She sat in my office, tears streaming down her face. “You’ve got to help me, Dr. Martin. Isn’t there something I can do to improve my grade?” she pleaded.
This is a familiar scene. At least once or twice a semester I find a distraught student, usually a young woman, in my office, upset because she is doing poorly in my calculus class. It’s not that I’m harder on my female students. Plenty of males get failing grades, but most of them are too proud to beg. The women probably figure I’m a soft touch, so they plead for mercy. Often they aren’t even failing the course, but doing B work yet they insist that they need an A to get into medical school. I have a standard response in these situations; if there’s enough time left before the final exam I suggest they hire a tutor and try to improve their grade that way or else they can drop the course and repeat it next term.
The most recent student to try the weeping routine was Jessica Anderson, an attractive coed with shoulder length light brown hair expertly streaked with golden highlights. She was a student in my 8:30 section and was doing miserably. With two weeks remaining before the final exam she had a D- average and, barring a major miracle, she would not pass the course. I reviewed both of her options, but neither one was satisfactory. “You don’t understand,” she pleaded, “this is my last semester and I must pass this course to graduate.”
“Then you’d better study harder,” I replied bluntly. This was my usual answer, but it didn’t seem to be working. She was not about to get up off my couch and my response only caused her to cry harder.
“But I have been studying,” she insisted. “No amount of cramming will help me now. I’m hopeless when it comes to math. I don’t know why I ever signed up for calculus, but it’s too late now. If I drop this course, I won’t have enough credits to graduate and I don’t want to come back for another semester. Isn’t there something else I can do?” she begged. “I’d be willing to do anything.” She looked at me, her eyes brimming with tears. I could see that she was desperate. She would do anything.
This was the scene I’d been warned about as a young instructor just getting started in the teaching profession—a vulnerable young woman offering herself to a horny professor in exchange for a better grade. It had never actually happened before in my ten years of university teaching, but I had wondered what I would do if this situation ever presented itself. Would I be noble, dismiss the offer, and send her on her way? Or would I succumb to temptation and jeopardize my career by having sex with a student?
“No. I think you’d better leave now, Miss Anderson,” I replied brusquely. I was determined to do the right thing, but she must have detected a lack of conviction in my words. Perhaps there was a slight hesitation in my reply. Or maybe she noticed how my eyes lingered on her nicely tanned legs. In any case, she wasn’t about to leave. Instead, she became more adamant.
“No. I’m serious. I would do anything to get a C in this course, Dr. Martin,” she insisted.
“Good, then you can study harder,” I repeated.
“There must be something else I can do that would help my grade,” she offered suggestively. Now she had stopped crying. She was no longer begging for mercy, she was bargaining with me.
“I don’t know what that could be,” I said, pretending I wasn’t interested. But, of course, I was interested. This desperate student was one of the most attractive women on our large campus. Not a perfect ten, perhaps, but at least a nine or even a nine and a half. With her trim, athletic figure and her intense green eyes, she stood out from the plain, earnest chemistry and biology majors who usually populate my first year calculus course. I was especially fascinated by her hair. Most of the time she wore it down, falling around her face and brushing her shoulders. From its glossy condition, she obviously gave it a great deal of attention. Very few coeds could match her gorgeous mane.
“Use your imagination, Dr. Martin. “You look like a guy who could use some fun,” she observed. “I’ve seen the way you look at the women in our class.” She was right, of course, but I was pained to realize that I was so obviously needy. My marriage had ended two years earlier. There had been a couple of brief affairs since then, but nothing serious or lasting. For the last six months I had been celibate, but not by choice.
“I don’t know what you mean, Miss Anderson,” I protested.
“Oh, I think you do,” she persisted. “You just don’t want to admit it.”
“Do you realize how much trouble you could get me in?” I replied. This time I spoke honestly. The previous year the university had begun offering mandatory sexual harassment training for all staff. We were warned in no uncertain terms that fooling around with students was the quickest way to lose our jobs.
“You don’t have to worry about me. I’d never tell a soul,” she replied sincerely.
“You know I can’t have sex with one of my students,” I answered. “My career would be ruined if anyone saw us together.”
“Who said anything about having sex? I’ll bet there are lots of other things I could do for you,” she insinuated suggestively.
