When they met, her blonde curls tumbled past her shoulders, ending just above her bra strap. He loved the way the light played in her golden locks when they went on their first date, a picnic in a local park. They drank wine and chatted and people watched. “Wow,” she said at some point. “I wish I had the confidence to do something like that.”
He followed her gaze. She was staring at a woman who had just entered the park. The woman was tall and trim but what was most noticeable about her was her dark hair, or what there was of it, anyway, no more than an inch long anywhere on her head. He agreed that a style like that does require a lot of confidence, but didn’t say much else. The conversation went on from there.
On their second date, she arrived with her hair slicked back in a ponytail. When he first saw her walking across the restaurant, all her curls pushed back from her face, he initially wondered if his date had been so inspired by the woman they had seen in the park that she had taken the plunge herself. When she turned to thank the hostess, he saw her ponytail, hanging down her back. He felt relief but also, to his surprise, perhaps a twinge of disappointment.
On their third date, she invited him upstairs to her apartment for a drink, which naturally became more, as they had both hoped it would. She kissed her way down from his mouth to his throat to his chest and lower still, and her hair tickled his torso. He reached down and played with it while she took him in her mouth. Later, as she rode him, her hair fell toward him. It was beautiful, but it kept obscuring her face. In the morning, when neither of them were ready to get out of bed quite yet, he took her from behind, one hand on her hip and one buried in her hair, pulling her head slightly back until she let out a little moan of pleasure. He pushed the hair aside a bit so he could run his tongue up her spine.
“I’m thinking about cutting my hair,” she said to him one morning a few months later. He was gently stroking her blonde curls as she rested her head on his chest. He made a sound that was neither question, comment, nor concern—or, in truth, perhaps, it was all of those things.
She sat up and looked at him, waiting for him to say something more.
“How much?” he finally asked her because he could tell that’s what she wanted him to do.
“I don’t know,” she said. “What do you think?”
“I don’t know,” he answered, because he didn’t.
“You don’t know?”
“It’s your hair.”
“Yes, but if you have any strong feelings about it you should tell me. And I’ve always thought you kind of had a thing for my hair.”
He reached up and pulled a lock of her hair out from behind her ear, stroking it. “I love your hair,” he said, “because I love you. I won’t love you any less no matter what you do to your hair.”
It was the first time he’d said he loved her. “I love you, too,” she beamed. “I have to get ready for work.”
The next night, they met for dinner. She entered the restaurant with her curls bouncing just above her shoulders, about eight inches shorter than they had hung the morning before. A long swath of hair hung diagonally across her forehead nearly covering her left eye. She kissed him before she sat and then looked at him and waited for him to speak.
“Well?” she finally asked.
“Well,” he responded. “Just as I suspected, I don’t love you any less.”
“Not even eight inches less?”
“Not even eight millimeters less.”
They ordered their dinner and talked about their day. During dessert, she noticed a patron who had just entered. “She’s gorgeous,” she said, because it was objectively true. He turned to catch a glimpse of who she was talking about. The woman was petite but athletic looking. Her platinum blonde hair was cropped extremely short, creating a stunning contrast against her dark skin. The woman’s haircut accentuated her features—big brown eyes, high cheekbones, full lips. He agreed with his date that the woman was, indeed, beautiful. They ordered dessert.
That night, at her apartment, he ran his fingers through her hair as they made love. It was strange how the sensation just ended, so many inches above where he was used to stopping. But now the points of her clavicle were exposed. And when he turned her over and buried one hand in her hair while he braced himself with the other on her hip, he could still gather the locks and pull in the same way that always made her moan, but there was no longer any need to push her hair out of the way as he ran his tongue up her spine.
They got engaged, bought a house. She announced her intention to grow her hair longer for the wedding. He didn’t say anything. They arrived to their closing and saw their realtor, who had been sporting sort of a boring brown bob the last time they saw her, had cut her hair into an asymmetrical pixie and dyed it bright red. “I love your hair,” she told the agent when they entered. “You look amazing.”
