Sarah was upstairs, already in her new dress, and feeling more than a little nervous and also somewhat unsettled. She had felt quite confident leaving ‘Jetset’, but this had been somewhat dented subsequently.
Rather than going straight back to the car, Mum had insisted on popping to Tesco, in the opposite direction. As they made their way down the busy high street, Sheila forged ahead with her head held high. She had always liked to look smart, and was completely embracing her new primly-set curls. Sarah was left trailing behind her, and soon realised that whilst Sheila simply looked like a conservative middle-aged lady, the same clothes and hairstyle on a twenty-something young woman looked distinctly out of place. Sarah was attracting a number of curious glances, and she realised that many people would think she was a devoted daughter, who had dutifully followed her mother’s choice of clothing and hairstyle.
Sarah had been relieved to get out of Tesco, particularly after the surprised and then contemptuous expressions of the checkout operator. She was a young woman with long, poker-straight bleached locks and a faceful of makeup. Her eyes widened and then rolled as she realised that the primly dressed, stiffly lacquered woman she had assumed was in her 60s, was actually about her own age.
She had at once felt more comfortable at their next stop, the church coffee morning, where most of the ladies had short, neat perms, though admittedly, they were more of Sheila’s generation than Sarah’s. They were immediately approached by one of the regulars.
“Hello Mrs. Eavis, your hair looks lovely, have you just had it done?”
“Thank you Mrs. Heathcote. Yes, we’re just on our way back from the hairdressers’. It needed a good cut, and I’ve had it permed and set for a change. It wasn’t my usual hairdresser, but I think she did a good job. It should stay nice and tidy, at any rate.”
“Oh yes, you can’t beat a proper traditional style for staying tidy.” She raised her hands and patted her own short, tight curls. “And Sarah! I hardly recognised you! It’s lovely that you’ve had your hair done to match your mother’s.”
“Oh, er, thank you, Mrs. Heathcote.”
“And have you had a perm as well, Sarah?”
“Oh, er, yes, I have. So Mum and I will still be matching, in tight little curls, even when we wash our sets out.” She smiled slightly uncertainly at this.
“Well you look delightful dear.” She turned back to Sheila. “You must be very proud of her. There aren’t many young girls who’d agree to have such a prim and proper hairstyle. You don’t mind me calling you ‘prim and proper’ do you dear?” Sarah smiled, and shook her head.
“Oh yes, I’m very proud.” Sheila beamed. “I’ve wanted to see Sarah with a neat little head of curls for such a long time, and she’d never consider it. But she’s finally had it done for me, and doesn’t she look lovely and smart?”
“She certainly does. You’re very lucky. I’d love my daughter to look nice and respectable like that, but she insists on having a mane of hair halfway down her back, the bottom half of it dyed blonde for some reason, and it usually looks like it hasn’t seen a comb for a week! If I had my way, she’d be straight down to the hairdressers’, to have that long fussy hair taken right off, and put into a neat little perm!”
Sarah began to realise that anyone seeing the two of them together would assume that her hair had been cut and styled according to her her mother’s wishes; that she had allowed herself to be taken to an old-fashioned hairdressers, and given a conservative and homely perm and set, in order to conform with her family’s traditional values.
This shocked her slightly, as she had been thinking of her makeover as a leap of faith, to show her boyfriend how much he meant to her, and how she was ready to think about settling down with him. As she pondered though, she realised that whilst Steve had suggested that she might have her hair curly, it was Mum who had immediately leapt on the suggestion, and had promptly persuaded her to have a shampoo and set. She had also been nagging Sarah for years to have her hair cut up short, neat and tidy, so perhaps Sarah’s new, conservative appearance, and indeed her happy acceptance of it, did have quite a lot to do with meeting her mother’s expectations, and making her proud and happy.
They finally made their way back to the car. Out of the comforting environment of the church coffee morning, Sarah once again found herself feeling out of place. She found herself dropping in the role of a simple, modest, unassuming young lady, happy to present herself as a junior version of her mother. As they got into the car, Sheila turned to her daughter.
