Making Mommy Beautiful

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Andi yawned and pulled her long red hair into a thick ponytail as she helped her twins, Jack and Brianna, set up their craft station at the kitchen table. It was day four of spring break, and the kids had really been running her ragged. Because it had been raining all day, her plans to take the kids to the zoo where they could run around and blow off some steam were thwarted, and she desperately needed something to keep them from going stir-crazy inside the house.

Laying out construction paper, stencils, crayons, safety scissors, glue, pipe cleaners, watercolor paints and other supplies, Andi called on her training in elementary education to offer Jack and Brianna some suggestions for things they could make or do with the materials assembled in front of them. “You can draw a picture of us as a family,” she said, “or use your pipe cleaners as a necklace, or cut the colored paper into strips and make a paper chain.”

“But Mommy, I want to go to the zoo!” Jack complained, giving her his best puppy eyes beneath the shock of pale blonde hair that always swooped across his forehead. He looked so much like the photos she had seen of her husband, Dan, as a child. To be honest, he’d probably look a lot like a blonder version of Dan today, but when Dan started his residency he’d visited a barber and, without telling Andi ahead of time what he was doing, had his thick hair buzzed down to a short crew cut that he promised he’d grow out again once he felt like he could take a shower that was more than three minutes long. Since then, he’d also acquired a set of clippers and every couple of weeks he buzzed any growth down to a uniform quarter of an inch, sometimes asking Andi to help him even his neckline while telling her that if he didn’t have time for long showers he certainly didn’t have time for regular barber visits either.

For his most recent self-administered cut just a few days ago, though, Dan had been so tired he forgot he hadn’t put his customary #2 guard on his clippers before he started. He had already pushed the clippers right over the top of his head before he realized what he’d done and that he had no choice but to finish the job guard-less, winding up practically shaved to the skin. Afterward, Andi made Dan promise he wouldn’t give himself any more haircuts after a 14-hour-shift, in hopes of preventing a similar incident in the future. The quarter-inch buzz had been short enough, she told him, and the only bald head she wanted to see around her house was Mr. Clean—and even then, only sparingly.

Andi knelt down and gave Jack’s hair a tousle. “I know, honey. But when it rains like this all the animals go inside their houses to sleep.” God, I wish I could sleep right now, too, she thought to herself.

“Mommy, why can’t we just watch TV?” Brianna asked, pouting behind the red curls she had inherited from her mother.

“Because this will be more fun! I promise.”

The trio set to work, letting their creativity flow and chatting in that way parents and their young children do—a way that seems inane to anyone listening, but that Andi, like many other parents of kids this age, really cherished—and the young mother was pleased to see the kids were enjoying themselves. She just wished she weren’t so tired. That would make this much more fun.

“Mommy! Be careful!” Brianna exclaimed. “Your ponytail is in the paintbrush cup!”

Andi looked down. Sure enough, the end of her ponytail had flipped over her right shoulder and into the cup of water, brown from the sediments of several different watercolor paints. She laughed it off for the kids, but she was really deeply annoyed. She’d had to cancel her last two hair appointments because of parenting duties (once covering a carpool when another mom was called out of town for a family emergency, and the other time because Jack had caught a stomach bug and was projectile vomiting in his classroom, requiring immediate pickup), and her thick, curly hair had become unruly. Not only was it in need of a healthy trim, but it has also lost most of its shape, the layers cut into her hair to keep her curls at bay doing little good in their grown-out state. And the rain today wasn’t helping—the humidity had only made her hair more pouffy, and she knew she would have to be extra careful while detangling it in the shower that night. Still, while many of Andi’s friends had opted for much shorter, more practical styles once they had kids, Andi had opted to keep her length, the curls tumbling down to her waist. When her hair looked good, it looked really good—no way would she be parting with more than a few inches. “Excuse me, kiddos,” Andi said to Jack and Brianna, trying not to drop dirty water on their art projects as she extracted her ponytail from the cup. “Mommy was silly and got this dirty water in her hair! I’ll be right back.”

Andi walked to the kitchen sink and held the end of her ponytail under the faucet for a minute or two, until she could be reasonably certain that any diluted paint that found its way to her hair. Then she pulled the hair tie out of her hair, planning to put her hair back into a topknot rather than a ponytail and let the ends dry in the messy bun. She had not finished this endeavor, however, when her phone rang. Her big sister was on FaceTime. “Lana! Hi!”she exclaimed, as her sister’s face, framed by her perfectly highlighted blonde waves, appeared on her screen.

“Oh my god, Andi, your hair! It looks like a lion’s mane.”

“I know. It’s raining here. You know how frizzy it gets.”

“It makes you look a little…frazzled.”

“I have six-year-old twins home on spring break and a husband who is never home because he’s doing an 80-hour-a-week neurosurgery rotation. I am frazzled. I love my kids so much, and I wouldn’t change anything about being a mom, and yet I am run-down in a way I didn’t think was possible. How can those two things both be true?”

“I don’t know, sis, and I don’t care to find out. That’s why I didn’t have kids. Love my role as an auntie, though.”

Andi examined herself in the thumbnail window on her phone screen. “Are the bags under my eyes as dark as they look?”

“Nothing a little concealer can’t fix,” Lana responded.

The redhead laughed. “You think I have time to do makeup when the kids are home and Dan is at work? It’s not that I don’t want to. It would be nice to feel pretty again.”

“Shut up. You’re beautiful and you know it.”

“I don’t feel beautiful. I feel haggard.

“Anything I can do for you?”

“Nah, I just need a long nap. And,” Andi paused, picking up a frizzy curl and waving it toward the camera, “a haircut.”

