Empty Nest Makeover

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Karen sat in front of the mirror staring pensively at her reflection.  Not bad for forty-seven and three kids, she thought to herself.  Sure, there were signs of age like the little crows’ feet at the corners of her eyes, but her complexion was clear and her figure still was trim.  She began brushing the thick auburn hair that hung to the middle of her back and smiled with satisfaction.  Unlike many of her friends, no gray had yet appeared.  It still was the rich reddish-brown shade her husband had admired when they first met as Penn State students nearly three decades earlier.

She and Jay married two weeks after graduation and the babies came soon after.  Lucas, twenty-four, had a degree in computer engineering from Case Western and held a responsible job with a tech firm in Texas.  Josh, twenty-two, was pursuing an M.B.A. at the Wharton School.  The month before Stephanie, their youngest, had gone off to Penn State on a soccer scholarship.  Karen and Jay were dealing with an empty nest.

Twenty-five years had passed in a blur.  What had seemed like a non-stop round of Little League games, parent-teacher conferences, music lessons, karate classes, and Girl Scout meetings kept both of them on the run from early to late.  In addition to supervising his father’s contracting business, Jay helped coach Stephanie’s travel soccer team.  Between babies, Karen wrote fiction under a pseudonym.  Publishers rejected her first attempts at romance novels, but her recent young adult vampire tales were wildly successful.  Last year, for the first time, her royalties exceeded her husband’s income.  While the kids were in school she served three terms as president of the citywide PTA.  It seemed that they never had any time for themselves.  The eager lovemaking that produced a trio of beautiful children had declined to occasional brief encounters before dropping off to sleep.  Most nights they just cuddled, too exhausted for passionate embraces.

It was a Friday night in the middle of October; Jay and Karen were relaxing in front of the television after dinner.  “It’s so quiet,” Karen remarked.  “I miss the kids.”

“I do too, hon,” Jay agreed, “but it’s kinda nice to have you all to myself for a change.”

“Yeah, I know what you mean,” she answered.  “Still, it’s rather sad that the kids don’t need us like they used to.”

“That just means we did our job.  You want them to be independent, don’t you?”

“Of course I do,” she said.  “I guess I need something to fill the gaps in my schedule.”

“Well, you still have a husband, and he needs some attention now and then,” he pointedly reminded her.

Karen took the hint and that night she and Jay retired earlier than usual to renew their marriage vows.

The next morning over breakfast Jay asked his wife, “You know Karen, when was the last time we went away, just the two of us?”

“I can’t remember.  It seems we always had a couple of kids along whenever we went someplace.”

“That’s exactly my point.  We need to get away; do something fun together; sort of get reacquainted with each other.”

“Jay, I’d love that,” she said, heartily endorsing his proposal.

They pulled up at the resort hotel around dusk.  The eager young attendant parked their car and the bellman escorted them to their room.  “Oh Jay, this is so luxurious,” Karen exclaimed as she sprawled across the king-sized bed.  “Are you sure we can afford it?”

“It’s been a good year for the business,” Jay assured her.  “Don’t worry about a thing.  Just relax and have a good time.”

Two hours later they were dressing for dinner.  Karen merged from the bathroom wearing a deep purple cocktail dress with a plunging neckline that revealed inches of cleavage.  Posing like a fashion model, she asked, “Well, what do you think?”

“Wow, you look like a million bucks!” her husband delightedly exclaimed.  “Where did that come from?”

“I snuck out when you were on a job.  I thought this weekend called for something special,” she explained, a gratified smile creasing her face.

After enjoying a leisurely surf and turf dinner, they stopped in the hotel cocktail lounge for a night cap.  They listened to a jazz pianist playing standards.  Karen sipped her brandy and sat silently, apparently concentrating on the music.

“Why so quiet, honey?  Got something on your mind?” Jay inquired.

“Jay, I’ve got a question for you and I want a serious answer.”

“Sure, fire away.”

“If there was one thing you could change about me, what would it be?”

“I wouldn’t change a thing.  You’re perfect just the way you are,” her husband replied reflexively.

“No, Jay, I’m serious.  Nobody’s perfect.  What would you change?”

Jay looked back at his wife intently.  He knew by answering truthfully he would be treading on dangerous ground.  This was a potential minefield.  One critical comment might offend Karen and ruin their romantic evening.

