Let the Lady Go First

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“Trixie, this is an emergency,” I shout into my phone.  “You’ve got to fit me in.”

Trixie, a talkative thirty-something, has been my hairstylist for nearly ten years.  Over that time we’ve grown as close as sisters.  She’s listened patiently as I poured out my tales of woe as my relationship with Robert, my husband of twenty-four years, slowly deteriorated.  Now I need her more than ever, both for a shoulder to cry on, and for her expert professional services.

“I’m really booked up, Jan,” she informs me.  “But if it’s as bad as it sounds you can come by at six and I’ll take care of you after I finish my last appointment.”

I know that Trixie usually leaves the shop and goes home around six to fix dinner for her three children, so staying late for me is a big sacrifice on her part.

“Thanks, Trixie, I really appreciate it,” I say, trying and failing to fully express my gratitude.

It’s quarter after six when she ushers me back to her station.  The other stylists are leaving.  Soon we will be alone in the shop.  “Okay, so what’s the big emergency?” she begins in her usual direct fashion.

“It’s Robert,” I confide.  “He’s been cheating on me.”

“And why is this a big surprise?” she responds.  “You two have been drifting apart for a long time now.”

“You’re right, of course.  You can call me a fool, I suppose.  But why did he have to do it with my best friend?”

“You mean Cheryl?” she asks.

Trixie knows all about my personal life.  Cheryl is my next door neighbor and longtime best friend.  We’d raised our children together.  Her husband died in a tragic auto accident six years ago and since then, she’s become a part of our family.

“Yeah.  Two days ago I confronted Robert when I discovered some suspicious messages on his phone.  He confessed that they’d been having an affair for the past year.  He wants a divorce so he can marry the woman I thought was my best friend.  Can you imagine that?”

I was beyond angry, beyond furious.  I wanted to murder the son of a bitch, but instead I came to Trixie for consolation and support.

“So what do you want me to do about it?” she asks after patiently listening to my tale of woe.  “Do you want a new hairstyle?  A different color?”

“I want you to cut my hair.  Cut it all off,” I demand.

“Whoa, sister.  That’s a bad move,” she counsels.  “You’ve done nothing wrong.  Robert is the villain in this soap opera.  Why punish yourself, especially after we’ve worked so hard to get your hair to this stage?”

I understand why Trixie questions my hysterical request.  For the past five years she’s faithfully helped hide the gray hair that started appearing around the time I turned thirty-five.  Trixie is responsible for restoring my mousy brown hair back to the strawberry blonde shade I enjoyed as a school girl.  She handled the growing out process until it reached the below the shoulder length I now sport.  I was impressed with how skillfully she hid the gray that threatened to make me look older than my years.  That’s why I stuck with her when she moved to a higher-priced salon two years ago.

My current hairstyle and color are lovely—my friends unanimously agreed—so I know why Trixie must be confused by my impulsive demand to chop it off.

“I had you color my hair to please Robert.  He’s the one who wanted a stylish, young-looking trophy wife.  It was his constant nagging that kept me coming back to you.  I would have been content to go gray naturally, but he wouldn’t stand for it.”

“And all along I thought you liked the way I fixed your hair,” she jokes.

“You did an excellent job, Trixie.  Don’t get me wrong.  But you were doing it for Robert, not for me.”

“And now you want me to destroy those years of effort?”

“Think of it as a makeover, a radical makeover to celebrate my liberation from a bad relationship.”

“Okay, I guess that puts it in a different light.  So how do you want me to cut it, Jan?”

“Short all over, so the blonde is all gone.  When I look in the mirror I don’t want to see any reminder of that bastard.”

“It’s gonna be pretty damn short, Jan.  Less than half an inch.  You sure you want to go that short?”

“Do it now, Trixie, before I walk out of here and find a barber shop where they’ll be happy to scalp me.”

“Okay, okay.  I’ll do it for you Jan, even though it’s gonna be bad for business.  Promise you won’t tell a soul that I’m the one responsible for doing this.”

“I won’t.  I promise.”

After that exchange Trixie begins the painful task of removing every trace of blonde hair from my head.  First, she carefully cuts away six inches, leaving me with a rough collar-length bob.  It’s agonizing to watch, but I am determined.  “You gotta work faster, Trixie.  At this pace we’ll be here all night.”

“All right, if that’s what you want, Jan, but this is gonna hurt me as much as you.”

“I just want it over with,” I insist.

