“There’s a bump!”
“Well hold still and I’ll fix it.”
And so began the morning ritual between my mother and my older sister. Amy would ask Mom to fix her hair for the day and then proceed to throw a fit over how it came out. Every morning became a constant struggle between Amy and Mom. I have to give Mom credit though, she never lost her cool, even when Amy was yelling and having a tantrum, Mom was always calm. If Amy said the ponytail had a bump in it, Mom would undo it and try again until Amy was satisfied. If the French braid wasn’t just right, Mom would untwist and rebraid the hair. I was impressed. Amy was no bargain, if I even stepped into her room she would be all over me, yelling and screaming to give her space. Oh well, just a typical fourteen-year-old teen, I guess. Mom really had tremendous patience. I guess that in Mom’s eyes fighting back would have been an even greater battle, so she just let Amy vent and get it over with. So I figured that Mom was resigned to fixing Amy’s hair every morning until Amy became old enough to do it herself. Everything changed on a September day that I will never forget.
The family had all gathered for the Labor Day barbecue at my grandparents’ house. School would be starting the next day and both my sister and I would be going to new schools. Amy to High School and the ninth grade and I to Middle School and sixth grade. As we were all sitting around eating our hot dogs and hamburgers, one of my aunts asked Amy if she was nervous about high school.
“A little,” my sister answered, “I mean there’s a lot of new kids and especially new boys.” As she spoke my sister gave her head a little shake. She was actually pretty cute, I mean for my sister. She had developed a nice body for a 14-year-old. Her black hair was cut at her shoulder blades and she maintained bangs to her eyebrows. I guess she figured that high school would be a great chance to meet boys and she figured that she was a great catch.
That night as my father drove us home, my mother turned to the back seat and announced to my sister, “I think that since you are beginning high school, you should start to do your own hair in the morning.”
“But it never looks good when I do it,” Amy protested.
“The only way that you will learn is to practice,” Mom quipped.
“But tomorrow I start High School and if it looks bad no boys will ever like me!” Amy was not happy and I sensed a tantrum coming on.
“Let’s discuss this later.” Dad was always the peacekeeper.
School began that Thursday, so we had two more days to do all the back-to-school shopping and stuff. On Tuesday morning, Mom agreed to help Amy with her hair. It didn’t take long before Amy was screaming at her. “I look stupid! You messed it all up!”
Mom never lost her cool, she simply said, “From now on you’re on your own.”
That was the first time Mom had given up, either Amy would do her own hair or it wouldn’t get done. Wednesday came, the day before the first day of school. That morning Amy began by trying to do her hair. First she tried a simple ponytail…
“Aargh, I can’t do this, there’s so many bumps! I look retarded!”
Next, she tried a French braid…
“Crap! I look like a fool!”
Finally, she brushed it out and left it down…
“I can’t even brush it straight… MOM!”
“What do you want?” Mom answered, “I told you from now on you’re on your own.”
“I hate you! You want me to look like an idiot! You are such a bitch! Don’t you care about me? No one will like me tomorrow if I look like this!” Amy started to burst into another tirade. This one more obscenity-laced than ever before. The pressure of high school and the pressure of looking good caused to her snap. SLAP! I couldn’t believe it, had my mother hit Amy? Mom never hit us. I ran into the bathroom only to be shocked by what I saw. Amy had hit Mom.
Mom didn’t yell or scream or hit her back, she just turned and walked away.
After lunch Mom told me to get in the car. “Jason, I want you to get a haircut before school starts, you could use a trim. After that I want to stop at the store and get you some more supplies.”
“Can I come too? I want to get some more notebooks,” Amy asked sheepishly.
“Fine, get in the car.”
Ten minutes later we pulled up in front of Vito’s Barber Shop, where I always got my hair cut. As we walked in, Vito was finishing up an elderly customer, there was nobody else waiting. The three of us sat down. I picked up the latest Sports Illustrated, Mom and Amy were silent.
“Next!” called Vito even though I was the only person waiting. I climbed into the seat. “Just a trim, Vito, clean it up for school tomorrow,” came Mom’s voice. As Vito was cutting my hair another gentleman walked into the shop and sat down to wait his turn. The haircut didn’t take long, and as I climbed down from the chair, Vito again called “Next!” The other customer rose from his seat and started toward the chair.