After a pensive pause, he told her, “If there was one thing I would change, it would be your hair.”

“Really?” Karen replied, her face registering surprise.  “I thought you liked my hair.  At least that’s what you used to say.”

“Don’t get me wrong.  I love your hair, especially the way you’re wearing it tonight.”

Karen was puzzled by Jay’s contradictory statements.  “Then why do you want me to change?  I don’t understand.”

“Hon, let me explain.  While you were getting ready for dinner I couldn’t help noticing that spectacular new dress, but I also noticed your hairdo.  I like the way it shows off your neck.  Did I tell you you’ve got a lovely neck?”

“Thank you, dear.  Would you like me to wear my hair up more often?  That won’t be hard to do.”

“No.  I’d like you to cut your hair short; short enough so I can see your lovely neck all the time.  I think you’d look really smashing with a shorter hairstyle.”

Karen was stunned.  “Wow, Jay.  I didn’t see that coming.  How long have you felt this way?”

“Quite a while now,” he confessed.

“And why didn’t you say something before?  You’re not supposed to keep something like this from your wife.”

“Frankly, I didn’t know how you’d react.  I was afraid you might get upset.  You’ve had long hair for as long as I’ve known you.  I figured you probably wouldn’t want to change.”

“Well, I’m glad you told me.  I admit, there have been occasions when I thought about cutting my hair, especially when the kids were younger.  But long hair has been my trademark.  My mother always said it was my best feature.  Changing after all these years would be rather traumatic.”

“I know, dear.  I don’t want you to feel pressured.  You know I’ll love you just as much whether you hair is long or short or in between.  I just thought you deserved an honest answer to your question.”

“And I appreciate your honesty,” Karen assured him.  “But that’s enough serious conversation for one evening.  Let’s dance.”

They rose early the next morning and played eighteen holes of golf before noon.  At lunch in the clubhouse Karen returned to their conversation of the previous evening.  “Jay, I’ve been thinking about what you said last night.”

“About your hair?”

“Yes, of course.  What else?”

“And what do you think?”

“I’m thinking that when we get back home I’ll make an appointment to get my hair cut.  I’ll consult Julie, my stylist, to see if we can settle on a style that will expose my neck as you like.”

“Honey, that would be great,” Jay said as an eager smile lit up his face.  “But why wait until next week?  There’s no time like the present, I always say.  There’s a beauty salon right here in the hotel.  You can get it done today.”

“Oh, Jay, I’m ready for that.  The familiar surroundings of my salon will be much more reassuring.  Besides, I don’t know if the stylists here are any good.  I’ve been going to Julie for years and I trust her.”

“Sounds like you’re scared,” Jay observed.

“Sure I’m scared,” she declared.  “This is a big deal for me.  Some women change their hair styles nearly as often as they change their outfits, but not me.”

Karen saw the look of excited anticipation drain from her husband’s face, replaced by thinly disguised disappointment.  “If you make an appointment for next week I’ll be working and won’t be able to see it,” he complained.

“Honey, you can see my haircut when you come home.”

“Yeah, but it won’t be the same.  I’d like to be there when your hair is being cut; to hold your hand for support.”

“Jay, that’s sweet, but husbands usually don’t accompany their wives to the salon.  It’s pretty much a girls club,” Karen informed him.

“I don’t care.  I’d just like to be there,” he repeated.

An hour later they sat by the hotel pool, enjoying an unusually warm Indian summer afternoon.  An attractive young woman sporting a brief pixie haircut strolled by.  Karen noticed that Jay eyed her with more than casual interest.  After she disappeared, Karen confronted her husband.  “Is that how you want me to get my hair cut; as short as that girl’s?”

“Didn’t you think she was attractive?” Jay replied defensively.

“Of course she was attractive.  But she’s only a few years older than our daughter and has a figure like a movie star.  Getting my hair cut will make me look twenty-one again.”

“Look, Karen,” Jay snapped, “if you don’t want to cut your hair, don’t do it.  I didn’t mean for this to become a big issue.  I won’t bring it up again.”

