother wasn’t nearly as accepted as it is today.

According to my husband, Maria knew that if Richard discovered she was having his child he would have “done the right thing” and married her.  That would have meant dropping out of school, shelving his plans for med school, and taking an ordinary job that wouldn’t make use of his remarkable skills.  So she left town without telling anyone and moved to San Francisco where she had relatives.  After the baby was born her aunt and uncle adopted Grace.

Now, the reason Maria contacted my husband after eighteen years of silence was because their daughter had graduated from high school and was accepted at Stanford.  Apparently Grace inherited Richard’s brains.  She was fifth in her class of 400 students.  What’s more, she wanted to become a doctor.  Maria had told her daughter nothing about her father other than he was a kind and handsome gentleman.  Maria’s aunt and uncle, Grace’s adoptive parents, couldn’t afford Stanford’s tuition.  Grace had an academic scholarship, but that would cover less than half of the cost.  Richard said Maria was a businesswoman; that she had started a promising cosmetics company, but it wasn’t yet very profitable.

It seemed that Maria had been keeping track of Richard’s career over the years.  He’s a very public figure, with his name in the papers all the time, so she didn’t have any trouble finding him.  Richard said Maria was asking him to pay for Grace’s college education.  That’s when I lost my composure.  I couldn’t believe this woman whom I had never met, who had seduced my husband when he was a naïve college student, would have the nerve to ask to us to support this love child.  Besides, we didn’t know for sure that Grace even was Richard’s offspring.  What about a paternity test?

But dear, kind Richard asked me to put myself in Maria’s shoes.  If my only child—Maria never had other children—was bright enough to be accepted at Stanford and lacked the tuition money, wouldn’t I do almost anything to make her dream of college and medical school come true?  I had to agree that I would have done the same thing.

Now, you must be asking what does this story have to do with the length of my hair?  You’ll have to be patient.  I’m getting to that part.

After I calmed down a bit Richard suggested that I should meet Maria and hear her story face-to-face.   What’s more, he had invited her to come to our home the next evening.  Again I exploded.  The idea of welcoming my husband’s paramour, his long lost lover, this Latin sexpot, into the home where I was raising our three sons was almost more than I could handle.

Once again, he had to calm me down.  He said that he once had loved Maria, but after she disappeared without even saying good-bye he got over his infatuation.  Richard promised that I was the woman he loved.  Said that I was smart, funny, good looking, understanding—the ideal wife and mother to his children—that he wanted no one else.  He apologized for lying to me about meeting Maria and promised that he would be scrupulously honest from that day forward.  How could I stay angry after a declaration like that?  I agreed to meet with Maria the next night, but only after the boys were safely tucked into bed.

Maria’s taxi arrived at our home around nine o’clock.  I spent the day in a flurry of cleaning.  I wanted to prove what a wonderful wife and mother I was.  I vacuumed and dusted every nook and corner; made sure that the latest photos of our sons were prominently displayed; even found time to prepare puff pastries—my one culinary specialty—for a dessert.  Richard hadn’t told me much about Maria’s appearance.  I knew she had to be good looking—my husband had no trouble attracting beautiful women.  I knew she had worn peasant blouses, long flowing skirt, and flowers in her hair during her student days.

When Maria walked through our front door you could have knocked me over with a feather.  The woman I beheld was nothing like the flower child he had described.  She was dressed in a tailored conservative business suit—probably from Brooks Brothers or some other high-end clothing store.  She was the image of a successful female executive, a far cry from the bare-foot hippie I had pictured.  Of course, she was very attractive, with a flawless light brown complexion and smoldering dark eyes.  In no way did she resemble pale-skinned, freckle-faced, blue-eyed, red-haired me.  But the feature that left me completely speechless was Maria’s hair.  It was so short!  At the longest it couldn’t have been more than an inch and a half, and those were the brief bangs framing her face.  Most of her hair was much shorter.  I’d seen pictures of women with radical hairstyles like this, but she was the first I ever met in person.  Despite her extreme haircut, I could not deny that Maria was a sexy, very feminine lady.

