Sarah rushed out of work feeling rather flustered. She had come back to her desk after her afternoon meeting, to find a sticky note on her screen. The hastily-scribbled note read:
‘Hairdresser phoned to cancel; stylist sick. Rebooked at ‘Jetset’ (North St.) 4:45pm’
There was no signature, and Sarah didn’t recognise the handwriting. Normally, she would not have been happy to have her appointment moved to another salon and would have called the hairdresser’s back, and tried to rearrange it. Today, though, she couldn’t do that. She simply had to have her hair cut this evening, and so was simultaneously relieved that she did have an appointment, and worried that she was going to have to let an unknown hairdresser loose on her precious locks.
The reason that Sarah couldn’t postpone was that she was going to meet her boyfriend’s parents for the very first time that evening. Sarah was understandably nervous, as she had grown very close to Steve and really believed that he was the one. Sarah was aware that Steve’s parents were rather “well to do” people who were highly respected in the local community. Furthermore, Steve had told her that his Dad was quite old fashioned in his values and his Mum was somewhat old fashioned and rather prim and proper. Her state of nervousness hadn’t been helped by Steve saying that it might be best if she didn’t wear her trendy clothes that night, as it would probably be better if she toned down her appearance a little, just for that night, by wearing a conservative dress and subtle makeup. Sarah would normally object, strongly, at being told what to wear, but she loved Steve, was desperate to make a good impression and believed that he knew best. She had, therefore, happily gone shopping in her lunch hour a few days before for a very conservative floral dress, and had bought a pair of discreet pearl stud earrings to wear in place of her normal sassy hoops.
She had shown her new dress to some colleagues at work, to see what they thought of it. The younger ones had generally told her that it was pretty, but she could tell that they thought it was too old fashioned and frumpy for her. Her manager though, an older lady called Wendy, had been much more enthusiastic, and when Sarah had explained why she had bought it, Wendy had reassured her that the dress was just right for the occasion. She had then, however, caused Sarah further doubts, by off-handedly suggesting that if she really wanted to make a good impression, then having her hair tidied up so she looked nice and smart would be a good idea.
Wendy would often nag Sarah and the other girls at work about their appearance, and if it wasn’t their hair, it would be their makeup, long nails or high heels, but, Sarah reasoned, this probably meant that she had a very good idea of what would make a good impression with a conservative middle aged lady. Her own mother, come to that, would often tell Sarah that she should put a comb through her hair (usually when Sarah had got it looking just the way she wanted it), and made no secret of the fact that she would much prefer to see Sarah with a neat and tidy short haircut. So she had decided to take Wendy’s advice and made an appointment to have her hair trimmed, with the intention of asking the hairdresser to cut her hair a little shorter than usual, and to then style her hair as ‘smart’ rather than the usual ‘sassy’. Sarah felt sure that this was the final part of the jigsaw, and that she was now doing everything she could do to make a positive impression with Steve’s parents.
The time was now 4:30 and whilst Sarah was a little nervous about going to a salon she didn’t know, she knew that if she was to get to North Street by 4:45, she would have to get a move on! Had Sarah been less nervous, or had more time to reflect, she may have decided that with a little effort, she could have styled her hair more neatly than she normally did, and with her new floral dress, she would actually have looked much less sassy and more smart than usual. Sarah, however, prompted by Wendy’s comments, had got herself unnecessarily worked up, and had convinced herself that if she didn’t get a haircut, Steve’s mum would not approve and the evening would be an absolute disaster. She grabbed her bag and headed out of the door.
Fifteen minutes later, just in time, and with her nerves at breaking point, she reached ‘JetSet’. She’d never noticed it before, though she must have walked past. It wasn’t anything like her normal trendy salon, but more of an old fashioned ladies’ hairdressers. She took a deep breath, concluded that “needs must” and proceeded to cross the road.
Sarah entered the hairdressers and was greeted by a rather matronly looking lady who looked to be in her early sixties.
“Hello, can I help you?”
“Oh I do hope you can, I’m in a complete pickle and I’m desperate for help. I’m meeting my boyfriend’s parents for the first time tonight, and I’m desperate to make a good impression, so I really need my hair cutting. My normal hairdresser went home sick this afternoon, so they made me an appointment here instead. I’m Sarah, Sarah Eavis?”
