By the time I realised what he was, it was too late.
I don’t like being approached in town by people trying to get me to change power company or sign up for some cause or other. I go to town for me and no-on else. I have things to do and like to be left alone to get on with them. I’d been pre-occupied with trying to think of somewhere that I could get a pair of shoes that fitted properly, after having struck out in the places that I usually go to.
‘Excuse me, could you spare a couple of minutes?’ the guy asked.
He wasn’t pushy, wasn’t invading my space in a bid to trap me. He was polite, well-dressed. In his twenties, but I wouldn’t hold that against him. All in all, he looked like a nice enough guy and I hadn’t had a conversation with one of those for a while.
I answered him by stopping, rather than actually saying anything.
‘Thanks. I won’t keep you long. I just want to ask you a couple of questions for my client’ he said.
‘Oh yes, and who would that be?’
‘I can’t actually tell you. Let’s just say that it’s from someone in the fashion industry.’
‘Okay’ I said warily.
‘Do you find bald men attractive?’ he asked.
‘That’s a bit direct, isn’t it?’
‘We find that it saves time just to get to the nub of the issue’ he replied with a disarming smile.
‘I’m not sure that I want to discuss such personal things with a complete stranger’ I replied.
‘I understand. It’s completely anonymous, so don’t worry about that.’
I looked at him, standing there with a full head of hair. I found him attractive and tried to imagine him without hair. Would he still be attractive? As a forty-two year old divorcee in a prolonged dry spell, I’d find most men attractive at present, as long as they’d had a bath and weren’t serial killers. He watched me looking at him. He smiled. I felt a little flutter.
‘Suppose I say “No”?’
‘I’d write it down, but I wouldn’t believe you’ He looked down at his clipboard and put a tick in a box.
‘What is it about bald men that you find attractive?’ he asked.
‘I just told you that I don’t find them attractive.’
‘And I just told you that I didn’t believe you’ he replied with a wonderful smile.
‘That’s up to you. What is this, anyway?’
‘Just a survey for a client.’
‘Is that it? Surely the whole idea is that you record what I say, rather than put your own interpretation on my answers.’
‘You didn’t answer the question,’
‘I don’t know. I’ve never been out with a bald man. Is that good enough for you?’ I replied, changing the weight on my foot to show that I was ready to move on.
‘Wouldn’t you want to, just to cross it off the list?’
‘I hope you’re not suggesting what I think you’re suggesting? How do you know that I’m not about to meet my husband, who’s 6 foot tall and built like a brick shithouse?’
‘That would be telling. Anyway, it’s been nice talking to you’ I said.
‘Let me give you one of my cards, in case you decide that you want to finish the survey’ he said, holding out a business card.
‘You mean there’s more?’
‘Well, I’m sorry if I haven’t been much help’ I told him, putting the card in my coat pocket without looking at it.
‘You’ve told me more than you think’ he said with a twinkle in his eye.
‘You’re one more woman who’s curious about bald men’ he replied.
‘If that’s what you want to think’ I replied, actually quite enjoying sparring with him. ‘You’re obviously not curious about it yourself’ I added as my parting shot.
He reached a hand up to his head and smiled. ‘Maybe I’m just waiting for the right woman’ he replied with a mischievous smile.
‘Good luck with that.’
He smiled as I started to walk on. ‘Remember, my number’s on the card if you change your mind’ he said.
I smiled my goodbye and carried on, trying to collect my thoughts. Shoes. That’s what I was thinking about before I was rudely interrupted. I looked in various shops, but couldn’t find any that I either liked or felt comfortable.
I went to a coffee shop to take the weight off. I sat in a corner, as far away as possible from a woman with a couple of squabbling kids. My coffee was too hot. I checked my phone for messages, just in case I’d missed an invitation to dinner from George Clooney. He was obviously busy. I remembered the card that I’d put in my pocket and thought that this was the ideal opportunity to throw it away. I put it on the table, just in front of the rack with the menus in. I thought about the guy who’d asked me the questions. He was quite dishy, but I tried to think about what I really thought about bald men. It was true that I’d never been up close and personal with one. My ex-husband had a full head of hair. The select band of men that I’d been out with before and since had all had hair, admittedly quite short in a couple of cases. I’d thought nothing of it at the time. I tried to recall what it felt like to stroke their respective heads, but couldn’t really distinguish between them. Maybe the passage of time was blurring them.
I wondered whether I subconsciously avoided bald men when it came to dating, but didn’t think that was the case. Would I turn down a guy for a date just because he was bald? I didn’t think so. I thought about my canvasser-guy again. Way too young for me to consider going out with him, but what would I do if he asked? I tried to imagine him without hair. I decided that I was lacking in the imagination department. I finished my coffee quickly when the volume became intolerable from the poor woman and her offspring. I’d never had kids and probably lacked the tolerance when it came to children. They were just being kids after all and probably not bad ones at that. I gathered my things and left.