Trixie lifts a fistful of blonde hair from the middle of my crown, places her scissors an inch above my scalp, and hacks it off.  For a moment she just stands there, staring at the limp blonde hair she holds in her hand.  I see that she’s crying, and a moment later tears are rolling down my cheeks as well.

Trixie continues her unhappy task, methodically shearing the top of my head, followed by the sides and the back.  For most of the time, I keep my eyes closed, unable to watch the destruction of my crowning glory.  I’m thankful the shop is deserted so no one else can witness my humiliation.

The final stage involves using the clippers.  “I’m gonna use a number two guide,” Trixie informs me as she slips a plastic attachment over the blades.

“What does that mean?” I venture, half afraid of her response.

“When I’m done your hair will be a quarter inch all over.  I’ve got to take it that short to get rid of the blonde.”

“Do what you gotta do, sister,” I tell her with an air of sad resignation.

I close my eyes and feel the vibration as Trixie passes the buzzing clippers back and forth across my crown, and then around the back and sides.  When she removes the guide to trim around my ears and down my neck I know my ordeal was nearly over.  Finally, she shuts off the power and announces, “Okay, it’s done, Jan.  You can open your eyes now.”

I stare at the bizarre image in the mirror.  Trixie has done exactly what I had requested.  Not a trace of blonde hair remains.  Instead, my head is covered by a layer of brown fuzz peppered with flecks of gray.  Fortunately, my hair is thick enough so I don’t resemble a cancer patient after chemo.

“You’ve got a nice round head and your ears don’t stick out.  This isn’t such a bad look,” Trixie remarks, trying to console me.

Once I get over the shock, I have to agree with her.  My closely clipped head is a radical departure from my previous fashionable style, but I still resemble a woman although I instantly resolve not leave the house without earrings.

I give Trixie a generous tip for her after-hours duty.  “Let me know whatever you decide to do, Jan.  Whether you want to keep it short or grow it out, I’ll be here for you.”  We exchange sisterly hugs.  I march out of the salon ready to face the world as a short-haired woman.

#

I steel myself as I drive to work the next morning.  I know my officemates will be shocked to see my drastically altered image.  Most of them are mercifully kind, but it’s easy to see that most of them don’t approve of my extreme makeover.  I suspect they’re whispering behind my back, but I resolve to hold my head high and pretend I am delighted with my new look.

That afternoon, Jake Anderson drops by my desk.  As a senior administrative assistant, I have collaborated with him on a couple of major projects over the years.  I find him to be friendly and easy to work with, unlike most of the male engineers at the firm who treat me like their servant if they speak to me at all.  I know he’s one of the few unmarried men on staff.  The office rumor mill hints that he might be gay, but no one knows for sure.

“Hi Jan, got a minute?” he asks.

“Sure, sit down Jake,” I answer.  I’m surprised to see him because I’m not assigned to his team and can think of no reason why he needs to see me.

He pulls his chair close to mine and speaks in a confidential tone.  This also surprises me, since our work rarely involves information that requires secrecy.  “I hear you’re going through a difficult time,” he begins.

“I guess you heard about my breakup with Robert.  I can’t believe the news spread so quickly.  It’s impossible to keep a secret around here,” I exclaim more in amazement than in anger.

“You know how some people love a bit of juicy gossip, especially if it concerns one of our most valued colleagues.  I just want to say that I know what you’re going through, and if you need to talk, I’m a good listener.”

“How much do you know?” I ask.

“I heard that your husband dumped you and wants to marry your best friend.”

“My former best friend,” I correct him.

“Of course.”

“I guess that’s pretty much it in a nutshell,” I confirm.

“My wife left me seven years ago,” he discloses.  “Ran off with the guy I once considered my best friend.  Took me a long time to get over it.”

“Sounds like you know what I’m going through.”

“I do.  I know right now you’re hurting something awful.”

“Yeah, the wound is still very fresh.  It hurts every time I think about it.  It’s not something I want to talk about right now.”

“I understand,” he says as he gently places his warm hand on mine.  “But when you do feel like talking about it—and you will—give me a call.  Here’s my home number.”  He hands me his business card with his number scribbled on the back.

As he rises to leave, he turns and says, “I think your new hairstyle is very bold.  You’re making a strong statement.”

I get up from my desk and shake his hand.  That’s when I notice how tall he is.  Jake stands about 6’4″.  I’m 5’2″.  I feel like a dwarf next to him.