He plunged into the pool and started doing laps.  As Karen watched him swim she pondered what he had said.  She was surprised by Jay’s strong feelings about her hair.  Was this something new or had she just been too busy to pay attention to his preference before?  Most of her friends had gone over to shorter hairdos and looked just fine.  There was no reason she should fear getting her hair cut.  Jay was a good provider, a wonderful father to their children, and always treated her with affection.  She thought, “If that’s what he wants, it would be selfish to refuse his wish.”  By the time he emerged from the pool she had made up her mind.

“Go shower and get changed.  I’ll meet you outside the locker room,” she told him as he toweled off.

As they walked through the hotel lobby Karen tugged her husband’s arm, pointing him toward the arcade where the fashionable shops were located.  “Let’s go this way,” she urged him.

Half way down the arcade she paused in front of the beauty salon.  “I’d like to stop in here.  Would you like to come?” she asked with a flirty grin.

The young receptionist looked up from her computer.  “May I help you?” she asked.

“Yes, I was wondering if I could get my hair cut this afternoon.”

“I’m very sorry ma’am,” she replied.  “Camille is out sick and Josie is fully booked.  There’s a wedding in the ballroom this evening and she’s doing most of the bridal party.”

Karen tried to mask her disappointment with a lighthearted comeback, “Wouldn’t you know?  After thirty years I decide to get my hair cut and there’s no one available to do it.”

“It can wait until we get home,” Jay offered as they left the salon.  “It doesn’t have to be today.”

“Maybe it doesn’t have to wait,” Karen announced with a gleam in her eye, pointing to the barbershop farther down the gallery.

“Karen, it’s not that urgent.  It can wait until we get home,” Jay told her.

“Nonsense.  No time like the present,” she said, turning the tables on her astonished husband.  “Isn’t that what you’re always saying?”  She marched toward the barbershop, calling over her shoulder, “Are you coming or do I have to do this alone?”

Jay could hardly believe this turn of events; this was a development he never anticipated.  He caught up with his wife and grabbed her hand.  “Karen, you don’t want to go in there.  These barbers don’t know how to cut women’s hair.  You should wait.”

“I’m sure they’ll do just fine,” she informed her incredulous husband.  “You said you’d like to see me with short hair and I’m sure this is as good a place as any to get a short haircut.”

Karen opened the door to the shop.  Inside Jay saw a middle-aged barber putting down his newspaper and getting up out of his chair to greet his new customer.  He hurried to catch up with Karen.  He heard the barber greet his wife.  “Good afternoon, miss.  What can I do for you today?”

“I’d like you to cut my hair,” she announced boldly.  Jay saw surprise registering on the barber’s face.

“Miss, I’m sure Camille or Josie at the salon across the way will be happy to take care of you.  I’m afraid I don’t do women’s hair styles.”

But Karen would not be deterred.  “But you do know how to cut hair, don’t you?  I tried the salon and they’re all booked up.  This is kind of urgent.  I need to get my hair cut today.”

“Well, I suppose I can help you as long as what you want isn’t too complicated,” he replied guardedly.  “I just don’t want you getting upset if it doesn’t turn out like you want.”

“Mister, I promise I won’t get upset,” she vowed.  “I’m sure you’ll do a fine job.”

“In that case, I guess we should get started,” he said rather reluctantly.

Jay stood next to Karen, scarcely believing the exchange he just overheard.  His wife of twenty-five years was acting completely out of character.  Her usual modus operandi was calm deliberation, never doing anything impulsive.  It took three months to decide on a new color to paint their bedroom.  Yet, here she was about to undergo a major makeover on a spur-of-the-moment whim.  True, she was doing this to please him, but Jay worried that when viewed the result she would regret the impetuous deed, and then he would carry the blame.

“Karen, honey, don’t you think you should wait until we get home?” he pleaded.

“I don’t think so, Jay,” she declared.  “My mind’s made up.  So why don’t you tell this good man how he should cut my hair?”

Karen handed Jay her gym bag and climbed into the vacant chair the barber was holding for her.  She lifted her hair out of the way while he wrapped a white tissue around her neck and sat quietly while he covered her golfing outfit with a striped white cape.  Jay observed the routine pre-haircut ritual, studying Karen’s face for any trace of anxiety or regret.  Instead, he saw a firmly set jaw and steely determination in her eyes.