“Mommy?” Andi heard Brianna behind her. She hasn’t noticed the twins had followed her into the kitchen. “Are you taking to Aunt Lana?”

“Yes, sweetie.”

“Can we talk to her?” Jack asked.

“Of course.” Andi turned her phone toward the twins and let them show their beloved aunt the crafts they were making.

Brianna, in perfect auntie mode, ooh’d and ahh’d over their work, and then turned playfully solemn. “Now, Jack and Brianna, you be nice to your mommy, okay?”

“Yes, Aunt Lana!” They responded in unison.

“Good. Now let me say goodbye to your mommy. I love you both and I’ll see you very soon.”

Andi turned the phone back to face her and got the kids settled back at their craft station. “You sure you don’t want kids? You’re awfully good with them.”

“Positive. But I’m off tomorrow and I can drive down this afternoon and watch them for a few hours so you and Dan can go out on a date. Maybe help you get pretty for him?”

“Dan is on call tonight so he’s probably sleeping at the hospital, but if you want to drive down to hang out with me and the kids tonight, maybe you can stay for the full weekend? He’s off work tomorrow, too, and I wouldn’t complain if you wanted to babysit while we get that date in.”

“It’s a deal,” Lana said. “Let me finish up a few work things and put together an overnight bag. Assuming I can get out of here before rush hour, I should be at your place before dinner. Think you can hang in there till then?”

“Yeah, I’ll be fine. Thanks, big sis.”

Andi walked back to the kitchen table where Jack and Brianna were twisting pipe cleaners into shapes they swore were animals. She smiled and asked them to make some more for her. God, she was just so tired. She could barely keep her eyes open. She knew that in another year, the twins would be in first grade, at school for the full day instead of their current half-day kindergarten, and she’d miss having them. But what she wouldn’t give for a little peace sometimes.

Andi’s phone dinged. It was a text from Lana. “Got caught up on an unplanned client call. I’m looking at the traffic map and if I leave now, I’m going to get stuck in some pretty awful traffic. I think I’ll have dinner here and head down to you after. Probably around 9:30 or 10?”

“That’s fine,” Andi replied. “I haven’t told the kids you were coming down yet and that’s after their bedtime, so you can surprise them at breakfast in the morning. I’ll try to wait up for you but there’s a good chance I’ll pass out on the sofa before you get here, so I’ll leave the back door unlocked and you can let yourself in.”

“K. Sorry about this. See you soon!”

“Don’t apologize. Just get here when you can. Love you.”

After another hour or so of crafting with the twins, Andi gave them the option of continuing with their art projects, watching Frozen in the living room, or helping her in make dinner. To her surprise, Jack and Brianna opted to keep crafting. As she cooked, she could hear them quietly chatting in their “twinspeak,” a language that only made sense to them. Every so often they would look back at her and smile, the occasional “Hi Mommy!” or “I love you, Mommy!” rushing forth when she caught their eye. They’re exhausting, but on the whole they’re pretty good kids, she thought to herself. Tired as she was, she knew she wouldn’t trade her life for anything.

Jack and Brianna were still awake, chattering in whispered twinspeak, about an hour after their bedtime. After dinner and a bath, Andi had tucked them in and read them a story. They’d pretended to drift off to sleep, waiting till their mother shut off the light and went downstairs, but as soon as the coast was clear, Brianna had gotten up from her bed and climbed into Jack’s.

“Why did Mommy tell Aunt Lana she doesn’t feel beautiful?” the redheaded girl asked her brother as she snuggled under his covers—something she had done a hundred times before.

“I don’t know,” her brother had replied, pulling the blanket up over their heads as if to prevent them from being overheard. “But I think she is the beautifulest.”

“She told Aunt Lana she needs a nap and a haircut to feel beautiful,” Brianna recollected, toying with a red ringlet that hung over one shoulder. “Sometimes she takes a nap after she puts us to bed. I think we should surprise mommy with a haircut while she is napping so we can help her feel beautiful!”

“Yeah!” Jack agreed enthusiastically. “She likes it when we surprise her and do something nice! And this way she gets a long nap and a haircut!”

“We just have to be very quiet to make sure we don’t wake her.”

“What if mommy isn’t napping yet?”

“Well,” Brianna said thoughtfully, “I will tell her we wanted a glass of water. She said we can always come downstairs if we want a glass of water.”

The twins snuck down the stairs. They didn’t hear Andi moving around, which made them confident she had fallen asleep on the sofa again. But when they crept into the living room, their mother was nowhere to be seen. Brianna gazed toward the kitchen and tugged her brother’s sleeve to get his attention. Jack turned and saw what Brianna was looking at: their mother seemed to have fallen asleep at the dining table while cleaning up the craft station. Her head rested on folded arms and her abundant, frizzy red curls spilled down her back. Nearby, amongst the detritus of the day’s crafting activists, were two pairs of craft scissors. Perfect.

Brianna held a finger to her lips to remind Jack to be very quiet and walked stealthily to the table, then gestured to her brother to follow her. She handed him one of the pairs of scissors.

“How much hair do you think we should cut?” Jack softly whispered to his sister in twinspeak.

“I don’t know, Brianna responded. “She just said she needs a haircut.”

Jack picked up a lock of hair near Andi’s right ear, examined it for a moment, then placed his scissors near her temple. With some effort, he was able to crunch the scissors through the lock. Two feet of red hair came loose in his hand. “Like this?” he asked Brianna.

Brianna paused. It looked like so much hair. But all of her friends’ mommies had cut a lot of their hair and they were still beautiful so Brianna decided that must have been what her mommy wanted, too. She picked up a similar lock near Andi’s left ear and sawed through it with her own scissors.

