Haircut Number 3- A Ballerina Is Buzzed; Mandy Is Cropped
Our schedules meant that the next haircut was scheduled for a Tuesday night. Mandy rushed in after work, as I got to work on my final two clients of the day. Joanna was a beautiful young mom who had made the cut from long to bob after having her children, but I don’t know if she had ever really converted. The bob was a compromise cut, something she’d done to make life easier, but not really something she’d fully embraced. She liked the length and swing of her hair when she moved. Any time I ever suggested that she think of an update, because I was getting tired of her bob, even if she wasn’t, Joanna had resisted. I might be known as the short haircutter, but I do listen to my clients. Still, I had wanted to tame the back of her hair for about two years. Her daughter was growing every time I saw her. She’d been asking for a year if she could cut her hair short, and it was her mom who objected, citing the need to keep it long enough for a bun for ballet. To this point, she was snipped to collarbone length, and always able to pull that into a tight bun. They had asked the ballet instructor and been told that if it was cut short, it would be ‘distracting’ if her hair moved when she danced. She either had to keep it long enough to pin up, or go so short that it didn’t move when she did. Mom was not ready for a cut that short for her daughter. So, Jillian was resigned to a life of sweating through her bun at ballet and sweating through her braids at hockey and soccer, wishing she could snip it all off.
They arrived that night, breathless as usual, Jillian still in her soccer gear, soaked through and her braid a mess of tangles. It was a full July day and it was sweltering out. It took me almost twenty minutes to brush out her hair without tugging at the knots before we could even get Jillian to the sink. “I wish you would let me cut it short,” Jillian complained while I tried to comb through a particularly unruly tangle. Joanna put up her usual objection, that if she wanted short, it had to be almost buzzed to please the ballet instructor, and that buzzed would likely not please the ballet instructor, either. “Who cares?” Jillian shrugged. “She’s never going to give me a solo anyway. I might enjoy dance more if I wasn’t always feeling like my eyes were pulled sideways from that tight bun.” Mandy feigned dedicated interest in her magazine while Joanna and Jillian debated the merits and drawbacks of “boyishly short” hair. Jillian was steadfast in her belief that it was her hair to cut and she’d rather be comfortable at soccer than tortured at ballet. If that meant an ultrashort snip, then so be it.
Joanna consented when she realized that her objection to the short cut was making her daughter not feel pretty enough to pull it off. “Make her gorgeous,” she instructed me. She is already gorgeous, I insisted, coming through Jillian’s now clean hair. Let’s show everyone just how gorgeous she is. I dried Jillian’s hair fully before I snipped the ends, then cut off her ponytail for donating, grateful that we were donating clean, healthy hair now. I sprayed it wet and quickly snipped Jillian’s hair short and close. With adults, I don’t tend to go short in one step. They can regret it. With kids, I do the opposite. If a parent wants it short, there is no sense torturing that child while taking my sweet time as I cut an inch at a time. I shave it or cut it short and am done with it. Usually, it’s to prevent a little girl from crying as her princess hair is cut off at her mother’s insistence, or to prevent a boy form hating short hair because it was gloated over. In Jillian’s case, I did it before her mother changed her mind. Jillian was ready even if Joanna was not. When I finished, it was too short at the back and sides to grasp between my fingers, undercut on both sides. I left some length on top, but snipped the bangs short. “Move around,” I suggested, after I’d snipped the top sleek and chic. “Let’s make sure it meets with your ballet instructor’s request.” It was amazing. Jillian’s ultraclose pixie stayed put, while she plied and spun her way through the shop.
“All right, then,” I picked up my scissors and cutting comb, and sat her back in my chair. “Let’s buy some time before your next trim.” Joanna nearly had a heart attack as I snipped off yet more of Jillian’s hair, bits and pieces falling onto the cape like snowflakes. Jillian was up for it, her smile growing broader as her hair got ever shorter. I needed to know how long it could grow to before I could go as short as Jillian and I wanted to. So I trimmed off another half inch, giving her at least four weeks before she’d look like she had just five minutes ago.