I decided that my trip was a wash-out and headed for home. I re-traced my steps, only realising when it was too late that I was bound to pass the spot where the canvasser had been. I looked. He wasn’t there. Was I disappointed? I wasn’t sure.
I walked on and then I saw him. He’d moved down the street in search of more victims. He was just being given the brush off by someone, which left him free by the time I reached him.
‘Hello again. Had second thoughts?’ he asked.
‘My car’s parked along here’ I replied.
‘Going so soon? Can I tempt you with a coffee?’ he asked.
I looked at him. ‘That’s not going to get you your daily quota’ I replied.
‘Even annoying people who pester you in the street have to re-fuel sometimes’ he said with a disarming smile.
I thought for a moment. ‘I’m sorry, I only drink coffee with bald men’ I replied.
‘I knew it’ he said with a broad grin.
‘That you’re curious.’
‘What if I am? You don’t exactly fit the bill.’
‘You’ve got me there. How about I buy you a coffee and if a bald guy turns up that you like the look of, I’ll make myself scarce?’
‘Sounds like a plan’ I replied, not quite believing that I was going to coffee with a twenty-something who I’d met in the street. I didn’t even want more coffee!
I took us to another coffee shop that I knew, not wanting to return to the one that I’d just been in on my own. My new friend formally introduced himself as Steven, despite having given me his business card earlier on. It turned out that he was good company, amusing me with stories of some of the responses that his survey had got. Some people had been sarcastic, some rude, but few had made the effort to take him seriously. I found out that he was a mature student, doing the job to try to raise a bit of cash to keep him going.
‘Don’t you think it’d go down better with people if you were bald yourself?’ I asked.
‘Probably, but there’s only so much dedication that minimum wage buys you, so no thanks’ he replied.
I thought for a moment.
‘What if I asked you to do it?’
He looked at me and raised his eyebrows. ‘And what’s in it for me?’
‘You won’t know, if you don’t do it’ I replied.
‘I’d need a bit more than that.’
‘It’s the only way for us to find out the answer to your question.’
‘I’m not sure that I’m that curious’ he replied.
‘Thanks’ I said, sounding as hurt as I felt.
‘I didn’t mean it like that’ he replied, metaphorical shovel in hand, ready to start digging his hole. ‘I mean, you wouldn’t do it, would you, if I said that I found bald women attractive?’
‘You’ll never know’ I replied, running a hand through my bobbed chestnut hair.
‘Looks like we’re at an impasse’ he observed.
‘You’re not seriously considering it for either of us, surely?’ I asked.
‘If neither of us is prepared to make the first move, it looks like it’s stalemate.’
We changed the subject.
By the time the conversation had run its course, I knew that he was twenty-six and currently single, although he had been in a long-term relationship until a couple of months ago. I knew that he was quite out-doorsy, liked swimming and climbing the wall in gyms. He knew that I’m forty-two, divorced, no kids, do yoga, no long-term partner, although I gave him a hint about being open-minded. I didn’t like to tell him that at that point, I’d open my legs for just about anyone. It had been a while!
We wrapped things up. It was slightly awkward, but we exchanged numbers. ‘Only to be used when you’ve changed your mind’ I said to him. He looked bemused for a second and then the penny dropped.
‘Good one’ he smiled.
I headed back to my car, feeling better than I had for a while. I’d enjoyed talking to him. It had blown some cobwebs away, got the juices flowing again, so to speak.
I half-wondered whether he’d get in touch, but there was nothing over the next few days. On my next trip into town, I looked for him in the same spot where I’d first encountered him, but again drew a blank. While I was running my errands I had a thought. I stood outside a barber shop, trying not to draw attention to myself and took a picture of the store-front. I sent it to him and instantly regretted it. What was I doing? What was I hoping to achieve? If I was expecting a swift, witty come-back, I was disappointed.
The following day, my phone pinged while I was having lunch. I looked at my phone. A message. A picture. I smiled. It was a picture of a unisex salon in town, although not one that I’d ever been to. I wondered how to reply. Whether to reply.
“I’ve booked you an appointment” I texted as a tease, before clearing the dishes away.
My phone pinged again. I felt the same sort of flutter that I’d felt when I was talking to him in the street. I looked at the message.
“Don’t you need to tell me when?”
He’d called my bluff. I wasn’t sure what to do. Was I really going to make a hair appointment for a man that I’d only had coffee with? I didn’t know what his schedule was or anything. I looked at the picture and jotted down the number from the shop-front. I took a deep breath and keyed it into my phone. I listened to the dialling tone.
