Four Easy Steps
The thing was, I had had long hair all my life. Ever since I was a little girl, my mother had drilled into me that girls always had long, flowing tresses. And, until a short time ago, I had maintained that thinking.
It wasn’t until my daughter, who was all of eleven, expressed an interest in having her hair cut that I even entertained the idea of cutting mine. I had made a promise to myself that I wasn’t going to enforce my mother’s antiquated views on any of my children. If Sara wanted her hair cut, then I would acquiesce. How she wanted it cut was entirely up to her, vowing no interference.
I made an appointment with my hairstylist, who was in a constant state of frustration with me. For ten years I had been going there, and for ten years all I had ever allowed her to do was trim the ends.
“Heidi, yes it’s a little too soon for me.” Recognizing me at once. “This is about Sara. She wants her hair cut.”
“You’re actually going to let her. This is Janice Simms I’m talking to, right?” She chortled.
“Of course. I’m not my mother.” I explained. She and I had often discussed my mother’s engrained sense of femininity she had instilled in me.
“Well, that goodness for that.” Heidi kidded. “I have a cancellation this afternoon, if that would work.” She offered.
“She gets out of school at three. What time?” I asked.
“I can take her at four-fifteen.”
“That’ll be perfect. See you then.” I hung up the phone, wondering how I was actually going to feel about Sara having her hair cut, into whatever style she wanted. The prospect frightened me; I was ashamed to admit.
Sara arrived home right on time and was more than excited that I had set up a haircut for her so quickly.
“Thank goodness.” She said, excitedly. “You said I could have it any way I wanted, though, remember?” Sara pressed, reminding me of my promise.
“I did, and you can.” I watched her cart her backpack up to her room, her waist-length blonde hair hanging jet straight down her back as she climbed the stairs. I wondered if I was making a mistake. How she was going to have it cut?
We arrived at the Bee’s Nest hair salon a little after four, and took our seats in the waiting area. Heidi popped her head around the corner saying that she was right on time. So, precisely at four-fifteen, she arrived to usher us into the back and her work station.
“So, Sara, your mother says you want your hair cut,” Heidi said, as she wrapped my daughter in one of the monogrammed capes.
“Yes, just like this.” Sara reached into her pocket and pulled out a picture she had obviously printed off the internet. I craned my neck to see, but Heidi was quick to hide it from me, depositing it on the counter far from my gaze.
“Then, just like that, it will be.” Heidi insisted, looking directly at me. She knew of my promise, and was going to make sure I kept it. “You know you can…”
“Yep, and I even brought my own baggy.” Anticipating the question, Sara produced a quart-size plastic zip-lock out of her other pocket. So, it was going to be more than a trim. Inside the bag, I could see one of the neon hair ties that she never used.
“Good for you. I’m sure it will go to good use. Your hair is in perfect condition.” Heidi offered.
“Thanks, but it’s time for a change,” Sara said, resolutely.
I watched, nervously, as Heidi tied Sara’s hair right at the hairline, all the way to the top of her neck. I had to fight with myself to keep from saying anything and Heidi could see it on my face.
“Should we show your mother the picture?” Heidi asked. “She looks like she’s about to explode over there.”
“Nope. She promised, and that picture is our business.” Sara confirmed.
It wasn’t until Heidi’s scissors began to saw through my daughter’s beautiful hair that I really began to feel panicked. It was as though it was me in the chair, and I could quite literally feel the cold metal of the scissors against my own neck in sympathy. The thing was, Sara seemed overjoyed when the two-foot-long ponytail finally came loose, and was slowly lowered into the waiting plastic bag.
Looking back at Sara, her hair now hung in a severe bob, which only just covered her ears. When Heidi reached for the clippers, I almost stood up. Knowing what my reaction would be she cast me a look, telling me to relax, sotto voce. I silently sat back, but couldn’t help but shudder as the clippers popped to life.
Heidi slipped the clippers under the bottom of Sara’s already too short bob, and proceeded to run them up underneath, with the blades finally emerging halfway up the side of her head. Suddenly, my daughter’s ear was completely on display. This continued around the back until there was a severe taper all the way around, but leaving a blonde mop on the top. My daughter was starting to look suspiciously like a boy.
Next came the top. Although Heidi was using the scissors now, rather than those heinous clippers, she was still mercilessly cutting hank after hank of hair away from Sara’s head. As I watched the haircut unfold, I noticed one amazing thing. Sara was laughing, she and Heidi having a whale of a time talking about things that I didn’t even pay attention to. All I could focus on was the shape of my daughter’s head slowly becoming more and more apparent.
What was left at the end was the shortest pixie cut I had ever seen. Having fired up the clippers again, Heidi had shortened the taper on the back and sides so that Sara’s scalp was plainly visible, and continuing up, the top was only just long enough to comb. The way Heidi had styled it, it stood up in a spiky style, looking something like a punk hairdo from the nineties.
When Heidi finally released Sara from the chair, she was all smiles. “What do think, Mom?” She asked.
“It’s short.” Was about all I managed, as I paid Heidi a hairdresser’s fee for a job that any run-of-the-mill barber could have performed.
