A birthday wish haircut
A few months after our wedding, we had a function at the kids’ school. I was later than Mandy in arriving, and I showed up to hear one of the other moms compliment Mandy’s latest haircut (a bit longer for the winter, but still short and close. Mandy loves the buzzed back and sides and will not likely let it go until it has long since passed from style.) “Your hair always looks so cool,” the mom said, fussing with her hair in its butterfly clip. Mandy grinned and told her it was part of the joy of being married to a hairstylist. “When we met, I had long, mousy hair that did nothing for me. With every cut, I felt my confidence boost as my hair got shorter and shorter. I’m so glad I met someone who saw the person I was inside and found a way to show that person to the whole world. I seriously feel like a piece of stone must feel after it’s met a sculptor who knew what was inside all the time.” The mom said she needed to book an appointment at my salon.
Seeing Mandy with my boys that night, it occurred to me how she really did stand out amongst the other moms in the school. I’m sure the confidence of being a successful surgeon was part of that. Seeing how my boys interact with her, how she turns heads wherever she goes, it hit me again how lucky I am to have this woman in my life. Trimming her hair that weekend, with her engraved clippers, I commented on how long it was getting on top. “Don’t worry,” Mandy laughed at me, “I’ll always keep part of it buzzed short just for you.” I froze. Did she just keep it short to please me? “I keep it short to please me,” Mandy clarified. “But I know how much you enjoy shaving the nape. I could grow it into Rapunzel hair and I’d still keep my nape shaved. I love when you run your fingertips over it and can’t catch it in your hands.” I took my time shaving that day, to both our delights.
My last appointment of the day was a new client. Mandy immediately recognized her as she was leaving, as the mom from our kids’ school. She complimented Mandy’s latest style, giggled nervously and said she was there for a change. “You can trust him,” Mandy grinned. “I’ll never grow my hair back long now that I know how bitchin’ I am in short hair.” With that, she left to get our oldest from soccer before we met up for our youngest’s basketball game that night. Jenna still seemed nervous, so I thought we would be in for a multi-cut transformation before she got to the short cut that would suit her so well. She surprised me, saying it was her fortieth birthday the next day and she wanted to show up for her surprise party that night (which she knew about,) with a surprise of her own. “My husband has never once asked me to cut my hair short, but I know he loves it. He loved Morena Baccarrin on Homeland. His first crush was Christy Turlington when she had a pixie. I think I’ve held onto long for too long, and it makes me look older. But I always worried that if I cut it short, I’d look old overnight.” So, no pressure. Give me a transformative haircut, and don’t make me look old. My party is tonight.
Jenna had what Hollywood types often refer to as elfin features. She had a tiny little face, a button nose, high cheekbones. She often wore her hair up, so it wouldn’t be a huge shock for her to discover how pretty she was with a haircut that drew attention to her pretty little face. The mess of dry hair needed to go, though. She had a few pictures on her phone, all of them short, short cuts. Beautiful women with tiny features, so she’d done her research and looked for styles that would match her face shape. She’d also picked younger women, like Carey Mulligan in her short haired days, probably trying to keep her style youthful. I asked her what she liked about each style, and she said that they drew attention to Morena’s dark eyes or Carey’s pretty face. Beyond that, she really didn’t know what she wanted to do, that was why she was here. I started with an intense conditioning treatment, because if we were going this short, her hair was too dry to donate in that shape. This also gave her another half hour to change her mind if she decided it was too much of a change in one step. Then I showed her some cute styles on women with similar features and hair texture as hers. She was blown away that if we went short, her curls might be more manageable, or even non-existent. “My mom used a hair relaxer on me when I was a kid,” she recalled. “Like for black women, from the drug store. She left it on too long once and it all broke off. She had to shave my head like she did my brother. I don’t know if I ever got over that. That’s probably part of why I’m scared of short hair, even though I think it will look better after it’s cut.”