The twins stepped back to admire their handiwork. Andi’s hair was still mostly intact, save for two short tufts sprouting from either side of her head. Apparently satisfied with what they had done, Jack went back to his mother, this time selecting a lock near the top of her head. Andi’s thick, red hair put up something of a fight but ultimately her toe-headed son and his slightly dull scissors were victorious, and a short section of hair sprung away from the blades, standing almost vertical against the young mother’s head. Brianna took her turn with a large handful of hair located near her mother’s nape. Those locks, too, put up a fight, but eventually the girl succeeded in severing them, and an uneven patch of hair that was, at its longest, an inch in length remained in its stead.

And so it continued. Jack would make a cut, and then Brianna. The twins were having fun with their makeover project, trying it to giggle as they worked to beautify their mother. Andi would occasionally stir slightly, but she never fully woke.

“What should we do with all of this hair?” Jack asked at some point.

“Leave it on the table. Maybe mommy will let us craft with it.”

“Good idea!”

Most of the hair on Andi’s head has now been reduced to an unevenly short length. Only a few comparatively long locks remained, right near her forehead. Jack lifted one up and brought his scissors to almost rest on his mother’s head as he opened and closed the blades until these curls joined the massive pile that had accumulated around Andi on the table. The hair that remained after he moved the scissors was so short Jack could see his mother’s skin shining through it.

“Last one!” Brianna pronounced, gathering what little long hair remained and cutting it off. She placed the final two-foot lock on the table as about two inches of hair pulled away from the scissors and flopped back toward her mother’s head.

The twins stood back again and examined their mother’s roughly shorn head. “Mommy is going to be so happy!” Jack said. “She got her nap and her haircut!”

“She’s still going to be the most beautifulest mommy, but more beautifuler,” Brianna agreed.

The twins put down their scissors and headed back to their room. They couldn’t wait to see their mother’s reaction in the morning.

Andi woke up to the feeling of her hair tickling her nose. She couldn’t believe she had fallen asleep slumped over the table like this! And she’d had the oddest dream. Two fairies were flying around her head, giggling and speaking in a language she didn’t understand.

The back door opened. “Hey, baby sis!” Andi heard Lana call out in a hushed voice as she entered the house. “You still awake? I brought a bottle of…” she stopped short as her redheaded sister lifted her head from the table to greet her. “Holy shit, Andi! What did you do?”

“Fell asleep cleaning up after the kids, I guess.” Her head felt lighter, somehow.

“That’s…not what I mean,” Lana said cautiously. “I know you said you needed a haircut, but this seems awfully extreme.”

“Lana, what are you talking about?” Andi lifted a hand to brush a lock of hair out of her eye, but it came away in her hand. She let out a shriek, then clapped a hand over her mouth, hoping she hadn’t woken the kids. The other hand flew to the top of her head, where she found herself grasping at unfathomably short hairs where there used to be literal feet of length. Her eyes widened.

“So I take it you didn’t do this yourself, then?” Lana asked, quickly putting her bags down and rushing to her sister’s side.”

“No!” Andi quietly cried, as her eyes landed on the piles of severed red curls on the table in front of her. “I don’t…I don’t know what could have happened.”

“The kids wouldn’t’ve done this, would they?” Lana l ran a hand through her golden waves, as if trying to ensure herself that there was no malevolent, hair-chopping spirit in the house who would target her next.

“No! Why would they…” Andi’s voice trailed off. “Oh no. They must have overheard me talking to you earlier. When I told you I needed a nap and a haircut. I fell asleep, so they must have seen me taking a nap and…”

“Damn.” Lana let out a quiet whistle. “Their ability to put that together is actually pretty impressive. But their ability to give a good haircut is, I’m sorry to tell you, not.”

“Oh god, how bad is it?” Andi asked, her fingers frantically searching her head for something familiar. They recognized the softness of her hair, but everything else was foreign.

“Do you want me to try to describe it, or should I just pull the bandaid off and show you?”

“Might as well just show me,” Andi said dejectedly. “I’ll have to see it eventually.”

Lana pulled her phone out of her pocket, launched the camera app, and switched it to the front-facing camera before placing it atop a pile of red hair in front of her sister. Andi cautiously picked it up, then closed her eyes as she raised the device up to her face. “You can’t see it if you don’t open your eyes,” Lana reminded her.

“Okay. Okay. I know. Okay. Three…two…one.” Andi’s eyes flew open and she gasped at what she saw. Her familiar eyes, her naturally arched eyebrows, her freckles, her cheekbones, her lips…but all without the familiar frame of her long red curls. Those had been replaced by uneven patches of red hair all over her head. Some were long enough that Andi could just make out a curl; most were not. Occasionally, she’d encounter an area so short it looked like a bald spot, even amidst the other short lengths. “Oh god. Oh god,” she repeated, pulling at the occasional tuft of hair as if that would make it grow longer.

“I guess you never gave the kids the ‘don’t cut your hair with your craft scissors’ talk mom gave us?” Lana asked, trying to lighten the mood.

“I did,” Andi said. “But I guess instead of saying ‘don’t cut your hair’ I should have said ‘don’t cut anyone’s hair.’ Like, I don’t even know if I can be mad at them for this.” She turned her head first to one side, then to the other, evaluating the damage, then let out a sigh. “I guess it was time for me to get the mommy chop, anyway. Most of my friends already have pixies. Might as well join them.”

“Uhhh, Andi?” Lana interrupted. “I don’t think a pixie is going to do it.” She pointed to a spot over Andi’s right eye where the hair was cut about as close to the redhead’s scalp as would have been possible with a pair of children’s scissors. “That’s way shorter than any pixie I’ve ever seen, and there are a few more spots like it.”

“What are you saying?”