It wasn’t simply a short haircut. It was a tween finding herself, knowing she had the big blue eyes and high cheekbones to wear her hair clipped short and close. Her smile radiated out of her. “I can wear the earrings Grandma gave me for my birthday now and people will see them.” Joanna declared it was beautiful, and she meant it. Next time, I thought, I’ll trim her with clippers. Jillian will love it, Joanna will at least be used to Jillian’s short hair, and she’ll get over the fear of short when she sees her daughter smile after a good buzz. We all felt the collective disappointment when it was time to trim Joanna’s bob after the magic of Jillian’s short makeover. It had been a day of revolutionary cuts. Teaching days are often transformative, but this day had a vibe to it, too.
“Maybe it’s time I go shorter,” Joanna pondered, half of her hoping I would talk her out of it. “Jillian looks like you,” I suggested, already getting her to the sink, before she chickened out. My scissors were practically dancing in anticipation of the cutting that was about to come. I did not want to disappoint them. Joanna’s hair was quickly washed and I brought her back to the chair. “Are you ready?” I asked her, picking up my comb and scissors. I hadn’t asked how short she was thinking, or what style. I hadn’t asked if she was sure, which I usually did. Joanna would never be sure, but she was ready. “Sort of,” she admitted with a nervous laugh. “Oh, Jeez, Mom, it’s hair,” Jillian rolled her eyes, patting her freshly cut head and smiling at the feel of clean cut hair. Joanna nodded at me and I quickly started cutting. My scissors got their wish, as I snipped the back of Joanna’s bob down close. “More?” I asked, hardly listening for her answer. I snipped it short above her ears, cropping it close, watching her mood as she heard the snips close to her ears and head, half fearful, half excited.
I left Joanna with more hair than I did her daughter, but it was still at least four inches shorter when I finished, and the back was finally trimmed up clean and neat. If Jillian was thrilled by her haircut, I was not entirely sure Joanna would be with hers, but I needn’t have worried. “I love it!” she declared, running her fingers over the back, watching them fall when they couldn’t get stuck in hair. “If I’d have known I would look this good by going shorter, I would have done it a long time ago!” When they returned for their trims six weeks later, both had badly overgrown and needed serious cutting to tame it. “I think I need to go shorter,” Joanna declared, now fully on the short hair train. I complied, this time buzzing the back and sides, and then dying them darker to draw attention to that beautiful shave. We also book them at four weeks for maintenance trims now. The ballet teacher was not happy, but could not complain, and Jillian made the All Star soccer team. She says she’s free to chase the ball now rather than mop sweaty hair out of her eyes. It gave some of the other soccer moms ideas, Joanna admitted, but most of their girls are too chicken to try a clipper cut. “Too bad for them,” Jillian shrugged. “I leave them in the dust.”
Tuesdays are the day in the shop that our staff cuts each other’s hair. Nobody trusts a stylist who looks like he or she needs a haircut. Mandy had her eye on a cut that happened in the chair next to mine, a woman with a cute little crop, shorter on one side and playfully tickling the cheekbone on the other. She figured this could easily be swept under her cap during surgery, but wouldn’t require a lot of pinning to get it out of her line of sight. It was also shaved at the back. It was shorter than Joanna’s cut, longer than Jillian’s, though we both knew Mandy would eventually have hers shaved and snipped into a similar very close-cut style to Jillian’s buzzed “ala garconne” cut, as the French refer to flirty, fresh, boy cuts on pretty girls.
While I had my traditional preppy taper cut trimmed, Mandy sat in the chair next to me and had a crop repeated on her by the stylist who had cut it on her own client earlier that night. “Can you shave the back like you did your client’s?” Mandy asked her when she thought the haircut was complete. Oh, I had wanted to do that. Gwen nodded and picked up her little pink ladies’ hair shaver, then proceeded to lop off half an inch, but did not shave it down close the way she’d shaved her client’s nape. She cut the neck straight and short, but “left some for next time.” It was perfect. It left Mandy wanting more, and it left it to me to be the one who shaved it that way. It was now a few inches long on top, falling from the weight, which gave the hair an appearance of being longer.