“Such as?” I inquired. Now she knew for sure that she had me hooked.
“That would be up to you,” she flirted.
“Miss Anderson, it would be highly unethical for me to give you a grade you didn’t deserve. It would be unfair to the other students as well,” I protested self-righteously.
“But who would be hurt if you gave me a C? Who would know besides you and me? You must give hundreds of grades each semester. Tell me, would even one person notice?” she argued convincingly. The university’s computers would never care if her final grade was a C instead of an F.
“I’ve never done anything like this before,” I replied, trying to salve my conscience.
“I’m sure you haven’t, Dr. Martin, but there’s always a first time, isn’t there?” She waited for a reply, but I said nothing. My silence did not indicate agreement, but neither had I rejected her proposition. I simply could not make up my mind.
Miss Anderson must have been supremely confident in her persuasive powers because she prepared to leave without hearing a definite answer from me. “I’ll tell you what I’m going to do, Dr. Martin. I’m going to leave it up to you,” she announced. “If I get the grade I need to graduate I’ll be back on Monday after graduation, ten o’clock, right here in your office, and you can tell me what I can do for you. If I don’t graduate, then you’ll never see me again. I’ll leave it up to you to do the right thing.” She leaned over and looked into my eyes intently to communicate her willingness to please, then rose and strode out of my office.
There was still a week to go in the semester and Jessica Anderson attended all of the remaining classes. Perhaps it was my imagination, but it seemed that she was watching me for some sign that I had accepted her proposition. She never said another word about our meeting, but every time I looked in her direction I was reminded of her offer.
The final exam was given Monday morning. The teaching assistants took the exams to be graded and returned them to my office Wednesday. As soon as they arrived I looked through the papers to find out how Jessica Anderson had done. Hers was near the top of the pile, one of the worst in the class—48%. It was a solid F, not even close to a D. She had attempted to solve each problem, but if my assistants had not been generous in giving partial credit her grade would have been close to zero. I averaged her exam grade with the other grades for the semester and the result also was an F, not even close to passing. However, when I recorded the final grades for my calculus students I left a blank next to her name.
The registrar needed all senior grades by Thursday noon so he could clear students for Sunday’s graduation. All day I agonized over my decision: should I give her the F that she deserved or the C that she needed? The next morning when I walked into the Registrar’s Office to deliver my grades, the space next Jessica Anderson’s name still was empty. At the last moment, I took out my pen, entered a C for her final grade, handed the grade sheets to the clerk, and sealed my fate.
At the commencement ceremony, I sat among my black-robed faculty colleagues and felt a twinge of guilt as I watched Jessica Anderson walk across the stage to receive her diploma. Would she appear in my office Monday morning as she had promised, I wondered. If she did, would she consent to what I had in mind?
The next day I arrived at the Math Building around 8 AM. The halls were deserted. Summer school would not start for another week and only the most dedicated graduate students would show up today. The secretary was surprised to see me. “Got some work to finish up before I can leave on vacation,” I offered by way of an explanation.
As I waited in my office, I speculated on the probability that Jessica Anderson would make an appearance—I am a mathematician after all. I concluded that the odds of her showing up were slim to none. After all, she got what she wanted and I had no way to compel her to come back. She was free to leave and I could do nothing about it.
Her knock came on my office door promptly at ten o’clock. “Good morning, Dr. Martin. You look surprised to see me,” she observed.
“Come in, Miss Anderson. Yes, frankly I didn’t expect to see you again.” I admitted.
“Well, here I am, true to my word. I want you to know how much I appreciate what you did for me,” she said with great sincerity. “My parents were thrilled to see me graduate and I’ve got a nice job lined up in Atlanta. I’ll be working in public relations, nothing to do with math,” she joked.
“I’m glad to hear that, Miss Anderson,” I replied.
“Please call me Jessica,” she insisted. “I’m not your student any longer. And now, what would you like me to do for you?” she asked matter-of-factly. “What did you have in mind?”
“Well, there was one thing I had been thinking about. You don’t have to do this if you don’t care to, but it’s something that would make me very happy.” I was beating around the bush, not knowing how she would react to my proposition.
“Okay, let’s hear it,” she demanded.
“Well, Jessica, it’s a little embarrassing,” I explained.