“I just want to tell you, Sarah, how pleased I am that you really look like a properly conservative young lady now, with your hair all cut up short, and in a lovely perm and set. I just wish that I’d put my foot down with you and made you do it a long time ago. We could have saved ourselves so many arguments.”
Sarah, lacking her usual confidence, started to feel guilty over all the times that she’d refused to smarten herself up, and before she knew it she was apologising to her mother.
“Oh mum, I’m so sorry now about all of that. I kind of wish now that you’d been stricter with me too. I know that a short, smart haircut would probably have been good for me, and it would certainly have saved some arguments.”
“It certainly would have done, and thank you; it’s lovely to hear you say that. So, now that I’ve finally got you looking nice and respectable, are you going to stay that way? I do hope so.”
“Oh yes Mum, don’t worry about that. I can promise you that my hair will be staying short and curly from now on, and since you made me throw out all my old clothes, I think I’ll be dressing nice and smartly too!”
Sarah now looked at herself in her bedroom mirror, and had her first really good look at herself with the hairstyle Maureen had given her. She was somewhat taken aback at just how different she looked with her hair now styled so incredibly formally and frumpily, and absolutely like a little old lady. The surprising thing was, although it was incredibly humbling to realise she was no longer trendy, let alone pretty, she couldn’t help but feel strangely satisfied and reassured, not only to see herself just so incredibly toned-down, but also looking just so much like her mother.
The resemblance was only enhanced by the style of her new dress. It was navy blue, with an off-white floral print. It had a high collar, full sleeves gathered at the wrist, a fitted waist and full skirt which came down to mid-calf. It was unquestionably smart and conservative, and exactly the kind of dress which her mother liked to be seen in for social occasions. Even though the dress covered almost all of her legs, she had kept the borrowed tan tights on, as she wanted to make sure that she looked as smart as possible for meeting Steve’s family.
She was confident that the smart, homely, and unassuming plain-Jane appearance she was now exuding was exactly how Steve had said he wanted her to be, and she was also deriving a sense of satisfaction that Maureen had gone just so completely to town on her. Despite this though, her nerves could not have been more jittery.
She was desperately anxious that, in the cold light of day, Steve may decide she had gone too far and may not actually like her looking so prim and plain, and she stood there feeling her confidence and formerly sassy and independent self esteem evaporating.
She realised that if Steve didn’t like it there was simply nothing she could do. Because, with her hair cropped so incredibly short and permed into such tight little curls, not to mention deliberately shaped to leave her looking like neatly groomed little poodle, for the coming months she simply had no choice but to play the role of a simple and homely girl with short tight curly hair. For a moment, she stood there peering into the mirror, feeling really quite helpless.
It then struck her that even if Steve didn’t like it but was patient with her and gave her the chance to grow her hair back out, she would actually face significant problems. She knew that her mother, having finally got Sarah into a sensible short curly perm, and then cut and permed her own hair to match, would be pressuring her to keep her hair trimmed and permed from now on. She had, of course, also just promised that she would do just that, effectively giving her mother permission to nag her as much as she wanted.
Then there was work to consider as well. Wendy had clearly been delighted with Sarah’s transformation, and she would likely be just as upset if she decided to reverse the process and go back to her trendy hairstyle, long painted nails and high heels. She had just got herself into Wendy’s good books, and didn’t want to find herself out of them again.
Taking another look in the mirror, she finally realised what was most important: although she did feel obliged to respect her obligations to her mother, Nan and employer by keeping herself looking smart and respectable, as she knew they all preferred, the most important thing, over and above what anyone else thought, wanted or preferred, was that she, Sarah, wanted to stay just as she now was; just the nice, short and curly haired little plain-Jane who actually liked looking like a little poodle and absolutely loved being just like her mum.
It was for this reason that when the doorbell rang, all that Sarah felt was this desperate hope that Steve would like having her as the nice respectable girl she was showing herself to be. Together with this came a sudden burning desire to make up to him for being so much less pretty than before, by showing herself as being extra sweet, gentle, supportive and completely devoted girlfriend. It was at this point Sarah began to properly accept herself as being the type of girl who was actually happy to be wearing her hair in the exact same sensible and homely short curly style as her mother. At that moment, the doorbell rang. Sarah leaned towards her bedroom door to catch what happened downstairs.
