Loss and Reinvention

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Content warning: this story centers around pregnancy loss…which is one of the reasons I haven’t been around lately. But I still have so many stories to tell (and two series to wrap) and I’ve been thinking about all of you, so I thought maybe writing this would be a way to help me process what I’ve been dealing with and get back to some of the fun stuff. It’s not autobiographical at all, but the themes do resonate deeply.

“It isn’t fair,” I sobbed into Stephanie’s chest.

”Shhh,” she tried to soothe me, stroking my long, blonde hair. “Sometimes these things just happen.”

”But everything was going so well!” I protested. “I was pregnant! We were going to be moms! And now…It’s just gone?”

”Hey,” she said, pulling back from me and looking into my eyes as she tucked a strand of hair behind my right ear. “This pregnancy is gone, yes. But that doesn’t mean our plans are out the window. The odds of it working the first time around were so small to begin with, especially since we were DIYing it. We’ll try again. And we’re gonna keep trying until it happens for us.”

”We can’t keep asking Dave to—“

”Dave offered. But if he ever decides he’s had enough, we will find someone else. Just, don’t give up on this, Trish. Not yet. Okay?”

I looked back at my wife, whose dark eyes were also brimming with tears I know she hesitated to shed because she was so concerned for my own wellbeing. Her hair was still in the sloppy ponytail she’d thrown it into that morning when I emerged from the bathroom and told her I was bleeding. I looked from her eyes to her dark roots, which gave way to the washed-out purple her hair had faded into in the months since she’d had it dyed a deep plum color just before her fortieth birthday, and tucked a stray lock of hair behind her right ear. “I promise,” I told her. “I’m not giving up.”

One of the things nobody tells you until after you lose a pregnancy is that, depending on how far along you are, the rest of your body might take a while to catch up to your empty womb—either it still thinks you’re pregnant, or it thinks the baby has arrived. A friend of mine, who lost what had until that point been a very healthy pregnancy at 24 weeks, was devastated to discover a few days later that her milk had come in. My cousin, who discovered at 12 weeks that the fetus she carried no longer had a heartbeat, reported that she still “felt” pregnant for weeks, even after her D&C.

I had hoped to be spared some of this indignity, since I was still so early in my pregnancy, but a few months after that fateful hospital visit, as Stephanie was brushing my hair while we watched TV—part of our nightly ritual—she let out a slight gasp.

”What?!” I asked nervously.

”There’s just…a lot of hair on the brush.” She held it out in front of me. “See?”

It really was a lot of hair. ”Shit!”

”This can’t be postpartum hair loss. You weren’t that far along.”

”I don’t know. Maybe?” The physical recovery from my miscarriage had been relatively easy, compared to what I had been expecting. I hadn’t needed any further medical care after the hospital visit that confirmed I was no longer pregnant and sent me home to finish miscarrying in private. The doctors told me that because it was still so early, I’d probably be feeling normal in no time, assuring me on my way out that a loss this early in pregnancy meant that at least we could go back to our attempts to conceive more or less right away.

Stephanie and I had decided to wait a few months before trying again, even though theoretically our chances of conceiving successfully would be higher over my next two or three cycles. We just felt like we needed time to process.

We discovered that the doctors had mostly been right about my recovery. Physically, I felt like my old, pre-pregnancy self almost right away. I figured there wouldn’t be any side effects, and until that night, there really hadn’t been. A quick internet search told us that while it was unusual to experience postpartum hair loss a few months after an early pregnancy loss, it wasn’t impossible. Plus, just the stress of losing a pregnancy can also contribute to hair loss. I ordered some supplements that were supposed to help and tried to put it out of my mind and get some sleep.

Every night that week, as Stephanie would brush my hair, a surprising amount of it came away on the hairbrush. When I showered, so much hair wound up covering the drain that the tub started to fill with water. I found long blonde strands all over the house as well as hanging from my clothes and even, one unfortunate time, in the salad I had just made for lunch.

“Hey,” Stephanie began cautiously as she watched me pull the long blonde hair out of my salad bowl, “Dave called earlier. He has some upcoming work travel and he wanted us to know that he’s still totally on board to be our donor but he might not be available to get us his, uh, sample—“

”You mean to jerk off into a measuring cup in our guest room?” I always thought it was cute how demure Stephanie got when we talked about this process. But then, Stephanie came out as a lesbian at eight years old and had never been with a guy. Whereas I, on the other hand, spent two decades in unsatisfactory relationships with men until I met Stephanie, so I’d had to handle my fair share of “samples.”