“I think I can handle that. What is it?” she pressed. For a young woman in a rather delicate position, Jessica seemed remarkably poised and confident. It occurred to me that somewhere she must have acquired a lot of experience dealing with older men. This was not your typical twenty-two year old coed.
After a long pause I blurted out, “I’d like you to get your hair cut.”
I watched her reaction, but Jessica did not seem surprised by my request. “Is that all? I thought you were going to ask me to do something really kinky,” she observed.
“Wait, you need to hear what I have in mind,” I cautioned. “I don’t know if you’re going to like this.”
“Go ahead, I’m listening,” she replied warily.
“Well, I’d like you to get your hair cut short, really short, and I’d like you to have it done in a barber shop,” I declared.
“You’re kidding aren’t you?” she asked.
“No, I’m perfectly serious,” I admitted.
“But why? Why should I get my hair cut in a barber shop?” she continued.
“Because I would find it very exciting, that’s why,” I confessed.
“You mean that’s what turns you on?” she smirked.
“Yes. I hope you don’t find that too strange,” I begged.
I was worried that she that she would be upset by my unusual request, but she seemed to take it in stride. “Some guys get off on boobs, some go for asses, you like hair,” she said. “It’s a little strange, I guess. Definitely out of the ordinary, but not too weird.”
“So, will you do it?” I jumped at the possibility that she would grant my wish.
“Sure, I guess so,” she replied. “As a matter of fact, I had been thinking about getting my hair cut shorter. Now, just how do you want me to get it cut?”
“I’ll leave that up to you, but it should be pretty short, up above your ears at least,” I requested.
“That short?” she remarked. “That would be quite a change.” As if to emphasize her point, she tossed her head and I watched her beautiful locks bounce from side to side.
“Exactly, the shorter the better,” I insisted.
“And where should this happen?” she inquired.
“Do you know Jerry’s Barber Shop on College Street, across from the Thirsty Pig Saloon?” I told her.
“Sure, I’ve been past there hundreds of times. That’s where you want me to get my hair cut?” she asked with a note of disbelief in her voice.
“Right,” I confirmed.
“That’s kinda public, isn’t it?” she observed.
“Yes, but that’s where I’d like to see it happen,” I repeated.
“This idea of me getting a short haircut in a barbershop, are you trying to make me look like a boy? Is that part of your thing?” she demanded.
“Yes, I suppose it is,” I admitted.
“So, you’re planning on being there too, in a front row seat, I imagine,” she continued.
“Yes. I’d like to watch. That’ the whole point,” I added.
“I suppose that’s okay,” she replied. “And when should I do this? Any special time?”
“The shop is closed today. How about tomorrow at 10 AM?” I suggested.
“Okay. I can be there,” she agreed. I was surprised and delighted that she had consented to go along with my proposal with so little persuasion on my part. “So let me get this straight,” she continued. “I walk into this barbershop and pretend like I’m a regular customer. I should ask for a short haircut and you’ll be there taking it all in.”
“Yes, that’s pretty much how it should happen,” I acknowledged.
“Shall I pretend like I don’t know you?” she asked.
“No, you don’t have to do that, Jessica, but please don’t say anything to give the impression that this haircut was my doing. This must appear to be entirely your idea,” I emphasized.
“Sure, I get it. Is that all? Anything else you want me to do?” she inquired as she straightened her skirt and prepared to leave.
“Well, yes, one more thing, if you don’t mind,” I said. “I’d like you to tell the barber to save your hair.”
“You mean you’d like to keep it for a souvenir?” she observed.
“That’s right,” I declared.
“I suppose I could do that,” she told me.
“So you’re going to do this?” I inquired, still not sure that she actually would be willing to part with her long tresses.
“Yes, you gave me the grade I needed and I agreed to give you something in return. Now, if that’s everything, I’ve still got some packing to do,” she said as she got up from her chair. “I’ll see you at ten tomorrow, Dr. Martin. Jerry’s Barber Shop. Don’t worry, I’ll be there.”
I reached in my wallet and pulled out a $20 bill. “Here, take this, Jessica,” I said. “This should cover the cost of the haircut and leave a nice tip for the barber.”
“Should I ask for any special barber?” she asked on her way out the door.