Strangely enough, Steve had been going through much the same emotions as Sarah. Mrs Saunders, his boss, had been delighted with his severe short back and sides, and when he came down from his hotel room on Thursday morning, having washed out the previous day’s haircream and tousled his hair slightly, she sent him straight back upstairs with instructions to come back with his hair ‘combed properly’. Steve had reluctantly done so, applying more of the sticky hair dressing and forcing his hair back into the regulation side parting. He had repeated this without being told on Friday, and been rewarded by being told that he looked ‘very smart, Steven’.
Steve had also noticed a difference in how people treated him over the last few days. He certainly wasn’t getting nearly as many admiring glances from young women, but in the conversations he’d had with a wide variety of people at the conference, they all seemed to take his competence as a given. This hadn’t always been the case previously, particularly with older people, who would often ask if his boss was available. He supposed that this was all positive. As he now had a steady girlfriend in Sarah, he really had no business attracting admiring glances, and it was certainly good for his career if everyone now took him seriously.
Despite these positive thoughts, Steve, now standing at Sarah’s door, was worried. Brutally aware that with such an unflattering and completely unfashionable short back and sides, not only had he lost his trendy good looks, but also the confident charm his surfer-boy long locks had afforded him. He found himself fervently hoping that Sarah, even if she didn’t find him as attractive, would at least understand that he had unarguable reasons for sacrificing his hair. Apart from the insistence of Mrs. Saunders, he knew how much his grandmother would appreciate him showing respect for her values, by attending her birthday with a short, smart, traditional haircut. Of course, what he really hoped was that Sarah would like his new haircut, and that she felt it complemented her own toned-down and conservative appearance. With his heart leaping, he rang the bell.
“Hello Steven, do come in, Sarah’s just getting ready.”
Steve took a moment to regain his composure. When the door had first opened, he had seen the tight, prim little bubblecut, assumed that it must be Sarah and that she had kept her word, been back to see Maureen, and allowed her to really go to town on her hair. As his eyes moved down to the face, he was shocked at how much older Sarah looked, and in fact, she now looked more like her mother!
It was only when Sheila spoke that Steve realised it was in fact her, and not Sarah who had answered the door. He took a deep breath.
“Hello Mrs. Eavis. You look very smart. Did you go to the hairdressers’ with Sarah?”
“Thank you Steven. Yes, it needed cutting, and I’m pleased to have it looking nice and tidy again. I see that you’ve had your hair cut too. Not before time, either; I think you were well overdue a visit to the barbers!”
“Yes, Mum thought the same.” Steve looked a little ashamed. “She was very keen that I had my hair cut to look presentable for today, so I’ve been properly shorn.” He followed Sheila into the lounge.
“Well quite right too. I’d have sent you to the barbers quite a while ago, if it was up to me.” She frowned at him. “Well, at least you’ve had it done now, and it’s a great improvement. I imagine your mother was pleased?”
“Er, yes, she was. I think she’ll be making sure that I keep it short and tidy from now on.” Steve was dying to know whether Sarah’s hair had been styled to match her mother’s, but couldn’t quite work out how to ask. He heard something behind him, and turned round. Sarah was standing in the doorway, smiling.
As Steve turned, and they got a first proper look at each other, they shared an overwhelming feeling of relief. Steve was overjoyed that Sarah had been as good as her word, and had clearly requested the short bubblecut, and plain, modest set that he so much wanted to see her in. Sarah, for her part, was equally relieved that Steve had not only had his hair cut, but had clearly been to a traditional barber’s for an uncompromising short back and sides. His hair hadn’t just been trimmed up to make him look a little tidier for today; it was a properly short and conservative cut that would be staying that way for some time. To further drive the point home, his hair had been firmly slicked down and combed into a super-smart, yet completely unflattering, ramrod straight side-parting. Sarah rather suspected that Barbara had a hand in this. Sarah could easily imagine her applying the old-fashioned haircream and forcing a comb through Steve’s hair, as she no doubt had many times when he was younger.