“Excuse me,” it was Mom. “But she is next.”
Everyone in the shop froze as my mother pointed to Amy. “What?” was all Amy could say.
“Get in that chair,” Mom said rather sternly, even though she didn’t raise her voice. I had never seen her so angry. “I said, get in the chair now or you will be very sorry!” Mom had finally had it with her.
Amy got up and sat in the barber’s chair. I don’t think she had any clue of what Mom was going to do. She probably thought Mom was just scaring her so that she would do her own hair. Vito pulled the cape across her shoulders and fastened the tissue around her neck. He then pulled the cape tight and fastened it with a pin. I had never seen a female in the barber’s chair, and it looked different. My sister looked nervous.
“Just a trim Vito, clean it up for school.” Amy said as she looked at Vito.
“No,” Mom spoke. “Amy needs to learn a lesson. I want you to make it nice and short.”
With that Vito combed her hair and began to work. He took the scissors and cut a 3-inch piece form the back. He worked his way around her head combing and cutting. Huge swaths of black hair were released and floated down to the tiled floor below. Some hair fell in her lap and Amy grew very quiet and still as she watched the light blue cape get covered in her hair. Soon Vito had finished and Amy’s hair hung to her earlobes. Vito looked at Mom and asked if this was short enough. There was a large pile of hair on the floor and on the cape, but Amy still had a feminine cut.
“Shorter,” Mom said, and Amy saw the words through the mirror.
Vito picked up the clippers and turned them on. He started on the right side of Amy’s head. He moved the comb under some hair and ran the clippers over it. Massive amounts of my sister’s thick, black hair began to fall down. Vito moved to the back and repeated the same thing. The comb pulled out some hair and the clippers mowed it down. After he finished, Amy had a stylish short haircut. It was over her ears and still a little long in the back. The top was parted in the middle. The whole cut was probably 3 inches in length all over her head.
Again Vito looked at my mother. Again Amy looked at her through the mirror completely helpless. Sitting in the barber’s chair with her glorious hair piled on the floor and on her cape.
“Shorter,” Mom said.
“Please Mom,” pleaded Amy.
“Shorter,” Mom repeated.
Vito picked up the clippers and applied a long attachment. He moved them up the side of Amy’s head sending more hair to the floor. He bent her ear forward and sent a large clump right into Amy’s lap. He continued this all around her head. When he completed the sides and back, he picked up the scissors and cut the top into short layers. When he was finished, Amy’s hair was about an inch on the back and sides with 2-inch layers on the top.
Again Vito looked at Mom, and again Mom’s lips formed the word, “Shorter.”
By this point Amy was totally helpless. Vito picked up the clippers and snapped on a shorter attachment. I recognized it as the one that had given me my crewcut earlier in the summer. I guess Vito wanted to make sure that Mom was satisfied this time. He flicked the clippers on and moved them up the side of Amy’s head. The clippers mowed a path of hair that was only 1/8 inch long. Vito moved around my sister’s head quickly sending hair flying through the air and to the ground to join the rest of my sister’s black tresses. Vito then took the scissors and cut the top to an inch all over. He combed a side part and looked to my mother for approval.
“Make the top the same as the back and sides, and we’ll be done,” Mom said, deviating from her standard line.
Vito turned the clippers and mowed them quickly over the top of Amy’s head leaving her with a complete crewcut. This last stage was the worst for Amy as her hair was still somewhat feminine before the final stage. Vito then cleaned up her hairline with the small clippers, brushed her off with some talc and removed the cape. My sister got out of the chair and stormed out of the shop. Mom paid Vito and we left. Amy was gone.
Amy came home late that night and walked straight to her room without saying anything to any of us. Mom got up from the couch and went upstairs with a shopping bag from the mall. She went into Amy’s room. “I hate you!” Amy screamed.
“Before you go on, I want you to understand that you did this to yourself. The last thing I want is for you to be mocked and teased so I bought you this wig. It was very expensive and it is made of real hair. I want you to wear it if you like, but you need to understand that I had to teach you this lesson.”
It took a while but Amy’s hair grew out and she got rid of the wig and she and Mom eventually made up and became very close.