CURLY CHANGES HER NAME

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I woke up this morning and decided my hair had to go.

Now, I’ve got great hair. The kind of hair hairdressers coo over. It’s not everybody’s cup of tea; it’s long and curly to the point of frizziness when the weather is unkind. Nicole Kidman hair, if you like. Really gorgeous if you wash it, shake it and let it dry naturally. The kind of hair you have to grow long, quite long, because if you cut it to, say, bob length, it frizzes out in something resembling an afro. You’ve got no choice – you grow it long, and until an hour ago it hung down below my shoulder blades – or you do something REALLY drastic.

I had no problem with washing it, tending it, playing with it. Most of the time, though, I wore it up, and finally realized why this morning. It irritated me. If I let it loose it swung forward and tickled my face. And even wearing it up or tied in a tight pony, little curls would escape and brush annoyingly against my cheeks in fine, too fine, tendrils.

I looked in my bathroom mirror. “Enough!” I said to myself, lifting up the masses of my hair, holding it back and watching these little locks jump free here and there.

I stomped out of my house, car keys in hand, about to head to the salon where Kate had nurtured my hair, trimmed it carefully and gushed over it enviously for the last five years. Would she have the courage to cut it, really cut it?

If she didn’t, I decided, I’d simply go somewhere else and find someone who would. I revved out of the drive and was at the salon in ten minutes.

“Hi, Curly!” sang Kate. Curly was her nickname for me, for very obvious reasons. “You don’t have an appointment, do you?”

“Can you fit me in? Can I wait?” I said, a trifle impatiently, a little scared about what I was about to do but eager to get it done.

Kate was finishing a blue rinse lady, who was nodding favorably at her reflection, her sparse hair terrorized into curls and waves. “Heavens, what lovely hair,” said the blue rinse, looking at me in the mirror. I smiled tightly. Blue rinse eased herself out of the chair and towards reception. I sat firmly into the seat she’d vacated.

“Just a trim, madam?” grinned Kate.

“More than that,” I said grimly. “Kate, it’s driving me mad. I want you to cut it off.”

Kate’s eyes widened and she almost dropped her teasing comb. But I saw, in her eyes, a spark that said she’d like nothing better.

“What do you mean? A bob?” Kate lifted my hair back, propping it into a bob shape, and pulled a face.

“Shorter. Much shorter.”

“You’ll go afro.”

“No, shorter. Shave it.”

“Curly!”

“Chop it off. It’s driving me nuts. All these little hairs tickling my skin. It’s too hot to have long hair, anyway.”

“Curly, are you on drugs?”

“Nope, on reality. Do you have any idea what a pain this hair can be?”

Kate shook her head. Her own straight black hair was cut into a simple, short bob, the hair at the nape clipped closely and the bob falling to the bottom of her ears.

Hesitantly Kate wrapped the cape about me and fastened it tightly around my neck. “I hope you won’t regret this.”

I shrugged. “Hey, if I hate it, I’ll wear a wig.” Between us Kate and I eased the mass of my nut brown hair outside the cape.

Kate selected a large set of electric clippers. “I’ll need the big ones to get through all that,” she said, running her fingers into my hair. “Tell you what, I’ll cut it on a long setting first. You mightn’t want to go any shorter.”

“Define long,” I said, watching her find a guide. Needless to say, I’d never had my hair cut with clippers before. I’d watched my brother suffer crew cuts as a child when longer hair for boys had been the vogue, and pulled merciless mean faces at him as his curls were peeled from his scalp and his face screwed up in disgust at the sight of his denuded head.

“About half an inch,” Kate grinned. She was getting into this. Good.

I studied my reflection, all hair around my oval face. Half an inch, huh? That wouldn’t tickle my face and wasn’t long enough to go afro. I nodded.

Kate plugged the clippers in, and turned them on. “Last chance to change your mind.”

My heart started to thud. As any woman knows, this is a big decision. And most women don’t plan to do what I did. “Nope,” I said after a second. “Go ahead.”

The clippers hummed. Kate was studying my hair. I guessed she didn’t know where to start, there was so much of it, fluffing out all around my head in riotous corkscrews. Finally she came to my right hand side, and held up the hank of ear in front of my ear and up to my temples.

