[Also published at: https://f35hstories.wordpress.com ]
Dear Mrs. McCluskey,
I recently visited your shop with my daughter to have her eyes tested, and to subsequently select some glasses for her. I feel compelled to write to your about the young lady, Claire, who served us.
I had no issue with Claire’s attitude or behaviour; she was friendly, helpful and polite. This is a credit to both you and her. Her appearance, however, did not live up to the same high standards. Her uniform was neat and tidy, but her long, painted nails did not seem appropriate, and she was, in my view wearing rather too much make-up.
By far the biggest issue, however, is her hair. It is far too long to be worn loose, as it was on Saturday. It falls all over the place and can never look anything but scruffy. Whilst it is possible for hair of that length to be put up into a neat, conservative style that would be in keeping with the smart uniform, my experience suggests that most young women are either incapable of, or unwilling to maintain such styles for any length of time. Claire’s obvious preference for wearing her hair loose suggests that she is no exception to this.
Accordingly, I believe that the only way for Claire to present an appropriate appearance in the future is to have her hair cut into a short, smart, and preferably traditional style.
I trust that you will address my concerns by speaking to Claire about her appearance, and encouraging her in the strongest possible terms to adopt a sensible, short hairstyle.
Mrs. Sheila Jones.
“Am I speaking to Christine Jones?”
“Hello Christine, this is Claire from the opticians. This is just a courtesy call to make sure that everything is satisfactory with your new glasses.”
“Oh, hello Claire. How thoughtful. Er.. Yes, I think so. I’m not sure I’ve completely got used to them yet; I’ve never worn glasses before, but everything looks a lot clearer, so that’s good!”
“I’m very pleased about that. If you do have any problems, you know that you can call us, or just pop in. We’re here to help you.”
“Well thank you very much, Claire, that’s good to know.”
“Not at all. Now, is there anything else I can help you with?”
“Well, nothing that I need help with, but I was just wondering how you were getting on with Mrs. McCluskey? Is she still on at you about your hair?”
“Oh yes, you were there when she was telling me off about my hair, weren’t you. I’m afraid she’s really put her foot down. She has apparently had a number of letters from customers saying that my hair is scruffy, and much too long, and detracts from the image of the shop. She pointed out that when I came for the job interview, my hair was in a bun, perfectly neat and tidy. She asked why I couldn’t keep it like that all the time.
“I told her that it gave me a headache if it was put up that tightly for very long, and that anyway, I’d asked a friend to put it up for the interview; I’m hopeless at doing my own hair.
“So she told me that in that case, I would simply have to have it cut. She wants it off my collar and off my ears, and done by next week.”
“Oh my, she really does mean business, doesn’t she. What are you going to do?”
“Well I suppose I’ll have to have it cut. It’s a bit daunting, as I’ve always worn my hair long, but I spoke to my boyfriend and he was really helpful. He asked me what meant more to me, my hair or my career, and when he put it like that, it put it into perspective. I thought he might be upset about me having to keep my hair short, but to be honest I think he might have liked the idea that it won’t take me hours to wash, dry and style my hair, and he won’t be finding my long, shed hairs all over his clothes or his sofa either!”
“Well, you certainly sound very confident about it. Lots of girls would be quite upset at being told they had to have their hair all cut off.”
“I think I’ve known for a while that it would have to come off one day. My last boss didn’t approve of it either, and there’s a bit of a tradition in my family that all the ladies keep their hair short, smart and what my mum likes to call ‘presentable’. My mum, my aunt and my grandmother have all made it pretty clear that they expect me to do the same, and the sooner the better. The thing is, that none of them have ever been that forceful about it. This might sound strange, but it was actually quite a relief to have Mrs. McCluskey just tell me straight out that I needed to have it cut, and cut short, and right now!
“So you might say I’ve accepted it, but I’m certainly not confident. I’ve always kept my hair long, so I’ve no idea what to ask a hairdresser to do. Part of me thinks that if I have to have it cut, then I should at least try to get some kind of trendy short cut, but I know that Mrs. McCluskey would prefer a more traditional style, and maybe I ought to be a bit less vain, and opt for something that the family will approve of, too. So that means not just short, but neat and tidy and, well, conservative, I suppose. To be honest, I’m sure I’ll be a bag of nerves and indecision when it happens, so perhaps it would be better for someone to just take charge, tell me what to do, and not give me any choices; just make sure that I leave the hairdresser’s looking the way that Mum, and Mrs. McCluskey want me to.”
“I have to say, Claire, I know exactly what you mean. I really enjoyed, in a strange way, having Mum, and then Gran, take charge of my hair. And they certainly didn’t give me any choices, just made sure that I was properly smartened up.