‘Good afternoon, Legends, how can I help?’
‘Hello there, I’d like to make an appointment for my partner, please’ I said slightly awkwardly.
‘Okay, what’s it for and when would suit?’
‘He’s thinking about shaving his head, but he might stop at a cut with clippers, whatever you call them’ I said. ‘How about tomorrow, sometime?’
‘Would tomorrow at 11 be okay?’
‘That’s great. One of us’ll call you if anything crops up suddenly’ I said.
I gave her his name and my phone number and that was it. Job done.
I ended the call and moments later a text message pinged through:”Appointment confirmation. Headshave for Steve with Andrea: 11 a.m.” You couldn’t get more definite than that. I forwarded the text to Steven, hoping that he’d see the funny side, but also have the decency to cancel it in good time to give the salon a chance to use the slot for someone else. I sat back in my chair, unable to resist a smile. This was more fun than I’d had in a long time.
The mild amusement dwindled, to the point that it had completely gone by the time I went to bed. I’d had no response from Steven and was feeling rather flat. I went to bed disappointed.
My phone pinged while I was having breakfast. Steven, at last. Why did he always manage to get me while I was eating? I picked up my phone, hoping that he’d tell me that he’d cancelled the appointment.
“May I take you for lunch?” it read.
“That would be nice” I replied after a brief reflection.
He texted me the time and place and I poured another cup of coffee to help me reflect on what might be in store.
I felt excitement and anticipation that I hadn’t felt for years. I’d been with guys since my divorce, but they were much of a muchness, cookie-cutter guys. Steven was different. Much younger for starters. Would I, I wondered. By the time I got upstairs to choose something to wear, the answer wasn’t in doubt.
I drove into town as soon as I was showered; freshly-shaven where it mattered and bursting with anticipation. I wondered where he lived. I really hoped that he had somewhere that we could go, because I didn’t really want to take him to my house. I’d pay for a hotel if I had to, but I didn’t really want to go down that route. I parked and made my way to the rendezvous point. I was marginally early, so did some window-shopping to waste the time. I got there on the dot. He wasn’t there. Not good. I did a lap of the block. Still not there. My heart sank. Stood up by a kid. Not good for the self-confidence. I tried to look like I wasn’t waiting for someone and rummaged in my bag. The “ping” of my phone made me jump. I looked at the message.
“So sorry. Running late. 2 mins.”
Before I’d put the phone back in my bag, I saw a figure hurrying towards me. I watched him approach. I watched him smile.
‘Not a good start. Sorry. They were running late’ he said, slightly out of breath.
‘Who?’ I asked, smiling.
‘Well?’ he asked, ignoring my question.
‘It’s different’ I observed.
‘So do you?’ he asked.
‘Do I what?’ I teased.
‘Find bald men attractive’ he clarified.
I looked at him. ‘It’s always more about the personality for me’ I replied, dead-pan. ‘Now, where are we going. I’m starving’ I said. I felt cruel to trivialise the momentous step that he’d just taken, but maybe that was just my wicked streak coming out. I couldn’t believe that he’d gone through with it, when I’d expected him to treat it as a joke. I was too shocked to even think about whether it suited him or not, whether I liked it or not.
After a long, hard to look to try to work out whether I was serious or not, he held out his arm expectantly. I linked arms with him as we set off down the street, wordlessly.
He’d chosen a small place that looked quaint, homely.
‘I know a really good Italian place that I’d rather go to, but it’s never a good look for a first date to have spaghetti sauce running down your chin’ he explained after we’d ordered.
‘Is that what this is, a first date?’
‘That’s up to you’ he replied.
‘Let’s see, shall we? Anyway, haven’t you got something to tell me? Tell me about your morning’ I invited.
‘Nothing too exciting. Usual stuff until I came to town.’
‘Oh? Do tell’ I urged with a smile. He was playing me at my own game.
‘Well, I came into town for what I thought was a date’ he started, sliding into a smile. I didn’t react. ‘I’d been wracking my brains, trying to think of a little gift that I could give her, as a little memento of the occasion. I’m hopeless at buying presents for people, but as I was on my way to get tidied up for the date, I thought of just the thing. I knew that my date has a thing for bald men, so I thought that I’d do it for her’ he said.
‘So when is your date?’ I asked.
‘I’m hoping that it’ll start as soon as we’re finished here’ he said, looking at me with intense blue eyes that hadn’t really struck me before.
‘Well, I hope she likes it’ I replied.
‘You’re such a tease’ he said.
I smiled at him. ‘I can be’ I replied softly. He returned my smile.
