Caped and Permed

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The process from a ho-hum teenage boy into a beautiful and much admired woman had allowed an opportunity to experiment with the many realities afforded to ladies in western society. There was a real enjoyment in observing my body transform into a naturally womanly figure. Various surgeries were worth the expense which combined with the hormones prescribed after successful psychological assessment permitted a scope from which to fully appreciate the lady within.

My short hair perm as a fifteen year old androgynous boy had laid the seeds for the journey of my transition. My best friend Tracey was of enormous help during this period and aided immeasurably when offering guidance and tuition on the female side of life. Applying cosmetics became a specialty with the right tone able to be purchase with confidence in parallel to my evolving hair which changed colour courtesy of my hairdresser on a semi regular basis. My tint ranged from my natural brunette hue to its most extreme extravagance at strawberry blonde. A nice auburn hue was my favourite and came as personally adorable as my hair morphed from my perm to a concave bob and eventually my dream of ravishing long locks. Growing out my hair during this period was a wonderful experience and remains a true highlight.

A move to the city for employment after successfully completing university realised the search for a competent hairdresser. It was sad to say goodbye to Vicki and her services at the Hair Witchery but we promised to keep in contact. She had spent many hours tending and maintaining my tresses and had become a trusted friend and confidante. Work was found at a progressive law firm who valued ability over gender and provided a harmonious working environment in which to learn and grow as a lawyer. It was a firm ahead of its time who valued its record of inclusiveness well before discrimination against non diversity became a more common aspect of workers rights.

It was my reward after the completion of reassignment surgery three months before commencing employment to again wear my hair in a perm. Finding a suitable hairdresser was nevertheless proving to be a difficult task. Such glorious memories of a perm was still very much evident after that special day a decade before when initially receiving a head of lovely feminine curls. Perms had fallen by the wayside but an artificial curl albeit now less popular was still common enough to be reasonably fashionable. A young lady named Sarah in the firm’s secretarial pool wore her extremely healthy bra strap length mane sleek and glossy and allowed for the introduction of her hairdresser.

Her name was Georgia. A more than able hairdresser is essential if any esteem is placed with your hair. Conversations with Sarah and later Georgia in a social setting provided the information required to make an informed choice. The difference between a good and bad haircut is about six weeks but the use of chemicals to change the structure of one’s locks takes great skill. A tour of her salon during opening hours transpired shortly thereafter concluding with the knowledge that a replacement hairdresser for Vicki after many months had been found.

It was by know the early 1990’s. Georgia had been confidently assessed to be talented and therefore duly capable of tending to my luscious locks. My hair still took more than nicely to a perm with my resulting curls as created by Georgia quite natural in appearance. Receiving a perm had lost none of its girly experience. The next six years found my tresses growing even longer and eventually with much patience lovely waist length soft ringlets flowed gracefully aided by a monthly deep conditioning treatment used to protect its long length. A hair mask was also used weekly at home. It was with this confidence that I ventured to my trusty salon having made an appointment for my next perm the week beforehand. A good chin-wag was always in evidence at the salon allowing time to pass quickly. The to and fro of gossip was more often than not accompanied by a cuppa or two, or three, during what was with the length of my tresses a quite time consuming perming process.

A newly purchased grey pencil skirt with a pink and white striped linen blouse was worn to my much anticipated 9.30am appointment. My hair was worn purposely loose to accentuate its bounce and romantic movement. Its length and fullness was the envy of others. A financial position of some comfort had personally accumulated through work as a lawyer with the most expensive of clothes, shoes and cosmetics only a blink away if ever in the mood for an update. Peak hour traffic had finished its morning ritual with a free parking space for my Mercedes found in close proximity to the salon. It was a good start to the day. With a flick of my much admired hair I confidently strode toward the reality of that afternoon being a freshly permed and very lucky feminine lady.

The salon had over the past six years continued to present a comfortable ambience. Its nice mix of d├ęcor and fittings blended well within the intimate surroundings of a tree lined street. The setting could well have passed for a chic Parisian boulevard. All of the known salon staff were naturally effusive in character. It was with this attitude that the salon apprentice named Lily escorted me to the basin whereupon a lovely cleansing shampoo and scalp massage prepared my hair for a mane of lovely curls. Shortly thereafter with my long locks tied in a towel I was politely ushered to a cutting station and an introduction offered to a new employee whose face appeared vaguely familiar. My usual hairdresser Georgia had called in ill and had sent apologies.