“Well, Jerry’s the owner and his wife Marti also works there. Either one would be fine,” I informed her.
“Okay. See you tomorrow,” she said. I got up from my desk and watched her walk down the hall. Her golden brown tresses swung back and forth as she strode toward the exit. Most young women would have indignantly rejected my proposition. She didn’t seem troubled by my request to part with her long hair, but that might have been an act. I wondered whether Jessica actually would follow through with the plan. It would be so easy to back out and leave without getting her hair cut. Perhaps she would turn me in to the campus police for sexual harassment. When I arrived at the barbershop would they be waiting to arrest me? That was a risk I would have to take.
I didn’t get much sleep that night, tossing and turning, thinking about the events of the next day. Tuesday morning I was seated in Jerry’s Barber Shop a few minutes before ten. Marti was finishing a customer and Jerry had just started on a young boy. The town was pretty quiet now that most of the students had gone home for the summer. I looked up and down the street, but no sign of Jessica. Once again, I wondered if she would show up. After examining the possibilities, I concluded that most likely she had decided to skip town without getting her haircut. Then I glanced out the window and saw a bright red Miata convertible pull up in front of the shop. To my delight, Jessica Anderson was behind the wheel. She wore a flowered top that showed her nicely tanned arms, a short navy skirt, and open toed sandals. Her hair was gathered up behind her head with a plastic clip. She stepped out of the car and resolutely strode into the shop. Jerry and Marti looked up from their work to check out this attractive new customer, but Jessica took no notice of them. She walked over and took the seat next to mine as if there was nothing usual about her presence in this male bastion.
“Good morning, Dr. Martin. Nice to see you,” she said sweetly.
“What a pleasant surprise, Miss Anderson. I didn’t expect to see you again after graduation,” I lied.
“Well, I had to stay around here for a few days to take care of some unfinished business,” she chatted breezily. “I’ll be moving to Atlanta in a few days.”
“Nice car you’re driving,” I remarked.
“Do you like it? It was a graduation gift from Mom and Dad,” she informed me. “I’m still getting used to it.”
“Are you here to get your hair cut?” I asked, continuing the charade.
“Yes, I didn’t have time to make an appointment at my usual salon, so I thought I’d try this place,” she said. I was impressed by her flair for improvisation.
“I think you’ll be satisfied. Jerry and Marti both do good work. I’ve been getting my hair cut here for years,” I commented.
Just then, Marti finished with her elderly customer. The gentleman stepped down from the chair, ambled over to the cash register, and handed the barber some crumpled bills from his pocket. “Thanks, Ed, see you next month,” she called as the old man walked out the door. “Okay, Doc, you’re up next,” she said to me.
“Marti, this young woman’s in a bit of a hurry,” I lied again. “Why don’t you take her ahead of me? I can wait.”
“Sure, Doc,” she said. “Well, miss, I guess you’re up,” the barber announced.
“Thanks for letting me go first, Dr. Martin,” she said with just a trace of irony in her voice. She stood and undid the clip holding her hair. She tossed her head, letting her tresses fall to her shoulders. “Would you hold this?” she asked, handing me the clip. “I don’t think I’ll be needing it much longer.”
She calmly walked up to the big red barber’s chair and slid into the seat. Marti shook out the cape, scattering gray hairs from her last customer onto the floor, and placed it around Jessica’s shoulders, completely covering her body so that only her legs protruded. Marti lifted her hair out of the way as she fastened the cape behind her neck. “Well, miss, what will it be today?” she asked in her usual businesslike fashion. “A bit of a trim?”
“No. I’d like a haircut, a short haircut,” Jessica requested in a calm, clear voice. Although she spoke to the barber, her gaze was fastened directly on me.
“Good, that’s about all we do here,” Marti joked. She began combing through the graduate’s shoulder length hair. “It’s not often that we see such beautiful hair in here. It’s going to be a shame to cut it off. Are you sure you want me to give you a short haircut?” Marti asked solicitously. “You might get a better style in a beauty salon.”
“No, that’s not necessary. I’m not interested in a ladies’ style,” she answered, looking directly at me.
“So tell me, how would you like me to cut it?” Marti continued.
“Very short. I’d like you to cut it very short,” she repeated with emphasis.