Sarah could barely believe just how different her formerly handsome and super-trendy boyfriend now looked. She chastised herself for briefly thinking just how much less attractive he now looked and how much less confident and sure of himself he seemed, and resolved that she must focus on the positives, and reassure him that he had done the right thing by submitting to the barber’s clippers. Seeing just how much Steve had toned himself down, and smartened himself up, along with the big smile as he saw her, had immediately cut through Sarah’s nerves. She realised that both she and Steve were going to be far less fashionable and, to the rest of the world, sassy and fanciable, and she loved it! She had feared that if he had only had a minimal tidy up to placate his mother for the day then they might end up as a rather odd couple, with him as the handsome trendy surfer-boy attracting lots of admiring glances, and her as the prim and homely little plain-Jane, who everyone overlooked. Now though, they would make a perfect modest and unassuming couple, ready to settle down and spend the rest of their lives together.
For his part, Steve felt his heart surge as he realised how much Sarah must love him and how committed she was. So much so that she had been happy, not just to have her hair cut short to look smart for his parents, and then to have had her newly cut hair permed so she would be nice and curly for him, but now, to finally having had a shampoo and set, just as if she were a little old lady, so that she could look extra smart, prim, conservative and unassuming for him. He was well aware that most girls would have been devastated to have their hair styled in such a truly old-fashioned and completely frumpy shampoo and set, and especially to have ended up looking exactly like their mothers. Sarah, though, was beaming at him, apparently happy to be dressed just like her mother and wearing her hair in the exact same, neatly set, modest and homely, short curly hairstyle as her mother, and looking every inch the dutiful and perfect daughter.
“Hello special lady; you look absolutely lovely and I truly adore the way you look with your hair like that”.
Sarah’s smile got even wider, if possible. “Hello special man, and you look absolutely handsome and I truly adore the way you look with your new short haircut”,
“I’m glad you like it, I think it’s even shorter than Mum used to make me have it. I feel a bit like I’ve joined the army!”.
“Well I think you look much nicer for it and certainly far more handsome.” Sarah knew that ‘handsome’ was probably stretching it; most people – and certainly most women of her age – would think that Steve was less attractive with his severe crop and slicked down side parting, but she wasn’t most people, and she thought Steve looked lovely.
“And as for mine, well, I feel a bit like I’ve been given my Nan’s hairstyle. But I’m honoured to have the opportunity to look smart and ladylike for you, and I’ll be very proud to be seen with you now that you’re looking all smart too.”
“Well I haven’t met your Nan, but you certainly have the same hairstyle as your Mother now.”
“And it looks lovely on both of you,” he added hastily, hoping he hadn’t put his foot in his mouth. He quickly looked for something else to say. “I don’t think I’ve seen you with curly hair before, Mrs. Eavis?”
“Well I always used to have it permed and set like this, you know. I’ve wanted Sarah to have hers done in neat little curls for ages, and now she’s finally had it done, I thought it would be nice to go back to it.”
“Well it suits you very well, if you don’t mind me saying, and I think it’s lovely that you two have matching hairstyles now. You look so nice together; a proper mother and daughter.”
Sarah and her mother both blushed at this, and shared a relieved smile. Sheila had been well aware of Sarah‘s concerns, and was delighted to see how happy the two of them were together.
Steve forced his gaze away from Sarah and checked his watch. “Still, we’ve got a party to get to. So, shall we make tracks?”
Sitting in the car, Sarah couldn’t keep her eyes off the short cropped back and sides of Steve’s hair. Whilst she was extremely happy that he had submitted to a proper barbershop clippering, she really had been expecting a much smaller trim, as a concession to his mother. Her curiosity got the better of her.
“I’m very pleased you’ve had a proper short back and sides, but I have to say I wasn’t really expecting it. What made you have all those lovely long locks cropped so short?”
Steve took a deep breath.
“Well, you know that Mum really wanted me to look smart and respectable for today, and then my boss, Mrs. Saunders, told me that she wanted it cut for this convention I went to. And she made it pretty clear that when she said ‘cut’ she meant ‘short’ and ‘smart’.” He paused.