The new employee was a slightly older lady who looked to be aged in her early fifties. She was very stylish and smartly groomed in keeping with somebody at least ten years younger. She had initially been noticed when attending the salon for my monthly deep conditioning treatment earlier the same year. I knew her face but from where was a long forgotten mystery. Her name was given as Margot. Her tone of voice surprisingly offered a hint of disdain and was obviously in complete contrast to the more commonly known pleasantness experienced at the salon.

‘………hmmmmm’, I thought.

‘So we are doing a perm today, Lulu? Both Georgia and Lily say you look wonderful in a perm’, she feigned.

‘Thank you’, I replied.

‘I believe you know my daughter, Lynda’, she added, ‘Lynda Petersen’.

A sudden chill became apparent as I found a way to slink down into the hairdresser’s chair. My girlfriends and I had been a wicked little bunch throughout the latter part of high school with Lynda Petersen bearing the brunt of our terrible antics. Her lunch money had regularly been taken with one particularly nasty and much regretted incident finding her head flushed in the girl’s toilet. Other episodes were no better.

Dread enveloped my entire body as Margot mentioned that we were to try a different type of perm. A hint of sarcasm was detected as she promised a nice style with the length taken a little shorter but with a head of lovely fresh curls remaining. Karma had been a long time in coming. I had been thinking of a subtle change in length but nothing overly drastic at about two inches maximum. This was soon forgotten with a deep guilt rendering my well known clear thought process as useless. A paralysis of silence encompassed my every possible response. It was not a good omen for a usually mouthy lawyer. The fate of my hair had become very much uncertain with an outcome of unwanted circumstances seemingly the only outcome.

A flowing black cape was draped and fastened just below the nape of my neck. Black was probably the right colour. There was to be no cuppa with Margot today. It was doubtful either that she had noticed by expensive pencil skirt and linen blouse. The same scenario would have seen Georgia absolutely gushing in her praise and immediately talking of the latest fashion……….but alas, this was not Georgia. It was then that Margot wheeled her trolley to the cutting station and after towel drying any excess moisture from my hair thoroughly combed my long locks free of knots and began sectioning for a re-style.

A longish permed bob was hopefully imagined. It was an extreme concept. Such a thought momentarily stiffened my resolve but this hopeful length was at absolute best probably just wishful thinking. The sectioning of my hair continued before my head was slightly tilted down and forward to commence cutting. The atmosphere was tense and could have been carved with a knife. What followed seemed like minutes but was merely a handful of seconds. The cold metal of sharp scissors as guided by Margot inched ever so closer until she began snipping at was appeared to be the vicinity of where the flowing black cape had been fastened. I cringed. This was to be no regular trim. Not being able to see the exact length being lost only added to my anxious state.

My eyes welled with tears as mascara ran down my cheeks. I sobbed in silence. What a tragedy this was to be. The cutting continued with a methodically even rhythm as Margot moved to the left and then to the right of the hairdresser’s chair. Her scissors were continually and purposely being put to work with a firm and confident conviction. My tresses were by now constantly and ever so deliberately falling to the floor with some teasingly resting on the flowing black cape and upon my lap.

‘My beautiful hair’, I sighed to myself. It was a situation that was a far from joyous experience.

I was becoming totally forlorn. There was to be definitely no more girly ponytails or braids for a while. A nice Dutch braid had been worn on the weekend. Any fleeting thought of a trendy bob had also disappeared. A bob would certainly have made any attempt to grow out my hair that much easier.. My hair was being styled into a heavily layered cut although some length was kept covering my ears at just below the lobe. The cutting frenzy notwithstanding continued. I began to feel immensely unattractive and increasingly started to look like a very boyish girl. Thank goodness for make-up and clothes. The final strands of my once ravishing locks soon disappeared. Glancing at the salon clock found that little more than thirty five minutes had passed since entering the salon. It had taken years of patience and upkeep to grow out my hair to a length of my absolute liking and womanhood.

It was then than Margot took a step back to admire her cutting skills. My hair was now so short. Focus seemed to be placed on the balance of the cut. A precision cut of a very high standard had been given, but alas, an agonising turmoil had found a new home knotted in my stomach. Any dainty femininity as espoused by my hair had so quickly and cruelly been torn asunder. I felt like an ogress of the ugliest proportions as my black cape was dusted free of hair. It was a painful farewell with my hair for some considerable period of time being as much a part of me as I was of it. My hair and I were the best of friends. We were a team who could place trust and felt secure in each other’s company.