You should turn your back to the mirror, Gwen suggested to her. Then you get the big reveal and you don’t panic as you watch it being cut. She asked what Jenna was planning and Jenna replied she didn’t know. “It’s almost like a bucket list,” Jenna shrugged. “I know I want it short, but I’m too nervous to decide how.” Gwen didn’t even blink before she said that Jenna was in good hands. “He’s a magician with a good clipper in his hands, but I think you probably want to stick to scissors after the hair relaxer incident,” she noted. Jenna liked the idea of not watching the cut hair fall, so we rinsed her deep conditioner and dried her hair before the first snip. Just treating it well had made the hair nicer, but it did nothing for her. “Ready?” I asked her, as she took a final look at her long curls. Jenna nodded, and I turned the chair away from the mirror, picking up my brush and the long bladed scissors. If she was going short, she needed to do so quickly and efficiently. I gathered it into a low pony tail and snipped it off near the nape in three fast cuts.
I asked her if she was okay, and Jenna nodded. She was okay, but that didn’t mean she might not cry. I felt so bad for this woman. She had been crippled by her fear after what happened when she was a kid. The curls would be beautiful on a wig, but they were not suited for her pretty face. She would be gorgeous with a closely buzzed pixie, but she might not ever be ready for that. Just hearing Gwen buzz a male client into a tight fade in the chair next to her was almost giving her a heart attack. So I used my cutting razor, a fabulous little tool that slices hair away quickly and leaves wispy results. We had the back tamed in under two minutes. I had Jenna straighten up so I could cut the sides, again by slicing away with the razor and letting the pieces fall behind her line of sight. I left a lot of length on top and falling down one side, drawing attention to her cheekbones, eyes and chin with a few carefully pointed ends. But I thinned it quite deeply, ensuring that the hair and the cut got all the attention, not the puff of volume that curls can be guilty of. Since I knew she wanted to see what her hair would look like straight, but that she might not spend the time of drying and flattening it each day, I chose a style that could we worn with minimal styling and still look good, but that with a bit of effort would be amazing.
At various intervals while I cut or dried, or while I added a snip here and there, Gwen would catch her looking to the side to see progress. “No peeking!” Gwen would tease her, while ensuring she gave her a thumb’s up as she watched each stage play out. After I had cut the final snip and sprayed it into place so it would stay that way for her party, and dusted off the little snippets that seem to find their way everywhere, I asked Jenna if she was ready. “I’m terrified,” she admitted. “How stupid is that? I felt you cutting it, I know it’s gone, I know I can’t change it. But I’m terrified to see it.” Understandable, I said. How about you touch it first? Jenna quietly brought up her arm and ran her fingers down the back, feeling how closely the razor had lopped off the hair. She did the same at the side, then said she feared messing up the sides. That style wouldn’t move in a hurricane with all the hairspray in there, I assured her, as she felt smooth, straight hair for probably the first time in her life. “Okay, I want to see it now,” she decided, and stepped out of the chair so she could look in the mirror herself.
Jenna’s reaction was worth the efforts we’d made to keep her comfortable throughout the cut. “It’s awesome!” she trilled, touching the back and smiling at how short it felt to the touch, but didn’t look like a boy’s brushcut. “How does it look like I still have so much hair?” Curly tops tend to have pretty thick hair, I grinned. “But it’s not curly!” she added, rubbing the smooth, flattened strands at the side and top. “Is it going to look like a cotton ball the second I wash it?” I assured her that is was short enough that it wouldn’t curl at the back or sides until it grew much longer. The top was indeed still going to curl when wet, but she could easily direct that with her fingers, and dry straight with very little effort. A good ceramic brush to direct the heat and she almost wouldn’t need a flat iron. I noted how the volume would come on its own, so she wouldn’t have to go to much effort on top. The absolute joy on her face took ten years off her age. “My husband is going to love this,” she gushed. “And I won’t feel like it was something I did but didn’t want to do, because this rocks!”