The barber carefully combed Karen’s magnificent tresses.  Jay sensed he was stalling, unwilling to spoil her classic look.  “Why don’t we get started?” Karen suggested impatiently.  “Jay, you show him where you’d like him to cut.”

The barber looked toward her husband who stepped up and pointed to a spot just above Karen’s shoulder.  Cutting there would remove more than a foot of his wife’s auburn locks.  The resulting look would not be considered short by most standards, but would be a substantial alteration for his wife.

The barber selected a pair of long silver scissors and held them at the side of Karen’s head.  He looked to Jay for approval and received a nod giving him permission to begin.

Karen heard the steel blades grating together as they sliced into her hair.  She felt a lump welling in her throat, but resolved not to betray any trace of regret.  Instead, she smiled bravely as the barber continued slicing off fourteen-inch strands of her hair.  He worked slowly, combing and measuring each section before closing the blades.  Karen watched him circling the chair, trying to imagine what she would look like when he finished.  She deliberately avoided looking down, afraid that seeing mounds of severed hair on the tile floor would trigger a tearful outburst.

The barber removed the last remaining long piece, then recombed Karen’s altered tresses.  He circled the chair once more, carefully snipping any bits that weren’t perfectly even.  Finally, he stepped back, inviting Karen to inspect his work in the large wall-mounted mirror opposite the chair.

Karen pivoted her head and watched shortened locks grazing her shoulders.  It was a classic look, not radically different from her previous style.  Then she remembered what Jay had told her the night before.  She firmly said to the barber, “It’s still too long.  You need to cut it short enough so you can see my neck.”

“Show me where you’d like me to cut,” her barber requested.

Karen pointed to a spot at her jaw, just below her ear.  “Here would be good,” she advised.

The barber seemed willing.  “Sure, I can cut it there if that’s what you want.”

“Yep, that’s what I want,” she confirmed.

Looking into the large mirror, Karen noticed Jay sitting behind her, his eyes wide, eagerly anticipating the barber’s next moves.  She knew he was eager to see her hair cut shorter.

Once again the barber circled his nervous customer, this time carefully removing four more inches of her auburn tresses.  Karen studied his moves and cringed as he gradually took her hair back to the length she had worn as a fourth grade pupil.  She never appreciated the blunt cut her mother had selected for her nearly forty years ago.  Her girlfriends teased her mercilessly for her “dorky” look.  Now she found the style even less attractive, but she resolved not to complain.  If this is what Jay wanted, she was willing to endure the unfashionable result.  Already she was planning to book an appointment at her salon so Julie could repair the damage.

When the barber stopped cutting and lay down his scissors he asked, “Is this short enough for you?”

Karen knew how she would have answered, but decided to leave the decision up to Jay.  “I’d like to get my husband’s opinion,” she answered.  Then she called, “Jay, why don’t you come over here?”

He rose from his seat and stood next to the barber’s chair with piles of auburn hair clustered around his shoes.  “Well, what do you think, Jay?  Is this short enough to suit you?” she asked.

Jay paused for a long moment, considering his response.  “Can you cut it shorter?” he tentatively inquired of the barber.

“Sure, I can always go shorter as long as it’s okay with the lady.”

“What do you have in mind, Jay?” Karen asked, now genuinely curious to learn what he might propose.

“Tapered in back, up over the ears on the sides, shorter on top, and parted on the side.”  Jay’s words spilled out so rapidly and decisively it was evident this was something he had been considering for some time.

Karen was socked.  “Sounds like a pixie cut,” she managed to say.

“Yes, I think that’s what you call it,” her husband confirmed.

Karen silently wondered how long her husband had repressed this desire to see her wearing a pixie cut.  Was this something he had secretly fantasized about for years?  Why had he never sharer this with her before?  It was too sensitive a topic to discuss here in front of the barber, but they definitely needed to explore it when they returned to their room.  But right now getting this haircut over with was her highest priority.

“Can you do it?” she said, addressing the barber with a note of urgency in her voice.

“Sure can.  No problem,” he replied gamely.

“Then let’s get started,” she commanded.

Karen blanched when she heard the ominous sound of clippers roaring to life behind her.  On rare occasions she had witnessed their use in the salon on a client who sought a radically brief style.  She knew how much damage they could inflict.  Never in a million years did she imagine her own precious locks being cropped with clippers.  Yet now she almost welcomed the sound because it signaled the beginning of the end of this tortuous haircut.