We steered clear of “that” topic for the rest of the meal. Even bald, he was engaging company, much more vibrant than the guys I’d dined with in recent times. He actually convinced me that he was interested in me, rather than talking about himself all the time or how successful he was. By the time we’d asked for the bill, his work was done. He only had to ask.
He took my hand as we walked out of the restaurant. A few steps from the doorway, I stopped.
‘Thank you Steven, that was lovely’ I told him.
‘I’m pleased you enjoyed it’ he replied.
There was a pregnant pause.
‘Don’t you have somewhere you need to be? I thought you said you had a date’ I said, trying my hardest not to smile.
‘There is somewhere I want to be’ he replied. He leaned in to kiss me. My eyes watched his approach, my lips welcomed him. He eased back, looking at me to see how I would react.
‘I’ve got somewhere I’d like you to be’ I replied. I watched him trying to work out if I meant what he thought I meant. I raised an eyebrow to help him out.
‘Yes, right. I see’ he said, somewhat flustered.
‘I’d hate you to think that I’m in the habit of doing this on a first date’ I said.
‘We could call it a second date, if you’d rather’ he said. ‘We did have a coffee that first time, after all.’
‘Okay then, let’s go and let me find out whether I like fucking bald men’ I said, my smile broadening.
‘We can go to my place if you don’t mind small one-bed apartments.’
‘You know how to tempt a lady’ I replied.
He told me his address and we went our separate ways. The walk back to the car gave me chance to think about what I was doing. It was wrong. I was wet. I couldn’t wait.
He appeared on the pavement as I parked my car and we walked up to his flat together.
‘You’ve undersold it. It’s not that small’ I said.
‘Hopefully you’ll be saying that in a few minutes’ he joked. ‘Can I get you a drink?’ he asked.
I watched his expression change as I undid the buttons on my blouse.
‘Maybe later’ I said, watching him watching me. I eased it off and tossed it to one side. I reached behind me to undo my bra, moving my hands back around to my front quickly to hold it in place. I eased my hands away to let it fall to the floor. I love seeing the effect my unleashed boobs have on men. They’re generous rather than huge, but my large dark nipples have never failed to entertain anyone who’s got up close and personal with them.
I unzipped my skirt and let it join my blouse and bra. I was standing there in knickers and hold-up stockings.
‘You can join in anytime you like’ I said, holding out a hand.
‘You’re beautiful’ he said.
‘Hopefully you thought that before I took my kit off’ I said, my eyes closing at the feel of his hand closing around my left boob. It had been a long time.
I opened my eyes to watch the progress of his bald head lower and lower down my body. I gripped his broad shoulders when he paused at the waistband of my knickers and looked on as he valiantly tried to draw them down with his teeth. I hadn’t got the patience for that and pushed him away using a firm hand on his bald scalp. We looked at each other while the flimsy material travelled down my legs. I closed the distance on him and grabbed his unseen package. It was promising, but had yet to deliver. I unzipped him, tugging his trousers and underpants down in the same fluid movement as I went to my knees.
My attempt to take him in my mouth was rebuffed.
‘Ladies first’ he said gallantly in response to my inquisitive glance.
In moments, I was reclining on the sofa, stocking-clad legs spread, enjoying the sight of a freshly bald head working away at my secret place. It wasn’t so secret now. I stroked his scalp, taking the time to appreciate its smoothness. Andrea or whatever her name was had done an excellent job. It was definitely a “first” for me and hopefully, it wouldn’t be a “last”. The sensation was so different, sleek, honest in a way. What you saw was what you got and I was certainly getting it. His tongue seemed to respond to my touch on his scalp and I was certainly responding to his tongue.
I don’t want to bore you with details that are probably of no interest to you. All I will say is that by the time we called a truce, I felt well and truly FUCKED. My bald beau had made my pleasure his goal and his appetite had been tireless. I’m sure that you could’ve got my fingerprints off his scalp, I’d held him that tight while he worked.
‘I think I’d like that drink now’ I said, looking across at him.
‘We’ve both earned one’ he said, getting up, revealing that my new best friend was no longer quite as erect as it had been for much of the afternoon. It deserved a rest, given what it had done.
When he returned, he told me that fresh towels were laid out in the bathroom if I wanted a shower. I most certainly did. I sipped the drink that he’d brought me and promised to return.
Just before I went back to the lounge, I looked at myself in the mirror, wrapped in a large bathsheet. The smile just wouldn’t go away, no matter how hard I tried. I headed back to where I’d left Steven.
‘Nice towels’ I said to him. ‘The bathroom’s all yours’ I added, watching him walk away.
I picked up my clothes, which lay where they’d fallen. My stockings had been a casualty of our encounter, so they were in the bin in the bathroom. My knickers and bra went in my handbag. I put my skirt and blouse back on, enjoying the feeling of not having underwear on. Not something that I’d ever done before. Braless, yes, knickerless, no. I looked at myself in the large mirror on the wall, pulling my blouse tighter, so that the outline of my boobs was unmistakable. I smiled.