She brought the clippers against my cheek, and they seemed loud in my ears, even louder than my heart. Then she started moving them up, and they shrieked when they encountered my hair. Slowly, slowly, she moved them up, the guides against my scalp. Way too late to turn back now. I watched the clippers snarl through my curls, and saw the newly short hair beneath them with a sense of wonder. It felt weird, this sensation of my hair being shortened so drastically. Weird, and just a tad, well, maybe more than a tad, sensual.

Then the clippers were at my temples, revealing the shape of my hairline. The first locks had been liberated, and Kate dropped them onto my lap. My hair had been very long. Still was on most of my head. I looked at my reflection, and brought one hand up from under the cape and run it through – almost over – the cropped hair on my head.

It felt tufty, soft and, for once, subdued. I nodded, and let a smile which quickly became a grin spread over my face. Kate grinned too. Maybe hairdressers have a fantasy of wreaking havoc on long hair. After all, their job is to cut hair. Can’t be much fun for them just doing half inch trims like I’d always had or doing shampoos and sets for the dear old blue rinse gals.

Kate gently pushed my head to the side and lifted up the hair behind my ear. Then the clippers were against my neck, and ploughing through my hair, making me quiver as they revved up the back of my ear and further up my head, making my head feel lighter as my hair was cut off. Kate kept clipping higher this time, almost to the top of my head, and let the hair fall on the ground.

“It’s almost straight when it’s this short,” she said unnecessarily. I could see that. My hair was subdued – or shocked – into submission. ALMOST straight. There was still a bit of rebelliousness there, but it was much better.

Kate changed the position of my head, ready to move around the back, where my hair was longest.

She gathered up as much as she could, holding it out from my head in a fluffy, cotton candy mass.

The clippers touched my neck and I almost shuddered from the sensation as they glided up and into my hairline. Why hadn’t I done this ages ago? I was thoroughly enjoying getting the first real haircut of my life. A haircut doesn’t feel like much if you just get the ends trimmed. This was serious, this was blades close to your scalp, very personal, very quick and very remorseless. Merciless.

I couldn’t see much of what was happening now, but had to rely on sensation, and there was plenty of that. I felt my scalp tingle as the newly cropped hair sprang back against it, then Kate was pushing my head forward and the clippers nuzzled my nape. I bit back a gasp.

Leaving my neck feeling naked, Kate pushed the clippers up through the very back of my hair, all the way to the crown. I watched them appear at the top of my hair, the blades poking through my beautiful, annoying, chopped off hair. One side of my head now felt cool and peculiar in a rather pleasant way.

Kate kept clipping. Now she drew the clippers up on the left hand side of the back of my head, and all the hair she’d been holding in her hand was now cut free. She held it up like a trophy, and I giggled. So did she. See, she WAS enjoying herself. I was right. I was enjoying myself too, feeling like a liberated woman without all that hair. Or without two thirds of it, anyway.

Up behind my left ear now, and the longest hair left was at my left temple.

“Say good-bye,” Kate said cheerily, holding up the offending lock.

“Farewell!” I said dramatically, and before I could take a breath Kate had swept the clippers in front of my ear and lopped it off. All that was left was the top. At the moment I looked like a pineapple, with neatly clipped sides and the hair on the top of my head a few inches long and springing up merrily.

“Half an inch on top too?” Kate asked, clippers poised.

I nodded. Get rid of that goddamn pineapple!

She positioned my head very straight, and I watched the clippers move closer to my forehead. Then the sensation was terrific as they met my hair and ploughed backwards over the top of my scalp, where the skin was most sensitive on me. Kate stood in front of me so I couldn’t see my reflection, which made the sense of touch even more pronounced. The clippers zoomed back all the way to my crown, which was the most amazing feeling. Then she was at the front again, buzzing the hair on the left side of the top, all the way back, and then the right.

In just a few minutes, I’d lost about fifteen inches or more of hair, clippered as short as my ex boyfriend’s. I ran my hands over my hair, enjoying the feeling of weightlessness as I shook my head.

Kate moved from the mirror and I saw myself. Cut so short, my hair was darker. And I could see my bone structure now all that hair wasn’t in the way. I’d never considered myself beautiful, but now I could see I was. I really looked great.