I thank Jake for his sympathy, and watch as he strolls back toward his end of the building.  His offer has come out of the blue.  It’s the kind of conversation I might have expected one of female employees to initiate, but never one of the male engineers.  “Life is full of little surprises,” I think to myself.

#

That night I call Robbie, my son, who’s at NYU for his first year of college.  I tell him about my breakup with his father.  He doesn’t seem surprised.  “You and Dad were fighting all the time.  I hated to hear you quarreling.”  My husband and son were close when he was younger, but their relationship cooled when Robbie entered high school, and became more involved with the drama club and performing arts.  His father hoped that our son would develop his athletic skills and go to a big name college on an athletic scholarship.  Robert found excuses to skip most of Robbie’s performances, and that, more than anything else, broke the father-son bond that had existed during his Little League years.

Toward the end of our conversation I broach the subject of my haircut.  “Robbie, I don’t want you to be shocked when you come home for spring break.  I got my hair cut yesterday.  It’s a big change.”

“How much of a change, Mom?” he asks.

“It’s very short, like buzzed all over.”

“A big breakup haircut?”

“Yeah, I guess you could say that.”

“Send me a picture, Mom.  I’m dying to see what you look like with short hair.”

I take a selfie and send it to Robbie.  He answers almost instantly.  “You look so cool, Mom.  I never thought you would do something like that.  Can’t wait to check it out in person.”

#

I never take Jake up on his offer, but a month later he sends me an email.  “I’ve got tickets for the symphony on Saturday.  They’re playing Mahler’s Ninth.  Want to go?”

A lucky guess, I suppose, but Mahler has always been one of my favorites.  I hesitate only a few minutes before replying that I’d love to go.  He responds almost instantly.  “Great! Pick you up at seven.”

For the rest of the week I fret.  Except for work, I’d barely stepped out of the house since Robert dropped his bombshell.  Although our divorce is still in process, I consider this my first date as a single woman.

What to wear?  What to say if I run into any of the couples Robert and I once socialized with?  Most especially, what can I do about my hair?  It’s still painfully short and I haven’t found a way to style it that I like.  Frankly, there aren’t many options.  After a couple of failed experiments, I resort to applying a handful of gel and creating a thicket of spikes on top of my head that might pass for fashionable look.

“Love your hair,” Jake says moments after I opened my door.

“You’re kidding aren’t you?” I retort, finding it unlikely that any man would find such a short hairdo attractive.

“No, I’m perfectly serious,” he tells me.  “One thing you should know about me, Jan, is that I’m always honest—no false praise, no empty compliments. If I like something, I’ll let you know.  Same thing if I don’t like your hair or your dress.  By the way, your dress is about ten years out of date.  You need to go shopping if you plan on dating much.”

“I could change into something else,” I offer.

“Too late for that.  Tomorrow I’ll take you shopping.  We’ll start building a new wardrobe for you.”

Who is this man who seems to be taking charge of my life?  He’s confident, opinionated, thoughtful, and seems to like me.  I wonder what other surprises are in store.

Our symphony date is a success.  I learn that Jake loves Mahler almost as much as I do.  But he also likes jazz—that’s what he plays on his car stereo.  When we stop at a wine bar after the symphony I learn he also knows a fair bit about fine wines

That evening I encounter a few couples who don’t know that Robert and I have separated.  “Simply say, ‘Robert and I are no longer together,’ and change the subject,” Jake advises. “That was my line after Marie and I broke up.”  I do as he says and it works like a charm.

When Jake drops me off around midnight he asks, “What time would you like me to pick you up tomorrow?”  When I don’t respond right away, he reminds me, “We’re going shopping for your new wardrobe, remember?”

“I didn’t think you were serious when you said that,” I answer.

“I wouldn’t kid you about something like that.  I’m serious to a fault.”

“I like that in a man,” I say as I stand on my tiptoes to give him a chaste good night kiss.  “Pick me up around ten,” I tell him as I open the door.

Despite the wine I consumed, it takes a long time to fall asleep that night.  I toss and turn thinking about Jake.  I’m not willing to enter a new relationship so quickly, but he seems ready to get serious right away.  I am conflicted.  I don’t want to discourage a handsome suitor like Jake, but I need some time to get over the breakup of my twenty year marriage.

#

Jake rings the bell promptly at ten the next morning.  “Ready to start looking for your new wardrobe?” he asks when I open the door.

“Sure, let’s go,” I answer trying to match his enthusiasm.

He takes me to an exclusive boutique, a place I’ve driven past many times, but never stopped.  “This place is supposed to be awfully expensive,” I caution.