Richard introduced us and Maria spoke first.  “You have a beautiful home, Claudine.  The décor is so charming and warm.  My apartment seems cold and sterile in comparison.  These must be your sons,” she said, pointing to a group portrait.  “Richard told me about them.  You’re so fortunate to have three healthy, well-adjusted children.”

I thought about Tommy’s learning disability and Robbie’s asthma, but decided not to burst the bubble of the perfect suburban family.  I had planned to start on a positive note.  Instead, I blurted out the first thing that came to mind.  “You’re hair!  Richard never said a word about your hair.  Not everyone can wear a style like that and still look like a woman.”

I’d stuck my foot in my mouth, as I often do, but Maria was gracious.  I imagine she’d heard lots of comments about her hair, as short as it was.  “Richard was shocked to see me with short hair too.  When he knew me my hair was nearly as long as yours.  But mine was curly, not straight.  In fact, when I was a girl I wanted straight hair like yours.  In high school I actually went to the hair dresser and begged her to straighten my hair.  Thankfully, she talked me out of it; she told me I should be proud of my Latin looks and not try to be someone I wasn’t.”

I felt the need to match her anecdote.  “My girlfriend keeps hinting that I should cut my hair, but I’m too much of a coward.  Short hair looks great on women like you, but I’m afraid if I cut my hair I’d look just like another suburban soccer mom.”

“But we didn’t come here to talk about hairstyles, did we?”  Richard interrupted.  “Before the hour gets any later I think we should discuss the issue that brought us together.”

I’m sure Richard was surprised when I spoke up.  “Maria, tells us about your daughter.  I understand her name in Grace.”

“Yes, I gave her that name because I prayed to the virgin to watch over my daughter and give her the guidance I would not be there to provide.  The Blessed Mother must have been listening because my prayers have been answered.”

“Richard said you gave Grace up for adoption at a young age.”

“She was one week old when I signed the papers.  It was a family adoption which made it easier.  Tia Helena is my mother’s sister.  She always wanted children but was never blessed with any of her own.  I knew Grace would be raised in a loving home.  It was not like giving her away to strangers.”

“Still, it must have been very hard.  I can’t imagine giving away one of my kids.”

“It was the hardest thing I ever did in my life.  I knew it was best for everyone, but that didn’t make it any easier.”

“And now she’s a young woman going to college in the fall,” I said.

“Would you like to see her graduation picture?”  Maria opened her wallet and showed me a photo of a proud, smiling young woman striding across a stage, diploma in hand.

“She’s very beautiful.  She looks a little like you, but I can see she has Richard’s eyes and his smile.”

“Yes, she has inherited the best of both parents.  She has her father’s brains and her mother’s Latin temperament.”

“I understand she wants to be a doctor.  Does she know her father is a doctor?”

“No, I haven’t shared that with her.  Perhaps one day I will.”

“Ladies, I hate to interrupt, but the hour is growing late,” Richard interjected.  “Would you like to hear my proposal?”

“Sure, Richard, go ahead,” I said.

“This morning I talked with our lawyer about the best way to underwrite Grace’s college costs.  There are several alternatives, but he suggested we set up an educational foundation.  Its stated purpose would be to provide scholarships to needy Latina students.  We could define the criteria as narrowly as possible—young women of Puerto Rican heritage who plan to attend medical school, for example.  That way Grace would qualify and few others.  Claudine and I will donate a substantial amount to start and will contribute additional sums on an annual basis until Grace finishes med school.  At that point the foundation will cease to exist.  The foundation will have three trustees—you two and myself.  We will jointly sign off on all scholarship payments.  Our lawyer has volunteered to be the foundation’s executive at no cost to us.”

“Will this plan provide enough to cover all of Grace’s college costs?” Maria asked.

“I doubt it,” Richard answered.  “Your daughter’s education at one of the top schools in the nation will be very expensive.  She may have to apply for other scholarships and take out loans, but the foundation should cover a significant portion of the expense.”