“When do you think she’s going to cry?” Gwen asked me, after Jenna bounced out of the shop. It is not uncommon, a few weeks after a big hair change, to realize you no longer have cascades full of hair, and miss it. I replied it would happen the first time her hair got too thick and needed trimming. The problem with really short hair, and thick hair after it’s been cut short, is that it can look gorgeous with regular maintenance. But it can look like a big clump if it is not trimmed and taken care of on a fairly strict schedule. Most of my clients with thick or curly hair will schedule a cut right before a vacation, a week sooner than scheduled, rather than let it go a week longer. Even a quarter or half inch trim is better than letting it get a quarter inch too long or thick. Someone who is scared of clippers might not be as willing to return to a chair with regularity as some of our short-haired women who loved the feel of the cutting. We needn’t have worried, as everyone at her party complimented her radical new look, and Jenna’s husband did indeed love her new haircut. He actually came to the shop the next week to thank me. I was a little worried when they said a client’s husband had requested a chat. Some men are weird about their wives’ hair length. But he admitted that he wished he’d been able to watch. “I’ve always wanted her to get a short haircut, but it’s hard to say that to someone you love.” I thought of my early dates with Mandy and agreed. “I don’t think she’s realized that it needs to stay trimmed, though. Or how often she’s going to need to sit through a cut. Her mom really messed with her when she buzzed it, because when it started to grow in and it was wiry, she kept buzzing it down again. Jenna needs a shave next, and she’s terrified of clippers.”
We took care of that by scheduling her maintenance appointment and scheduling a cut for him at the same time, in Gwen’s chair. That way he could ‘watch’ the next cut, without looking like some smarmy pervert. “Ask her what she thinks would be a good new look for you,” Gwen suggested. “Hopefully, she’ll suggest something shaved close. When she sees you enjoying the crunch of the clippers, her trim might not seem so scary.” That was exactly how it played out. As Gwen buzzed her husband close and neat, Jenna noted that her thick hair had grown in almost like a paintbrush. “We could shave it,” I suggested, acting as though I was considering anything else. I felt for her, for the fear her childhood shaves had left her with, but she was forty years old now, she could brave a shave once and realize it wasn’t the end of the world. There was a boy in the chair behind her having his head buzzed with no guard, and loving it, as he’d just watched his brother do the same. Dad’s hair was also shaved close and clean, and he didn’t want to spend the summer worrying about hair. They were going to Grandma’s with shaves and would return for their back to school clips when the summer was over. “Grandma never cuts it while we’re there, so we end up looking like astroturf if we don’t shave it off at the beginning of the summer,” the boy complained, anxious for his annual summer buzzing.
Jenna then tilted her chin down and asked if headphones could get in the way while I cut. “I think I can handle the cut, but not the noise,” she admitted. The wires might get in the way, but the dad with the buzzed boys (Jason) had a suggestion- ear plugs. Which he always has in his jacket pocket, as a welding inspector who walks through noise all the time. Jenna stuffed the earplugs in and nodded to me. “Do it,” she consented, but nonetheless closed her eyes first. She didn’t hear a thing after that, so the shaving was quick and clean, close to her scalp and still thick enough to look feminine. “I wish you’d go shorter on top,” her husband confessed. So I did. Jenna was oblivious, moving her head in the direction I titled it, holding still with each pass of the clippers down the sides, up the back. So I snipped it close on top, and tamed the curls even more. We took out more bulk and thickness, point cutting just above my fingers. The pointy end pieces now ended at her temples and this time I let her see the hair falling as it was cut. It was a revelation. She was a beautiful woman under all that hair. “My son is autistic,” one of the clients at a different chair shared. “He flips out whenever I try to cut his hair. I’m going to try earplugs.” She did and her son is now closely buzzed. He sees the earplugs come out and sits in the cutting chair, waiting for his shaving.
Meanwhile, Jenna was being shaved short and close. The top pieces were long enough to be flirty and feminine, but short enough that they would dry quickly and she could get on with her day. Her husband loved it. “I will never get tired of rubbing my fingers over that nape,” he admitted. “This haircut has been so good for our sex life,” Jenna giggled. The dad with his buzzed boys looked a little taken aback by this statement, but it was because he was a single dad and not because he was a prude about people speaking of sex in the presence of his kids. When Jenna tried to apologize, he simply smiled and said getting a haircut was the closest thing he’d had to a date in about five years. “There should be a dating site for men who like women with short hair. We could meet at salons,” he chuckled.
As he left with his kids, another client who’d been getting her undercut freshened up in a different chair passed him her business card and smiled. “I’m single. Your boys are about to be gone for the summer. Call me,” Cindy said. Her stunning blue eyes popped out with her chosen hairstyle, and she loved having her hair shaved close up the back and sides. I’m not going to say it was love at first sight, but they both giggled a lot over the summer when they came in separately for their trims.