“Is Dan still shaving his head?”

“No,” Andi responded, ready to give her sister the spiel Dan had given her about how he wasn’t shaving his head, but buzzing it, before remembering that most recent, accidentally guardless self-cut. “I mean, not exactly. He is still cutting his hair at home, though. Wait…you’re not suggesting what I think you’re suggesting, are you?”

Lana nodded at her sister. “I am, in fact, suggesting exactly that.”

“No. Absolutely not.”

“Look, baby sis. You can wait till you can get an appointment with a stylist, who will tell you exactly what I’m telling you and charge you eighty bucks for the privilege, or you can let me help you take care of it here for free.”

“You don’t know how to cut hair!”

“Neither does Dan. How hard can it be?”

“Is there literally no other choice?” Andi asked, dejectedly handing Lana’s phone back to her.

“Not as far as I can tell, unless you want to walk around town looking like you got into an argument with Edward Scissorhands. I mean, we can get you a wig, but you’d probably want to get rid of all of this anyway so it will fit you better. And I know for a fact that your hair needs to be longer for extensions, because the last time I got my hair cut one of the stylists was complaining about a client who got a pixie cut, immediately hated it, asked for extensions, was told she’d need to let her hair grow out for a couple of months first, and then threatened to call a lawyer.”

“She seems nice.”

“Yeah,” Lana agreed sarcastically. “Real nice. Anyway. All of this is to say, in my inexpert opinion, that your best bet is to get this all as even as possible and let it grow from there.”

Andi looked at herself again in her sister’s phone screen. “You’re right. I know you’re right. I’m just scared.”

“Nothing could possibly be any scarier than the prospect of going out into the world looking like this.” Lana held up the phone again, reminding her little sister just how bad it actually was.

“Okay,” Andi said. “Fine. But let’s just clean this up first?” She gestured to the pile of red curls on the craft station.

Lana rose and started to consolidate the severed locks into bunches, occasionally grabbing a pipe cleaner from the crafting supplies and wrapping it around a bundle of hair. “Maybe you can at least donate it? I’ll bet some little girl going through chemo would be thrilled to have your hair on her head.”

That made Andi soften a little. She’d do just about anything to have her hair back on her head, but if her loss could be a child’s gain, that did make things a little easier to bear. She joined her sister in collecting bundles of hair and tying them off with pipe cleaners.

Andi grabbed a bottle of wine and two glasses, then led Lana into her bathroom and grabbed Dan’s clippers from a shelf in the linen closet. As Andi opened the bottle and poured herself a generous glass, Lana spread the newspaper Dan had left next to the toilet on the ground, then guided Andi to sit on the vanity stool where the redhead sometimes sat when she actually had time to do her makeup, and draped a towel across her shoulders.

Lana poured her own—more reasonably sized—glass of wine, then opened the clipper set’s case and rummaged through the guards before picking up the instructions inside, looking from the how-tos to her sister’s head and back again. “Okay,” she finally pronounced. “This shouldn’t be too hard.”

“You can’t leave me with hair any shorter than Dan’s.”

“I’ll do my best. Which of these guards does he usually use?”

“The #2, usually. But last time he cut his hair he forgot to use a guard at all.”

“When was that?”

“Sunday, I think?”

“Okay, so basically if I use any guard at all, your hair is still going to be longer than Dan’s. Nothing to worry about there!”

“I mean, don’t make it any shorter than his usually is.”

“I was thinking I’d probably use a #4 and see if that was enough,” Lana said, “so I think we’re probably in good shape.”

“How short is that?”

“About half an inch.”

“That’s too short!”

“Honestly, baby sis,” Lana said, “it may not be short enough, with some of these bald-looking spots the kiddos left you with.”

“Oh god…”

“Let’s just see what we can do, okay?”

Andi drank most of her wine in one gulp, then nodded. Lana affixed the guard to the clippers and turned the machine on with a pop, followed by a low humming sound. “Here we go.” The blonde placed the machine at her sister’s temple and ran it up toward her crown. Tufts of red hair ranging from a few millimeters to a few inches in length floated down onto Andi’s shoulder. “Hmm,” Lana mused, examining the buzzed hair left in the wake of her first pass. “I don’t think that’s going to be short enough. Sorry, Andi.” Lana switched the clippers off and swapped the #4 guard for the #3.

Andi whimpered. “Are you sure?”

“Quite sure,” Lana replied, turning her sister’s head slightly so she could better see the landing strip her sister had just carved from Andi’s temple to her crown. “See this spot here and this spot here?” she asked, indicating a few places where Andi’s hair remained shorter than the buzzed areas surrounding them. “If we don’t go shorter they’re going to be really noticeable.”

“Okay. Okay. But could you refill my glass first?” The shorn redhead indicated the empty glass she had placed on the vanity.

Lana poured more wine into Andi’s glass and Andi gladly accepted it, again drinking the contents in one gulp before letting out a big exhale, almost as if she expected fire to come out with it. “Well,” she turned to Lana, “what are you waiting for?”

Lana switched the clippers back on with that same loud pop they had made before, then retraced her path from Andi’s forehead to her crown as a tiny sprinkling of red hair rained down. She paused again to examine her work. “Yep,” she pronounced. “That should do it.” Switching tactics, Lana then placed the clippers at Andi’s forehead and pushed them straight back toward her crown, severing locks as long as two or three inches in length as well as a few that were quite a bit shorter. That path bisected the first, leaving somewhat of a crossroads near the top of her sister’s head, surrounded by a red thatch of longer hair.

“What are you doing?!” Andi gasped. “That looks even worse!”

“Relax. I just wanted to make sure this guard was short enough for some of the shorter pieces the kids left you with up here.”