“And then there was you.” He glanced at her. “I knew how hard you had tried to fit in, and look nice and respectable for me, and my family. And you didn’t just tone yourself down a little bit, like I asked, you went and had all your hair cut off short and smart, and your nails too, and scrubbed your makeup off, all to make a good impression. So I thought that I really should make a bit of an effort too, and not worry so much about what everyone else would think, and just try to look as smart as possible.”
“So….” Sarah prompted.
“Oh, yes, so before we left for the convention, I went to that old-fashioned barber’s down the end of the high street, and said I needed to look smart, and this is what he did. Like you said, a proper short back and sides, just like Mum used to make me have. He even put hair cream on it.” He raised his eyebrows, briefly rueing his decision.
“Well I think he gave you exactly what you needed. Smart, tidy and a proper side parting. I expect Mum was pleased?”
“Oh yes, she was over the moon. Mrs. Saunders told me that she expected me to keep it looking like this, and obviously Mum wanted me looking as smart as possible today, so I’ve had hair cream and a parting all week. I didn’t really like it at first, but I might be getting used to it.” He shrugged and then glanced at Sarah, suddenly wondering what her reaction might be. “Does it look really awful?”
“Not at all! I think you look really smart, and it’s entirely appropriate to have your hair dressed properly for Grandma’s birthday. I think all the ladies are going to have had their hair done, so it’s only fair. Speaking of which, has Tina gone to the hairdresser’s with your mum?”
“Yes, they went this morning, but they hadn’t come back when I left. Did you talk Tina into going with her? She’d wouldn’t normally let Mum anywhere near her hair.”
“No! I didn’t do anything, but when I went round to see your mum the other day, I’m sure she was using me as leverage. She was all ‘look at Sarah’s lovely short perm, doesn’t she look smart, won’t Grandma love it’ until Tina agreed to go with her. She said she’d have a trim and a set, and she didn’t seem too unhappy at the time, but I hope your mum isn’t too hard on her. I mean, it’s nice that she’s having her hair done for today, but if your mum makes her have it cut short, then she might not be happy. And she might even blame me! I’m sure your mum wouldn’t have put quite so much pressure on her if I still had my hair longer.”
Sarah felt a fleeting pang of regret as she remembered how good she had looked with her messy, choppy, highlighted bob, short tight skirts and a full face of makeup. It was hard to believe that she had gone to work like that on Monday, and here she was on Saturday with a prim old ladies’ shampoo and set, a floral dress that covered everything from the neck down, and a squeaky-clean scrubbed face. It passed quickly though, as Sarah remembered the delighted reaction from Steve when he saw her earlier. If he wanted a plain and conservative girl on his arm, well, that was fine with her.
“You may have a point.” Steve mused. “She’s been desperate to grow her hair out for the last couple of years. But she seemed happy enough to go with Mum, and I’m sure she’s under no illusions about how Mum wants her hair. She was dead set against Tina growing it, and she’s been on at her to get it cut for ages. I’m sure she’d have had Tina back in a tight little bubblecut ages ago, if she’d let her.”
“Well I suppose we’ll just have to wait and see.” Sarah shrugged. “Maybe Tina’s had enough of growing her hair, and is ready for a nice, sensible, grown-up hairstyle.”
“Hello Gran, Happy Birthday! How are you today?”
“Hello dear, thank you, and I suppose I can’t complain at my age. And this must be Sarah. I’m so glad you could come, dear.”
“Hello Mrs. Stewart. It’s lovely to meet you. Steve’s told me a lot about you.”
“And Barbara’s told me a lot about you, dear. She said you were a very presentable young lady, and I see that she was right. I can’t remember the last time I saw a young lady with a proper shampoo and set. I don’t suppose nice traditional styles are coming back into fashion, are they?”
Sarah laughed. “No, I don’t think I’m looking very fashionable. But Steve said that you’d appreciate me looking really smart, so I went to the hairdressers’ with my mum this morning, and we came out with matching hairdos.”
“Well that’s very thoughtful of you dear. I do like to see young ladies looking smartly turned out. Long skirts and short hair, not the other way around! So many of the young girls I see, their hair’s all over the place, and their clothes leave nothing at all to the imagination. I’m so pleased that you know how to present yourself properly, and it’s lovely that you had your hair done to match your mother’s, too. She must be very proud of you.”