“You know, if you’re serious about wanting someone to take charge, and make sure that you get the short, smart haircut that you need, then I could have a word with my mum. I’m sure she’d be happy to take you to her hairdresser, and make sure that you left there looking like a perfectly presentable daughter that any mum would be proud of.”
“Oh goodness! Do you think that she would? That would make everything so much easier.”
“I’m sure she’d be delighted. I’ll get her to give you a call to sort out a date.”
“Thank you, Christine, I really appreciate this.”
“You’re welcome, Claire.”
“Hi Mum, it’s Christine.”
“Hello dear, how are you?”
“Fine thanks, but listen, I’ve got some news”
“Do you remember Claire, the girl at the opticians? I got you to write that letter to her boss, saying that her hair was a mess, and she needed it cut?”
“Well she just phoned me, a courtesy call to check on my glasses, and I asked her about Mrs. McCluskey, and her hair, and she told me that she’s put her foot down, and Claire has to have her hair cut by next week!”
“Oh my! Was it my letter that did it, do you think?”
“Well actually, Claire said that there had been a few letters, so I guess we weren’t the only ones who thought her hair was a problem.”
“Hmmm…. Well…… I might have got one or two of my friends to write too… They all use the same opticians, they all knew who I meant as soon as I started talking about her, and her ridiculous mop of hair, and it didn’t take much to persuade them that a sensible short haircut would do her the world of good.”
“Mum! I’m shocked! No wonder Mrs. McCluskey was so determined to get her smartened up. Anyway, the thing is, she didn’t seem that upset about it, said that she’d known for ages that she’d have to get it cut at some point, her family really wanted her to have a short, smart haircut, too, and was actually quite relieved that she’d just been told she had to do it, and not given a choice. But she said she needed someone to take charge, take her to the hairdressers and make sure that she went through with it. I said that I thought you’d help her, and she said she’d really like that! ”
“Did she! I wonder what she’s expecting? Did Mrs. McCluskey say how she was to have it cut?”
“Off her collar and off her ears, is what she said to me. She did say, back when I picked my glasses up, that Mrs. McCluskey wanted her in a neat little perm, but I don’t know if you’d get her to sit still for that. Perhaps if you were really strict with her she would. I get the impression that she really wants to smarten up to show her commitment to her work, and her family. She’s just nervous about it and needs a firm hand to make sure that she isn’t given a chance to take the easy way out.”
“Well I can certainly do ‘strict’. First priority will be to get all those rat’s tails off her head and onto the floor. We’ll see where we go from there!”
“Sounds like a good plan, Mum. I’ll text you her number, I said you’d call to arrange details with her.”
“Thanks love, I’m looking forward to this.”
“Good morning Claire. This is Mrs. Jones, Christine’s mother.”
“Oh, er, good morning Mrs. Jones. What can I do for you?”
“I understand that you are required to have your hair cut. Short. By next week.”
“Yes, that’s right.”
“Very well. When is your next day off work?”
“Er, I don’t work on Mondays…?”
“Excellent. Please meet me at Carol’s Hair Salon, on South Street at nine O’Clock sharp. I expect you to be dressed smartly, with your hair OUT of your face, which you will have scrubbed thoroughly with soap and water. Your fingernails will be short, and clean. Is that clear?”
“Yes, Mrs. Jones.”
“Very good. I will see you on Monday. Don’t be late.”
“No, Mrs. Jones. Goodbye.”
Dear Mrs. Jones,
Thank you for your recent letter concerning your visit with your daughter, Christine. I am pleased that we were able to help her in obtaining some suitable glasses.
Thank you also for your comments concerning my young employee, Claire. Your thoughts very much mirror my own. She is a good, hardworking employee, who is eager to please and to get on in her career. She has not yet, however, appreciated fully how important it is to present a professional appearance.
You are correct that much the greatest problem is her excessively long and untidy hair. I have spoken to her about it on more than one occasion, to no avail. However, following the receipt of a number of letters, including yours, expressing concerns on the issue, I have given Claire a clear instruction that she is to have her hair cut short, neat, and tidy by next week. I fully expect her to comply with this instruction, and I am looking forward to her attending work next week with an appropriate, smart hairstyle.
I hope this addresses your concerns satisfactorily,
Mrs. M McCluskey
“Now Carol, don’t forget that I’m bringing that young lady to you on Monday.”
“Oh yes, I couldn’t forget that.”
“Now, she knows that she needs all of her hair cut off short and smart, and I want to make sure that she won’t kick up a fuss when she finds out she’s having it permed as well. I need to look as strict and no-nonsense as possible, so please can you take my hair down a little shorter today, and give me the smartest possible set.”
“So we’re going for ‘boarding school headmistress’? The kind of lady you just say ‘Yes, Miss’ to?”
END OF PART ONE