“I like what I’m hearing, Richard,” Maria responded.  “You and Claudine are very generous.  I know Grace worries about the cost of college.  She doesn’t want to put too many demands on her parents because they really can’t afford it.  I will help out, of course, but as I explained last night, my company is not yet generating a lot of revenue.  I have high hopes for the future, but it will take a few years.  I’m sure Grace will be delighted when she learns of this arrangement.”

At this Richard turned to me.  “You’ve been very quiet, dear.  What do you think, Claudine?”

While he had been making his pitch I came up with a couple of things I wanted to add.  “I’d like to include two conditions, if both of you are agreeable.  Number one, our identities shall be concealed.  Grace must never know that the money has come from us.  We will remain anonymous benefactors.”

“Sure, that sounds like a good idea,” Richard agreed.

“Number two, aside from foundation business, there shall be no other communication among the principals.  No letters, phone calls, e-mails, tweets, or other messages.  No skypes or photo exchanges.”

Maria spoke up.  “Claudine, I understand that you don’t want me talking with your husband.  I can accept that.  But to forbid him to communicate with his daughter, that seems cruel.”

“Perhaps someday I’ll change my mind, but for now that’s how it must be.”

“I can accept that,” Richard answered.  “Anything else?”

“One thing more,” I asked of Richard.  “You said we would contribute a substantial sum to establish the foundation.  How much did you have in mind?”

Richard seemed to know my question was coming.  I could see he would have preferred discussing it after Maria had left, but there was no way he could dodge the issue now.  “I checked the balance in our savings account this morning.  We have about $130,000.  I’d like to donate the whole thing.”

I was speechless.  This was the amount we had set aside to purchase a vacation cottage on the Cape.  I stared at Richard and he stared back at me.  Maria finally broke the silence.  “Richard, that’s extremely generous, but it’s too much really.  I’m sure half that amount would be enough.”

Then Richard spoke up.  “Maria, Claudine, it’s important you understand how I feel.  Eighteen years ago I fathered a child and for all those years other people have been raising her, looking out for her welfare.  Now it’s time that I accept my responsibility.  This is the least I can do to make up for years of neglect.”

I saw a look of admiration spread across Maria’s face as Richard spoke.  This was the same man she loved as a twenty-year-old college student.  His words proved he had not changed; that success had not spoiled him.  Then she looked at me.  She waited to hear whether I agreed with Richard’s magnanimous offer.

“I agree with Richard,” I finally said.  “I think the whole amount should go into the scholarship fund.  We can manage without a vacation home.”

Maria reached across the couch to take my hand.  “Thank you, Claudine,” she said.  “I know I’m a stranger who has disrupted your routine, but I’m also a mother who wants the very best for her child.  I hope you understand.”

“I do, Maria,” I answered as I wiped a tear from the corner of my eye.  “In your shoes I would have done the same thing.”

Richard rose from his chair.  “I guess that takes care of our business.  Tomorrow I’ll set the wheels in motion to establish the foundation.  Maria, Stan, our lawyer, will send you the documents to sign.”

“Richard, can you call a cab for me?” Maria asked.

Richard went into the kitchen to call a taxi.  Maria slid next to me and spoke in a hushed, confidential voice.  She said, “Claudine, I know it’s not my place, but I’m going to give you a piece of advice.”  I stared at my husband’s former lover not knowing what to expect.  “If you want to keep your husband happy, I suggest you consider cutting your hair.”

I couldn’t believe the words I was hearing.  “Why in the world do you say that?” I asked.

Maria slipped her business card into my hand.  “Call me tomorrow.  I’ll explain,” she whispered.

Richard entered the room and asked, “What are you two whispering about?”

“I was just telling your wife what a lucky woman she is to have such a lovely home, such beautiful children, such a handsome husband,” Maria lied convincingly.