They set a date for the wedding, just over a year past their signing. She calculated that her hair wouldn’t be quite as long as it had been when they met, but it would probably still be plenty long for whatever style she chose for their big day, and asked if he thought that would be okay. “I’m not marrying your hair,” he said. “I’m marrying you.” He meant it.
She walked down the aisle in a lace-embellished dress, with her hair pinned back at the sides and then cascading down her back. He couldn’t take his eyes off her. Later, when he saw the photos, he noticed that her hair looked luminous, as if it had been reflecting the light of every candle in their venue.
They left for their honeymoon the day after. Every day for a week, they stretched out on beach chairs or in hammocks, beneath the shade of a beach umbrella or under the canopy of the almond trees that lined the playa. She complimented their cocktail waitress one day on her hair, which was shaved to the skin on one side and reached past her shoulder on the other. She asked her new husband if he had noticed the waitress. He had, but he said he only had eyes for her.
The salt water turned her hair into a wild, sexy mess of curls he thought made her look like a goddess, but he noticed she seemed to be having trouble getting the tangles out when they went back to their room to dress for dinner that first night. He got into the shower with her and took the comb from her hands, then gently eased it through her hair, starting at the bottom and moving up, until every knot was gone. They repeated this ritual for the rest of their trip, often making love before they exited the hot stream of water.
“I don’t know what I’m going to do with my hair when we get back home and we don’t have time for these long showers,” she said to him as she toweled her hair off on the final night.
“I’ll make time if you want me to.”
“It’s okay,” she said. “I think I’ll probably be getting a haircut after we get back.” She looked at him with her head tilted to one side. “What do you think?”
“I think it’s your hair,” he said diplomatically, because in reality he thought a lot of things.
“But you’re married to it now,” she said.
“I’m married to you. Your hair is just part of the deal.”
They got home from their honeymoon on a Tuesday and spent a few quiet days at home acclimating to their married life—which was not, in fact, that different from their unmarried life. Their next-door neighbor came over on Thursday evening to drop off the mail she had been collecting for them. The last time they saw her, her straight brown hair hung nearly to her waist. When she appeared at their door, she was sporting a trendy haircut, closely cropped on the back and sides and longer on the top, pushed back into a sort of pompadour. They complimented her on the change and she explained that it was made out of necessity. Somehow, a piece of her one of her children’s chewing gum had become entangled in her hair, close to the root, and her stylist couldn’t get it out without cutting a large chunk of hair out in an obvious location. She was getting used to her new look, she explained, but she didn’t hate it.
The neighbor left a few minutes later and the newlyweds began to sort through their mail.
“That’s a big change,” the new wife said to her husband after a while. “But she looks stunning.”
“I agree,” he said. “It is a big change.”
On Friday afternoon, she said she was running some errands and asked him if he wanted to come. He declined, saying he’d get started on all the laundry they’d brought back with them. As she left, he thought that maybe she seemed…disappointed? But he couldn’t tell for sure and there was no use picking a fight if there was no reason to be fighting. They hadn’t even been married two weeks.
She came back a few hours later and began unloading groceries. He came up from the basement, where he had just put the final load of laundry into the dryer. She looked up from the refrigerator and he could see that one of her errands was clearly to the salon. Her curls now stopped a few inches below her chin, shorter even than they had fallen the last time she had gotten a significant hair cut. He stared at her. At the hollow of her throat, at her neck that now seemed so impossibly long. He could tell her hair was slightly shorter in the back even than it was in the front and wondered for a moment what he would do if he didn’t have that handful of hair to tug on when he took his wife from behind. But god, she looked amazing. He decided that, if necessary, he would figure something else out.
“Well?” she asked. It was the same thing she’d asked after that first haircut, when they’d only been dating a few months.