“Let me worry about that,” he says as he opens the door for me and guides me into the shop.

We leave the store after two hours, my arms and his loaded with three expensive new outfits, one for business occasions, one for casual wear and one for major social events like going to the opera.

The following Friday, Jake takes me to dinner in an intimate French restaurant where we have our first heart to heart.  “Jake, I really like you and would like to get to know you better, but you’re moving too fast for me.  I need time to recover from my break up.  I hope you won’t be offended if I ask you to slow down.”

Predictably, he is a paragon of compassion and understanding.  “I know what you’re going though, Jan, and I don’t want you to feel any pressure from me.  I’ll back off for a while.  Here’s an idea.  Why don’t you call me when you’re ready to go out again?  That way you’re in complete control.”

“That’s a brilliant solution,” I declare.  “I doubt you’ll have to wait too long.”

#

Jake is never far from my thoughts during the next days and weeks.  Several times I resist the urge to call him, not wanting to appear overly eager.  Finally, after three weeks, I can wait no longer, and punch his number.  I propose a return engagement at the symphony.  “It’s an all-Shostakovich program,” I explain.

“I was planning on going solo,” he responds.  “It’ll be much better with you by my side.”  Then he gets serious.  “I thought you’d never call, Jan.  Why did you wait so long?”

“I had to decide some things,” I reply truthfully.

“And what did you decide?” he asks hopefully.

“That I really like you and want to know you better.”

“Hurray,” he cries with genuine joy.

As I prepare for my evening out I fret over what to do with my hair.  It’s been growing out quickly; the spiked look I adopted for our first date no longer works.  This time I slick it down and brush it straight back off my face.  It’s a dramatic, rather masculine look that I saw in a fashion magazine.  I wonder if Jake would approve.

When he opens the door he does a double take.  “That’s a great look for you, Jan,” he exclaims.  “You’re full of wonderful surprises.”  It seems I can do no wrong as far as Jake is concerned.

That evening, after the concert, I invite Jake to spend the night.  We make love eagerly, like parched travelers reaching an oasis after crossing a vast desert.  I notice that Jake gets aroused by running his fingers through my shortened hair.  Over breakfast the next morning I ask him about it.

“About last night, Jake, I really enjoyed being with you.  The sex was great, but you seemed to be fascinated by my hair.  Does it turn you on?”

“Yeah, it does, Jan.  I hope that doesn’t bother you, but I’m strongly attracted to women with short hair.”

“That’s good to know.  I’ll file it away for future reference.”

“I hope you don’t think that’s weird.”

“Unusual, perhaps, but not weird.”

“I wish everyone had your attitude.”

“Was that a problem with your wife?”

“A big problem.  Not the only cause of our divorce, but a major factor.”

“How so?”

“She claimed I kept bugging her about cutting her hair.”

“Well, did you?”

“Yeah, suppose I did.  In retrospect, I should have kept my mouth shut.”

“And you didn’t?”

“No.  I knew better, but I continued pestering her until one day she’d had enough and started packing.”

“It sounds to me that what we’re talking about here is more than a simple preference for short hair.  It’s more like a full blown obsession.”

“You’re not the first person to say that.”

“And what are you doing to keep this obsession under control?”

“Simple, I only date women with short hair.”

“That kinda limits the field, doesn’t it?”

“It does, but there are enough short-haired women around these days.  I don’t have to sit home alone very often.”

“So what happens if I decide to grow my hair out?”

“I hope you don’t.”

“But if I do?”

“It would be a problem.”

“A deal breaker?”

“Maybe, I don’t know.”

“Well Jake, I certainly appreciate your honesty.”

“I don’t believe in keeping secrets.”

“Neither do I.  So I suppose I should tell you I’ve been thinking about growing my hair out.”

“Hope you don’t.”

“That’s something I’ll keep in mind because I really like you, Jake, but I’m not gonna make any promises.”

“Understood.  Now let’s change the subject.”

“Agreed.”

#

The next time Jake and I go out my hair is long enough to part on the side and brush into a modified pixie cut.  Jake notices right away.  “Your hair looks real cute tonight,” he says.

“Not too long?” I query.

“Borderline,” he answers.

“Do I need a haircut?”

“You do,” he confirms without hesitation.

“When should it happen?”

“Tomorrow.”

“That fast?”

“Yup.  No time like the present.”

“Will you make it happen?”

“Sure, if that’s what you want,” he says with obvious relish.