“Oh yes, Mum has always liked me to look respectable, and I think she quite enjoyed showing me off to some of the church ladies on the way back.”
“Yes, I’m sure she did. And speaking of respectable, you seem to have had a good influence on Steven here. I’ve been telling him to get himself down to the barbers for a very long time now, and he finally seems to have had his hair cut properly. I think he must be trying to impress you, dear, so thank you very much.”
“Well it might be partly down to me.” Sarah smiled. “I was certainly pleased to see him looking nice and smart for today. He looks much more handsome with short hair and a proper side parting, don’t you think?”
“Oh yes, absolutely. His mother always kept his hair cut nice and short, and neatly combed, when he was younger, and he’d have hair cream put on for Sunday best, too. He never liked it, but Barbara insisted on him looking smart.” She chuckled. “I think I was even stricter with him. He used to come and stay with me in the holidays sometimes, and like most boys he hated being clean and tidy. I had to practically drag him to the bathroom every morning and take soap and flannel to his face, and scrub behind his ears. Then I’d comb his hair nicely, and tell him that if it wasn’t neat and tidy when we had to go out, he’d have to have hair cream on. Of course, he never could keep it tidy for more than five minutes, so I’d make him sit still to have it combed again with the cream, and we’d go out with his hair all slick and shiny, with a perfectly straight parting in, just like it is now.
“Oh dear, I think I’m embarrassing him!” Steve was, indeed, looking a little flushed. ”Well I hope you manage to keep him looking smart, dear. It’s so nice to have him looking respectable again.”
She excused herself to go and talk to another of Steve’s relatives, leaving the two of them alone.
“Well, I think she approved of this,” Sarah remarked, patting her stiff curls gently with both hands. “But it’s a good job she didn’t meet me last week. I don’t think she’d have been as happy if I’d turned up with my old messy hair and the short, tight skirts and tops I used to wear.
“And I think you really made her day by paying a visit to the barbers. It does look so much better. I think I’m going to have to make sure that it stays short.” She adopted a severe expression. “And if you can’t keep it tidy, I’ll be putting hair cream in it and combing it properly for you!” She giggled, spoiling the effect. Steve grimaced at her.
“Well I don’t think there’s much chance of me growing it again with you, Mum and Mrs. Saunders all on at me.” He paused. “And actually, it’s kind of nice that we’re both looking smart. I love to see you looking so ladylike, and it just wouldn’t feel right if I still had my long, scruffy hair and my top button undone. So I’ll be very happy to keep my conservative short back and sides, as long as you’re keeping your lovely short perm.”
Sarah was about to tell Steve that she’d be more than happy with that arrangement, when her eye was caught by Barbara and Tina coming through the door. Once through the door, Barbara came towards Steve and Sarah, but Sarah’s eyes followed Tina as she walked over towards her Grandmother. It was clear that Barbara had got her way at the hairdressers’, as Tina’s hair was a clone of her mother’s; a stiff lacquered bouffant, and Tina must have sacrificed several inches of her precious locks, as her hair curled in neatly well above the high collar of her dress. Sarah thought that she looked like a perfect dutiful daughter, hair cropped and curled just the way her mother wanted it.
“Hello Mrs. Barlow, your hair looks lovely, and I see that you managed to get Tina properly smartened up too.”
“Thank you Sarah. Yes, Tina was a very good girl at the hairdresser’s. I know that she didn’t really want her hair cut short, but she knew how much Grandma would appreciate her looking smart and presentable. So she was very grown-up about it, and she didn’t make a fuss when I told the hairdresser that she needed a good short cut, and a proper shampoo and set.”
“Well she certainly does look presentable, and it looks as though Grandma is delighted. I expect you are, too…”
“Oh yes, I really didn’t like her long hair – it always looked so scruffy. She’s much better off with it cut up sensibly and put into nice neat curls. And I think I have to thank you, Sarah, for setting such a good example for Tina. I’ve been asking her to have a decent, respectable haircut for such a long time, and I’m sure that the way you have presented yourself, showing such respect for our family’s traditional values, has rubbed off on Tina, and is the reason she finally agreed to have her hair styled appropriately.”