When the cab arrived Maria and I embraced like long lost sisters.  “You know, I was really scared coming here, afraid that you would hate me,” Maria said.  “Then I said to myself, Richard would never marry a woman who didn’t share his kind spirit.  I see now that I was right.  Thank you from the bottom of my heart.”

I spoke softly so Richard couldn’t hear.  “I know you still love my husband.  How could you not love such a wonderful man?  It’s okay to love him from a distance.  But if I ever catch you near him again, so help me God, I’ll scratch your eyes out and strangle you with my own bare hands.”  I was smiling as I said these words, but Maria could see that I was deadly serious.

After Maria departed Richard spoke to me.  “Honey, you never cease to amaze me.  After our discussion last night I never expected you to go along with my proposal.  You were wonderful.  How can I ever make it up to you?”

“Well, Dr. Kelly, I think you could start by planning our summer vacation.  You’ve given away our savings, but our credit card still works.  How about you take me and the boys to Disney World?”

“You’ve got a deal,” my husband readily agreed.

 

I spent a restless night trying to imagine why Maria told me I should cut my hair.  Was it done for spite?  Or did she want me to chop off my crowning glory out of envy?  Maria didn’t seem like that kind of woman, but it was hard to tell after one brief meeting.

As soon as Richard left for the office I parked the kids with my neighbor and called Maria’s number.  “Is this a good time to talk?” I asked when Maria picked up.

“I’ve got half an hour before my next meeting,” Maria replied.

“What did you mean last night when you said I should consider cutting my hair?  Why would you say a thing like that?”

Maria answered back, “I’m sure you think you know your husband better than anyone.  What I’m going to say probably will come as a shock, but I believe Richard would love you better if you had short hair.”

“I can’t believe you would say a thing like that.  Richard has always admired my long hair.  He would be very upset if I cut it.”

“Are you sure about that?  Perhaps you should ask him.”

“What makes you so sure?  You’ve been missing from his life for eighteen years and now you tell me how to please my husband.  You’ve got a lot of nerve.”

“Claudine, let me explain.  Since I cut my hair short I’ve discovered there are some men, a small group, who prefer women with short haircuts.  Actually, it’s more than a preference; it’s an obsession.  They obsess about hair cutting; they get sexually aroused whenever they see a woman with a short haircut.  When they meet a woman with long hair like yours all they can think about is cutting it very short.  I’m convinced that Richard is one of these men.”

“How can you be so sure?”

“When we reunited two days ago he couldn’t take his eyes off my hair; he couldn’t stop talking about my haircut, how sexy it looked.  He even found an excuse to fondle it.  I could see it gave him a thrill.  Believe me, I know the symptoms.  Guys like this hit on me all the time.”

“I noticed the way Richard was looking at you last night, but I didn’t connect it with your haircut.  I took it as a sign that he was still in love with you.”

“That may be, I don’t know, but he definitely is in love with my haircut.”

“What you say is very disturbing, Maria.  How can I be sure what you say is true?”

“I suppose the best way to find out is to ask him flat out.  If he loves you, he will tell you the truth.  It won’t be easy.  He’s probably ashamed of his fixation.  He’s been hiding it from you.  Many people consider it a perversion.  You must be kind and non-judgmental, but if he really loves you he’ll be honest with you.”

“Do you think he wants me to cut my hair as short as yours?”

“I can’t say for sure, but would that be such a bad thing?  You can find any number of very attractive short styles these days.”

“I suppose you’re right, but it’s not something that I’ve ever considered.”

“For the sake of your marriage I think you should.”

 

Two days later, as Richard and I were discussing plans for our trip to Disney World, I made an unexpected announcement.  Without any warning I said, “Richard, before we leave for vacation I’m going to get my hair cut.”

Without the slightest inkling of what prompted my statement, Richard replied, “That’s fine, honey.  You really don’t need my permission.”

“This time I think I do need your permission,” I continued.

Now I had his full attention.  “I don’t understand,” he said.

Looking into his puzzled eyes I explained, “You see, Richard, I’m planning on getting my hair cut short, very short.”