“We’re good. Can I keep going?” Andi nodded and Lana made another pass, parallel to the previous, working closer to Andi’s right temple where she had made the first. A few more parallel passes to that one and that first vertical path was obliterated.

Andi watched her sister working in the mirror. By now, it seemed to her, Lana had buzzed about a quarter of her head. Andi was relieved to see that the stubble that remained still displayed her naturally red shade, but god it was so strange seeing so little of it. Even the rest of her hair, as severely and unevenly cropped as Jack and Brianna had left it, seemed long compared to what she was seeing now. But Lana left little time Andi to marvel at the contrast. The blonde placed her clippers again at Andi’s forehead and began to work toward the shorn redhead’s left ear, making pass after parallel pass until the top and sides of her head had been mowed down to an even pelt, less than half an inch in length.

Andi heard her phone ding on the counter in front of her, the specific tone she had set just for her husband’s messages. “It’s Dan,” she told Lana, casually. And then, as a more frenzied afterthought, realizing what her husband would be coming home to: “Oh shit! What am I going to tell Dan?” Lana switched off the clippers, but before she could answer her sister, Andi had already snatched her phone up. “The hospital needs him to stay later. He’s assisting on a complicated emergency tumor removal and the soonest he’ll be home now is noon. So, I guess that gives me extra time to figure out how to explain,” she pointed to her head, “all of this.”

“How about we take things one step at a time?” Lana suggested, removing her sister’s phone from her hand and putting it back on the counter.


“Shhhh,” said Lana. “It’ll be much worse if he sees you like this, with half a buzzcut and half a…whatever the twins left you. Put your head down and let me finish.”

Lana flipped the clippers back on and brought them to Andi’s nape, where some of the longest hair Jack and Brianna had left behind was located. She pushed the humming machine up to meet the already-buzzed section at her her sister’s crown, and red curls four or so inches in length tumbled to the floor.

Andi let out a small giggle. “You know,” she said, “that tickles. It actually feels kind of nice. Or it would, if it weren’t taking all of my hair with it.”

“Oh honey, your kids took all your hair. I’m just cleaning up the wreckage,” Lana said as she made another pass from nape to crown, separating more curls from the back of Andi’s head. “But I’m glad to know that this part at least feels good. Think that’s why Dan keeps his hair so short these days?”

“I don’t think so. It seems to be purely practical. But, I mean…” she mused as her sister made another pass with the clippers up the back of her head. It was almost pleasant. “Maybe?”

Lana made a few more passes with the clippers to rid her sister of the last vestiges of her long red curls, then passed the machine back and forth across Andi’s head to make sure she hadn’t missed anything. Soon, she switched the clippers off again and stood back. “Well,” she began, studying the contrast between her own long golden waves and the short red pelt that covered her sister’s head, “what do you think?”

Andi stared at her reflection for a moment and then brought a tentative hand to her head before bursting into tears.

“Oh, baby sis, no,” Lana said, wrapping her arms around Andi. “It’s not that bad. I think you actually kind of rock it.”

“It’s not about looking good or bad. It’s that my hair was the only thing that let me feel like me anymore,” Andi sobbed into her sister’s shoulder. “Even when I hadn’t washed it. Even when the humidity was bad and it got frizzy. It was the hair I had before I was a mom, before I was a wife. And now it’s gone.”

“Oh, honey.” The blonde rocked the buzzcutted redhead back and forth. “I promise you, you’re still you. Even with a husband. Even with kids. And even,” Lana gave Andi’s head a little rub, “with this.” She held her sister until her tears stopped. “Let’s get you to bed, okay? I promise things will seem better by this time tomorrow.”

Andi stirred in bed. She’d had another strange dream. The faeries were back, only this time they were riding a giant bumble bee that kept buzzing around her head.

The sun was shining brightly through the windows, and yesterday’s incessant rain was a thing of the past. The young mother sat up in bed and reached up to remove the scrunchie she always slept in, only to find in its place the soft velvet of her newly shorn head. “No,” she said quietly to herself, the previous evening’s events flooding back to her. “No no no no no.”

The bedroom door opened. It was Lana, bearing a breakfast tray. “Good morning, sleepyhead!” she said brightly.

“What’s so good about it?” Andi pouted, still feeling her head.

“Well, for starters, it looks like it’s going to be impossible for you to wake up with a bad hair day anytime soon.”

Andi groaned. “That’s not helping.”

“Okay, well how about this? I got the kids up early, made them a big breakfast, and I’m taking them to the zoo while you have a lovely spa day here at home.”

“What? Lana…”

“I booked you an at-home massage and facial and then I’ve got the hair and makeup team I used when I was down here for Aunt Jackie’s wedding coming after that.”

“Hair? What can they possibly do with my hair?”

“I don’t know, but they’re the experts so I’m sure they’ll come up with something.”

“What about Dan? When he gets home, he’s going to want to shower and take a nap.”

“I already told him what’s going on and that he should proceed to the guest room when he gets home so as not to disturb preparations for your date night tonight.”

“That’s assuming he’s going to want to be seen with me after this,” she pointed to her shorn head.

“I’ve made you 7pm reservations at Chez Michelle and the man’s gotta eat.”

“And you’re seriously good to hang out with the kids for the next…” she picked up her phone and checked the time. “…Fourteen hours?”

“Believe me, it’s going to be harder on them than it will be on me. All they can talk about today is how they can’t wait to see how beautiful they helped to make their mommy.”

Andi scoffed. “Yeah. Their beautiful, bald mommy.”

“Not bald. Just…buzzed. I told them they’d get to see you before your date. So, what do you say?”

“Are you giving me any choice in this?”

