Ophelia Follows Her Destiny

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My name is Ophelia, and I have always had a complicated relationship with my hair.

As a child, when my hair had grown long, my mother forced me to have it cut although I loved the feeling of my knee-length locks flowing freely down my back. She insisted that I was always getting it tangled in knots, and the length made it difficult to manage. So, she decided it was better just to chop the whole lot off.

And that is exactly what happened. One day, without any warning, she took me to the village hairdresser. The so-called stylist had no experience of fashionable hairstyles as she spent all her time giving perms, sets and rinses to senior citizens.

‘Oh my, Ophelia, what a lot of hair you have,’ the old hairdresser said as I sat nervously in her chair.

‘Yes, far too much and she never looks after it,’ my mother lied. ‘Give her something short and sensible, Doris,’ she requested.

‘I know just the thing,’ Doris grinned, picking up her scissors.

The hairdresser cut off nearly all my long hair into the shortest of bobs and seemed to take immense pleasure in shaving my neck. I absolutely despised my mushroom cut as my mocking long-haired friends christened my drastically shortened hair.

After that experience, I vowed never to cut my hair short again. I let it grow and grow, the longer it got, the more I loved it. As it grew, I had to suffer my mother’s continual complaints, even though I was old enough to make my own decisions. Furthermore, despite it being impractical at times, I always wore it loose and refused to tie it back or braid it. It was my way of rebelling against her.

= * = * =

During the remainder of my teenage years, I revelled in the knowledge that my hair was longer than other women and girls that I passed in the street. But as I moved into my twenties, I found my obsession had shifted to a fixation on women with short haircuts. It was a compulsion to engage them in conversation. I would often approach them and ask about their hair, where they had it cut and how it felt to have such a drastic change. I had no intention of ever cutting my hair short again, but I could not resist an overwhelming urge to talk about it. Deep down, I knew I had had a weird personality defect, but the thrill of the verbal exchange overrode any inhibitions I might have had.

= * = * =

One day, I ventured into town for no real reason other than hoping to fuel my obsession by spotting women with a short haircut. I was wearing a yellow summer minidress that dramatically showed off my long black hair, the ends stretching down below the hem. It was a look designed to draw compliments about my hair, which it frequently did.

I accepted that there could be women with short hair that might see my gloriously presented long locks as confrontational. I vaguely considered whether I should show a little more empathy to those I considered less fortunate, but I did not think that really mattered if I was able to enjoy myself.

I entered the market square and, almost immediately, I spotted a girl with a cute cropped blonde hairstyle, cut short into the neck. I could not resist approaching her. But instead of my attention pleasing the girl, she became upset and aggressive. Unbelievably, she accused me of gloating to her about my long hair when hers was so short.

I hurriedly walked away, feeling embarrassed and confused. Then I saw a woman who was clearly angry about something marching straight towards me. As was my nature, the first thing I noticed about her hair. Unusually, she had a bowlcut and, eerily, it was not unlike the one I had received from Doris when I was much younger.

Feeling a sense of deja vu, I wanted to ask her about her haircut, feeling sure she would be keen for someone to show interest in her uncommon style. But before I could even say a word, she was right in my face scolding me.

‘I saw you upsetting that girl with the short hair. What did you say? Was it something about your long hair looking better than her short hair?’ she raged. ‘You should be thoroughly ashamed of yourself.’

Why was she being like that, I wondered. Obviously, she had it all wrong. ‘No, I -’

‘Take a look at your own hair. It looks ridiculous,’ she continued to rant. ‘It is all over the place. You should get the whole lot chopped off into something more sensible.’

Despite feeling aroused by a formidable woman saying I should have my hair cut, thus pandering to one of my fantasies, I was – justifiably in my view – irritated. I wanted to explain myself but, before I could, she blew out her cheeks, gave a big sigh and marched off.

Being frustrated and misunderstood, I just wanted to forget about the incident. Her ranting had drawn a curious small crowd. So, feeling humiliated, I crept away with the intention of returning home.

= * = * =

However, I could not stop thinking about the incident. I concluded it was important that I correct her misunderstandings, so I needed to confront her.

I looked in the direction she had stormed off and noticed her disappearing down a small lane off the market square. I picked up my pace and headed the same way. By the time I had reached the lane’s entrance, slightly breathless, I could not see her anywhere. But I saw a smaller passageway leading off to the left. I rushed towards it, spun around the corner expecting to see her and found myself stumbling into a small shop.

‘Take a seat, love,’ a plump, intimidating woman, bursting out of a short white dress commanded. ‘I’ll be right with you once I’ve finished attending to my mate Destiny.’

I laughed to myself at the irony of the situation. I had found myself inside a men’s barbershop of all places and my immediate thoughts turned to how I had missed seeing where the mysterious and nasty woman might have gone. I must have missed a turning I surmised.