Steven came back into the room with a towel round his waist.
‘I feel a little under-dressed’ he said.
I gave him a quick flash.
‘On second thoughts…’
I sat down, not too concerned whether I flashed him again or not. He perched on a dining chair, one of only two that would apparently fit into the available space. He ran a hand over his bald head.
‘I still can’t believe I did that’ he said.
‘Hopefully you’re glad that you did.’
‘Not sure it’s something for the winter’ he admitted.
‘If it gets you laid…’
‘There is that’ he replied. He was pensive for a moment. ‘Not tempted?’ he asked sheepishly.
‘I wondered when that would come’ I laughed. ‘Obviously you’ve waited until you’ve had your wicked way with me.’
‘I think you’d be classed as the responsible adult in this room and I seem to remember that you weren’t exactly shy.’
‘Perhaps. It seemed to me that you quite liked my hair the way it is. You certainly pulled it enough.’
‘Sorry’ he replied.
‘Don’t be. I liked it.’
‘Maybe I was hoping to pull it off’ he ventured.
‘Really? I thought guys like long hair to control women, use it like reins.’
‘Maybe some of us don’t need it for that.’
‘So what are you saying?’
‘I can understand you not doing this’ he said, pointing to his head ‘but a bit shorter?’
‘Would that please you? Would it please him?’ I asked, nodding towards the bulge in the towel that seemed more pronounced since the conversation began.
‘Obviously it’s your choice, but yeah, I’d like it’ he replied.
‘Well, well, how nice to have a man with a view. Usually it’s just indifference, as long as they get what they want.’
‘Maybe you’ve been unlucky.’
‘Maybe, but it’s nice to have interest.’
‘So does that mean you will?’
‘It means that I’ll see. I haven’t said that I’ll see you again’ I replied with a chuckle.
‘See you again or cut my hair?’
‘Maybe to both?’
‘Maybe’ I teased. ‘Now I’d better be going.’
I was on Cloud nine all the way home. It had all been so different, so exciting. Precisely what I’d been missing for so long. The only downside was whether I could actually see any sort of future in it. Was I really going to go out with a guy who was sixteen years younger than me? What would people say when they see me with a toyboy? I decided that I would cross that bridge when I came to it. Anyway, maybe he’d only been interested in a notch on his bedpost or sofa more accurately. I knew that I was glowing. The fact that I’d been out in public feeling the draught up my skirt was another thrill. I looked at myself in the mirror when I got in, looking at the swell of my unrestrained boobs. I liked the idea. It wouldn’t be the last time that the girls were allowed out like this.
A couple of hours later, my phone pinged.
“Just wanted to say thank you for a lovely afternoon. Steve.”
Not only a good fuck, but appreciative and polite too, I thought.
‘You’re welcome. Thanks for lunch and everything’ I replied.
A few minutes later, my phone pinged again. I smiled. We were like a couple of teenagers! I picked up my phone, wondering what he’d written this time. Was it going to get raunchy? I stared at the screen.
“Appointment confirmation. Cut & finish for Carol with Andrea: 9 a.m.”
Really? That upped the stakes considerably. I’d enjoyed Steven’s company. I’d enjoyed our afternoon activities, but this was assuming a bit more than I would’ve wanted at this stage. I stared at the text, as if that would make it go away. Was it deliberate to give me so little time to do anything about it? To go or not to go, that was the question.
I ran my hand through my hair. I wasn’t precious about it, it was my hair and I looked after it without being obsessive. I treated it to a decent conditioner every now and again and got the ends trimmed every couple of months or so. It had been longer than its current length and it had been shorter, although not by much. It had sort of found its own level now, just brushing my shoulders. Long enough to look formal if needed, but short enough not to be a pain. Steven had joked about me shaving my head, but that wasn’t going to happen. The text mentioned a “cut”, that left a lot of latitude. I wished that I’d asked him about the salon, about his stylist. Would it make a difference though? I went to bed with exactly the same thoughts.
I woke early, showered and washed my hair. The breakfast show was on TV while I ate breakfast, but I wasn’t interested in it. My thoughts were on what would happen at 9 o’clock. I had those two choices: go or not. If I decided to go, what would I ask for? Then I wondered whether Steven had said anything to them. Even if he had, I could just say that I didn’t want them to do whatever he’d said. It had been a month or so since I’d had my hair cut, so it wasn’t too much of a stretch for me to go again. Going today would save me the hassle of making an appointment myself in a couple of weeks. Maybe it would be good to see someone else, get a different view on what would suit me. That decided it. I would go. The only question was what I’d look like when I walked out.