“Oh yes dear, of course. What were you looking to have done?”
“Nothing fancy, I’m just desperate for a good tidy-up so that my boyfriend’s parents see me looking smart and presentable. I know I shouldn’t have left it to the last minute and that I should have had it done way before today, but I’d be so grateful if you could help me?”
As she spoke, Sarah nervously tucked the ends of her choppy, layered bob behind her ears, hoping that this would emphasize the neat and tidy look that she was aiming for.
“That’s fine dear, but I’m afraid it will have to be just a dry cut, as I have to catch my bus at five past, so we’ll have to be quick”
Sarah felt the most wonderful feeling of relief come over her as she was gowned-up and told to sit in front of the mirror. The hairdresser (Maureen) grabbed scissors and comb and commenced combing through Sarah’s hair.
“So just a good tidy-up then, get this neatened up for you and get you looking neat and tidy and nice and smart for the parents then?”
Because of the urgency – there was only 10 minutes left – the hairdresser went to work quite vigorously. Being content that her hair was in fact going to be done after all, Sarah’s panic subsided and she returned to indulging in her nervousness of the evening. She was so wrapped up in thoughts of what she should say, what she should do, and what the parents would think of her, she barely noticed what Maureen was doing.
Maureen, meanwhile, had been assessing Sarah’s current style and had concluded that although it looked like one of the new and trendy choppy layered bobs, because Sarah had tucked her hair behind her ears, it also looked like it could have been a short layered style that had grown out. Maureen decided that it was probably the grown-out layered style because, as Sarah had deliberately pushed her hair back behind her ears whilst talking to her, she obviously preferred her ears to be on show and would, therefore, normally have it cut neatly over them. Furthermore, Maureen concluded that if Sarah were to normally wear her hair in a modern bob, then she wouldn’t be so desperate to have a good tidy up, and certainly would not be nearly as insistent that she needed to be smartened up. Maureen was jumping to some wrong conclusions and these were further enhanced when Maureen considered some of the things Sarah had said, such as:
She had taken Sarah’s statement of; “I know I shouldn’t have left it to the last minute and that I should have had it done way before today” to mean “I haven’t had a haircut in months and I wish I hadn’t allowed my hair to grow-out into this fussy mess”.
She had also taken Sarah’s statement of; “I’m just desperate for a good tidy-up” as meaning “Please take me back to the neat and tidy short haircut I had before”, and also that her asking for her hair to be cut so “my boyfriend’s parents get to see me looking smart and presentable” as meaning she wanted a no-nonsense, plain and simple, short layered ears-on-show haircut rather than something that looked like a fancy and fashionable, trendy choppy bob.
Sarah was blissfully unaware of Maureen’s conclusions and was so wrapped up in the job of being nervous that she didn’t notice that rather than leaving her with no defined parting, as she usually wore it, Maureen had parted her hair to the side and now had scissors in hand.
“Right then young lady; “Is this okay for you? Just a good tidy up?”
Sarah taking this as one question and believing Maureen was asking “Can I start?” smiled and said “Yes please”. Maureen, however, was asking two questions, with the other question meaning; “Are you happy for me to part your hair here?” Maureen took Sarah’s answer to mean; “Yes I would like a side parting please.”
At this point there were barely 10 minutes left before Maureen had to leave, so quick action was required. With scissors in hand, a lock of hair was combed up, scissors opened and………………SNIP! This was followed by a quick succession of further vigorous snips and, in no time, large clumps of hair were beginning to gather in Sarah’s lap. Maureen, with no regard for Sarah’s “trendy” image, continued snipping away in a determined and super quick fashion and although Sarah would normally be horrified, perhaps because she was nervous, or because she was flustered and in a strange situation, took no notice of what was happening, it was as if she was in a dream state. At 4.58, and just in the nick of time the hairdresser put down her scissors and proclaimed “There you are, you’re all tidied up, I’ve taken you back to a nice neat and tidy short haircut that is sure to impress the parents”.
It wasn’t until this point that Sarah really took notice of what had been happening and there, staring back at her from the reflection of the mirror was a very different looking girl to the one who walked in no longer than 15 minutes beforehand. This young lady no longer had the young and trendy/fashionable hairstyle that made her look and feel so perky and attractive, but in its place was an extremely neat and tidy, plain and simple short layered haircut. It was a haircut that would normally be worn by a much older lady and, in fact, she now looked just like her Mum!