My hair would definitely be permed in time for lunch. It was no way to think but it was the only advantage that could be seen to having my hair permed so short. A larger sized perm rod would also prevent a much dreaded granny perm. There was a personal disliking for crusty female octogenarians who were bitter at the world. The rudeness of many an old biddy was vividly remembered in my younger years when my great grandmother would hold court in the early to mid 1970’s with her ever dwindling number of old friends and acquaintances.

The rattle of perm rods could be heard being placed in what was assumed to be another trolley situated not far from the salon storeroom. The rhythm was again quite methodical. I felt sick with fear as the appearance of thin perm rods found the realisation that a granny perm was to be mine. It was not in keeping with a thirty five year old confident woman in the prime of her fashion and working life. She had also ascertained a broom from behind the shampoo basin to slowly sweep the floor of what was once my lovely locks. It was a callous train of thought by Margot purposely used to provide the ultimate indignity. It had worked a treat.

My freshly cropped hair was parted for winding to commence. My hair was now too short to section securely with clips. In seething silence Margot started to wind the first of the perm rods at even pressure and neatly spaced intervals from the crown of my head to my neck’s nape. She was proving to be quite dextrous as the winding of perm rods continued unabated in what was now understood to be her methodical and practical manner. There were so many perm rods in comparison to my long hair perms.

I was and still am a more than slight girl. The subsequent extra weight of the perm rods were quite heavy which seemed to place undue strain on my neck muscles. The estrogen of my prescribed hormone pills had seen the disappearance of any muscular strength diminish some years ago. Cotton wool was placed around my hairline with barrier cream and a double drenching of perm solution uncomfortably ensued. Such a soaking found solution dripping uneasily down my forehead . It was wiped away at semi regular intervals courtesy of a nearby hand towel but left a burning sensation on my skin. The solution smelled more akin to the older type of formula found in salons of long past and not the more organic variety coming onto the market at the time.

A visit to the hairdresser had always been a pleasurable luxury but this episode had developed into a torturous calamity of immense proportion. I never thought that getting a perm would bring so much personal despair. Many girls through reputation abhor a perm but with the right hairstyle for your face shape and proper upkeep it can be a more than worthwhile investment. A hooded dryer next to the magazine rack on the opposite side of the salon was used to help develop my curls. This small row of three dryers was located in a quiet corner and offered a place to temporarily hide behind the latest tabloid periodical. It also gave more time for thought of which all was negative. I had not transformed from a teenage boy into an educated and high flying career woman to experience such humiliation. The journey had proven hard enough. A real lack of styling options for my new perm occupied my mind.

‘How could I accessorise my hair?’ I mused.

The timer rang after twenty minutes whereupon rinsing at the basin occurred. At least the relaxing flow of warm water over my securely pinned perm rods offered some therapeutic respite. Very hot water could have been used by Margot but she was continuing to keep her hairdressing expertise professional although with obvious sinister undertones. Neutraliser was applied and felt as cold as Margot’s demeanour. My hair was sure to be soon revealed to be a hideous mess. I had worn my hair at just below chin length and flippy for twelve months in the early stages of attending university. It was at least in a manner of my own choosing and allowed a definite versatility when a change in look from casual to formal was required.

The home stretch was rapidly approaching as Margot rinsed the neutraliser. The removal of the many perm rods pinning my hair was found to take only an instant when compared to the unwinding of my once glorious locks. A cedar and rosehip conditioner was left on my hair for five minutes giving more time to nervously ponder. By this time my thoughts were well and truly erratic. The chandelier fitted to the ceiling in front of the salon’s basins had always provided a glamourous and regal aura as my locks were being pampered. Such a setting allowed myself to feel like a real princess but today was no Cinderella story. I was to be an ugly stepsister. My new perm was wrapped in a towel and I was ushered by Margot to my previous cutting station. An ugly ‘do was expected as I moped across the timber lined salon floor in my Italian made high heels. It felt like the ultimate walk of shame with my usual sassy swagger replaced by a humiliation much more meek. The once purposeful strut used to emphasise my standing in corporate life had disappeared. My knees trembled and legs turned to mush reminiscent of a penniless beggar cadging for the last vestige of loose change from a rich woman’s purse. How easily the mighty can fall.