“Why would you do a thing like that?” he asked in stunned surprise.  I could understand his confusion.  Over twelve years of marriage and two years before that while we were dating I never once expressed interest in a short haircut.  In fact, I had insisted I was forever committed to long hair.

“I could say it’s because I’m tired of long hair; that shorter hair would be so much easier to care for, especially with three growing boys to look after, but that would be a lie,” I told him as calmly as I could.

Truly bewildered by my unexpected declaration, he asked, “Why then, why in the world would you cut off your beautiful hair?  I don’t understand.”

I paused, took a deep breath, and then revealed my motive.  “I would do it to please my husband,” I said, “because I don’t want to lose him to a short-haired temptress.”

Richard flushed in anger, thinking that I was accusing him of infidelity.  “What in the world are you talking about, Claudine?  I’ve never heard you say anything so crazy.”

“Don’t be coy, Richard,” I answered back.  “I saw how you looked at Maria with her hair cut so short.  You couldn’t take your eyes off her.”

There was no point in denying my accusation.  Richard had been fascinated by Maria’s radical haircut.  “It was such a shock,” he protested.  “She wore her hair long when I knew her.  I didn’t even recognize her at first.  I was shocked by the change.”

Now I was beginning to get angry.  “Maria said you told her she looked very sexy.”

“Now that you’ve seen her, don’t you agree?  She’s a very sexy woman.  I was just giving her a compliment.  A woman with a new hairstyle always likes to hear a compliment, whether it’s true or not,” he protested.  “I learned that lesson years ago.”

“And how many times in the past five years have you given me a compliment like that?” I fired back.

“Not often enough, I guess,” he answered sheepishly.

“You know, your wife would like to be told she looks sexy from time to time.  You can’t take things like that for granted.”

“Honey, you are the sexiest woman I know, I hope you know that.  I’m sorry if I don’t say it enough, but I thought you knew how I feel,” he apologized.

I continued without acknowledging his defense.  “Maria isn’t the only one.  There was your first receptionist, the blonde. What was her name—Sherry something?”

“What about her?” Richard demanded.

“She told me that you said she’d look good with her hair cut in a shorter style.”

Richard regretted that unguarded comment made years ago.  Now it was coming back to bite him.  “I may have said something like that.  I don’t recall.  I don’t understand why you’re making a federal case out of an innocent remark.”

But I was not finished with him.  “And then there was Kaylie,” I declared.

“The babysitter?” he asked.

“Yes, the babysitter,” I replied hotly.  “You positively leered her the night she showed up with that supershort haircut.”

“I did no such thing,” he retorted.  “Good lord, she was only fifteen.”

“Did you ever wonder why I stopped calling her?  Because I didn’t want to see my husband drooling all over our teenage sitter, that’s why.  And then there was Jayne Smithfield,” I continued, mentioning our neighbor and my best friend.

Richard probably wondered if this string of accusations would cease, but I was just warming up.  “Remember when she showed up at the Hendersons’ New Year’s Eve party with her hair chopped off?  You couldn’t take your eyes off her.  You followed her around all evening like you were stalking a bitch in heat.”

Richard saw he wasn’t going to win this argument, so he tried a different tack.  “Honey, I don’t know where this ridiculous idea came from.  I love your long hair; I always have.”

“But you would love me better with short hair, wouldn’t you?” I demanded.

He continued denying his attraction to short hair.  “Darling, my love for you does not depend on the length of your hair.  I would love you just as much if your hair reached to the floor or if you had no hair at all.”

Despite his protestations I was not convinced.  “That’s a lovely sentiment, Richard, but I don’t believe you.  I’ve been doing some research and I discovered there’s a name for your condition.  It’s called a fetish; an extreme sexual attachment to some object or body part.”  My husband squirmed uneasily as I exposed his long hidden obsession.  “I also learned that there’s nothing so terrible about a fetish as long as you keep it under control.  I know you’re basically a kind man and a loving husband.  I just want you to be honest with me.”