“Well,” he smiled. “There’s my beautiful bride.” He approached her and closed the refrigerator door. They kissed passionately and began to undress one another. Soon, his new wife stood naked before him in the kitchen. There was no more long hair to hide her breasts, no curls tumbling down her back. He bent her over the kitchen counter and was pleased to discover there was still just enough hair for him to take hold of as he slid himself between his wife’s legs.
A few months later she was standing in the bathroom, naked, looking at herself in the mirror unhappily. “What is it?” he asked.
“My hair. I don’t know what to do with it. Do I let it grow out again? Do I get the same cut as last time? Something else?”
He came up behind her, cupping her breasts, and began to kiss her neck. “Whatever you do, I know you’ll look beautiful,” he said huskily into her ear.
She stepped away, looking at him. “I love that you love me no matter what,” she said. “And I love that you want me to be the one to decide what happens with my body, with my appearance. But in all this time together, has it occurred to you that I ask you about my hair because I actually want you to tell me what to do with it?”
He was taken aback. All those times they had been out and she had commented on another woman’s hair—she wasn’t just being complimentary—she was dropping hints. She was trying to get a read on how he would feel about her getting that haircut, or something like it. He thought back on what all those women looked like. A pattern was emerging. “Do you want my blessing to cut your hair short?” he asked her.
“No. Well, yes. But more than that, I want you to want me to wear my hair short. And I’m asking you to be the one to decide how.”
“But you’re so independent. I never thought…”
“I can still be independent and give you control over this one aspect of my life.”
“What if I choose something you hate?”
“You won’t. But even if you do, it’s just hair. It grows back.”
“So what do you want me to do?”
“I want you to make an appointment for me to get a haircut. I don’t want to know when it is or even where we’re going. When we get there I want to tell them to cut my hair however you tell them. And then I want you to watch as they do it.”
“I don’t know anything about women’s hairstyles.”
“It doesn’t have to be a women’s hairstyle.”
I looked at her to see if she was serious. She was.
“I know you love my hair,” she said to her new husband. “I love my hair, too. But for some reason I am aroused by the idea of cutting it off, especially if someone else makes that decision for me. And,” she added, looking down at my bulge, “I suspect part of you is, too.”
He had never thought of himself as a short hair guy but he was very much a guy who loved his wife and wanted to make her happy—plus, the idea of taking charge really was enticing. He called a few local salons, but nobody he spoke with was comfortable with a husband dictating his wife’s haircut, even if the wife gave the plan her approval. They were worried she might be agreeing under duress. Then he called he new unisex barbershop that had opened downtown. They didn’t take appointments, but they also had no problem with his plan to choose his wife’s haircut for her. The following Saturday, he asked her to run errands with him. He was nervous, worried she would know what he was up to. If she did, she gave no indication of it.
The couple swung by the dry cleaners and the shoe repair place, then stopped for lunch across the street from the new barbershop. He positioned his wife by the window so she would see it clearly, giving her an opportunity to figure out what was going on and also to back out of her request. She looked out to the shop and smiled, then played with a tendril of blonde hair that had escaped her ponytail right behind her ear. They ordered burgers and fries and he realized he was the one who was almost too nervous to eat. Then they paid and set off arm in arm to the barber shop.
There were three chairs in the barbershop, all occupied by men who were all probably getting the same short haircut they always got when they came to the shop. The first two chairs were staffed by male barbers. A woman stood behind the third. “I’ll be right with you,” she called out to the newlyweds.
He looked to his wife, trying to get a read on her emotions. She was smiling, but also looked…nervous? Excited? The female barber removed the cape from her client and addressed the couple, looking from husband to wife, unsure who would be taking her chair. “Next?”
The couple approached the barber’s chair holding hands. The wife gave her husband’s hand a little squeeze and took the chair. The barber shook out her cape and draped it over her new client. “What are we doing today, ma’am?” she asked, removing the elastic that held some, but not all, of the woman’s hair in place.
“Oh, uh, you’re going to have to ask him,” the woman replied, looking toward her husband.