“What time?”

“Pick you up at ten AM.”

“I’ll be ready.”

I don’t know what came over me.  Usually I’m not so impulsive.  I knew I was playing with fire, but it was kind of exiting.  Already Trixie had mowed my hair down to almost nothing and, miraculously, I survived.  How much worse could another haircut be?

Undergirding this discussion were my feelings for Jake.  He was nothing at all like Robert.  Jake was gentle and soft-spoken.  It was obvious that he cared for me.  I felt safe and protected around him.  Yes, he did have this strange fixation with short hair, but I didn’t want to risk losing him by saying no.

Besides, there was an intriguing erotic dimension to his request.  After Trixie sheared my peroxide locks, Jake was drawn like a moth to a flame.  It was obvious he was turned on by my short hair.  He proved he was an energetic lover.  I was gambling there might be a big sexual dividend if I granted his wish.  I was eager to see how Jake performed when his sex drive was fully activated.  Although I realized there was a potential downside to arousing his fetish, I decided to pander to his obsession.

#

Jake pulls up in front of my home promptly at ten.  I decide to dress up for the occasion, wearing my tightest jeans, a revealing top and a pair of stiletto heels, which I dug out from the back of my closet.  “You look real hot, baby,” Jake declares appreciatively.

“I aim to please my man,” I purr, playing my part to the max.  “Where are we going?”

“Can’t say.  It’s a surprise.”

“Will I like it?”

“Don’t know.  We’ll see.”

It takes less than five minutes to reach our destination.  As I step out of his car I see that we are parked in front of a traditional-looking barber shop.  Given his stated preference for short haircuts, I guess I shouldn’t be surprised, but I am.

“Why are we going to a barber shop, Jake?”

“Because they cut hair here.”

“Women’s hair?”

“They don’t discriminate.  You ready?”

“In for a dime, in for a dollar,” I boldly declare as we head for the door.

As I enter the crowded shop the aroma of bay rum immediately assaults my nostrils.  Looking around, I find six pairs of male eyeballs fastened on my forty-four-year-old body.  Suddenly, I’m acutely self-conscious, more nervous than I’ve been since going on stage in the class play during my high school days.  Despite my trembling nerves, I put on a brave face and pretend nothing is amiss.  We stroll toward two empty seats at the end of a row like this is an everyday occurrence.  I take one and Jake slides into the other.

“You’re really going through with this, aren’t you?” Jake whispers like he expected me to chicken out.

“You better believe it, mister,” I say loud enough so the men sitting near us can hear.  I realize that Jake is concerned that I might bolt, and this heightens my resolve.

Just then, one of the barbers removes the striped cape from a freshly clipped male customer who steps down and strides toward the cash register.  “Who’s next?” the swarthy barber asks.

“Let the lady go first,” one of the men calls out.  The others nod their assent.  This is not male chivalry, I suspect.  They all hope to witness a spectacle.

Suddenly, it’s show time.

I turn toward Jake, looking for support.  He points toward the empty chair.  Continuing to play my part, I rise from the seat, bend down, kiss Jake and saunter toward the waiting barber.  I climb up and slide into the leather seat, still warm from its previous occupant.  Without a word, the barber wraps a strip of white tissue around my exposed neck and unfurls the same cape he used moments ago on the customer just now exiting the shop.  Looking closely, I detect tiny dark clippings on the white cloth, no doubt left by his previous victim.

“How do you want me to cut it?” the gruff barber demands.

For a moment I’m tongue-tied.   Jake and I had not discussed what kind of haircut he wants me to get.  “Ask my boyfriend,” I finally blurt out, putting Jake on the spot.  Inwardly, I smile.  It’s the first time I identified Jake as my boyfriend.  Amidst his excitement, I wonder if he even noticed.

“Give her a flattop,” Jake answers without thinking twice.

“White walls and a landing strip?” the barber inquires.  I have no idea what he’s talking about, but I guess these are features of the flat top style.

“No, just the standard cut.  Use a number two guide on the back and sides.”

This is meaningless barber-speak to me, but these terms obviously convey significant information to the barber.  I, or rather my hair, is the silent object of their brief exchange.

The barber speaks to me.  “That okay with you, lady?”

At this point, all I want is to get the operation started and done with as soon as possible.  “Sure, go ahead,” I answer, smiling and pretending to be unconcerned about my fate.