“See you in two weeks?” Heidi bubbled, still high from the interaction with my daughter.
“It’ll be the usual, Heidi. Don’t get any ideas.” I warned.
All the way home, I marveled at how happy Sara was. Her hands were all over her new haircut, what was left of her hair had to have felt just awful.
“Honestly, Mom, do you like it?” She asked.
Not wanting to upset her with how I really felt, “I like it if you like it, sweetheart.” I figured it was the most diplomatic answer I could come up with.
Here’s the funny thing. Over the next two weeks, the look actually started to grow on me. I got used to the quirky little tom-boy look, which is what she truly was, and she seemed to be in her glory. I supposed that was all that really mattered.
So, when two weeks rolled around and I was on my way to the Bee’s Nest, I couldn’t help but wonder what it must have been like. How would it feel to just have it all cut off? Of course, as soon as the car was in park, reality came rushing back and I went in to see Heidi, fully intent on getting the usual.
“I can’t get over how sharp your daughter looked with that style. It really suited her.” Heidi smiled.
“You know, for once, I have to agree with you. She loves it, and that’s enough for me.” I resigned.
“So…, what do you say to something more than a trim?” Heidi asked, reticently.
“Heidi… please.” I groaned. “I’ve had this style for twenty years.”
“All the more reason to change it up.” She insisted.
Suddenly, the ideas that I was having on the drive over, came rushing back. It surprised me when I actually agreed to something more than a trim. “Fine.”
“Fine? You mean you’ll let me actually give you a haircut, a style?” Heidi asked in mock disbelief.
“Yeah, take off a few inches.” I relented. What were a few inches after all?
Heidi didn’t need any more direction than that. She immediately started sectioning my hair, and taking off whatever prescribed amount she deemed was a few inches. Well, it turned out to be more like six.
When she finally let me see the length, I was taken aback. “I told you a few inches, not half a foot!” But then I noticed just how full and healthy my hair looked with a little of the weight off. Where it once hung straight and flat, it now bounced with a little more body. “Come to think of it, it actually looks good, Heidi.”
“I knew you’d like it.” She whipped the cape off and we headed for the front. “So, what do you say we continue this little adventure we’ve started?” Heidi suggested. “Two weeks?”
“Fine.” It seemed to be the word of the day, but I think it was a word that was getting me into trouble as well. “We’ll see about continuing anything.”
“At least think about it.” She insisted. “You might find you like your hair shorter.”
“Of course, the cut wasn’t enough to really affect anything. It still took just as long to dry, just as long to straighten, but it was enough for almost everyone to notice. Funny enough, and contrary to my own opinion, nearly all the comments were positive. Even my daughter noticed, and saying that she was a good influence on me.
When I told Sara that I was going back in two weeks, she laughed, but then begged me to take her with me. “Don’t want this growing out just yet,” She explained. I told her I would have to clear it with Heidi, but when I called expecting a balk, all I got was more unbridled enthusiasm.
“I loved having that little charmer in my chair. You do realize what a gem she is, Janice?” She glowed.
“Yes, I do. Thank you, she really is a blessing.” Of all my children, Sara was the best behaved, the smartest, and the most helpful. Now, mind you, my other two are boys.
On the way to the salon, I had to say that some of Sara’s enthusiasm was rubbing off on me. For reasons unknown, I was actually marginally excited to see what Heidi might do.
“Hey, you two!” Heidi was almost effervescent.
“Do you want to take Sara first, Heidi? I still have to think about this some more. The truth was, my mind was already made up. I was going to let Heidi do as she pleased with my hair, throwing caution to the wind.
I could have sworn that Heidi had taken Sara’s hair down even shorter than the last time, but it was so short anyway that it was hard to tell. All I knew was that Sara seemed happy, and therefore, so was I.
As I took a seat in the chair and Heidi surrounded me with the cape, I took a deep breath and renewed my intentions.
“You know, Sara, that was a really thoughtful thing you did last time, donating all that beautiful hair. Don’t you think it’s time your mother did the same?” Heidi questioned. I could see that she was trying to shame me into doing something drastic, but I wasn’t sure I was ready for such a big change.
Thinking for a minute, I decided to see if I could outsmart her at her own game. “Okay, what is the shortest amount they will accept as a donation?” I asked.
“I’m pretty sure it’s ten inches, Mom. You should go for it.” Sara said, enthusiastically. “I mean, your hair would still be touching your shoulders.”
“Ten inches. You know, Heidi, I do believe I’m being blackmailed.” I scowled, jokingly. “Ten inches, then. But not a millimeter more.” I insisted. “This is going to be a huge change for me.”
“Way to go, Mom.” Sara cheered.
Once again, Heidi began sectioning off my hair, only this time she was securing it into four ponytails. What the hell was I doing? By now, half of the salon was watching. They knew how significant this was for me.
Just as she did for Sara, Heidi began sawing off each of the blonde tassels, laying them next to each other on the counter in front of me. Like this wasn’t traumatic enough, I had to have my severed hair lined up neatly in front of me.