“Oh you must be the one who called,” the barber said. “So, what are we doing for your wife here?”
He took a few steps toward the barber and handed her his phone, swiping across a few photos. The barber took the phone and swiped the opposite direction a few times. “I think this one is the winner. Okay with you?” He nodded. The barber turned toward his wife. “And you’re sure this plan is also okay with you?” She nodded as well.
The barber in the second chair had just finished with his customer and announced he was going to lunch. The female barber looked at the man whose wife she was about to style. “Have a seat over there,” she said to him, gesturing to the departing barber’s chair. Then she took the end of her comb and began to trace a v-shape in his wife’s hair, starting to one side of her forehead and coming to a point above her occipital lobe, then reversing in the other direction.
The barber turned her chair so the woman sitting in it was looking directly at her husband. He looked directly back. The barber then picked up her shears and looked at the man. He nodded, and the barber began hacking away at all the hair that hung below the v-shaped section she had just traced, just lifting and cutting without making any real effort to measure where she placed the blades. The man felt mixed emotions, watching this. Those golden curls he so loved now lay on the floor, sloppily severed from his beloved’s head, and more than that, he knew the barber was also cutting off the last bits of the hair that he would be able to tug on at his wife’s nape nape while they made love.
But there was something exciting about it, too.
The woman in the chair studiously watched her husband’s face. “You look like you hate it,” she said to him.
“Ask me when it’s over.” He continued watching as the barber cut off the last curls that hung below the part. His wife was left with haphazard tufts of blonde hair on the sides and back of her head, none more than an inch long.
The barber put down her shears and picked up her clippers in one hand, and then held up four fingers toward the man. He looked at her and shook his head. Three fingers? No again. Two? Finally, he nodded. The barber affixed a guard to her clippers and turned them on. They made a loud pop, followed by a hum. He saw his wife jump and her eyes get big. Then, she smiled at him. He smiled back.
The barber placed the humming machine at her client’s right temple and drew the clippers up to the section she had previously separated, careful not to cut into any of the hair she had pinned up for her later attention. The woman in the chair closed her eyes as she felt the vibration on the side of her head. Her husband watched as a clump of blonde hair hit his wife’s cape. A small strip of hair so blonde and so short it almost disappeared against her fair skin was all that remained in its place. The barber folded the woman’s ear down gently and made another pass up to the sectioned-off hair. More hair hit the cape. More of that blonde fuzz was revealed.
As the barber worked, the man looked toward his wife. Her eyes were closed and she was biting her lower lip. He recognized that face. That was the face she often made when he was running his fingers up the inside of her thighs toward her mound. So she really was aroused by the idea getting her haircut, of him picking out her haircut. Looking at his wife—her closed eyes, her plump lower lip, and her perfectly shaped head beginning to emerge from beneath the shortened blonde hair the barber was quickly mowing down, he realized he, too, was aroused.
The barber was working behind his wife and he couldn’t see what was happening, but he knew all the same. Pass after pass with the clippers was leaving nothing but blonde velvet on the back of her head. The barber and her clippers soon came around to his wife’s left, quickly denuding that side of her head, all the way up past her temple. The barber went over the whole shorn area again with her clippers, passing them in different directions to make sure everything was even. Then she picked up a smaller set of clippers and began to sharpen the woman’s hairline at her temples and her neck and tidy the area around both ears.
“Come here,” the barber said to the man. He approached and she took his hand, placing on the back of his wife’s head. “Feel.”
He ran his fingertips up his wife’s nape, all the way to her crown. The blonde pelt that remained was so unbelievably soft, and he felt his wife lean back into his hand.
“Okay,” said the barber. “You can go sit down again.” She waited until the man was settled and then released the clip that had been holding what remained of the woman’s hair in place. Blonde curls fell to the woman’s earlobes, the bottom layers that had earlier hung past her chin now lying on the floor. The man anxiously awaited the fate of these final curls. He knew what picture he had shown the barber, but still, he worried that by the time they left, there wouldn’t be any blonde coils he could wrap around his fingers.