My barber needs no further instruction.  Out of sight behind me, he begins preparing the tools of his trade.  I’m momentarily startled when he flicks on the power to an ominous-looking black clipper and places its buzzing blades on the bare skin of my neck.  This isn’t my first time having my hair buzzed.  I experienced what being clippered felt like when Trixie sheared me, so it shouldn’t terrify me, but somehow in the all-male barber shop setting this experience is more unsettling.

He swiftly runs the clippers up the back of my head and returns for second and third helpings.  My hair, only and inch and a half long, offers little resistance, unlike the time Trixie cropped me.  In next to no time the barber finishes the back and begins clipping the hair around my ears.  He efficiently strips away the layer of hair covering my temples, leaving me with a bizarre two-tone look—almost shaved on the lower portion of my head, noticeably longer on the upper half.  Then he stops.

I’m reasonably confident he doesn’t plan to leave me looking like this.  He’s pausing to switch his tools.

When my barber approaches again he holds a squirt bottle in his left hand and a brush in his right.  He directs a fine mist of water at my crown, and, when it is thoroughly dampened, begins brushing the wet hair back off my face.  I soon understand his intent.  Instead of lying flat, he is forcing my hair to stand erect.  Before long, short tufts of brown hair sprinkled with gray sprout from my scalp toward the ceiling.

The sight I behold in the mirror would be amusing if it were someone else, but it’s my image looking back at me.  It’s a rather chaotic picture, a far cry from the conservative persona I’ve cultivated for most of my professional life.  I’d already suffered one major alteration three months earlier, and now I’m undergoing a second transformation.  I remember my mother’s favorite saying in times of trouble—”Life is full of little surprises.”  Despite my mounting anxiety, I have to smile at the memory of Mom’s ironic motto.  I wonder what she would say if she saw me now.

The barber sets his brush and bottle aside and seizes his clipper once again.  He removes the plastic attachment that fits around the blades.  Now the naked steel blades are humming.  He approaches with a long black comb in one hand and the clippers in the other.  He runs the comb through the short hair on the right side of my head, holding it vertically and slices off everything sticking out between the teeth of the comb.  He repeats the procedure while methodically trimming the hair on the side of my head.  Before long I see that he’s creating a vertical wall of hair above my ear.  Where my skull curves inward, he leaves the hair longer and sticking out a bit.  Of course, none of my hair is very long, but the barber is skillfully creating an eye-catching effect.  Using the same technique, he carves a second vertical wall on the left side of my head.

When he rest his clippers, I can clearly observe the effect he’s created.  The look is precise and symmetrical, almost severe, but the top still needs to be tamed.  One final stage remains.  It’s difficult to describe the feelings coursing through my body.  It’s a mixture of terror and excitement, the same feeling you get at the top of an amusement park roller coaster, just before the car plunges down the first steep descent.  You know you’re safe, but you’re scared to death at the same time.

Once more my barber approaches with his comb and clippers.  Standing in front of me, he inserts the comb into the hair above my forehead, holds it level, and passes the clipper across the comb, neatly severing all the strands protruding above the comb’s level surface.  I see how he concentrates his full attention on the top of my head.  I know I dare not move lest I disturb his precise cutting.

The barber moves the comb further back on my head and begins his second horizontal cut.  Mixed sensations flood my consciousness.  I concentrate on the feeling of the comb lifting my hair, the sound of the hungry blades chewing through the exposed tufts and the clippings falling onto my face and shoulders.  The barber steps aside for a moment.  I glance in the big mirror and see Jake staring intently in my direction.  He’s closely observing every detail of my haircut.  When this ordeal began, I thought he was doing it just to satisfy his own private desires.  Now I wonder whether he requested this style so I could experience these intoxicating feelings.  Perhaps I shouldn’t have judged him so harshly.

By the time my barber completes his third pass across my scalp, I’m aware of a damp region spreading between my legs.  Nothing I can do will stem the flow of my juices.  I can’t believe I’m getting turned on by a masculine flat top haircut.  I just hope that none of the men notice when I got up from the chair.

The barber reaches the back of my head and pauses for a moment.  I see that the top of my head is now an even patch of short gray-brown hair, a sight I never could have imagined before today.  But my barber isn’t finished.  He exchanges his clipper and comb for a stiff brush, and attacks the shortened hair on top, repeatedly brushing the freshly cropped section into a uniform erect pose.  Then he returns with his clippers roaring, skimming them over the top again, this time without benefit of the comb.  The changes are barely noticeable, but my barber is a perfectionist.  He obviously wants everything flawlessly level.