The barber placed his hand on the top of her head, gently forcing her chin down toward her collar bone.  She felt the clippers on her bare neck, and then heard their deepening growl as they marched up the back of her head.  Karen desperately tried thinking of something other than the amount of hair the barber was removing, but the vision of her ruined coiffure was almost more than she could bear.  She closed her eyes and stoically endured the shearing the barber was administering without complaint.

After a seeming eternity the clippers ceased their roar and Karen felt the barber’s finger gently lifting her chin back to its original position.  She opened her eyes, but when she viewed herself in the mirror she from the front she still wore the ridiculous schoolgirl blunt cut.  In the back, however, she knew the picture was much different.

Her barber grabbed a comb and positioned himself at her side, poised to begin the next stage of this traumatic makeover.  He lifted the lock in front of her left ear quickly sliced it off.  As he continued, fragments of severed hair began accumulating on the cape covering her shoulder.  She watched in silent amazement as her ear was exposed, thanking providence that she hadn’t inherited her father’s jug-handle ears.  The barber didn’t stop until all the hair on the left side of her head had been reduced to less than an inch in length.  Now there could be no doubt; this was going to be a radically short haircut.  When he finally finished her hair would be nearly the same length as Jay’s standard barbershop cut.

The barber resumed cutting, this time on her right side.  He meticulously repeated the procedure, producing an identical result.  Now the two sides matched, but the top was still retained considerable length.  It was a ridiculous look and Karen had to restrain an urge to instruct the barber to hurry up and complete his work.

Jay had been watching intently since telling the barber about the pixie cut he wanted his wife to wear; now he spoke up.  “Cut the top fairly short,” he ordered.

“How short,” the barber responded.

Her husband never hesitated.  “About this length,” he said, holding his fingers two inches apart.

The barber seemed dubious.  “That’s gonna be pretty short,” he observed.  “Usually I leave the top longer than that.”

“Let’s go for short all over,” Jay confirmed.

“Okay boss, if that’s what you want,” the skeptical barber answered.

“Yeah, that’s what I want,” Jay answered, not a trace of doubt in his voice.

Karen sat there dumbfounded, scarcely believing the conversation she just overheard.  Had she heard her husband correctly?  What demon had taken possession of him?  Only half an hour earlier he had been trying to talk her out of getting her hair cut.  Now he couldn’t wait until all evidence of her of her once elegant tresses was brutally erased.  She wanted to scream.  The haircut Jay was ordering was shorter than any pixie cut she could picture.  It would leave her with the androgynous look favored by some youthful trend setters, but rarely seen on women her age.  She could fight back, she supposed, make a scene and storm out of the shop with a half-done haircut, but what good would that do?  She sighed and resigned herself accepting Jay’s unusual behavior without protest.

The barber sprayed a fine mist of water over Karen’s head and selected a strand between his fingers from just above her forehead.  He coolly snipped off everything longer than two inches, casually dropping the severed fragment to the floor.  Karen stared straight ahead, watching in helpless horror as the barber cropped her formerly magnificent mane to an unreasonably short length.  He worked his way back along her crown, reducing everything to a uniform length.  Karen saw the radically shortened crop taking shape on top of her head, far more extreme than anything she could have imagined when she rashly marched into the barber shop half an hour ago.

Mercifully, the barber worked rapidly, completing her shearing before she totally collapsed.  He rested his scissors and grabbed a stiff brush.  He drew a part down the left side of her head and brushed the radically shortened hair across her scalp.  She groaned when she saw the resulting style.  Without a doubt, she now wore a traditional man’s haircut—not a trace of femininity was evident.

“Well, what d’ya think,” the barber inquired hopefully.

“I look like my father,” she groaned.  “This is a man’s haircut.”

“What did ya expect?” he countered defensively.  “I told you I didn’t do ladies hairstyles.”

“Can you brush it straight back off of my face?” Karen requested.  “So it stands up instead of lying flat.”

“Yeah, I can do that,” he replied, eager to please his dissatisfied customer.

