BETTY’S BIG SNIP

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My name is Elizabeth Menz, but everyone calls me Betty. Up until I turned 13, I had impressively long, beautiful, uncut hair. Then one day, it all came off in a flash. Let me give you a little background about me, before I tell you the tale of my tresses. I was not like the other girls in my neighbourhood. While they went off to play after school, I stayed home, did my homework and read. I was only six years old and for some reason I read mostly current events. It was the late 1950’s and there was a lot of news out there. I also read history and was amazed at what had happened in the past. When I was seven years old, I went to see the movie “The Time Machine” and was even more amazed. I would think to myself “Wouldn’t it be great if I could go back and see it!” Karla suggested I go back to the 11th century and give Lady Godiva a run for her money! I excelled in school, making the Honour Roll in my first year. When I was five, my father was transferred, so my parents moved from Ontario into a new city called LaSalle, in Quebec. Our new next door neighbours were the Liebrandts, and they had a daughter that was my age named Karla. I began to talk to her, and noticed we had much in common, like reading, current events, etc. Sure, we liked to play, but our education came first. Both of our parents made sure of that. Karla and I started at primary school in the same class. She introduced me to some of her friends, mostly girls. I noticed something that Karla and her group of close friends, including me, had in common. We all had long hair. Mostly we wore braids, but later on, some of us would let go and wear ponytails. Of the five girls, my hair was the longest. I was not what you would call an attractive girl. I was a little bit on the chubby side, tall for my age, had a roundish face, full lips, deep set eyes and a big and slightly bulbous nose that stood out. I didn’t start dating guys until I was in high school. Karla and I became best friends, sharing our books, thoughts, secrets and our dreams. We were always together. Pretty soon, people were calling us The Krautzenjammer Kids, because we were both of German ancestry. As I went on through primary school, my hair was getting really long. It was medium brown in colour, very straight, not thick and parted on the left. By the time I finished grade 6, my hair was over six inches past my knees! And I was 5′ 5″. When I hit 12, my mother was giving me hints that maybe I should think about cutting my hair. I didn’t want to, because I thought my hair was the nicest thing about me, since I considered myself to be mediocre looking. I wore my hair in different styles. Braided, ponytail, (Down my back or either side) bun, swirl. When I went out for a wedding or other special occasion, I would go to the salon and have my hair styled in a bee hive. And what a bee hive it was! I’m surprised there weren’t any nests inside! Everywhere I went, I was turning heads. I was instantly recognizable. One day when I went to the regional shopping plaza, I wore my hair down and untied. You should have seen the stares I got! The guys couldn’t keep their eyes off me! Everywhere I went, people admired my ultra long, straight brown hair. Of course, there were quite a lot of people making fun of it as well.

Still my parents, especially my mother, were encouraging me to go for a cut. But I loved my extra long hair so much, I couldn’t bear to give it up. Maybe if I had it trimmed to waist length, I thought. It would still be long, but not as attractive. So I talked it over with my best friend Karla. While my hair was over six inches BELOW my knees, her hair was about six inches ABOVE her knees. It wasn’t at all a competition, we just loved wearing our hair long. She told me “Look, we do have a few things in common. We’re both kind of tall, we have big noses and we have long hair. Most of all, we’re both beautiful!” Talk about confidence! She left the decision up to me, but I got the impression she wanted me to keep it long. During my last year of primary school in 1966, things were happening that would slowly change my outlook towards my hair length. One by one like dominoes, my circle of friends were cutting their hair. First it was the French girl Nicole, then Rita and soon after Julie. That left me and Karla as the last two. Near the end of the school year, I was seriously thinking about a big change. But was I ready for it? I was so used to having my hair very long, I couldn’t imagine life without it. I didn’t know of any girls that wore their hair as long as mine. But it was getting stringy at the ends, and it was taking lots of time to care for. Besides, I’d be using a lot less shampoo! I was going into high school soon. So why not a new look for a new year? I made the decision two weeks before the end of school. All good things must come to an end, and I reservedly told my parents I was ready.

An appointment was made at the Harlequin Salon and the date was set. June 27th, 1966 at 11.00 AM, the day after my birthday. The whole school was talking about the big news: Betty Menz was going to have her hair cut! It even made the school newspaper, small as it was. Believe it or not the Principal, Mrs. Smith, invited me to have my haircut done on stage, in the gymnasium, with all the students watching! I politely declined, as I thought it would be too much for me to handle. I told Karla about it and invited her to come and witness what I called “The Big Snip”. She couldn’t believe I was actually going to do it. She kept on asking me if I was sure about this. I put my arms around her and with a sad look in my eyes, I said yes, it’s time. Word was going around that Betty Menz was finally getting a haircut! There was lots of talk in the neighbourhood. Almost everyone had said it was about time, because my hair was ridiculously way too long. Still, I loved my hair because it was exactly that: So very, very long. But I realized that I was growing up, I was heading towards a new environment and a new world. Cutting my hair was a statement that I was going to face that new world, and meet the challenges as a new kind of girl. And in later years, as an adult woman. As the day of reckoning drew nearer, I was getting more and more apprehensive. I was questioning whether or not I wanted to go through with it. I asked myself “How many girls can let their hair grow all the way down past their knees?” Not many, I’m sure. As the day got closer, I was in a constant state of confusion. One minute I was yes, next minute, no. I even went so far as flipping a coin! Heads, it’s a haircut. Tails, I keep my super long hair. It landed on heads. “Two out of three?” I asked, ready to flip it again. Then I said “Forget it”.