Finally, he pauses and inspects the top of my head, making sure every hair stands exactly the same height.  He must be satisfied, because he hangs his clippers on a hook beneath the mirror and selects a round blue jar from among the containers arranged on the cabinet where he stored his implements.  “A flat top like this needs some wax to hold everything in place,” he informs me as he scoops two fingers of goo from the jar and begins massaging the colorless substance into the crop of short bristles sprouting from my crown.  Once again, he uses his brush to force my hair back into the desired shape.

“Now that should stay put for a while,” he announces.  “Here, take this home with you and use it every morning.”  I glance down at the blue jar he just placed in my hand.  The label reads, “Lucky Tiger Hair Wax.”

I stared at my radically transformed image.  “Is there a problem?” my barber asked.

He seems concerned, like I might find fault with his handiwork.

“Oh no,” I assure him.  “It’s fine.  It’s just that his is such a big change in my appearance.  It’s gonna take a while to get used to my new look.”

“And what about your boyfriend?” he asks.  “What does he think?”

Jake rises from his seat and strides toward us.  “I think it’s just about perfect,” he declares.  “The only thing better would be to see a smile on her face.”

“I like it, Jake.  Really I do,” I tell him.  “It’s just gonna take a while before I’m comfortable with my new look.”

As Jake returns to his seat, my barber asks, “Shave?”

I startle.  He doesn’t want to shave my head next, does he?  That’s not part of this deal.

The barber must sense my alarm.  “You want me to shave your neck like I do for the men?” he asks.

I breathe a sigh of relief.  “Sure, go ahead,” I say.

He applies a warm lather to the back of my neck and carefully scrapes my neck with a lethal-looking straight razor.

After wiping away and excess lather, he splashes a dose of after shave lotion in his hand and applies it to my hairless neck.  “There, all done,” he announces.

He removes the cape and I casually stroll toward the door, making a point to smile at the men who’ve been watching my haircut so closely.  Their beaming faces tell me they approve of my new hairstyle.

As Jake pays for the haircut, I walk out of the shop toward his car.  He hurries to catch up with me.  “You were awfully brave in there,” he says.

“It was all an act.  I was scared as could be,” I tell him.

“Can I feel it?” he asks.

At first, I’m puzzled.  Then I realize that he wants to stroke my newly cut hair.  It’s a strange request, but this whole day has been strange.

“I think we better wait,” I say.

“Why?” he pleads.

“Because one you start, no telling where you’re gonna stop,” I say in my most provocative voice.

“In that case, let’s get the hell out of here,” he declares as he hustles toward the driver’s side door.

We make it back to my house in record time, dash inside and tear off each other’s clothes just like you see in the movies.

Our sex that day is more intense than any I had experienced with any of my previous partners.  I’m turned on and ready for whatever Jake can throw at me, but I didn’t expect him to come three times within four hours.  It seems that whenever he runs his fingers across the flattened hair on top of my head he gets aroused again.  Finally, I call a time out.  “That’s enough lover boy,” I whisper in his ear.  “Why don’t you save some of that passion for next week?”

“I can’t help myself,” he confesses.  “I’ve never been so turned on.”

“And I never knew a simple haircut could be such a powerful aphrodisiac,” I answer.

“You look so damn sexy.  I don’t know how I’m going to be able to keep my hands off you at the office.”

“Well, you better, mister.  I’m gonna have my hands full for a while just dealing with other people reacting to my new haircut.”

“You really think anyone will notice?” he teases.

“When I showed up with my buzz cut the questions and comments continued for weeks.  This time there’s gonna be a whole lot more.”

“Promise me something, will you?” he asks.

Suddenly I’m suspicious.  “What do you want?” I wanted to know.

“Promise you won’t try another hairstyle for a year.  That’s all I ask.”

“Why a year?”

“Because by that time I’m sure you’ll be used to the flat top, and won’t want to change.”

“And if I do want to try another hairstyle after a year?”

“Then you may.”

“Okay.  I guess I can agree to that,” I concede.

“That’s all I ask,” Jake says with a smile.  “Oh yes, there’s one more thing.”

“So what’s this one more thing?” I demand.

“If we’re still together in one year’s time I’d like you to marry me.”

I’m shocked.  “Is this a proposal, Jake?  We’ve only dated three times and already you want to marry me?”

“Jan, I’m a guy who likes stability in my life.  I’ve been single for three years now, and for most of that time I’ve been adrift.  I need a partner, a companion, someone to share my life.”