The barber obediently complied with Karen’s direction as she viewed yet another hairstyle forming.  Two inch auburn tufts sprouted in all directions.  The severely short crop atop her head now resembled one of the punk cuts usually seen on younger women.   There was only one saving grace, at least, it was not a masculine haircut.

When he finished she told the barber, “Yes, that’s better.”

“You’re gonna need some gel to hold it in place,” the barber offered.

“I suppose you know what’s best,” she agreed.  “Go ahead.”

The barber massaged a generous dollop the tacky paste into her hair and then brushed her head again, this time making more of an effort to create an attractive style.  To her immense relief, she found this look considerably more feminine than the style she wore minutes before.  She was confident that Julie could craft an even more fetching style when she returned to the salon in a month or two.

The barber turned to Jay, realizing that he had the final say over Karen’s haircut.  “What do you think?” he asked.

“Yeah, that looks good,” he declared.

The barber unfastened the cape and removed it from Karen’s shoulders, adding a mass of auburn clippings to the pile already on the floor.  She lowered herself out of the chair and headed for the door.  “Pay the man, Jay,” she called over her shoulder.

Jay pulled three twenties from his wallet and thrust them in the barber’s hand.  He hurried to catch up with his wife who was rapidly disappearing down the corridor.  He found her waiting at the elevator.  “I don’t want to talk with you,” she abruptly announced.

“What’s the matter?  Are you upset?”

“Upset?  Of course I’m upset.  Look at my hair,” she cried.

“Your hair looks great,” he told her.

“I can’t believe you really mean that,” she shouted.

Their conversation halted when the elevator door opened revealing three other passengers.  “Later,” she whispered as they boarded and pushed the button for their floor.

Karen disappeared into the bathroom of their suite, ignoring Jay’s pleas for her to come out and talk with him.  Fifteen minutes later she emerged with her eyes red from crying.

“Why did you have him do this to me?” she shouted, pointing at her newly cropped head.

“You agreed to get your hair cut short, don’t you remember?” he retorted.

“But not this short,” she angrily declared.

“You’re the one who chose the barber shop,” he countered.

“Yes, but you’re the one who told the barber to cut it so short.  He would have left my hair at a reasonable length, but you insisted that he go shorter.”

“Yeah, I did.  The pixie cut he gave you looked awful.  I thought it would look much better like this.”

“And you seriously think I look good with my hair so short?”

“Yeah.  You look really hot with your hair cut like this.  Remember a couple of years ago how you said Halle Berry looked much better with a short haircut?”

“I may have said something like that,” she conceded.

“Well, that’s when I started thinking you should get your hair cut short like this.”

“So why didn’t you tell me then?  You didn’t have to pull a stunt like this.”

“I knew you’d never go for it.  You were too attached to your long hair.  You would have said no if I asked you to get your hair cut like this.”

“Yes, I suppose you’re right about that.”

“Is there something wrong with wanting my wife to look stylish and sexy?”

“No, of course not.  But why did you have to be so sneaky?  You never really asked my opinion,” she complained.

“Would you have agreed if I explained what I wanted in advance?”

“Probably not.  You’re right about that.  Still, who gave you permission to ignore my wishes?  Don’t I count?”

Karen sulked for the rest of the day, pointedly ignoring Jay’s efforts to engage her in conversation.  The journey back home passed mostly in silence.

Karen was preoccupied.  She realized that she would have a lot of explaining to do when she got home.  Her girlfriends would have plenty of questions.  Whatever had prompted this middle aged community leader to exchange her trademark hairdo for such a radical look?  Was this an impulsive response to a personal crisis or something she had planned for a long time?  Did she intend to keep her hair so short or would she go back to a more conservative style?  Justifying her makeover to her children would be even more difficult.  After all, they had never seen their mother’s hair a different length.

Jayne, who lived next door, was the first to see Karen’s shortened do.  She dropped over no more than half an hour after they pulled into the driveway.  “My God!  What happened to your hair?” she exclaimed on first sight.

Karen tried to dismiss her neighbor’s horrified reaction with humor.  “Why Jayne, you don’t approve of my new hairdo?”

“Whatever were you thinking, Karen?  Why did you chop off your beautiful hair?  I can understand wanting to change your style, but why this?  I hope you’re not thinking of keeping your hair like that,” she exclaimed, pointing to her neighbor’s head.