“Not really, no. Big sissy knows best.”

Andi rolled her eyes and groaned. “Okay. Fine.”

An hour later, Andi found herself receiving the best massage she’d ever had in her life. That may have been because she hadn’t had one since she was pregnant with the twins, but it may also have been because the massage therapist, a smiley petite woman named Jane with thick, lavender-dyed hair piled into a topknot above a closely cropped undercut, was paying particular attention to the muscles of Andi’s shoulders, neck, and head. Whereas previously, she’d always hated if massage therapists worked her scalp—or even too close to her hairline—because she knew it meant she’d have to spend a few hours washing and drying her hair after, Andi found no such aversion here. In fact, it seemed to her that Jane paid special attention to those muscles in her head and neck that would have been buried in hair only a day before. Had Lana told Jane, when booking her, about Andi’s ordeal the night before? Or had Jane just known this area needed some extra love?

Andi took a shower after Jane left, to try to rinse off the massage oil before the esthetician arrived for her facial. The hot water felt so different spilling over her head now that only the merest trace of her former red curls remained. It was nice, she thought. But not as nice as it would be to have her hair back.

Stepping out of the shower, Andi threw on a fluffy robe and then wrapped her head in a towel, unsure why she should even bother. But then footsteps in the hall and a tentative opening of the bathroom door made her glad she had. Dan was peeking his nearly bald head around the bedroom door. “Hey,” he said, his face lighting up at the sight of his wife despite how tired he must have been. “I know Lana said not to bother you today but she also gave me your full itinerary so I figured that since I got home between your massage and your facial, I could at least pop in to grab a change of clothes and get a kiss from my wife.”

Andi melted a little at the sight of her husband. She hated his hair this short, but he still had the same smile she fell for when they met her senior year of college. Dan put down the bundle of clothes he was carrying and approached her. “Hey,” he said, reaching for her waist.

Andi wrapped one arm around his neck, using the other hand to prevent the towel wrapped around her head from slipping. “Hey yourself,” she said, pressing her body into his as they kissed.

The doorbell rang before things could escalate, and Andi felt momentarily relieved. A few seconds longer and her robe would have been on the floor, followed by the towel around her head. And she was not ready for Dan to see what was underneath that. Not yet. “That must be my facial,” she said, taking half a step away from her husband. “Can you get the door?”

“I guess.” Dan playfully pouted as he made a small adjustment to his scrubs, which Andi knew from experience were not especially good at hiding an erection. Then he gathered his clothes up and made for the bedroom door. “See you later, for our date?”

“I wouldn’t miss it.”

Andi’s facial was as relaxing as her massage had been, and Andi’s skin was positively glowing by the time it was over. She had kept the towel around her head, and after the esthetician left, Andi took time to study herself in the mirror. With her clean, bright skin and the towel concealing her shorn head, she looked almost like the young woman she was before she met Dan—the version of herself she had so worried the night before she lost.

This moment of self-study proved to be brief, interrupted by another knock on her bedroom door. It turned out that the hair stylist and makeup artist had pulled into the driveway just as the esthetician left, so she pointed them to Andi’s room on her way out. “Hi! I’m Frankie and this is Lydia,” said the tall, raven-haired figure of indeterminate age and gender as they bustled into Andi’s room beside a short woman with long, platinum hair. “Hair and makeup, respectively.”

Andi welcomed the pair into her bedroom and then walked them to her bathroom, the scene of the prior evening’s shearing.

“Lana told us about about last night,” Frankie said. “I’m so sorry that happened to you. But kids, amirite?” The hair stylist steered Andi to the vanity stool.

“Do you have kids?” Andi asked.

“Oh god, no,” Frankie replied. “My niblings are plenty for me.”

Andi laughed. “Yeah, mine are…quite the handful.”

Frankie glanced at the photos hanging on the wall near the bedroom door. “They’re cute, though,” they acknowledged.

“Thanks,” Andi said. “I have to say, I’m kind of surprised Lana hired you. There’s not much hair left to style.”

“How about you let me be the judge of that, eh?” Frankie asked, guiding Lana back to her vanity stool. “Why don’t you take that towel off your head and let me see what I have to work with?”

Andi unwrapped the towel to reveal her hair, or what remained of it anyway, to Frankie and Lydia. As she did, she let in a short, sharp breath at what she saw in the mirror. She had almost forgotten just how short her hair was, while it was hiding under the towel.

Frankie nodded sagely, then made a slow circle around Andi’s stool. “Okay,” they pronounced after completing the revolution. “So, you’re right. There’s not much hair left. But there is still some. At the very least, I can clean up your hairline for you, make it look a little more intentional. But…” they paused for dramatic emphasis, “I think we can do a little better than that.”

“Unless you can magically get my hair to grow, I don’t see how you anything can be better,” Andi deadpanned.

“Quite the opposite,” Frankie replied.

“You’re not thinking of shaving my head?!” Andi cried.

“Oh no. No no no. I just thought it would look nice if we faded the back and sides a bit. I promise, you’ll still have hair. It would be criminal to get rid of that red completely.”

“I don’t know…” Andi began, hesitantly. Then, turning to Lydia, she asked: “What do you think?”

The makeup artist, who had been silent up until that point, nodded enthusiastically. “I think Frankie and I are going to make you look beautiful.”

“Fine,” Andi said. “What do I have left to lose?”

“Literally eighths of an inch,” Frankie replied. Moving swiftly, they pulled a cape out of the bag they carried with them and draped it over Andi, then removed their clippers from the same bag. These looked much heavier than the ones Lana had used on her the night before, but then she guessed that made sense, since Frankie is a professional. Andi studied Frankie in the mirror as they affixed a guard to their clippers. She couldn’t believe she was consenting to have even another millimeter of hair removed from her head, but Frankie and Lydia seemed so confident and after her brutal shearing she really did need something to make her feel beautiful so if they said this was it, then fine. Whatever. Like Frankie said, she only had a fraction of an inch left to lose anyway.