“Why so short?” Marti inquired. I could tell she was reluctant to administer the haircut her young client had requested. I prayed that Jessica would not be dissuaded.
“I’ve heard this summer is going to be a real scorcher. I’m going to be working outdoors and I need a haircut that will be cool and easy to care for,” she explained. Again, I was impressed by how easily she spun her tale. This girl was an experienced liar.
“Something nice and short for the summer?” Marti inquired, sounding a bit more approving.
“Yes, that’s exactly what I want,” she said, smiling in my direction.
“By very short, I don’t suppose you mean as short as this lad over here?” Marti asked. Jessica turned her head to observe the young boy in the next chair. Jerry was clipping his hair into a summer buzz cut. He ran the clippers back and forth over the boy’s head until his hair was reduced to stubble less than a quarter inch long. I shuddered with anticipation thinking of my former student wearing her hair that short. It was the kind of radical makeover I had often dreamed about.
Jessica looked back at me, her eyes full of questions. “Do you want me to get my hair cut like that?” she seemed to be asking. I nodded and casually held my thumb and forefinger about an inch apart, indicating the length I desired. I hoped that Marti hadn’t seen me signaling to my former student. I wondered whether Jessica would be willing to go through with such a drastic change. She paused for a moment, then answered, “Well, maybe not quite that short,” she commented, “but short all over like that. Yes, that’s what I’d like.”
“Are you sure you want to go that short?” Marti asked, still not accepting what Jessica was telling her.
Jessica again glanced at the young boy whose haircut was nearly complete. “Can you leave mine a little longer than his?” she inquired. “I don’t want to look completely bald.”
Marti shook her head in disbelief, but at last seemed willing to follow Jessica’s instructions. “Sure, I can do that. I’ll use an attachment that will leave your hair about an inch long. If that’s not short enough, I can always take it shorter,” the barber added.
“That sounds like a good idea. Let’s go with that,” Jessica answered with confidence returning to her voice. So she was going to go through with it! I couldn’t believe my good fortune. “One more thing,” she added. “I wonder if you could save my hair. I’d like to keep it for a souvenir.”
“Sure, no problem,” Marti replied.
The barber turned the chair so Jessica’s back was to me. From my seat I could watch her face in the large mirror on the wall as Marti began to prepare her equipment. She took a pair of black Oster clippers from the counter and spread a drop of oil along the blades. She switched the power on for a moment to test them and after she was satisfied that they were in good working order, shut them off.
Marti approached Jessica from the side. “What I’d like to do, miss, if it’s all right with you, is to take most of off the length with these clippers. When the bulk is gone I’ll come back and buzz it closer.”
“Okay. That sounds fine,” Jessica replied evenly. Marti flicked the switched and the clippers popped to life. Her customer twisted nervously in the chair. With the clippers humming in her ears and her haircut about to begin, she appeared to lose some of her composure. In the mirror, I noticed a trace of apprehension on her face. She bit her lip and tried to smile bravely. She looked ahead with her eyes wide open. I could see that she was terrified. I wished there was something I could do to comfort her, but I could only sit there and observe the haircut I had arranged.
Marti used her comb to select a thick hank of hair from the top of Jessica’s head on the left of her center part and pulled it out to its full length. She brought her clippers within two inches of her scalp and announced, “Well, here goes.” Jessica closed her eyes and waited for her shearing to begin. Marti pressed the blades into the golden brown hair. The sound of the clippers deepened as they chewed through the silken strand. Marti sliced off one foot-long section and deposited it in her customer’s lap. She returned for a second piece and repeated the process. She worked her way to the back of her victim’s head, following the part. When she completed clipping the left side, she went around the chair and repeated the process on Jessica’s right side. When she reached the back, she paused for a moment. Jessica now had short hair on top, but on the sides and in back it still hung at its original length. It was the worst mullet that you could possibly imagine.
Jessica had kept her eyes closed during the first part of shearing. Now she opened them and looked with horror at the drastically altered image she beheld in the mirror. I saw a tear trickle down her cheek, then another. Jessica reached from beneath the cape to brush them away. A sob escaped her lips. She was beginning to lose her cool.