The second person to see Karen’s haircut was Vivian, a colleague from PTA days, who called soon after Jayne departed.  “Jayne told me you got a major haircut that I just have to see for myself.  Mind if I stop over?”

“Sure, come on over and bring all your friends,” Karen answered, throwing in a generous helping of sarcasm.

Vivian’s reaction was 180 degrees from Jayne’s.  “Wow!  Jayne wasn’t exaggerating.  Girl, you got yourself one hell of a haircut,” she exclaimed.

“Do you like it?” Karen asked, not really sure she wanted to hear Vivian’s response.

“I’m not sure I’d be brave enough to make such a radical change, but you really rock this look.”

“It’s not too extreme, is it?”

“Well, it is extreme.  No denying that, but it really suits you.  You look strong and bold.  You’re making a statement and I like what you’re saying.  You definitely should keep this look.”

Karen’s children were another worry.  All three were too far away to see her in person so she had Jay take a series of photos and picked the most flattering to send via email.  She heard back from Stephanie almost immediately.  “Wow Mom!!!  That’s what I call a really radical move!!!  Can’t wait to see it in person!!!  Maybe you and Dad can come to my next home game.  What does Dad think of your new style???”  Karen had to smile.  Her youngest child never lacked for enthusiasm.  She should have known that Stephie would approve.  She decided not to respond to the question about Jay’s opinion.  No need to go into that issue, she thought.

Replies from Josh and Lucas were slower in coming.  Karen figured they needed time to digest their mother’s new look and come up with a diplomatic way to tell her they disapproved of bizarre new hairstyle.  Traditional males, they preferred long-haired women and couldn’t understand why she would decide to part with the long locks they had known for as long as they remembered.  Of course, she would never tell them it was their father’s idea.

There was no disguising Jay’s enthusiasm for her new haircut.  He took every opportunity to run his hand across the brief thicket on top of her head.  His sexual desire awoke from a long slumber.  He made love with a passion that Karen hadn’t seen in years.

In six weeks’ time Karen’s cut was starting to look shaggy so she made an appointment at her usual salon.  She felt disloyal for undergoing her big makeover elsewhere and wondered what Julie would say after inspecting her new style.  To her great relief, her stylist was positive.  “I heard a rumor that you got a major makeover,” she said after Karen appeared at her station.

“Well, you can see what happened,” Karen replied.

“Yes, and I love your new look.  It’s a big departure from your old style, but it really suits you—very bold and modern.”

“Yeah, it’s taken a while to get used to it, but, you know, I feel it was overdue.”

“Tell me, how did it happen?  Just a sudden inspiration?”

“Actually, it was my husband’s suggestion.”

“No fooling, I never would’ve expected that.”

Neither did I, but he convinced me it was time for a change.”

“So, what are we doing today?  Shall I trim around the edges while you let the top grow out?”

“Nope, I’ve decided to keep it short,” Karen said without hesitation.

“Really?” Julie exclaimed.

“Yeah.  I like the convenience of short hair and Jay’s crazy about my new look.”

“So how short are we going?”

“Like this,” Karen replied, demonstrating, holding her fingers about an inch apart.

“Wow.  I’m gonna have to use the clippers if you want it that length,” her disbelieving hairdresser replied.

“Yes, use the clippers, please.”

“Really?  I never expected you to say yes.”

“The barber used them last time, not on the top, but on the back and sides.  Once I got over being scared I rather enjoyed the sensation.”

“Kind of a turn on, isn’t it?” Julie answered.

“You too?”

“I’m not as bold as you are, but I’ve felt the clippers too,” she said, lifting the back of her bob to reveal a generous undercut.

“I never suspected,” Karen exclaimed.  “Aren’t you clever?”

“I’d love to do something as bold as you did, but I fear it would chase customers away.  Got to watch the bottom line after all.”

“Of course.  I understand,” Karen concurred.

“I can get my thrill vicariously by buzzing you.”

“Well, you’re more than welcome.  Why don’t we stop chatting and get down to work?”

“Okay,” Julie agreed.  “I’ll use a number 8 guide on top and a number 3 on the sides and back.  If that’s too long, we can always go shorter.”

“Sounds like a plan,” Karen replied.  “Let’s go for it.”

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