Sarah blushed. “Well, thank you Mrs. Barlow. I’m actually really pleased that I had my hair cut up short and permed, and this set feels really special.” She raised her hands, as if to check that Maureen’s handiwork was still intact. “I just hope that Tina feels the same way as I do, and can enjoy looking like a properly smart and conservative young lady.”
“Oh, I hope so too. I really want to see her looking nice and smart, but not if it makes her unhappy. I’m hoping that she will come to appreciate that keeping her hair cut to a sensible length will not only save her time, but also mean that she always looks neat and tidy. Of course, what I’d really like is to take her back to the hairdressers’, and have a nice tight perm put in, just like you’ve had. I always liked seeing her with curly hair.”
Privately, Sarah wondered whether Barbara realised that ‘always looking neat and tidy’ wasn’t necessarily a top priority for most young women, and that this might not persuade Tina to keep her hair cut short, never mind to submit to the kind of old fashioned, no-nonsense perm that her mother would like to see her in. On the other hand, Sarah was enjoying her own new, smartened up and toned down appearance, so who knows? Maybe Tina was ready to give up chasing unattainable beauty standards and unaffordable fashion choices, and settle down to embrace the conservative and ladylike appearance that would make her family so proud and happy.
She turned back to Barbara. “That sounds familiar! My mum has always wanted to see me with a neat little head of curls, but until recently, I’d always been quite difficult about it, and insisted on keeping my hair long. She was thrilled when I first had my hair cut short, and so proud today when we left the hairdressers with our matching hairdos.”
“I’m sure she was Sarah. Any mother would be proud to see her daughter looking so smart and presentable, especially if like, ah, a lot of young ladies, she’s always been, shall we say, reluctant to adopt a more traditional hairstyle. Now please excuse me, it’s lovely to see you, but I really must go and talk to Grandma.”
She hurried over to where Tina was talking to her grandmother. Sarah turned back to Steve.
“Do you know, I think our mothers might get on quite well with each other! They’re certainly both very keen to have smart and respectable daughters, with nice ladylike hairstyles.” She paused for a moment. “Do you think Tina will have her hair permed again? It sounds like your mum really wants her to stay curly.”
“I don’t know. Why not ask her, she’s heading this way.”
Sarah glanced over her shoulder to see that Tina was indeed, coming towards them, smiling.
“Hello you two.”
“Hi Tina, your hair looks lovely, are you pleased with it?”
“Yes, it looks really nice, Sis.” Steve chipped in. “I bet Grandma loved it, too.”
“Oh, thank you, both of you.” She smiled ruefully. “Well, I didn’t really want it this short, but Mum kind of took over. She told the hairdresser to cut it short enough for a proper shampoo and set that Grandma would approve of, and she didn’t hold back. It’s the same lady that Mum’s been to for years, so she knows exactly how Mum likes her hair, and mine too. She even told Mum that she should have my hair permed next time, so that the set will stay in for longer.
“Still, Mum was really pleased to have me back in short hair, and a neat and tidy set, and so was Gran. She just told me how pleased she was that I’d finally ‘grown up’ and got past my ‘hippy phase’, and how nice I looked with my hair in curls. So, I suppose you could say that I’m pleased that I’ve made Mum and Gran happy.”
“Yes, I know what you mean! A couple of weeks ago I wouldn’t have dreamed of having my hair like this, but everyone seems to like it, so I’m really glad that I did it. So do you think you’ll grow it out again, or are you going to keep the family happy?”
“Well, now Mum’s got my hair short and neat again, she wants it kept that way, of course. I promised her that I’d have it set like this for my cousin’s wedding, that’s in about six months, so it’s hardly worth growing it out. And Gran just told me I should have it permed, too. I told her that I’d think about it, so maybe I will let mum take me back to the hairdressers for a neat little bubblecut, just like she used to make me have.”
She shrugged. “I know that Mum and Gran would love it, but I just don’t know if I’m ready for the rest of the world to see me looking like a sweet little poodle, with my ears on show!”