Richard was not yet ready to concede I was right.  He tried to capitulate without admitting his guilt.  “Honey, you can wear your hair however you like—short, long, or in between.  It’s up to you.  Whatever you want is fine with me.”

I was in no mood to listen to more of his evasions.  “Richard, I really hate to say this, but I still don’t believe you.  You lied to me about meeting Maria and you’re probably lying to me about this too.  I’m going to put you to the test.  Whether you like it or not, I’m going to cut my hair before we go on vacation.  When you come home tomorrow night, after the boys are in bed, I’m going to show you some pictures of different hairstyles.  I’m going to let you pick the one I will get.  It will be your decision.”

“Honey, this is ridiculous,” he insisted again.

I’d heard about as much as I could tolerate.  “I don’t think so.  I’m doing this to save our marriage.  When we go to bed I don’t want you dreaming about Maria or any other short-haired woman.  If you are interested in a trusting relationship, you’ll stop pretending and do as I say.”

Richard saw there was no point in prolonging our discussion.  Once I make up my mind I can be pretty stubborn.  “For your sake, honey, I’ll go along with your crazy scheme,” he conceded.  “I just hope you come to your senses before you do something you’ll regret.”

 

The next evening, when Richard arrived home after a long day at the hospital, I was in a better mood.  My anger from our argument the previous night had subsided.  I was back to my old self, loving and attentive—the devoted wife.  Richard was pleased when he smelled his favorite pot roast cooking on the stove and even more delighted when I produced a freshly baked apple pie for dessert.  I made no mention of our heated discussion about cutting my hair.  Richard probably hoped I had come to my senses and abandoned my rash plan.

While Richard put the leftovers in the refrigerator and stacked dirty dishes in the dishwasher, I read bedtime stories to the boys and tucked them in for the night.  When I came down the stairs I called to my husband.  “Richard, would you come into the dining room for a moment?”

He put down the dishrag he had been using to wipe the granite countertop and found me seated at the dining room table.  Spread in front of me were four photos, each one showing a woman with a different short haircut.  This was the scene he had been dreading.  “You sit there,” I ordered, pointing to a chair on the opposite side of the table.

“Honey, do we have to do this?” he complained.  “I don’t think this is a good idea.”

“But I do,” I told him firmly.  “This is non-negotiable.”

Reluctantly Richard took his seat and listened as I explained what he was to do.  “Now dear, I want you to study these pictures very carefully.  All you have to do is pick out the haircut you like best and that’s the one I’ll get.”

Despite my uncompromising tone, he tried once more to persuade me to let him off the hook.  “Since you’re the one who’s going to get her hair cut, I think you should be the one to decide,” he objected.  “After all, you’re the one who will be wearing it.  Pick the one you like best.”

“That’s now how it works,” I told him sweetly.  “This haircut is for you.  You have to pick.”

Richard stared at the photos.  Each one showed an attractive model with a very short hairstyle.  The first one was a brunette with short bangs cut straight across her forehead.  The hair at the sides of her head was formed into sharp points that ended at her chin.  The longer hair was cut upward at a steep angle.  In back her hair was clipped to almost nothing.  You could see the white skin beneath the dark hair on her nape.  “That one’s called in inverted bob,” I informed him.  “I’m told it’s very popular.”

The second picture showed a young blonde with wild tufts of hair sprouting in random directions from the top of her head.  The controlled chaos of this haircut was in marked contrast to the perfect symmetry of the bob.  Both cuts were quite short.  Most likely Richard was having difficulty believing I would ever adopt such an edgy style.  “This one might be fun for a change,” I told him in a playful, teasing tone.  “It’s a twofer.  You’d get to see me as a blonde in addition to the short hair.”  Richard was getting more uncomfortable with each passing minute.

The woman in the third photo had dark red hair, almost the same color as mine.  On the left side her hair was buzzed very short.  On top, however, it was considerably longer, five or six inches I would guess, and dramati