The place only opened at nine, so I was first in. It was quiet, relaxed, promising. I announced myself to a receptionist who wasn’t quite ready to greet the day, but she was welcoming and friendly. She went off to find Andrea, who was going to do the deed. I looked at pictures on the wall. Previous work of theirs? Some was conventional, some not. Glossy creatures out to shock, hair spiked and shaved in places. Oh to be young!
‘Hi Carol, I’m Andrea’ the approaching figure announced.
‘Hi’ I replied, taking in the vision of loveliness in front of me. Steven must have been powerless to resist when the question of shaving his head came up. Any red-blooded male would do whatever she wanted, I was instantly sure.
‘So, you’ve not been to us before and you’re thinking of making a change’ she clarified.
‘That’s about it, yes.’
‘Anything there catch your eye?’ she asked, having seen me looking at the wall of fame in reception.
‘A lot of them caught my eye, but I’m not sure they’re for me’ I said.
‘Not at all. You could have any of them and look great’ she assured me.
‘I like your optimism’ I conceded.
‘Anything in particular that you’re drawn to? I can get some style guides out, but it’s easier when there’s so much here to look at’ she said.
‘I don’t know. The devil in me says to go for something wild, while the sensible part of me says stick with what you know.’
‘It doesn’t hurt to stray over to the other side sometimes’ she chuckled.
The receptionist was tasked with getting me a coffee while I had a last look at the pictures. Andrea stood patiently by.
‘You know, you could always do both. You could keep most of the length, but we could do an undercut. That way, your daring side wouldn’t always be on show’
‘Something like this, you mean?’ I said, pointing to one of the pictures.
‘You’d look great in that, but that one has the super-short nape on display. It’s called an ‘A-line’ bob. Sometimes that back section is shaved completely’ she added.
I thought of Steven. Would he like that? I brought myself up sharpish. This should be about me, not a relationship that potentially has a shelf-life shorter than a carton of milk.
‘Maybe that’s not for me. The idea of shaving just makes me think of my grandad!’ I laughed.
‘It’s a very dramatic look, not for everyone, but I think it would look great on you.’
‘I know someone who’d like the idea, but I don’t think it’s for me.’
‘That’s okay. Something for another day perhaps?’
‘Probably not’ I replied. She raised her eyebrows, no doubt disappointed at being condemned to doing another soccer-mom haircut rather than something a bit different.
‘Okay, well, how about super-short, but not shaved?’ she asked, drawing my attention to a model with what I could only describe as a bleached-blonde buzzcut. It was my turn to raise my eyebrows.
‘Even if I’d got the guts to go that short, I haven’t got the colouring for it. I’m too dark.’
‘I wouldn’t worry about that. There’s something interesting about naturally-dark women with bleached hair. Your instinct says it shouldn’t work, but it does. If I put a blonde wig on you, you could see what I mean.’
‘I’m not sure. I’ve never thought of colouring my hair and blonde would be the last colour that I’d choose.’
‘Which is exactly why you should do it.’
‘You wouldn’t expect it, your man wouldn’t expect it. Shock your whole world, why don’t you?’ she urged, excitedly.
I liked her, liked her approach. She made me realise that for all the money my current salon charged, I wasn’t getting much in return. This woman hadn’t even lifted a pair of scissors so far, but she’d got me interested. She made me feel like there was no other priority in her existence, except for making me feel good. Whether that actually entailed doing something drastic or not remained to be seen.
Andrea led me through to the salon and in two shakes, I’d entered an alternate reality. There was me, blonde, platinum-blonde at that, looking like something out of a sci-fi film, with my sharp-cut blonde wig. I laughed.
‘That is so not me!’ I chuckled.
‘It could be, if you let it’ she replied.
I sat back in the chair and looked in the mirror more closely.
‘I could do it for a fancy dress party maybe’ I ventured, trying not to disappoint her too much.
‘I think if you wore that for a while, you’d see yourself differently’ she said.
I wondered about Steven. He’d raised the idea of me being bald. I’d made the appointment for him to have his head shaved. It was only right that I did something in return. It was a much bigger deal for me than him though.
‘Are you really sure?’ I asked.
‘Absolutely. The only thing is, I can’t do it for you now. You need a skin test, but I could book you in tomorrow and I could send you home all blonde and gorgeous. How does that sound?’
‘Insane’ I chuckled.
‘In a good way’ she replied.
‘That means that I’ve wasted your time this morning, though.’
‘Don’t worry about it.’
She did the necessary test and took me back to reception to book an appointment for the morning. I walked out of the salon without a hair on my head having been harmed. That wasn’t what I’d expected at all.