I watched my wife blush slightly. Adorable. “Yes, that,” she said, “for most of the next couple of months. But I looked at the calendar and if it’s accurate, you’re actually going to be ovulating in a few days, and if you think you’re ready to try again, Dave doesn’t actually leave till the middle of next week.”

It had been just shy of three months since I learned I was no longer pregnant. I still grieved the baby that would never be, but not as much as I ached to hold my future baby in my arms. “If Dave is available before he leaves town,” I told Stephanie, “I’m open to giving it a try.”

It was late, and Stephanie had been asleep for hours. But not me. The ovulation test strips revealed the time was right to try to conceive, and Dave had agreed to come over and provide us with another “donation” in the morning, before he left town the following day.

I had known Dave for years. We had even tried dating for a while back in college before he realized he was gay, beating me to that epiphany by a full decade. He was my “best boy” (his insisted title) at our wedding. When we asked him to be our sperm donor, he agreed immediately and enthusiastically. Though he had no interest in having a child of his own, he relished the opportunity to be someone’s “guncle,” having no brothers or sisters of his own to furnish him with niblings. As a lawyer, he made sure we had firm paperwork in place stating he’d have no claim over any future offspring resulting through his donation, genetics be damned. My mother-in-law had pushed for us to use Stephanie’s brother as our donor, so that if something happened to me, Stephanie and her family would have fewer hurdles to jump over in terms of establishing legal guardianship. But Stephanie put the kibosh on that discussion, saying she walked in on her brother jerking off once and it scarred her for a lifetime—no way was she going to actually ask him to do it, no matter how noble the cause. So Dave it was.

It was endlessly funny and endearing to me that Stephanie had gone out to a specialty magazine shop before our previous attempt at this transaction and bought a stack of gay porn magazines in hopes of helping Dave find inspiration, when Dave had just planned on pulling up some videos on his phone if he needed the assist. She had hidden the magazines after, lest any wayward house guest should get lost and wander into our guest room, puzzling over why two lesbians would be in possession of such materials, but before she went to bed, she lovingly set them back out in anticipation of what she called Dave’s “sample collection,” alongside a couple of the sterile collection jars she had ordered in a twelve-pack online.

I entered our bedroom and paused in the doorway to look at my sleeping wife, her shoulder-length, now-lavender hair spread around her on the pillow like a halo. She planned to have it dyed back to her natural dark brunette in a couple of days, after declaring her few months with purple hair, including  a touch-up on the color a month and a half ago, “annoyingly high maintenance.” Though the physical toll of my chemical pregnancy had been mine to bear, the last couple of months had been rough on Stephanie, too. It was my body that had betrayed our future plans, but both of our hearts were broken.

We processed it in different ways. I still sometimes found myself mourning what might have been, looking at each week’s developmental milestones and counting down to a due date that would never come. Stephanie mourned, too. I’d catch her sometimes looking with horror at the copy of What to Expect When You’re Expecting that she ordered about five minutes after I told her I was pregnant, as if the mere act of purchasing it had jinxed the pregnancy. We took our time to heal—she retreated to the comfort of her books and took to going to bed earlier. I threw myself into work and started staying up later than usual, sometimes losing track of time and wandering into the bedroom after Stephanie had already been asleep for quite a while, and sometimes intentionally waiting until I knew she was asleep before going to bed myself.

”Trisha?” she asked sleepily from the bed. “Everything okay?”

”Yeah,” I told her. “Just admiring my beautiful wife.”

”Coming to bed soon?”

”Yeah. Just need to get ready. Go back to sleep. I’ll just be a few minutes.”

In the bathroom, I stripped off everything but my panties, washed my face, brushed my teeth, then began to brush my hair before putting it in the braid I usually slept in. There were few tangles there, Stephanie having brushed it only a few hours before, but every stroke of the brush brought an improbable number of golden strands with it, as if I were raking it across a mass of tangles. I put the brush down and resolved to finish by just gently running my fingers through my hair instead; to my horror, I was coming away with near handfuls of hair. I should have stopped them and there, but I didn’t. At some point, I looked down at the bathroom vanity and saw that the sink, where I had mindlessly been dropping the strands that came away each time I ran my hands through my hair, was quite literally filling up with my hair.