‘Sit down!’ the plump woman said firmly. Reacting to her stern tone, I felt nervous, tripped, and tumbled onto a long bench that lined one wall.

“Destiny”, it seemed, was the name of the customer in the barber’s chair. She began clippering her mate’s neck and I was immediately transfixed by the sight and sound of the process. After a while, my eyes drifted away from the customer’s neck towards the large mirror facing the chair. The face staring back at me was a shock to my system. It belonged to the haughty woman who had ranted at me in the market square. She was studying me with piercing green eyes, smirking while she did so. It appeared that she was my Destiny.

I dragged my eyes away from her stare, looked down, and began playing nervously with the ends of my long hair. Every few seconds, I peered up to catch a glimpse of Destiny’s haircut, although I realised it was more of a trim; her bowlcut had looked faultless earlier. She had lost interest in me as she was talking animatedly to the barber who she seemed to know well. However, I was unable to hear what they were saying due to the noise of the hairclippers.

Obviously, I had never been in a barbershop before and not in a salon since Doris had chopped off all my hair so many years ago. Whenever my ends needed trimming, my lovely grandmother would do the honours.

I found myself in a weird but exciting place. Not unexpectedly, I was feeling aroused by the sight of a barber shaving the neck of another woman. Anyone would be, wouldn’t they, I mused. However, I knew I should have listened to my gut and scuttled away from the barbershop before any awkwardness arose. But, if truth be told, I could not tear my eyes away from Destiny’s increasingly bare nape and temples.

It came as a surprise when Tracy silenced the clippers, and Destiny suddenly jumped to her feet. I looked guiltily towards the door, wondering if I could leave before either of the women noticed me and caused an unpleasantness.

= * = * =

As it turned out, there was no chance of Destiny not seeing me as her eyes locked onto mine and she smirked. She then half turned to the barber, directing a curt nod towards her, that Tracy reciprocated. They walked the short distance to where I was sitting and, without a word, they each lifted one of my arms causing me to rise. They gently but firmly helped me across the floor towards the large threatening barber’s chair. Releasing me, I stumbled, and accidentally toppled back into the chair.

‘Excuse me,’ I stated indignantly, annoyed and a little scared, while trying to lever myself back out of the chair. However, before I knew it, Tracy had draped a heavy haircutting cape over me, and secured it in such a way that I felt trapped in the chair.

As I struggled, Destiny leaned in close, her face mere inches from mine. ‘Stay still,’ she threatened. ‘I’ve seen you making fun of people with short hair, and I wonder if this will teach you a lesson.’

I shook my head, whimpering. I wanted to tell her she had it all wrong, but I was too afraid to speak. Sitting, caped, in a barbershop had certainly taught me a lesson. Now, I told myself, I needed to leave with any dignity that I could muster.

‘Please,’ I whimpered, a few tears rolling down my cheek, feeling trapped between the two intimidating women.

‘Certainly!’ Destiny said enigmatically. I stopped struggling as went on. ‘Tracy, this woman was making fun of a girl’s short hair and flaunting all this long hair in her face,’ she said, grabbing a hank of my hair, waving it, and dropping it dismissively. ‘Then, would you believe, she followed me,’ Destiny continued, wagging a finger in face, ‘and I do not like being followed.’

‘No, it’s not like that -’

Destiny cut me off, ignoring my interruption. ‘But she has bleated a “please”, so we better do as she wants. Tracy, she must like my hairstyle that you so brilliantly cut for me, so chop hers off and give her the same.’

At the first I thought I had misheard. Then I assumed the two women must be sharing a joke. However, neither looked remotely amused. Indeed, both looked deadly serious.

‘Did you want it cut as short as yours?’ Tracy asked Destiny, with my opinion clearly counting for nothing.

‘At least as short, Tracy,’ came Destiny’s reply. ‘After all, she’s well overdue for a haircut,’ Destiny giggled, and the barber joined in. I opened my mouth, but no words came out.

I could not believe this was happening to me. I had gone into town with the simple intention of seeing short haircuts for my own amusement, yet here I was, trapped in a barber’s chair with a barber about to cut off my hair against my will.

I was in shock, unable to move. Tracy produced a huge pair of scissors and without ceremony she ruthlessly forced them around a hank of hair above my left ear and forced the blades together. I watched in horror as a black snake of my precious long hair glided slowly down over the cape and coiled on the floor.

I pleaded with Tracy to stop, but she ignored me and continued with her task. I struggled, but Destiny held me firm from behind. Tracy swiftly moved the scissors around my head, one chunk of hair at a time. Within seconds, the barber had chopped off all my wonderful long hair that had taken a lifetime to grow, and she had sent it all tumbling to the floor. All that remained on my head was a ragged, uneven bob that barely touched my ears.

Destiny moved from pressing down on my shoulder behind me, to lean back against the shelf in front of me. She cocked her head to one side smirking. She reached forward and tugged on the short tendril that now framed my face. ‘Oh dear,’ she giggled, releasing it so it sprang back up. ‘We better allow Tracy to tidy this up, hadn’t we?’