Marti paused for a moment and Jerry approached the chair. He had just finished the young boy’s haircut. He stood in front of Marti’s chair and spoke directly to Jessica. “Excuse me, miss,” he said. Jessica opened her eyes and looked at him. “I was wondering if there was anything I could get you—a tissue or something,” he volunteered.
“Yes, that would be nice,” Jessica replied through her tears.
Jerry handed her a couple of tissues, which Jessica took and used to dab at her eyes. Then he came over and sat down next to me. Apparently, my haircut would wait until this spectacle was completed. “Did you ever see anything like this, Doc?” he asked me. “A beautiful young woman cutting all her hair off. I don’t understand young people today.” It was clear that he didn’t approve.
“I’m sure she’ll look lovely, even with short hair,” I answered.
“Yes, I suppose you’re right, but I’m sure glad Marti is doing this,” Jerry confided. “I just wouldn’t feel right giving a young woman a buzz cut.”
After Jessica finished wiping her eyes, Marti turned the chair so my student now was facing Jerry and me. I guess she did this to shield her customer from the painful sight of her hair being amputated. Jessica smiled gamely at me. I could see that this haircut was more traumatic that she had imagined. I tried to think of something I could say to encourage her. I wanted to tell her how much I admired her courage, but I didn’t want to reveal my role in this episode.
Marti resumed lifting long strands from the side of Jessica’s head and slicing them short with the clippers. She methodically selected pieces of long hair and cut them to the same length as the top. She deposited each strand to the steadily growing pile in Jessica’s lap. After the fourth cut, a delicate ear appeared from beneath its covering of long hair. Marti continued cutting, steadily working her way around the chair, finally reaching the right side.
When she severed the last remaining piece of long hair, Marti switched off the clippers and placed them on the counter. She turned the chair so Jessica could view herself in the large mirror. Marti had worked quickly, making no effort to cut the strands to exactly the same length. Jessica now resembled a waif, with uneven tufts of hair standing straight up on the top of her head and a short fringe surrounding her face and ears. A few longer strands hung down the back of her neck. Most of her golden streaks had disappeared, but here and there a bit of blonde remained at the tip of a light brown spike. Jessica sat motionless in the chair. Her eyes searched the mirror and her mouth fell open as she beheld what had become of her crowning glory. She looked down and spied the mass of severed hair in her lap. She appeared to be on the verge of breaking down again. Marti saw her reaction and tried to reassure her. “I know it looks kind of rough right now, honey,” she said to her distraught customer, “but I’ll take care of that in a few minutes. You do want me to continue, don’t you?”
“Oh yes. Please do. I can’t go out in public looking like this. Please keep going,” she pleaded.
“Just a minute, miss, while I adjust the clippers,” the barber said. Marti selected a plastic attachment from the assortment that lay on top of the counter behind the chair. She snapped it into place over the blades of the clippers and turned the power on. She turned the chair away from the mirror so Jessica again faced Jerry and me.
“If you’re ready to begin, honey, I’d like you to lean your head forward, please,” Marti requested. The young woman silently obeyed and bent her head toward her chest. Marti positioned the clippers at the nape of her neck and shoved them up into the thick brown hair. The hum of the blades deepened as they began to chew up the back of her head. Marti expertly guided the clippers to the top of Jessica’s head. She tossed the excess hair to the floor with a flick of her wrist and repositioned the clippers for another pass. After five more passes the back was done and she began on the sides. She carefully buzzed around Jessica’s ears until they stood out clearly from the side of her head. She paused for a moment and spoke to her tearful customer. “I could leave the top a little longer than the sides if you like, miss,” she offered. “That would leave you something to style.”
“No. Cut the top the same as the rest,” she answered in a voice that was scarcely audible. “Just get it over.”
Marti did as she was ordered. She placed the clippers at the top of Jessica’s forehead and plunged them back along her crown, carving a furrow down the middle of her head. Short hairs rained down on Jessica’s nose and brow. Marti continued, shearing the longer hair on either side of the center cut. Before long she had reduced all of the hair on Jessica’s head to the same length—less than an inch long. After crossing her head several more times, Marti cut the power and rested the Oster clippers on the counter. She returned with a smaller set that she used to trim the line around Jessica’s neck and ears. The final step involved carving her sideburns into two sharp points. Next Marti squirted a generous dab of styling gel into her hand. This she massaged into Jessica’s remaining hair. Then she pointed a blow dryer at the freshly cropped head and vigorously brushed the shortened hairs until all were standing erect, bristling out from her scalp.