I studied myself in the mirror. I still looked more or less the same as I had a few months ago, before I found out I was pregnant and before I found out, not long thereafter, that I had lost the pregnancy. Still the same belly, the same breasts. The same long blonde hair. If you really looked hard, yes, my hair did look a bit thinner. But it had started off so thick that even the formidable amount of hair I’d been shedding over the last week and a half didn’t seem make too big a difference.

And then it hit me: I had spent the last few months acting for all the world like everything was fine. And it wasn’t fine. I wasn’t fine. Only a few people knew about the pregnancy. To everyone else, I was the same old Trisha. I’d lost the pregnancy so early, my body hadn’t changed in shape or size yet—that much was clear from my reflection. I bore no physical changes to remind me of the baby that might have been. And I didn’t feel like I could enter into our second attempt without having something that would mark me from the first.

And if the the hair that had amassed in the sink still didn’t amount to enough of a visual, I could change that.

Stephanie was going to kill me. Then nightly hair brushing sessions were something she initiated shortly after we moved in together. My hair had fallen to my clavicle then, and it was a darker shade—my natural dirty blonde rather than the highlighted honey color I now saw in the mirror. Slowly, I had let it get longer over the first few years of our courtship, and then when we got engaged, Stephanie and I both purposefully grew out hair out for the wedding, and I also lightened my color with her enthusiastic support. In our wedding photos, her dark locks end at her shoulder blades; my hair tumbles almost to my waist. And while my bride shortly thereafter returned to her shoulder-length lob, she asked if I’d consider keeping mine long. That was four years ago, and I’d kept my hair more or less the same ever since.

But I was not the same person I was four years ago, or even four months ago. My body, which I had spent my entire adult life keeping fit and happy and healthy, had betrayed me. I had nothing to show for my pregnancy. And now, to add insult to injury, the tangible reminder of what I had lost was sitting lifelessly in my sink, yet even with all the hair I had shed I looked the same—I had nothing to show for that, either.

Instead of fashioning my hair into its customary bedtime braid, I gathered it into a ponytail at my nape. After a few minutes of searching in the drawers of the bathroom vanity, I found the pair of haircutting shears I bought ages ago for trimming split ends, but chickened out before ever using. They were about to see a lot more action than they were intended for.

Reaching for the back of my head as if I were simply trying to stretch, I held my ponytail taut in one hand and with the other, I inserted the sharp blades of my shears. The first schnick! sound, as they began to slice through my tresses, was almost sickening. I was hit by a rush of self-doubt. “Is this really the right thing to do?” But it was too late. I had already started. There was nothing to do but to finish.

Schnick! Schnick! I felt the cold steel of the shears on the back of my neck, which I used to steady my shaking right hand. Schnick! My left arm pulled away from my head, no longer constrained by the resistance of my ponytail pulling against my scalp. Instead, the severed blonde lengths hung limply from my hand.

I tossed the ponytail into the sink to join the individual strands that came before it and studied myself in the mirror. The rough-cut ends of my hair now hung unevenly just below my chin. It was the shortest I’d worn my hair since I was a child, and judging from how much higher it hit on my left side than my right, I knew it had to get shorter still.

The way I saw it, I had two options: I could stop there and see if I could get an appointment in the morning with a stylist who could fix it, or I could try to even up the cut myself (and probably still need to find a stylist in the morning).

I didn’t count on the third possibility: my wife walking into the bathroom.

”Trish? You okay, babe? You’ve been in here for—“ Stephanie gasped as her eyes adjusted to the bathroom light and she saw me standing at the bathroom vanity, the hair she was used to seeing cascading down to my waist instead discarded in the sink, the entirety of my back exposed. “What did you do?”

I turned slowly toward my wife, the unfamiliar swish of my shortened hair grazing my neck as I did. “I cut off my ponytail,” I replied, slightly dazed.

”I can see that, Trisha! But why?”

”I couldn’t…” I began, unsure how to articulate the feelings that had sped me along to this moment. “I couldn’t keep losing hair, because every handful was a reminder of the pregnancy I lost. And at the same time I didn’t want to not lose my hair because if my hair looked the same then it felt like I was still the person I was before this all happened. And so I thought maybe if I sped up the process before we tried to conceive again tomorrow I could enter into it with a sort of…clean slate, I guess? A new beginning?” And then I began to sob.