I observed Tracy leaning forward and taking large red hairclippers from a hook by the mirror. I was unable to control my emotions. ‘Ah, bless,’ Destiny sneered, as she took a tissue a wiped away a humiliating tear that was rolling down my cheek.

I watched disbelievingly as Tracy used the blade of the clippers to even the line of my bobbed hair, taking it even higher above my ears than before. She combed my hair straight down over my forehead which briefly obscured my view. I felt the insistent blades of the hairclippers above my eyebrows. Tracy moved away and I saw I had a short fringe high up my forehead that was equal in length to the rest of my hair.

‘Head down, love,’ she ordered, although her forceful hand on top of my head left no option. I whimpered as my chin touched my chest. I felt the clippers forcing their way relentlessly through the hair covering my neck and onwards to the curve at the back of my head. I felt a chill breeze on my skin from the air-conditioner overhead. I shivered with cold and quivered in fear.

As the clippering continued, I could not deny that was feeling aroused. I had always fantasised about having my hair cut against my will, but I never actually wanted it to happen. And now here I was, living out my sick fantasy in real life.

Tracy moved my head over to left and shaved around my right ear and then repeated the action on the other side. She took the blade up higher than the line of the bob to create an undercut.

Eventually she released my head and took a step back to check her progress. I took the opportunity to examine my transformation in the mirror. However, Destiny continued to study me from close quarters, and I found it hard to turn away from her intimidating gaze. ‘You’re nearly done,’ she scoffed.

Tracy made minor adjustments and then declared herself satisfied with an emphatic cry of ‘Perfect!’

‘Indeed, Tracy, you’ve excelled yourself,’ Destiny praised. ‘Her glossy black hair works so well with that style.’

‘What hair?’ I grumbled ungratefully, as Tracy brushed away the loose hair from around my neck and untied the haircutting cape.

‘Talking about being ungrateful,’ Destiny chuckled pompously. ‘You look so much better with a proper short haircut than all that ridiculous mess you had before. You should have had it cut sooner,’ she taunted me.

I could not believe how cruel she was being. I tried to explain that I had not actually wanted my hair cut. ‘It’s just a weird compulsion of mine to want to talk about hair,’ I elaborated.

But Destiny just laughed. ‘You have got what you deserved,’ adding pointedly with a characteristic smirk, ‘and what you desperately needed.’

Looking in the mirror, I could see that a severe bowlcut framed my adult features. It was not unlike the dreadful style that Doris the hairdresser had given me as a child. Gone were my long flowing locks that had long been part of my identity, replaced the most drastic of bowlcuts. The only possible redeeming feature was that Tracy had cut my hair far better than Doris had managed. But the bowl was shorter. And she had shaved the back and sides so close that white skin showed. All those years of growing out my hair, just to have it all cut off in an instant. I was unable to believe it was all gone.

I stumbled out of the chair and looked at both women, my jaw hanging open. My head spinning with confusion and anger. How could I have let this happen? And why had I followed Destiny in the first place?

‘Thanks, Tracy, I’ll pay for both of us as this other one seems distracted,’ Destiny said, waving her debit card at the machine, ‘and see you again in a week.’ Turning to me, she asked, smirking, ‘Ready?’

I gazed blindly at Destiny, and instinctively nodded. I turned and followed her out of the door, hearing laughter from Tracy behind me.

= * = * =

Destiny marched along the lane demonstrating the confidence, perhaps arrogance, of someone who has chosen her style and knows how best to flaunt it and gain appreciation.

I stumbled along behind her, unable to believe what had just happened to me. People along the lane stared at me, some laughing, others looking concerned. As I walked, I could not help but feel a sense of shame and humiliation. I had always prided myself on my long hair, and now it was gone. I felt like a different person, and not in a good way.

Destiny finally stopped walking. We stood in the middle of the market square and faced each other. I pretended I had not seen, in the background, the girl I had spoken to earlier. She was sitting outside a café, pointing at my hair, and laughing. ‘See, that’s what you get for mocking people with short hair,’ she spat. ‘Maybe now you’ll learn some empathy.’

I just stood there, feeling small and defeated. I could not believe that this was the punishment for my strange compulsion. I had never meant to hurt anyone, but now I knew what it felt like to have my own hair mocked and ridiculed.

I could not help but wonder what had caused me to become so obsessed with short haircuts. It was like a strange compulsion, one that I could not resist no matter how hard I tried. I wondered if the desire was related to the intense arousal I experienced when I see short haircuts and, even more powerfully, when I have my own hair cut. I pondered whether there was a deeper mystery behind my fascination with short haircuts, one that I needed to uncover in the fullness of time.

But for now, I was stuck with a bowlcut, pitying and mocking stares from passersby, and many unanswered questions … as I, Ophelia, follow my destiny.

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