Frankie noticed Andi scrutinizing then in the mirror. “I think this might be better if we spin you around.” They helped Andi turn her back to the glass, then turned to Lydia. “Could you hold her ear down for me, darlin’?” The makeup artist gently did as she was asked, careful to keep herself otherwise out of the stylists way. Then came the pop that heralded the use of clippers, and Frankie made their first pass from Andi’s right temple to a spot just level with her eyebrow. They moved quickly but precisely, drawing the clippers up again and again, always ending level with their first pass, until the right side of Andi’s head had been buzzed down ever so slightly shorter than it had been. Then, Frankie and Lydia moved to Andi’s left and repeated the process. And finally, Lydia stepped aside for Frankie to work on the back of Andi’s head on their own. “Head down, sweet cheeks,” they instructed, and Andi dutifully lowered her chin to her chest. Frankie rested one hand on her crown and ran their clippers up the center of her nape.

Just as she had the night before, Andi let out a faint giggle. “That tickles a little.”

“Yeah,” Frankie agreed. “Some people think it does. Some think it’s more like a massage. Some people are even aroused by it.”


“More than you’d think.”

Andi thought back to Lana’s comment the night before that perhaps Dan had been buzzing his hair for more than practical reasons, but decided it was impossible. He was always so quick when he did it. And Andi knew from experience that when Dan found something arousing, he was quite capable of taking his time—even now, during his residency.

The buzzing stopped briefly, allowing Frankie to change the guard on their clippers once more. Returning to Andi’s right, with Lydia holding Andi’s ear down, the stylist placed their clippers once again at the redhead’s temple, pushing them up to a spot a few inches lower from where they stopped their last pass. Frankie proceeded to further shorten the hair on the right side of Andi’s head, then the left, and finally her nape. Andi could tell the stylist was being extra cautious in this step, so she sat in silence until Frankie stepped back and turner their clippers off.

“One last thing,” the stylist pronounced, exchanging their clippers for a smaller pair. “I just want to clean up your hairline.” They turned the second set of clippers on, and Andi noticed that they made a higher-pitched buzzing sound than the first pair had.

Much to Andi’s surprise, Frankie didn’t start at Andi’s hairline on her nape, or even around her ears—they started at Andi’s forehead. Her eyes grew wide, and Frankie chuckled. “Don’t worry, mama. This is just so you have a really clean, precise hairline the whole way around. I’m barely taking anything here in the front, although I’ll take them up a wee bit higher on the back and sides. It makes the whole look more intentional rather than looking, I dunno, like you shaved your head at home in the middle of the night after your naughty children cut off all your hair while you were sleeping.”

“I’m not going to be bald at the end of this, am I?” Andi asked, nervously.

“Not at all. Like I said, it would be criminal to get rid of this color completely. You will still very much be a redhead when I’m through with you.” Frankie began to shape the edges of Andi’s buzzcut, carefully tracing around her face before moving around to her aides and back. That finished, the stylist took a step back. “Oh yeah, mama. You look gorgeous.”

“I don’t see how.”

“You’re going to have to trust me a little while longer,” Frankie said, brushing off their clippers in order to pack them up again. “I’m not going to turn you around yet because I want you to see the whole look. But you’ll see. Just absolutely stunning.” They turned to their makeup counterpart. “Your turn!”

“Okay, Andi,” Lydia said, approaching her. “Just sit back and relax. This is the easy part.”

Before Frankie and Lydia left, they insisted on helping Andi pick a dress out of her closet that would complement her new look. They found a black slip dress in the back of her closet—“I haven’t worn that since college,” Andi had protested—and paired it with a pair of classic black pumps and an emerald green pashmina she’d received as a gift from one of her students before she left teaching to become a mom.

And now the hair and makeup team were gone and Andi found herself once again studying her reflection. She was pleased the dress still fit, even if it hugged her curves a bit more tightly than it had ten years before. The high heels, making their return to Andi’s feet for the first time since—actually, she couldn’t remember when—made her legs look shapely and long. The green shawl matched her eyes and enhanced the natural sprinkling of freckles across her nose and cheeks that Lydia had made sure would still be visible beneath the makeup she had applied. There was green in the makeup, too—a subtle line just beneath her lower lashes and shaded into the middle third of her eyelid, giving depth to a smokey eye look that flicked up and out at the outer corners. Lydia had also carefully applied individual clusters of fake lashes to the outer third of Andi’s eyes, which now looked enormous. Some bronzer and highlighter had served to enhance her cheekbones, and her lips were painted a deep burgundy.

This, of course, was all topped with the velvety red hair that just barely covered the top of her head and faded down to her skin on the back and sides. As an afterthought before they left, Frankie had created what they called a “hard part,” using their unguarded clippers to carve a thin line across the top of Andi’s head, starting at the outer corner of her right eyebrow and stopping just before her occipital bone. Her haircut—if you could call it that, she thought—at least looked deliberate, not like the hack job her kids had left her with or the emergency buzzcut Lana had given her thereafter. How long, she wondered, would it take before her hair would again show any sign of her natural curl pattern? How long before Dan would be able to entwine his fingers in it, before she could make a ponytail?