”Oh, Trish,” Stephanie rushed to my side, taking the shears from my hand and then wrapping her arms around me and waiting for my breath to even out again. “Honey, it’s okay.”

”I don’t want you to be mad at me,” I sniffled into her chest.

”Do I seem mad?”

”No. But you love my hair.”

”Trisha, look at me.” She pulled away and I complied, staring into her eyes. “I love you. And no bad haircut is going to change that.”

”Is it really that bad?” I started to cry again. “I didn’t think it was that bad!”

”Do you want reassurance or honestly?”

”Both, if possible?”

”Okay, then honestly it’s kind of a mess. But rest assured, you’ve left enough that a stylist could probably turn it into a cute little bob for you.”

I giggled and pulled slightly away from my wife. “I guess that could be fun,” I said, as Steph ran a hand through my uneven, significantly shortened locks. And then I saw it. Another handful of hair. The hairs I was shedding may not have been as long as the ones that had come away earlier, but there was still plenty coming away.

”I’m sorry,” Stephanie said, following my gaze to her hand as she dumped the hair she had collected into the sink with the rest. “I guess that’s still going to happen for a while, huh?”

I kept my eyes on the sink as I raised both of my hands to my hair and ran them through, coming away with two more handfuls. “Or,” I said, as much to myself as to my wife, “I can just get rid of the rest of it?”

”Trisha!” she protested.

”Think about it, babe. Say everything works out tomorrow with Dave and the pregnancy takes. I don’t want to be walking around, growing a new life inside me while the physical reminder of the life I couldn’t grow is with me everywhere I go. Getting rid of the rest of it lets me say goodbye and start anew all at the same time.”

”Did you honestly think you were going to come in here and shave your head and then climb into bed with me and not say anything until we woke up?”

”No. I didn’t even think about shaving my head until just now. And I only decided to cut my hair a few minutes before you came in. Pure impulse, I swear.”

”Aren’t you worried you’ll regret it?”

”Maybe a little.”

”But not enough to change your mind?”


”And how did you plan to do this?” Stephanie asked. “We don’t own electric clippers.”

”Like I said, there was no plan.”

”So, without clippers, it’s back to the bob, then?” She sounded somewhat hopeful.

”I’ll tell you what,” I said, absentmindedly running a hand through my hair once again. “If I can get a pair of clippers couriered here tonight through GoPuff of something, you’re going to help me get rid of the rest of this.” I held my hand out toward Stephanie, showing her how much more hair was in it. “And if not, I promise to at least sleep on this decision.”

“Okay,” Stephanie said. “Fine. But with one more condition: if I’m helping you shave your head tonight, you’re helping me shave mine, too.”

”What?!” I shrieked. “You’re bluffing!”

”No,” she protested, now running a hand through her own hair. “Not really. Not exactly. I’d been planning to get most of this cut off when I went to the salon this week anyway. Better than dealing with dyeing it back. And also,” Stephanie added, a tear springing to her right eye and trickling down her cheek, “you’re not the only one who feels different since losing the pregnancy. For that baby, I was going to be cool, purple-haired mom. For this next one—if it even takes—I dunno. But not that.”

“So you were just going to go get all of your hair cut off and not tell me?!” I exclaimed incredulously, realizing that her roots hadn’t even grown out two inches since the last time they were bleached.

“Hello!” Stephanie laughed, reaching into the sink and holding up my severed ponytail. “Pot, kettle!”

”I told you, this was an impulsive decision. You’ve been planning this and didn’t tell me!”

”I’m telling you now.”


She let my severed ponytail drop back into the sink and took a step toward me, fondling my severed hair as her thumb ran along my jawline. “I would have told you, you know.”

“I know.”

”So what do you want to do?”

”I want to see if someone will deliver late-night clippers.”

GoPuff didn’t have clippers in its catalog but the Duane Reade down the street was open 24 hours and somehow I managed to sweet-talk one of their cashiers to let me charge a set of clippers by phone and then walk them over to our building. Less than half an hour after I’d cut off my ponytail, the very confused cashier was at the buzzer outside. Stephanie met them downstairs while I threw on a t-shirt and readied a makeshift haircutting station in our kitchen. I spread some plastic garbage bags on the floor and placed one of our dining chairs on top of them, then dragged the full-length mirror in from our bedroom.