But…my hair was still a bit naughty, sticking up and trying to curl. Although I looked wonderful, my hair was just, just long enough to take on a kind of “brillo pad” look.

“Kate,” I said, “It’s great, but how would you feel about going shorter?”

“Shorter?” Kate was taken aback, but then that gleam came in her eyes again. “How short?”

“Well, I was thinking, kinda shaved.” I ran my fingers over my hair, marveling at how good it felt, but thinking it could be better.

“Just a bit of hairline definition?” Kate suggested briskly. “Sort of Sinead O’Connor? Demi Moore in GI Jane?”

“Perfect!”

“You are one game dame,” Kate commented, brushing the clippers free of hair, changing the guide and oiling them. “You’ve got to have a perfect skull and wonderful bones to carry it off….and I think you’ll be able to. Look at the shape of your head. Without all that long hair, it’s gorgeous.” Obediently I turned side on, admiring the hair cut close to my head like a helmet, and realizing she was right. I did have a well shaped head.

This time when Kate turned the clippers she went straight to the top. “You’ll get a shock when you see the top of your head,” she warned, and then pushed the clippers into my hair at my hairline.

I felt instead of saw the buzzed hair fall from my scalp. Instantly my head felt cool, almost cold, and Kate’s hand, steadying my head, warm when she touched my newly shaved scalp. Holding the top of my head gently, and again obscuring my view in the mirror, she drew the clippers slowly and carefully along a path next to the first she had cut. Short, fine hairs blew in front of my eyes. As she went for a third, probably final pass over the top, I knew I’d see a bald woman when she moved and I could get the mirror back…

Kate moved and I gasped. True to her word, she’d clipped me about as close as you can get using clippers. There was a fine dark definition on the top of my head, enough to indicate that hair did, in fact, grow there, but that was about it. I lifted up a hand and stroked it. “Wonderful,” I said disbelievingly, feeling the tiny stubble against my fingers and the warmth of my hand on my soft skin.

Kate grinned, and pushed my head to one side. She swiftly removed the hair in front of my ears and buzzed up around my temple. Tufts fell over my cape, pathetic little scraps of hair that were definitely better off than on my head.

Gently bending my ear forward, Kate put the clippers against my neck and drew them up the side of my head. I watched more hair fall and saw more of my scalp bared to the world. I grinned. Demi Moore, move over!

Then Kate pushed my head forward so my chin almost touched my breasts. “I can shave it closer this way,” she said cheerfully, and placed the clippers against my nape. I had to bite back an exclamation, it felt so good as she slowly pushed them up into my hair and against the tautly drawn skin. I felt my hair fall away up to my crown, and then the clippers were nuzzling my nape again, up the center back this time, crackling and humming as they sheared my hair to nothing. Take that, curls!

Kate made the final pass up the back, and then pushed my head to the side, clipping me as efficiently as a barber behind my left ear. There was only my temple area left, and Kate zipped through it, removing the last locks of hair from my head.

Running both hands over my head, I gaped at my reflection in the mirror. I didn’t even look like me, I looked like a stunning, glamorous, beautiful bald woman.

“Brilliant!” I gasped.

“Amazing!” Kate agreed, brushing off the tiny hairs which had dropped onto my face and neck. “All these years I’ve just been trimming your hair, and never dreamed you’d look fantastic with none!” She hesitated. “I could shave it totally smooth, if you like. With a razor.”

I considered. “Maybe not just yet. Maybe next time. I kind of like this faint suggestion of hair.” I couldn’t keep my hands off my head. It really felt great, and I wanted to go out of the salon and tell every long haired woman I met to get her hair cut off to her scalp, she’d never regret it.

Kate unfastened the cape and shook the clippings onto the floor. They mingled with the acres of brown curls lying there like dead serpents. I hadn’t realized I’d had quite so much hair hanging from my head until I saw it lying there in a thick mass around the base of the chair.

I stood up, feeling taller and somehow, without my wild curls and with my head clipped to baldness, more feminine.

I fished some money out of my pocketbook and Kate shook her head.

“This one’s on the house,” she said. “I’ve always longed to cut off long hair so drastically, but I never thought you’d be the one to want it. Guess I can’t call you Curly any more,” she said, a bit sadly.

I grinned. “Baldy will do just fine.”

The end

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