I walked down the street, trying to reconcile the idea of going blonde. It was such an alien concept, but what did it matter? I was my own boss, no-one else to consider and if I wanted to have a bit of fun, then why shouldn’t I? Except that going blonde had never been on my radar. I strolled round town looking in the shops that I’d so recently looked at. They hadn’t changed. I still couldn’t find anything to interest me. I found a little place for a coffee and then went home.
No matter how hard I tried during the course of the rest of the day, I couldn’t reconcile myself with the idea of actually walking into the salon and letting Andrea bleach my hair.
I was still facing the same internal monologue as I walked into the salon.
‘Hello again’ the receptionist greeted.
We went through the same ritual as before, but once that was complete, I was in a styling chair with Andrea.
‘So, did I pass?’
What?’ she asked.
‘The test’ I clarified.
‘Oh, yes. With flying colour. Blonde’ she joked.
‘I’m still not sure’ I said.
‘I’ve got the perfect way to take your mind off it.’
‘And what’s that?’ I asked expectantly.
‘We’ll do a rough cut first, there’s no point bleaching hair that we’re going to cut off’ she said.
‘We didn’t talk about that yesterday’ I said.
‘I thought you’d got enough to think about with the blonde thing’ she said.
‘That’s very considerate, thank you. But a little sneaky, too, if I may say so’ I said, trying to sound less concerned than I was.
‘I was worried that you wouldn’t come back’ she chuckled.
‘That different’ she replied.
‘So are you going to tell me?’
‘Will you do it, if I do?’
‘You’re not trying to get another picture for your wall, are you?’
‘We can, if you want.’
‘You know, part of me says “just get on with it”‘
‘And what does the other part say?’
‘Run!’ I laughed.
‘Okay. Well let’s do it like this. I’m going to reach for a big pair of scissors. I’m going to use them to cut off a lot of your hair. Then I’m going to bleach it. Then I’m going to cut some more off your hair. I’m going to count to three and if you’re still sitting there, I’m going to make the first cut.’
‘Do they teach you that at hairdressing school?’ I asked.
She reached for the scissors that had been lying in wait in a pouch on the worktop.
She lifted a tress up from my crown and held it to attention. I wanted to run, but I wanted to see what she was going to do.
The tress danced loosely in her left hand. It wasn’t attached to me anymore.
‘That’s an awful lot’ I said, my stomach lurching. The soccer-mom looked like she was taking her first step towards wanted-poster mugshot.
‘It’ll look a bit rough for now, but believe me, you’ll be perfection by the time we’ve finished.’
I steeled myself for what was to come, watching wide-eyed as she selected another hank for termination. As far as I could see, she was leaving a couple of inches, although there was nothing measured or scientific about it. My faithful bob wasn’t long for this world. I noticed her flicking her gaze to the mirror to see if I was alright.
‘Still with me?’ she asked when our eyes met.
‘Looks like I’m here until the bitter end’ I said, trying to sound lighter that I felt.
‘It’s going to take a while to get used to, I’m not going to lie. But once you do, there’ll be no stopping you’ she said.
I wasn’t entirely sure what she meant by that. I heard my phone ping, but couldn’t do anything about it while Andrea was in full flight. I settled back to watch the show.
There’s a gulf between looking at yourself in the mirror when you’re freshly out of the shower with hair slicked back and what I was looking at now. A shake of the head in normal circumstances would restore a sense of normality. A shake of the head now would be a waste of effort.
‘Don’t look so worried’ Andrea said, putting her scissors down.
‘It’s such a shock’ I said.
‘Maybe, but in a nice way, I hope’ she said.
There had clearly been unseen signals passed, because without Andrea issuing a command, another stylist arrived at her side with a dainty little trolley, which from the smell, bore chemical weapons that were about to be used on me.
‘Thanks Claire’ Andrea said.
A quick glance in the mirror while she was getting suited and booted, ready for action, and she was taking me past the point of no return. She daubed the first brushfull and eased into a steady rhythm of dip and daub, dip and daub. What was I going to look like?
She did what she had to do and then I was into the realms of coffee and gossip magazines while the evil compound did its worst. Andrea returned to rescue me from the torture of the inane magazine, trumpeting insignificant events in the lives of insignificant people that I’d never heard of. She did what she needed to, rinsing and processing until I was coloured beyond recognition.
‘I hadn’t expected it to be so white’ I said as I saw myself properly for the first time.
‘Ice cool’ she told me.
‘I look like someone’s granny’ I remarked.
‘Give me a minute’ she said.
I watched her reach across to the shelf where she’d put her scissors. I was about to go shorter. Her hand passed over the scissors and reached slightly downwards. When it came back into view, she was holding electric clippers. My stomach did a somersault before I was able to think rationally. She wasn’t going to shave my head, otherwise she wouldn’t have bothered colouring my hair. It was going to be shorter than the rough hack that I’d got, but more than nothing. No need to panic, I tried to tell myself, ridiculous as that sounded to someone who had an unremarkable bob when she left home this morning.