By the time all four ponies had been cut, there was some measured applause coming from both stylists and customers all around me. I reached up to feel what remained of my hair, and was shocked to realize that it was nowhere near my shoulders. Never trust a kid, even when they have the best intentions.
Heidi began surveying what she had left to work with. “Well, we could leave it this length and you could have a nice blunt cut bob, or I could layer it, which is what I would go with.”
“Whatever leaves the most length,” I begged, trying to preserve as much hair as I could.
“Then again, we could do something a little more adventurous.” Like she never even heard me. “We could do an A-line, or something with an undercut,” Heidi suggested, hopefully.
“Just do the layers, Heidi.” I relented. “I think I’ve done pretty well, so far.”
“You’ve done great, Mom. You look so much better already.” Sara insisted.
“I’m glad you think so.” I looked at my reflection in the mirror and wasn’t sure if I was going to be able to walk afterward. My legs felt weak, and I was still sitting down.
A section at a time, Heidi began lifting my hair and cutting it. It sure seemed like she was still taking off so much. I was relieved at the end when I saw that the length hadn’t really changed all that much, other than a bit of evening up she had done.
I ended up with a bob that was somewhere between my shoulders and my chin. Way shorter than I ever imagined wearing it. The staff was all compliments, one even saying that I looked ten years younger. I took the comments in stride. This was definitely going to take some getting used to.
First off, I thought my husband, Rob, was going to kill me. He’d also grown attached to my long hair over the years, and I worried that he might find the look unflattering. Much to my surprise, Rob loved the cut. All he ended up saying was it was my hair, and to do what I wanted with it.
I’d been reluctant to set up another appointment with Heidi, for fear of her cutting even more of my precious hair off. I’d already lost more than I still had. I did set up another appointment for Sara, however, at her request. Heidi was disappointed that our little journey was going to end there.
This time, the difference was noticeable all around. Less time styling, less time drying, not in the way all the time. It was just a more convenient cut. So, when it came time for Sara’s appointment, it was me calling Heidi to see if she could fit me in. Of course, she jumped at the chance to have at my hair again. What would it be this time, a crewcut?
Well, it wasn’t anything as drastic as that, but for me, it was another big change. Clippers were involved, something that I never imagined ever being waved at my head. By the end of it, I was sporting an inverted bob with a shaved undercut, the stubble running most of the up the back of my head. I had promised Heidi that I wouldn’t be mad at her, and to be honest, I really wasn’t. Long to shorthe front wasn’t any shorter than it had been, but the back, oh my, it was cut to the middle of my head. I couldn’t help but think I looked like a lopsided mushroom.
I had a hard time getting used to this cut, and knew that some changes would be in order the next time I saw Heidi. Well, I couldn’t even wait the two weeks, this time. I had to make a special appointment, because I hated the inverted bob that much.
Heidi looked me over and made some suggestions. The one that kept coming up was a pixie.
“When you say pixie, are you talking about like Sara’s cut?” I fretted.
“No, it doesn’t have to be. I could leave the top longer; give you something to style up there. The thing is you’ve got the undercut, so you’d either have to grow that out, or cut the sides the same length.”
“Well, seeing as I can’t live with this cut long enough to grow it out, I guess my only option is to even it out.” I couldn’t believe what I was asking for. A month before, I had hair reaching to the middle of my back.
Once again the clippers emerged from the drawer, only this time I could see plainly what they were doing to my hair. Starting in front of my ear, Heidi ran the clipper up the side, taking the hair down to a fraction of an inch. She didn’t go all that far up, but just the sight of my scalp peeking through the stubble was enough to scare the hell out of me. Carefully, Heidi worked her way around the back and finished up on the opposite side. If I thought I looked like a deranged mushroom before, this was so much worse.
“Don’t worry, I’m not done. I know this looks a bit odd.” Heidi said, trying to comfort me as she gathered what remained of my hair and clipped it up.
“Odd doesn’t even touch it, sweetie,” I remarked.
She switched out the little plastic thingy on the clippers and started all over again, only this time running them all the way up. I think my mouth must have been hanging open because she shut it with her finger. “You don’t want hair in there.”
I think I might have been shaking by the time she had finished that part. Aside from the top, I didn’t look too much different than Sara. “Heidi, I…”
“Don’t worry, Janice. You’re gonna love it when I’m done.” Heidi insisted.
Removing the clips, all the hair that remained fell down, disguising the stark clippered line that ran around my head. Section by section, she trimmed up the top, layering and thinning, until it was feathered front to back and just covering the top of the clipped part.
“There. What do you think?” Heidi spun me around so that I could see it from all sides.
To be honest it was a beautiful cut. I just was shocked to see it sitting on my head. “God, it’s so short.” I sighed, running my fingers up the sides and feeling the bristled stubble that remained there. “I can’t believe I’m saying this, but I actually like it.”
Heidi clapped her hands together, excitedly. “I knew you would. You see, all you had to do was take that first step.”
As I walked out of the salon, I thought I would feel self-conscious about how I looked. The thing is, nothing could have been farther from the truth.