My hair was lightly towel dried as I glimpsed with horror at the monstrosity that confronted a once confident woman. The hair that had been cut to just below ear length was now much shorter and sat more or less upon the top of my ears. The tight curl had scrunched immeasurably short. Margot trimmed the ends before reaching for the hair clippers to tidy my hairline at the nape and over my ears. An ugly flashback of attending to the barber as a young boy called Andrew suddenly reappeared. Memories of a number four blade removing any hint of hair from my pre teenage scalp made an unwelcome return from the depths of my psyche. It was a place that I did not want to revisit. Such a reality was more than half a lifetime ago but at that particular moment it felt like only yesterday. Margot sought a hair dryer and added a diffuser to style my perm into a short afro. Some mousse was then applied to my hair to provide extra definition to my tight curls. It could not have been a worse result. There was not even enough length for bangs. I had become Little Orphan Annie with brunette hair.

‘……..at least my hoop earrings look nice’, I mulled. Nothing constructive was coming to mind. Absolute shock had fully encompassed my body.

A granny set accompanied with lots of old fashioned lacquer at least did not follow to finish my perm. It would have been close to the final insult. No less insulting was being shown my hair in the mirror at above collar length. The salon apprentice soon appeared to offer her usual flattering comments but she regaled in complete shock and covered her mouth while squealing in total disbelief. She had throughout the morning been busy in the salon stockroom cramming for upcoming exams between the occasional client hair wash. She had told me previously that I was her role model for growing out her own hair. After twelve months growth it now skimmed her shoulders. The same role would now be reversed.

At the reception desk Margot took my payment and smugly mentioned that my new perm looked adorable. My day had become that much darker. It was probably appropriate that rain started to fall immediately after leaving the salon with the leafy canopy of trees lining the sidewalk offering no real respite to my woe. That I had failed to accompany myself with an umbrella that morning did not help. Returning to my apartment found what was left of my beautiful hair to be a frizzy mess. Learning French as a hobby had commenced four months previously but I had instead become the reincarnation of a French poodle. Lunch was very much unwanted with travel to a local high end department store consequently transpiring. My hair was hidden wrapped in a fashionable colourful scarf purchased on a recent vacation to Morocco as a long wavy brunette wig sourced from Russia was obtained to hide my absolute embarrassment.

Some girls prefer a manageable wash and wear hairstyle of some description however such a train of thought at that particular stage of my life personally had never been found appealing. I missed the enjoyment and routine of tending to my long tresses despite the extra time required to ready myself each day. It was a ritual that provided much satisfaction. Hair extensions were not really my thing and chemically straightening my hair would only have seen breakage and a possible buzz cut to boot. A looser wave became apparent after seven months. My hair was kept cropped at the nape by Georgia which allowed the sides to gain extra length to allow the shape of an a-line bob. It was only then my my short hair beneath my obtained wig was revealed to clients, work colleagues and friends alike. Compliments were regular and given with much genuine warmth. If only they knew the truth.

As for Margot, she resigned her position from the salon that afternoon before the close of trading. Georgia was fuming that the trust placed in Margot had been so misplaced. The salon apprentice Lily had upon my departure contacted Georgia in tears to inform her of that morning’s events. It was very much a situation of Margot resigning before she was pushed. Her mission had notwithstanding been accomplished. She had started working at the salon a few short months previous with revenge her only aim. For her it was a game of painstaking patience. As a lawyer it was known that criminal proceedings against Margot would have seen an inconclusive result. Vanity played a role as well. A case of such insignificance would have lowered my occupational standing in what was still very much a bastion of male chauvinism. A civil case would for the same reason proven to have been no better an option.

I felt so powerless against such a spiteful hate………..just as Lynda Petersen had very clearly and painfully known when in her youth. For me it was a lesson unfortunately a long time in coming. My granny perm was in time replaced by sleek and straight hair as Georgia worked wonders tending and maintaining my crowning glory. My hair once at bob length was kept as such for a further eighteen months. It was actually a nice change. My hair is quite thin but there is lots of it with it ultimately decided to again grow out my lovely locks and over time return to my much admired gloriously permed tresses. My hairdresser Georgia decided to take early retirement with her daughter Isabella being a very able replacement.

My hair has been kept in a perm now for many years. I would definitely not have it any other way. My long tresses were adorned until my late forties before deciding upon a curly bob after being made a senior partner at my law firm. I was ready for the chop and appreciated the liberating experience of being a woman losing her locks on her own terms to try something short. It is a very sharp look bringing much intimidation for both friend and foe when worn with killer heels and a short skirt. My hair now requires a style cut and deep conditioning treatment every six weeks and more regular perming but the price of beauty matters little when compared to the esteem provided. Such a change in length provided a new dimension to my face with a much younger visage now apparent. An exuberance of womanly confidence still radiates after this particular chop in stark difference to the time my crowning glory was lopped so coldly and deliberately.

………and whatever happened to Margot. I’m not about to tell.

 

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