Stephanie reappeared with a cardboard box labeled “Wahl Home Haircutting Kit.” The package design showed several men with neatly trimmed beards and freshly faded hair, and no indication that women would ever have a use for such a thing. Inside the box was a grey plastic case, a pair of haircutting scissors we wouldn’t need since I already had my own, a comb, a set of guards in a plastic bag, and—fatefully—the electric clippers. I watched my wife give a quick scan of the instructions, before she announced to me that the guards were numbered and the lower the number the shorter the hair, but it all seemed straightforward enough.

I started to take a seat in the chair, but Stephanie stopped me. “Oh no you don’t. You’ve already cut quite a bit of hair off tonight. I want to go first.”

”But aren’t you worried that if I shave your head first, it will give me a chance to back out of shaving mine?”

”First of all, I know you won’t do that, even though maybe there’s a part of me that hopes you will. And second, I thought we could start with you just cutting all of my color off, and then we’d get back to sorting out your hair.”

”But aren’t you worried that if I just cut the color off it’s going to look bad?”

”Who’s going to see it, other than you?” She grinned at me slyly.

”Okay, fine.” I stepped away from the chair and let Stephanie take a seat and drape a towel over her shoulders, then picked up the haircutting shears I’d brought out from our bathroom. “How do you want me to do this?”

Steph gently took the shears out of my hand, lifted up a long lock of lavender hair at her crown, and placed the blades just where the dark brown and light purple met. She closed them quickly, then dropped the hair on the ground and handed me the scissors back. “I was thinking more or less like that.”

I couldn’t help but laugh. What remained of the lock Stephanie had cut was sticking straight up from the top of her head. It was clear there was no turning back. “Okay,” I said, “but you asked for it.”

I lifted up another lock of hair near the one she had cut and snipped it off as close as I could to the end of her grown-out root, then realized the comb in the haircutting kit might come in handy. I retrieved it, then used the comb to lift up a large section of hair at her crown and cut along the its teeth. Using that method, it only took a few minutes longer before I had cut all of the hair on the top of my wife’s head to a uniform length of her natural color. We both laughed at her reflection in the mirror. “You’re going to give me a proper butch mullet, aren’t you?”

“Well, I wasn’t planning to, but now I sure am.” I used the comb to lift up a section of hair near her left temple and cut the hair off to be about as long as the hair I’d left on her crown. A few more snips on the left side of her head got it more or less uniformly short, and then I moved to her right side, also cutting off all signs of the purple. “There you go, ma’am,” I said, stepping back so Steph could see her reflection. “One butch mullet.”

Stephanie began to laugh so bad that tears sprang to her eyes. “Oh god, it’s awful! Please cut the rest off!”

”As you wish,” I grinned at her, quoting our favorite movie. I gathered all the hair on the back of her head into a ponytail and chopped it off swiftly. There was still plenty of purple left, but it got rid of the bulk of the mullet’s tail. Picking up the comb again, I went back to the method that had served me well for the top and sides of Steph’s head, lifting up her now-shortened locks and severing the purple from the brown.

After a few more minutes, all traces of the expensive dye job were gone, and Steph was left with a shapeless but relatively uniform two or so inches of dark brown hair all over her head. It was too short to lay flat, so the hair on the back and sides of her head was sticking out, while the hair on the top of her head largely poked upward. Not a flattering look, but better then that temporary mullet. And besides, we both knew it wouldn’t be long for this world.

”My turn?” I asked.

Steph nodded, stood up, and shook out the towel she’d had draped over her shoulders. Mountains of lavender hair tumbled to the floor. “Madam?” she asked in a ridiculous French accent, gesturing to the chair and draping my shoulders as I sat.

I studied my reflection in the mirror, my familiar blonde hair at this unfamiliar, uneven length, and tried to imagine it all gone. Steph studied my reflection, too. “Last chance to change your mind,” she said.

I looked at her reflection, the somewhat ridiculous crop I’d given her. “Nope,” I said. “I want it gone.”

”I thought you’d say that,” she nodded. “But do you mind if I try a few things first?”

”Might as well have fun with it,” I told her. “It’s going to be the last time you can play with my hair for a while.”