She checked them over briefly, made them buzz quietly and then touched the back of my head with the softest motion to prompt me to tip my chin down. I was looking at my lap, but my senses were well and truly focussed on the sensation at the back of my head.
‘I thought those were only for guys’ I said, not knowing what else to say.
‘And stunning women’ she replied, running her fingers over the patch at the back of my head which had just been visited by the clippers.
‘Looking better already’ she said, bringing them round to the side of my head.
In only a short time, I’d become possessive of the hair that she’d bleached. Now it was tumbling away in clumps, leaving white blonde stubble less than an inch long. She looked at me in the mirror.
‘What do you think?’ she asked, brushing the freshly-mown patch at my temple with the back of her index finger.
‘If I think of it as being someone else’s head, I think it’s very striking’ I replied.
‘It’s your head and you’re absolutely correct. It is striking. You’ll be turning heads when you walk out of here.’
‘I don’t doubt that, but I’m not sure it’ll be in a way that I want’ I said, talking over the sound of the clippers.
‘I started with a longer guard for the top, but I think it’ll suit you taken right the way down’ she said.
‘What does that mean?’ I asked.
‘Think suede’ she said, fiddling with the clipper attachment.
‘I’m thinking’ I replied.
She responded with the clippers, mowing the hair on the top of my head even shorter. A quarter of an inch? I wasn’t sure. The best way that I could think to describe it was “Fuuuck”. I’d walked in to the salon in possession of hair that brushed my shoulders and an idea. Here I was, with hardly any hair and no idea what I’d done. I must’ve been mad, possessed by some middle-aged fantasy. Steven would laugh. Laugh at me, not with me. I closed my eyes and left Andrea to do her worst. After all, there was hardly anything there now.
When the clippers went quiet and Andrea urged me to open my eyes, I was looking at desolation. I turned my head from side to side. Nothing. Some stubborn stubble on the top of my head, but no discernible hair on the sides.
‘I look like one of those marines’ was all that I could think of to say.
‘I doubt that you’d get many marines looking as good as you do now’ she replied.
‘It’s so short’ I said, running my hand over the back of my head.
‘That’s why it’s so stunning on you. Steven’ll love it.’
That caught me by surprise. I hadn’t mentioned him to her. She sensed my bemusement.
‘He told Kelly on reception that he was booking the appointment for his partner. She remembered him, they got chatting. She told me. Word travels.’
‘Doesn’t it just’ I replied. I was still fixated on the strange-looking creature in the mirror.
‘Come on, let’s rinse you off. I’m sure he’s dying to see you.’
I followed her to the basin area and reclined while she rinsed my head. It would be a long time before I thought in terms of “washing my hair” again. There was no cushion against the water, so I felt it hit my scalp more than I would’ve done in the shower this morning. Andrea’s fingertips made more contact. Everything felt different without the security blanket of my hair. I was rinsed, I was patted dry. I was done. In no time at all, I was out of the salon and into the world with the minimum quantity of hair that could still be legally called “hair”.
I kept close in to the line of shops, hugging the shadows so that no-one could see me. I ventured a glance every few paces, but every time it was this shorn head staring back. I heard hurried footsteps behind me. A predator. Come to make fun of me.
‘Carol’ the voice called.
‘Steven’ I said.
‘I wasn’t sure that it was you.’
‘Neither was I’ I replied.
‘Let me look at you’ he urged.
‘It’s probably not what you wanted.’
‘No it isn’t. It’s so much better than I could’ve imagined’ he replied.
‘Really? This is what you wanted.’
‘It is now.’
‘Right answer’ I replied.
Steven took my hand and drew me into the light.
‘Let me look at you’ he said.
He stroked the side of my head with the backs of his fingers.
‘I didn’t think you’d go this short’ he said, his eyes full of excitement.
‘I didn’t. That stylist of yours did. Apparently you had quite a chat with the girl on reception when you made the appointment and she’s got a big mouth.’
‘Yes, oh!’ I repeated.
‘Do you like it though?’
‘I feel like a lesbian’ I confessed.
‘Well, I’m not sure where we’ll get one from at such short notice, but let’s see what we can find’ he said with a smirk.
I gave him the sort of withering look that his comment deserved.
‘That’s what I get for hanging out with a schoolboy’ I chided.
‘So you should be. Now, I think you need to take me home and show me how sorry you are for doing this to me’ I said, squeezing his hand.
‘With pleasure’ he replied. We started to walk, our minds too focussed on what was about to happen for us to talk.