While she knew it would take quite a bit of getting used to, the more Andi stared at herself in the mirror, the more she liked (or at least, the less she hated) what she saw. Instead of the frazzled, frizzy-haired mom she had seen in her mirror only 24 hours earlier, here she saw a sophisticate with the kind of haircut that would make women go: “I wish I could get away with something like that.” Still, Frankie and Lydia hadn’t let her see the finished cut until her makeup was done, and Andie worried that when she washed her face that night, she’d look less like a sophisticated woman and more like a teenage boy. She knew she was going to have to start wearing more makeup for carpools. At least she wouldn’t have to spend time on both makeup and hair, she told herself.

A knock at the door heralded Lana’s entrance into Andi’s bedroom. “Wow!” the blonde exclaimed. “You look…incredible. Really.”

“I don’t look like me.”

“Of course you do. Just a new version of you.”

“I liked the old version of me.”

“Can you at least give this one a chance?”

“Fine,” Andi sighed. “I’ll try.”

“Good,” Lana said, giving her sister’s shoulder an encouraging squeeze. “You ready to go downstairs? Dan and the kids are waiting for you.”

Oh god. Dan. What was Dan going to say when he saw what had happened to her hair? “What did you tell Dan?”

“Well…” Lana began. “The kids told him they gave you a haircut so they could help make you be beautiful. I had to give him a heads-up that they had cut quite a bit of your hair.”

“How did he seem when you told him that?”

“Fine, I guess? He did take it as an opportunity to talk to the kids about consent.”

Andi warmed at this. Dan was a good man and a great father. Maybe he wouldn’t divorce her on the spot when he saw her new look. “Okay,” she said, taking a deep breath. “Let’s go.”

Lana positioned Andi at the top of the stairs. “Wait till you’re announced,” she said. Andi watched her sister’s blonde hair from behind as Lana descended the staircase. “Announcing: the new Andi Masters!”

And took that as her cue and began to slowly descend the staircase. When she reached the landing and was in full view, the silence below was deafening. “Andi?” Dan finally asked, in a tone that suggested he couldn’t quite believe his eyes.

“Mommy!” the twins exclaimed, racing up the stairs and throwing their arms around her legs.

“Oh Mommy!” Brianna exclaimed. “You really are the most beautifulest. Like a princess!”

“Don’t all princesses have long hair?” Andi asked her daughter somewhat sadly, sweeping a red curl out of the girl’s face.

“No, Mommy,” Jack chimed in. “Because you look like a princess, and you don’t have long hair!”

Circular kiddy logic. You couldn’t fault it, really, Andi thought to herself.

The twins each took Andi by the hand and led her the rest of the way down the stairs, toward Dan. “Daddy!” Brianna and Jack exclaimed in unison. “Didn’t we make mommy look beautiful?” Brianna asked.

Dan locked eyes with Andi and cocked his head to one side. She saw his smile shine through his eyes first, before it reached his mouth. “The most beautifulest,” he said, giving the twins a pat on the head and then wrapping his arms around his wife’s waist and nuzzling into her freshly exposed neck. “You ready to go?” he whispered huskily in her ear.

Andi could feel his breath on the side of her head—something she had never experienced before. “Ready,” she said. Was she ever.

The next morning, Andi lay with her head on Dan’s chest. He was gently stroking the red pelt that just barely covered her scalp. “That feels nice,” she told him.

“I know,” he said. “I like when you do it to me, too.”

The night before, after an amazing meal and a bit too much wine, the couple had come home and proceeded immediately to their bedroom, where they had the most satisfying lovemaking session either could remember for years. It was weird for Andi, not having her long hair hanging over her husband as she rode him, nor having him pull at it when he took her from behind. But then there was the delicious attention he paid to her neck and ears, the way he was able to run his tongue all the way up her spine, the feeling of his hands, warm and heavy on her head when she took him in her mouth. And now, as they snuggled in bed, it was actually kind of nice to be able to feel Dan’s heartbeat on her cheek, with no hair to soften the delivery of its rhythm.

“So you don’t hate it, then?” Andi asked him.

“Would you be upset if I said that I actually really, really like it?”

“Does that mean you want me to keep it?”

“Only if you want to,” Dan responded.

“Does you growing your hair out again hinge on me keeping mine this short?”

“Not at all. I told you I’d let it grow again after my residency and I meant it. This,” Dan raised one of Andi’s hands to his head, “is a matter of practicality.”

“You sure?” Andi asked. “I was kind of wondering if you did it because you liked the way it feels. Buzzing your head, I mean.”

“Not really,” he paused for a moment. “Why? Did you?”

“A little, kind of? I think I was probably too traumatized to say for sure. But it did at least feel…nice.”

The two fell into a comfortable silence. Dan continued to stroke the short bristles that covered Andi’s head. A few minutes later, there was a gentle knock. “Andi? Dan?” Lana shouted through the door. “Were you going to come down for breakfast?”

“In a minute!” the two shouted in near unison. They waited until they could be reasonably confident Lana was no longer just outside the door, then Dan pulled Andi on top of him, gently thrusting his hips upward to enter his wife.

“You really do look beautiful,” he told her, increasing the pace and the depth of his thrusts.

Andi braced herself with one hand on Dan’s chest and brought the other up to feel what was left of her hair. She looked down at her husband, who stared at her as if seeing her again for the first time. As the first waves of her next coming orgasm crested, she realized that for the first time in a long time, Andi felt beautiful, too.

6 responses to “Making Mommy Beautiful

  1. Thanks, everyone. This was a really fun one to write. The whole story came to me all at once but it took a while to actually get it all down. I’d actually started working on it before the Groundhog Day piece!

  2. I loved this one — I love the unintended/unwanted aspect, yet the at-least-somewhat positive aspect of the ending 🙂 I really like how you left it to the reader to imagine whether or not she’d ever grow her hair out again — I felt like it could really go either way after she had time to get used to being cropped.

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