I marveled at the amazing metamorphosis I had witnessed. In less than thirty minutes the well groomed sorority sister with a mass of silken hair had been transformed into a stunning, sexy short-haired woman. Her piercing green eyes were no longer hidden behind a veil of streaked hair. Her graceful neck and delicate ears were exposed for all to see. I hoped that Jessica could appreciate this remarkable change.
When Marti stopped her brushing Jessica realized that the haircut was done. The cape and floor around the chair were littered with short clippings from her head. Her lap was piled high with the remains of her long hair. “Are you ready to take a look, honey?” Marti asked.
“I guess so,” Jessica replied, no longer the confident young woman who had entered the shop. Marti slowly turned the big chair. Jessica gasped when she saw herself in the large mirror. “Oh my god!” she exclaimed, half in shock, half in amazement. She lifted both hands from beneath the cape to feel her newly cropped scalp. She rubbed her fingers back and forth across the short hair on top. She felt around her ears and ran her hand up into the short hairs on the back of her head. “Oh my god,” she repeated lowly.
“What do you think? Is it short enough for you?” Marti asked.
“Oh yes, it’s short enough. I just can’t believe that this is really me,” Jessica exclaimed.
“Oh it’s you all right,” Marti assured her. “You’ve got a good head for this cut, nice and round, and your ears are small and close to your head. This cut looks really great on you.”
“I’ll have to wear some big earrings so people won’t think I’m a guy,” the young woman observed.
“You have to worry about that, honey,” Marti reassured her. “Anything else I can do for you today?”
“Yes, one more thing. Could you put my hair in a bag?” she asked, pointing to the mound resting in her lap.
“Sure, we can do that,” Marti answered. “Jerry, do you think you could find a bag somewhere in the back?”
“I’ll be right back,” he said as he hurried to the rear of the shop.
Marti turned the chair and unfastened the cape from Jessica’s neck. She used a soft brush to dust the clippings from her face and neck. Then she gathered the ends of the cape so the hair didn’t spill on the floor and waited for her husband to return. Jessica stepped down and walked over to where I was sitting. “Well, did you enjoy yourself, Dr. Martin?” she whispered.
“Yes, very much, thank you. And what about you? How do you feel?” I asked.
“Well, it was kinda scary, but I’ll be okay. It wasn’t nearly as scary as your calculus final,” she joked. I was glad to see that the experience hadn’t dampened her sense of humor.
“And what do you think about your new hairstyle?” I asked. “Do you like it?”
“It will take a while to get used to it, but it turned out better than I expected. I kinda like my new look,” she said, passing her hand over her head. “I may keep it this way for a while, at least through the summer.”
“I think you look fabulous,” I observed.
Jerry returned from the back of the shop and transferred the remains of her hair into a white plastic bag. He handed her the package and she gave him my twenty. “Keep the change,” she said.
“Thanks miss,” Jerry replied.
I rose from my chair to take the place Jessica had just vacated. “Good-bye, Miss Anderson. I don’t suppose I’ll be seeing you again,” I called.
“No, I don’t suppose so,” she replied, offering her hand. “Thanks for everything, Dr. Martin.” She turned, walked out the door, and roared down the street in her shiny sports car.
Marti wrapped the cape around my neck. I saw Jessica’s short hairs clinging to the cloth. “That was quite a haircut you gave her,” I observed.
“Sure was,” my barber agreed. “I wonder what possessed her to get her hair cut that short?” she speculated.
“We’ll probably never know,” I answered.
One week later I received a box in the mail. It was much lighter than the textbooks I usually receive from publishers. At first, I couldn’t figure out what the package contained since it had no return address. Inside I found a mound of golden brown hair clippings and snapshot of a short-haired woman smiling confidently into the camera. There was no note, but none was needed. Jessica had completed her end of the bargain.
I never heard from her again, but each year around finals time, when weeping females sit in my office asking what they can do to improve their grades, I fondly recall Jessica Anderson who traded her long hair for a passing grade in calculus.