The night before, I washed and dried my hair, braided it into a pigtail and went to bed. I slept in fits and starts and kept on waking up at different hours. I was very nervous about this. On the morning of June 27th, a day after my 13th birthday, I got up at 7.00 AM, had my breakfast, got dressed and prepared myself. I undid my single braid and brushed it. My hair was so long, I had to lift it up in my hand to brush the lower half. I turned to my right and looked at myself in the mirror. What a profile! My unbelievably lengthy hair, and of course, my huge nose! I felt a little dismayed about what was going to happen. I put it into a ponytail, then styled my hair up into a bun. This was it, I thought. At 11.00 AM my parents and I walked into the Harlequin beauty salon, along with my best friend Karla Liebrandt. There were about a half dozen of my classmates waiting for us when we arrived. I was happy to see this show of support from my friends, as I was very uneasy. They were all there to witness “The Big Snip”. We didn’t have to wait too much. When the hair stylist called my name “Betty”, I jumped. I got up, slowly and meticulously walking towards her. When she asked me what I wanted, I anxiously said “Cut my hair” in an almost interrogative manner. She asked “Just a trim, or short?” Before I knew it, I blurted out the word “Short”. She nodded and motioned me to the chair. I asked her “It’s not plugged in is it?” She smiled at this and shook her head no. I got into the chair and she placed the cape on me. The stylist pulled out the bobby pins holding up the bun and my hair tumbled down to it’s full length. She leaped backed in stunned astonishment as it did. Because my hair was so incredibly long, the stylist had me stand up in front of the mirror. Then she removed the elastic. This was funny because when she did, my hair fell in front of my face. My hair was parted on the left side. My friends found this amusing and had a good laugh about it. One of them said “Oh look, it’s Cousin Itt!” She lightly brushed my hair to make sure there were no tangles, first the bottom half, then the top half. I was almost ready. While the stylist was pulling my ultra long straight hair into a pony tail and putting on the elastic, she couldn’t help but state the obvious: “Oh my goodness, your hair is so LONG!” I smiled and said “Yeah, and the sky is blue”. (Real comedienne. Of course it was long!) Everyone in the place was watching the spectacle, even the staff and clientele. There were even people looking through the window from outside! For the final time my uber long, magnificent hair was attracting lots of attention. This was the big moment, the point of no return. I was staring in the mirror, wide-eyed. I held my hands in front of my mouth and was thinking: “Oh my God, I’m going to lose it! No more Lady Godiva, no more extra long hair!”. As she was holding my super long ponytail in her hand, the stylist took out her scissors and asked me the fatal question: “Do you really want to do this? Once I start, I can’t stop.” I wanted to say no, but let out a weak “Yes” instead. Teardrops were starting to roll down my face. Before I realized it, she was cutting off my luxurious, below knee-length tresses! She was pulling my hair a bit as she did. As she was snipping off my uber long mane of hair, I was crying profusely. My friends broke out into a schoolyard chant in unison: “Betty’s getting her hair cut! Betty’s getting her hair cut! Betty’s getting her hair cut!” over and over until she was finished. Then they all cheered. I don’t think it was meant to be cruel, they just wanted to inject a little levity into a tense situation. I couldn’t believe what had just happened. One minute my hair was so wonderfully long and now it was so damn short! The stylist gave me the ponytail to hold in my hands. As I looked regretfully at what was once my crowning glory, I said “Wow, my hair was REALLY long!” After gazing at it for a minute or so, I gave it back to the stylist. “You don’t want it?”, she asked. I looked at her with steely eyes and responded with a curt “NO!”

I was certainly a changed girl after “The Big Snip”. My hair was now down to my ears, and I had bangs for the first time in my life. The stylist curled it slightly, making my straight hair wavy. I was worried this new look was going to bring out my big nose a lot more. It did, but not as bad as I thought. What it did most was make my full lips and cheeks more pronounced. My parents were very happy about my new look, (They would be!) but one or two of my friends were a little bit blue over it. I myself was still having mixed feelings over my haircut. On the one hand, it felt kind of good to get rid of it, but on the other, I so much loved my super long hair. Either way, I was now ready for high school and whatever else that was in front of me. I quietly cried a little on the way home, wondering if I’ll ever have such long hair again. I learned to accept my new appearance, even though deep down inside, I still missed having my straight brown hair cascading down past my knees. Now that I had completed my rendezvous with the scissors, there was only my best friend Karla Liebrandt who had long hair. In September, that too would change, as she went in to get her haircut. I went to see it happen, along with at least a dozen of her friends. And just like mine, it was quite a show. When high school started, all my friends were surprised when I walked in. It was the same for home room and all my other daily periods. The overwhelming majority of them liked it, and that gave me a lot of encouragement. All the five of us girls, Karla, Julie, Rita, Nicole and myself now had short hair. I was smiling and thinking to myself “Whose going to be the first one to start growing it back?” As it was, we actually all kept our hair short throughout high school, and even beyond. I often wonder where those women are today, what they are doing, and what they look like now. I last saw my best friend Karla in October of 1996, and she was still wearing her hair short, just like me!

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