The barber combed her client’s hair forward so that it fell over the woman’s forehead. Then she picked up her scissors and, working from the back to the front, picked up one curled strand at a time and cut it off at a length that surely made sense to her, but the man could only guess at how she arrived there. After a few snips, the barber would run her fingers from the back of the woman’s head to the front, evaluating how the hair was laying before deciding where to cut next. When she seemed satisfied with the overall length, she picked up her thinning shears and cut into sections of the remaining hair, to keep the style from being too heavy or flat. Surprisingly large pieces of blonde hair rained down.
The man couldn’t tell exactly what he was seeing. The barber had combed through his wife’s so many times that the curls had turned to frizz. He hoped that this wasn’t the final look and was relieved when the barber picked up her spray bottle and misted his wife’s hair. She rubbed a small amount of gel into her hands and scrunched it into the damp hair, and then grabbed her blowdryer and continued scrunching while the longish curls that sat atop her client’s began to re-form and dry. Once finished, the barber stepped back.
The man got up again from the chair where he had been sitting and approached his wife. A tumble of blonde hair fell over her forehead toward her eyes but the rest of her head was nearly bare, covered in the lightest blonde fuzz. Her neck seemed to go on forever. Her jaw looked more chiseled, her cheekbones more prominent. She had always been gorgeous but now she was just so fucking sexy he wanted to take her right there in the barbershop. And it was all because he was the one who took control.
The woman smiled at her husband. She still had not seen the final cut, but she was smiling all the same, just because he was smiling. When he reached her, he cupped her face with his hands and kissed her deeply, running one hand up the back of her head and into her remaining curls.
The barber cleared her throat. “So, do you want to see it, or…?”
The couple separated from their embrace and the barber turned the chair to face the mirror. The woman’s eyes widened and her hands flew up to her head. She turned to one side, then the other, and smiled.
“I take it you’re not mad at your husband, then?” the barber asked.
“Quite the opposite. This is the sort of haircut I’ve wanted for years but never knew how to break it to him that I wanted to cut all my hair off. I’ve been dropping hints since our first date that I wanted to go short, like really short. And he never picked up on it.”
“Until today, apparently,” the barber said, removing the woman’s cape. The floor was strewn with blonde curls of different lengths.
The man handed the barber a fifty-dollar bill for what he had learned ahead of time would be a $17 haircut. “Keep the change,” he said, and, taking his wife by the hand, he exited the barbershop.
The couple returned to their home as quickly as they could and spent the day in bed, learning together to appreciate her new haircut. When she went down on him, he ran his fingers lightly up the back of her head. She purred slightly at this, making the sensation of being inside her mouth even more enjoyable. He discovered that while he couldn’t pull on the hair at her nape anymore, he could position himself so that he was able to kiss and caress her neck and head before taking hold of the longer hair sitting above her occipital lobe and winding his fingers in it, then pulling back just as he had done before. She let out that same moan she always had.
Though she still had curls tumbling into her face, he discovered that as she rode him, they didn’t prevent him from seeing her face they once had, and she could look her husband in the eye as they came together. Afterward, when she climbed off and laid beside him, rather than the feel of him caressing her long curls to which she had become so accustomed, there was the new sensation of his fingers running tantalizingly close to her scalp.
“I think I like your new haircut,” he told her. He meant it.
“Good,” she told him. “Because you’re in charge of my hair from this point on.”
After they drifted off to sleep, these words ringing in her ears, he dreamed of his wife’s hair—the beautiful lengths she’d had when they met, the short back and sides she was sporting now, some of the styles she had worn in between, and some haircuts she had not had yet, but that were perhaps in her future. Inspired, he woke up long enough to pick up his phone and order a set of hair clippers, then happily fell back asleep, his face burrowed into her nape.