Stephanie grabbed the comb and shears I’d been using on her hair and then placed the comb into the shorter side of my hair, slightly above where I had cut it. I saw her open and close the scissors as about half an inch of hair fell to my shoulders. She carefully made her way around my entire head, trying her best to cut a straight line, evening my cut to the best lip-length bob someone with no previous haircutting experience could possibly give her wife at 1:30 in the morning, after said wife impulsively chopped off her long ponytail.

Imperfect though it was, I had to admit the cut was kind of cute. Steph clearly agreed. She swooped down to kiss the back of my neck. “Maybe,” she whispered to me, “when you grow your hair out again, you can keep it this length for a while.” And then, to my surprise, she raised the shears higher and cut a lock at about the level of my nose.

We both laughed as Stephanie made her way around my head again, now turning the bob into what could most closely be called a bowl cut. “Ack!” I shouted, she she chopped my bangs even with the rest of my hair. “This is awful!”

”I agree!” Stephanie smiled. “It has to go!” She selected a lock of hair near my right temple and sliced it off, shorter than any of the hairs on her head. “Do you want me to try to give you a pixie cut, or just cut the rest of this off before we switch to the clippers.”

”Might as well try for the pixie,” I said. “I’ve always kind of wondered what I’d look like with one.”

”Really?!” Stephanie exclaimed. “You never told me you’d thought about cutting your hair short.”

”Yeah,” I told her. “A few times when I was younger, and then after I came out, I thought about getting a Mia Farrow-style pixie as a coming-out haircut, only I met this pretty girl who liked my long hair and I decided maybe I’d keep it.”

I saw my wife blush slightly in the mirror, her cheeks no longer hidden by any hair that could hide the rising color. ”You didn’t have to keep your hair long for me,” she said.

”I kind of did. You begged me not to cut it after the wedding. But I also kept it long for me. I really do—did—like my hair long, and I loved how you took care of it.”

”Yeah,” Stephanie sighed. “I guess it’s going to be a little while before I can do that again.”

”You’re taking care of it now.”

”I’m doing my best.”

”Keep going.”

I watched as my wife carefully cut my hair shorter. She studied each lock she selected carefully, trying her best to give me a proper pixie, and not just a rough crop. Shorter clumps of hair fell to my lap, my shoulders, the floor, and in the end I was left with the best Mia Farrow crop Stephanie could muster. Not half-bad, given her inexperience. Steph may have liked that short bob but I thought that maybe, whenever I decided to start growing my hair out again, I’d keep it at this length for a while. “It’s adorable!” I exclaimed. “You did great!”

”Do you want to stop here?” she asked. I thought I sensed a tinge of hope in her voice.

Instead of answering, I reached up and pinched at a short lock of hair that just hung over my forehead, then held my hand out for Stephanie to examine. Short as my hair was, I was obviously still shedding quite a bit. And besides, I was resolved.

”Okay,” Stephanie said, blowing on my hand and sending the short hairs flying to the floor. “But me first.”

I stood, and watched my golden hair tumble off my lap and shoulders. Though I’d already cut most of the length in the bathroom, my hair was thicker than my wife’s, so it seemed like there was more of it on the floor. I gave the towel back to Steph and she wrapped it around her shoulders as she sat.

”Remind me what the deal is with the guards?” I asked her, holding up the bag that contained the clip-on plastic combs.

“Lower number equals shorter haircut.”

”Okay, and which one do you want me to use?”

”I’m not sure,” she mused. “Which one are you thinking about using?”

”I’m not sure either.”

”Okay, let me put it this way,” Stephanie began, “when you said you wanted it gone, did you mean like all the way smooth? Or do you still want to have some hair?”

”I haven’t given it any thought. Impulsive decision, remember?”

”Then let me ask you this: Karen Gillan when she was shooting the first Guardians movie, Florence Pugh at the Met Gala, or Kristen Stewart in that movie where she works underwater?”

”I thought you were doing first,” I said.

”I am, but I want to know what you’re thinking so I can go shorter.”

”What if I said Karen Gillan?”

Stephanie looked stricken for a moment, but recovered quickly. “Well in that case I guess we’re going to start buying razors at Costco.”

I laughed. “Don’t worry,” I reassured her. “I wasn’t thinking totally bald. More like Kristen Stewart, or possibly just a little shorter?”

“Okay,” Stephanie said, pulling out her phone. “Some person on Reddit thinks that was a #4. So give me the #2.”