“Well it would be a big change for you, but I’m sure you’d look lovely.” Sarah paused. “You’re not doing this just because of me, are you? I’m very happy having my own hair cut up short and permed, but I wouldn’t want to think I’d pressured you in any way.”
“Oh no,“ Tina laughed. “Mum’s been trying to get me back into a nice short perm for ages, and I kept refusing, but Grandma’s birthday gave her the perfect excuse to drag me down to the hairdressers to get me looking ‘respectable’ again. If anything, seeing you made me feel more positive about it. You reminded me of how much easier it was to look after my hair when I did have it short. No fuss with washing, drying and styling it, just neat and tidy little curls all the time.”
Sarah smiled, and patted her neatly set curls. “Oh yes! It certainly cuts down on the fuss. But seriously, if you do want your hair neat and tidy all the time, then go for it! Don’t worry about what the rest of the world thinks. If looking like a prim and proper, conservative young lady makes you happy, and your family happy, then that’s all that matters.”
“You’re right, of course.” Tina sighed. “I know I shouldn’t pay so much attention to glossy magazines, and social media, and think more about what matters to me, and the people around me. That’s easier said than done, though, especially when I don’t always know what I want myself!” She looked thoughtful. “ I suppose there’s something to be said for having fuss-free hair that makes my family happy, so maybe it is time to be a little bit more grown-up about it all, and commit to being a presentable young lady with a nice neat little perm.”
She smiled mischievously at Sarah, wondering what her reaction would be.
Sarah grinned back at her. “Well you’d certainly make your family happy, if that’s what you decide, and I’d love to see you properly short and curly too. It would be nice to have more girls my age who don’t think they have to have ridiculous long manes and fussy, fancy styles. Perhaps we can bring poodle cuts back into fashion!”
They both laughed at this, knowing that most of their friends would rather cut off their right arms than submit to the kind of short, tight, ladylike perm that their mothers would love to see them adopt.
“Well, we’ll have to see. Oh, I think Mum wants me. I’ll catch up with you later.” She rushed off to see what her mother wanted.
“Well, that’s a relief.” Sarah smiled weakly at Steve. ”She seems quite happy. In fact, she seems to have come around to your mum’s way of thinking.”
“Yes, well, she can be very persuasive, and I’m sure that seeing your hair helped. I’ll be amazed if she doesn’t have it permed now. If she even hints at the possibility, Mum will have her back in the chair before she knows it!”
“Mmmmm.” Sarah grinned again, “Well in that case, maybe we should drop a hint or two ourselves, just to make sure.”
The birthday meal went swimmingly, with Sarah making a positive impression on all of Steve’s extended family, and both Steve and Sarah managed to casually mention to Barbara that Tina was ‘seriously considering’ a perm, and that she probably just needed ‘a little encouragement’ from Barbara.
Just as they were leaving, though, Sarah had a slight shock. She was standing near to Barbara and her mother, and couldn’t help overhearing Grandma say how pleased she was that Sarah was such a nice, unassuming plain-jane. Even though Sarah had thought of herself in that way a few times, it was a shock to realise that other people now saw her like that. She realised that with her primly set hair and conservative floral dress, it was hardly surprising, but nevertheless, she wasn’t sure that she was entirely comfortable to be dismissed as a ‘plain jane’.
On the way home, Sarah pondered this. She knew very well that she was stuck with her short, tight, curly perm for some considerable time, and indeed, had promised both Steve and her Mother that she would be staying short and curly. Did this mean though, that she had no choice but to be a ‘plain jane’? Her formal shampoo and set would wash out easily enough, so what if she tried to dress in a modern, sexy way, and put on a full face of makeup? Could she carry it off, with her little cropped poodle cut, or would she look ridiculous? Did she even want to? And would it be breaking the spirit of her promise, if not the letter? She knew that her mother wanted to see her looking smart and respectable, and Steve loved to see her looking plain, gentle and homely. A sassy girl in tight, revealing clothes and full-on makeup was hardly what either of them wanted, even if she did have short curly hair. What would make Sarah happiest, though? That was the question.
Also published at: https://f35hstories.wordpress.com