Maureen had certainly given Sarah a good “tidying-up” and had left her with a very basic short layered haircut, neatly trimmed around her ears and cleanly cut up to her hairline. To finish off this new “neat & tidy” look, Sarah had been given an extremely precise side parting that Sarah, at this point, didn’t realise would be a permanent fixture. Maureen had layered Sarah’s hair in such a way, that the parting was permanent, Sarah may have been given neat and tidy hair, but from now on, her styling options were zero; whether she was at work, at play, in the disco or making mad passionate love, she would have no choice but to wear her hair in the same, plain old neat and tidy side part. Sarah, whether she liked it or not, would be wearing her hair just like this, for a very long time, until the layers had grown out, regardless of any effort with gels and the like. What made the contrast even more severe, was the fact that the blond highlights that had brought real life to Sarah’s hair had been forsaken and were now lying in her lap. Sarah had been returned to her natural colour, she was now the owner of a very neat little head of short mousy brown hair. Before Sarah had fully taken in the full effect of her new appearance, Maureen had placed a mirror behind Sarah’s head and was showing off more of her handiwork.
“There you are my dear, you can see I’ve taken it up nice and short for you and thanks to losing the length, we’ve taken you back to your natural colour. I think it’s nice for ladies with short hair to show off their collars, I think that’s very neat and tidy and looks much better, don’t you?”
Sarah could see that not only was her collar showing, but for the first time her neck and ears were completely naked of hair and were on full view for the whole world to see. To emphasize this point all the more, Sarah discovered that although they looked quite sweet, she had “sticky-out” ears. Although Sarah was completely shocked at what she saw, she could do nothing but agree that, yes, it was much more neat and tidy than before. Before, though, she had a fashionable hairstyle that made her look young, confident and attractive, but now she had a sensible “old fashioned” haircut that made her look rather prim and proper and gave her the appearance of an unassuming, quiet and gentle girl rather than the perky fun loving girl that everyone knew her to be.
Maureen put down the mirror and started to remove the gown and Sarah could do nothing but watch as her beautiful discarded locks fell limply to the floor. Sarah walked towards the counter and asked how much she needed to pay, Maureen who was now looking somewhat flustered said there was no charge, but asked that as she was now running really late and she was frightened that she’d miss her bus, would Sarah mind sweeping up the discarded hair and put it in the bin. Sarah couldn’t turn down such a reasonable request, but it did feel mighty strange as she leant down, swept up her pretty blond locks and threw them away in the bin. Sarah left the hairdressers in a state of shock and numbness, barely noticing as Maureen ushered her out of the door and locked up behind her. She couldn’t help but run her fingers through her hair, it felt really strange, but at the same time rather nice. Nice that she could feel the tingling sensation of her neck and ears, nice that it was now easier to run her fingers through her hair and nice that whatever she did, her hair felt that it was falling back into place all by itself. To prove this point, she stared at her reflection in a shop window and received her confirmation, her hair had in fact fallen completely back into place and was still looking wonderfully neat and tidy, albeit somewhat plain.
The word PLAIN began to float around in her mind and the more she stared at her reflection, the stronger this word became as the realisation set in that she really had become a very plain and sedate looking girl! Half an hour earlier she had been a very confident “Sexy Sarah”, but that was history! Now she was, without a doubt, a somewhat shy looking “Plain Jane”! This realisation filled her mind with fear and an endless stream of questions; What had she just done? How had she allowed it to happen? Had she asked for this hairstyle or had it been chosen for her? Why didn’t she pay attention to what was happening? Why didn’t she say something and stop it from happening? Did she, deep down, want this to happen? Was this a good thing to have happened?
Sarah began to calm herself down and started to focus on this last question, “Was this a good thing to have happened?” She concluded that in lots of ways, maybe it was, as she always spent too much time on her hair and now it was nice and short, it would take a third of the time it used to. Also, she’d often wondered how it would feel to have a really short haircut and now she had one, she could begin, hopefully, to enjoy the experience.
Her Mum had often said that she’d like to see her “baby girl” in a nice plain and simple short haircut. This thought brought a smile to Sarah’s face as in a short while, her Mum would realise that her desire had come true and that she’d be thrilled to see that her daughter had finally said goodbye to her fussy funky haircut and hello to sensible short hair.