”You don’t have to go shorter than me, babe.”

”It was already the plan, Trish. Remember? Up until a couple odd hours ago I thought that I’d be finishing the week with a short pixie and you’d still have long hair.”

”Yeah, but shaving it off was my idea,” I insisted.

”Please let me do this,” Stephanie insisted. “I’ve always, always had shorter hair than you. What’s a quarter of an inch now?”

”Fine,” I sighed. “You’d just better hope I don’t change my mind and go shorter, or else you’re going to wind up with the Gillan.”

She gasped. “You wouldn’t!”

”Nah,” I said. “But it was fun to see your reaction.”

I rummaged through the bag of guards until I found the one labeled #2 and snapped it on the clippers; then plugged them in and turned them on. The loud pop startled both of us for a moment, before giving way to a steady hum. “You ready?” I asked my wife.

”It can’t be any worse than this,” she said.

”Where should I start?” I asked.

”Wherever you want.”

I placed the clippers at Stephanie’s nape and pushed them up and over her head until I reached her hairline. Her hair had already been so short that I wasn’t expecting much of a difference, but the path of quarter-inch fuzz that divided the right side of her head from the left was almost startlingly short compared to what was left. I readied another pass, and this time as I ran the clippers up my wife’s nape and over her frown, I heard her moan gently. “What was that about?”

”You’ll see when it’s your turn.” I continued on, first clearing the entire right side of her head and then, the entire left. When I finished, I ran the clippers all over her head again for good measure, careful not to leave any stragglers behind her ears. Short as it was, I could see the hair on Stephanie’s neck standing at attention.

By the time I flipped off the clippers, Stephanie was already studying herself intently. I watched as she ran a hand up the back of her head and back down again. It was so strange to see my wife without hair, but I thought she looked absolutely beautiful like that, staring wide-eyed at her reflection while she explored the expanse of short fuzz that now covered her head. “Okay,” she said after a minute. “Your turn.”

Stephanie stood and again shook out the towel that covered her shoulders. Tufts of her dark hair floated to the ground, joining the abundant piles below. She handed the towel back to me and I draped it back around myself, taking one last moment to appreciate the cute, if inexpert, pixie I’d only had for a few minutes but had already gotten somewhat attached to.

Stephanie changed the #2 guard for the longer #4, then put a hand on my shoulder. “You ready?” she asked.

But it was rhetorical. She’d already turned the clippers on before she finished asking the question, and had placed them at my widow’s peak before I could answer. I watched as the short hairs on my head gave way to even shorter ones—longer than Steph’s, but the difference was negligible. Steph lifted the clippers up and made another pass, clearing away more of my short-lived pixie. I could see my natural, dark blonde shade emerging completely, the last of the honey color falling in short clumps to the towel. Soon, most of the top of my head bore nothing but a short velvet carpet of hair, with the back and sides still an inch or so longer.

Stephanie made quick work of both sides of my head. In the mirror, I looked truly buzzed, but I knew she had not yet uncovered the back of my head. Steph guided my chin toward my chest and I had just a moment to recall that my wife had moaned softly when the clippers touched her nape before she put the clippers to mine and I understood. I knew I loved when Steph would push my hair aside and kiss my nape but now that it was exposed, the combination of the vibrations from the clippers and my wife’s hand trailing behind to check her work was indescribable. A moan escaped my lips, as well. “I told you you’d see,” Steph said. I could hear the smirk in her voice although I couldn’t see her face at the moment.

Soon, it seemed that Stephanie was finished. As I had done for her, she ran the clippers all over my head to make sure everything was evenly buzzed to the guard’s half-inch length, and then turned the machine off.

Because Steph had done the top and sides of my head first, what I saw in the mirror in that moment, with my buzzcut complete, wasn’t too different from what I had seen a few moments earlier. But now I was able to free up a hand to feel it. Where Steph had been gentle in her exploration of her own head, I rubbed my head roughly and shuddered, not out of repulsion but because the subtle movement of my hair under my hand sent shivers down my spine.

Steph regarded me for a moment and then hugged me from behind, pressing her cheek against mine. The mirror reflected back our two buzzed heads, hers dark brown and mine a dirty blonde, ever so slightly longer than my wife’s. Her cropped hair felt soft, not prickly, on my skin. “Come on,” she said. “Let’s take a shower and go to bed.” I noticed that she did not use the word “sleep.”