“Maybe you should get a dog,” I joke.

“I’m serious, Jan.  I liked you the first time I met you, but you were married then, and I didn’t want to interfere with your marriage.  Then I learned you were single.  I heard the story about why you got your hair cut so short.  That story spread like wildfire.  When you agreed to get your hair cut in a flat top I knew you were the woman for me.”

“Jake, honey, I don’t want to burst your bubble, but someday I’ll probably want to try another hairstyle.  I might even grow my hair long again.  A girl likes to change her appearance every once in a while, you know.  You think you could stand that?”

“Yeah, I probably could.  That’s one reason why I’m gonna take lots of pictures of you and your wonderful haircut, starting now.”

Jake takes out his camera and begins snapping me in different positions.  I try to oblige by striking the most provocative poses I can imagine.  I hope Robbie never sees these photos of his mother trying to look like a sex kitten.

#

Monday, going back to work is the big test.  How will my friends and colleagues react to this radical new look?  Will they stare?  Probably.  Surely they will ask why I pulled such a crazy stunt, especially since my hair was just starting to reach a half-way decent length after my first extreme shearing.

I think about calling in sick, going shopping for a wig to hide my masculine haircut.  Then I imagine how Jake will feel if he sees me hiding the flat top he cherishes so dearly.  No, I can’t do that to him.  It would be a rank betrayal.  “Don’t be a coward,” I admonish myself.  “You chose to go down this path.  You had your hair cut for love.  Hold your head high.  Walk proudly and ignore the insults.”

That’s what I do.  The comments aren’t as bad as I expected.  Astonished expressions are frequent—”That’s some haircut!”   Another common remark is, “I could never do that, but it looks great on you.”  Some congratulate me—”Smashing!  Bravo!  Courageous!”  After a few days the office chatter calms down, and things go back to normal.  An occasional stare from an outside visitor or a snide comment when I go shopping reminds me that some people see me as a radical, an outlier, a deviant.  Gradually, I get used to their questioning looks and rude remarks.  I’m in love, so strangers’ disapproving glances don’t bother me so much.

Jake and I see each other nearly every night.  Sometimes we make love; other times we plan our new life together after my divorce becomes final.  When folks at work conclude that we are dating we become “an item.”

#

A second big test comes four weeks after my first trip to the barber shop.  “You’re looking kina shaggy,” Jake observes.  “Time to go see the barber again.”  I’m not used to such frequent hair appointments, but agree that I’m due.  “This time I want to go alone,” I tell him.  “I need to show those men I don’t need my boyfriend along to support me, that this is my idea, not yours.”

That Saturday I return to the scene where I received my inaugural flat top.  I’m nervous, but not nearly as much as on my previous visit.  This time the barber who first cropped me is idle, sitting in his chair reading a newspaper.  He smiles, and stands up when he sees me come in.  “Back again, I see.  I wasn’t sure whether I’d see you again.”

“Why not?” I challenge him.

“Because I thought your last visit was because of a dare or maybe because you lost a bet,” he explains.

“How could I stay away after you gave me such a marvelous haircut?” I say with false bravado.

“Same as last time?” he asks as I settled into chair.

“I thought we might go shorter this time,” I suggest.

“You want me to use a number one guide on the back and sides?” he asks hopefully.

“Yeah.  That sounds good,” I tell him.

“What about the top?”

“Shorter there too,” I tell him.

My second flat top isn’t nearly as traumatic as the first, but it still is exiting.  Once again, I come home with wet panties.

“You went shorter!” Jake exclaims as I walked in the door to his apartment.

“I thought you might like a surprise,” I tease.

“You look so hot!” is his response as he kisses me.

#

About a month later I run into Trixie at the supermarket.  “Jan, I see you’ve kept your hair short,” she exclaims after we exchange greetings.

“Yeah, I decided long hair was too much trouble,” I lie.

“But why the flat top?”

“I did it for my boyfriend,” I admit.

“Well, it certainly suits you.  Not many women could pull off such a radical style, but you rock it.”

Before we part, I promise to send her an invitation to our wedding.

#

My first flat top happened a year ago.  I’m still wearing the same style.  Tomorrow Jake and I are getting married in a small private ceremony.  My son Robbie will give his mother away.  Jake’s daughter Angela will be the maid of honor.  Only a few other quests will attend.  Among them is Bill, the friendly neighborhood barber who has become our good friend over the last twelve months.  He understands better than most people how important the right haircut can be in sparking a romance between two lonely souls.

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