Sarah’s positive thoughts continued:
Staff appraisals were coming up soon, and maybe now that she had the sensible, smart haircut which Wendy had suggested, she could look forward to a pay rise, or perhaps even a promotion.
Last of all, her thoughts went to “meeting the parents”. Her boyfriend, Steve, had described his parents as being rather old fashioned and conservative and this actually filled her with confidence as this sounded as if they would approve of Steve’s prim and proper, plain and sedate looking girlfriend. Her confidence, however, soon waned and turned to pure panic! Steve! What would he think? What would he say? He wouldn’t be happy, as after all, when he’d seen an old picture of Sarah with her hair half way down her back, he said he loved it and gave the impression that he wanted her to grow it back to that length again. What if he only liked her for her hair? What if he only liked trendy “girlie” girls with sexy long hair and trendy clothes?
Again, Sarah tried to calm herself down and to start thinking more rationally, she asked herself the same question again: Was this a good thing to have happened? She repeated the positive points as before but then, when she thought about work, this time she focused on the fact that she was going to have to present herself with her new image at work. Her thoughts went to what people would think when they saw her new toned down image; How could she walk into work knowing that everyone would be looking at her, knowing that she used to be the “pretty one” and now, without giving anybody any prior warning, she had voluntarily transformed herself into the plain looking one? She quickly nipped that in the bud by thinking of all the jealousy between the “girly” girls in the office and concluded that now the hair and the image have gone, they would no longer have anything to be jealous of! She then turned her thoughts to Steve and to why she’d actually had her hair cut. She’d had it cut because she wanted to make a good impression on his parents! She, had, therefore, had her hair cut short for him, for a very good reason and as a result, whether he liked it or not, he now had a short haired girlfriend. Feeling reassured by this last thought, Sarah concluded that rather than give him the shock of his life she’d best phone him and give him a warning. She nervously dialed his number and when he answered she asked him what time he was picking her up and then immediately said; “Babe, when you pick me up, you’re going to be in for a bit of a surprise” She continued; “Well, you know you said that your parents were old fashioned and rather conservative” “Well, I wanted to look my best for them and although I know you wanted me with long hair, I thought it better if your parents saw me with short hair” “Yes, I’ve got short hair, I had it all cut-up this afternoon” “It’s just a plain and simple short layered haircut, it’s nothing fancy and to be honest it is rather conservative, but you did say that your parents liked people to look smart, and now I do!
Sarah arrived home, let herself in and as she closed the door she heard her mum shout “hello” from upstairs. Sarah called back and suggested that her mum come downstairs as she had a surprise for her. Sarah went into the kitchen and whilst she was filling the kettle with water, her Mum walked in. The first thing her mum saw was the back of a girl who had a very neat and tidy short haircut. Initially she couldn’t believe her eyes, but very quickly the realization hit her that at last, her baby girl had opted for a sensible, smart, short haircut. Sarah’s mum could contain her enthusiasm no longer as she gushed; “Hello you. What have you been up to?” Sarah slowly turned around and broke into a coy little smile. Her Mum, now having full view of the effects of Maureen’s scissors, gushed further “Oh look at you. Look at you! You’ve had all your hair cut off! Oh yes, that’s much better! Much neater! Now, then, you must let me have a closer look, do a twirl for me and let me see how nice you look with your hair all nice and short”
Although Sarah was feeling a little silly complying with her Mum’s request, she dutifully commenced twirling, just like she did when she was little and was modeling new clothes or a haircut. Her Mum looked intently at her new neat and tidy daughter and couldn’t help but feel that she had become a very respectable looking young woman, if not a little prim and proper in appearance. She gave Sarah a big smile, followed by a big hug and whilst she ran her fingers through her daughters neatly cropped hair, she whispered “I’m really proud of you, I knew you’d look nice in short hair.
With that, the kettle boiled and Sarah’s Mum sat at the table and watched as Sarah made the coffee. “So, my neat and tidy short haired one, tell me all about it? What made you cut all your hair off?
Sarah recounted the story and by the time she’d finished, it was time to go upstairs and get herself ready for the evening ahead.
This story was originally written by hairscribe, and published in 2004. We have now collaborated to continue and finish the story.
This, and subsequent parts are also published at: https://f35hstories.wordpress.com
hairscribe and f35h