This wasn’t the first time we’d made love since the miscarriage but it was the first time in a long time that I could remember it being so hungry, so urgent. The feel of her buzzed head between my thighs had been novel, and the feel of her stroking my head while it was between hers was divine. Later, as she slipped first one finger inside me and then another, I grabbed the back of her head and pressed her forehead to my own. With her free hand, she fondled my nape and I swear it was that, and not the fingers inside me, that made me come.

We continued until the sun was peeking over the horizon and then fell asleep in a tangle of limbs.

Steph had had the presence of mind to suggest we get up early and tidy up before Dave’s arrival. She bundled up the plastic bags I had put down the night before, gathering most of our severed hair as she did. I went to the bathroom and cleaned my hair out of the sink, pausing for just a moment to sadly consider my severed ponytail before catching a glimpse of my new buzzcut in the mirror and smiling at the newly shorn version of myself, who didn’t have enough hair to shed anymore to remind her about the baby who wasn’t, who was ready to welcome the possibility of a baby yet to be.

The buzzer sounded promptly at 11. It was Dave, of course, and we buzzed him in, then waited for him to make his way upstairs. “Whoa,” he said, startled for a moment by our new haircuts. “I see you two are really embracing your lesbian mommy era.”

”We wanted a fresh start before attempt number two.”

”You don’t say,” he said, wryly, crossing the room to give us each a hug. “When did this happen?” he asked, giving my head a gentle, brotherly rub.

”About eight hours ago,” Steph responded. “It was all Trisha’s idea.”

”Well, I think you both look hot. If I were attracted to women—“

”Or if we were attracted to men?” I interrupted.

”Or that. I’d have a big crush on both of you right now.” He looked from me to Steph, then back. “Now, if you two ladies will excuse me,” he said, “I have to go jerk off to gay porn so I can get my best friend pregnant.”

Three weeks later, we found out that Dave’s “donation” had taken. My breasts began to swell and feel tender, and I spent several mornings with my face hovering over the toilet bowl, thankful in the moment I didn’t have to worry about holding my hair back as I puked. At the eight-week mark, we saw our baby for the first time—a little black-and-white tadpole growing inside my uterus. A few weeks after that, at our first appointment with the obstetrician, we heard the baby’s heartbeat and saw it dance on the ultrasound monitor.

My hair, which I kept buzzed for the first few weeks after that first night, began to grow back quickly, and, it seemed to me, thicker than it had been even before that first failed pregnancy. By the time we had that first OB appointment, it was almost back to the length of the Mia Farrow-inspired crop I had briefly enjoyed the night Stephanie and I buzzed each other’s heads. Assured by the doctor that everything looked good, I made an appointment at my usual salon, where my very shocked stylist who hadn’t seen me since my hair still fell to my waist, tidied the back and sides to make the look more intentional. Research indicated that bleach wouldn’t harm the baby, so I also asked my stylist to take me to a light platinum blonde, a decision Steph told me I might regret as my roots began to grow in, until I reminded her that I could always just shave it off again.

For her part, Steph was a little superstitious. Believing that our haircuts had brought us luck, she dutifully buzzed off any new growth, or asked me to do it, until the 20-week anatomy scan showed us ten fingers, ten toes, and nothing to be worried about. She put the clippers on a high shelf in the linen closet after that, resolved to start her own grow-out process.

Twenty weeks after that, Steph, with her short micro-pixie, and I, with what had grown longer and been recently cut and re-bleached into what my stylist called a pixie shag, met our son. He was born practically bald, with only the lightest shadow of hair on his head. “Just like his mommies when they made him,” Steph cooed as the nurse handed her baby for the first time.

A few minutes later, as Stephanie handed me the baby to nurse, she reached over and tucked a short, sweaty lock of white-blonde hair behind my ear. “I’m so proud of you,” she said.

I reached up and stroked the short hair at her temple. “I’m so proud of us.”

We were so in love. With him, with each other, and with every moment that got us there along the way.

4 responses to “Loss and Reinvention

  1. I share the experience of writing stories that are basically this isn’t what happened, but this is how I feel. I assume it’s somewhat common in fiction.

    I’m going to assume you have real life people you can talk about what happened with who understand, but in case you don’t really, feel free to email me. ginger.herten(at)gmail.com

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