I did my share of research before I agreed to relocate to this city, so when I “misplaced” the welcome manual given to me as a new citizen, I never thought I’d end up with a surprise fine for having an “improper appearance”? I must have looked at that cop like he had three heads when he gestured to my hair as he handed me the paper.
He told me that I can get out of paying if I “get it taken care of” before the work week begins. So, while I could be spending my morning unpacking at my new place, an appointment at the nearest barbershop has all but been made for me. I’ll just get a trim and get on with my day.
“Come on over, girlie!” A pretty stylist chirps. I’m barely even in the building, and she’s already beckoning me over to her chair with a smile and a flap of her hand. There’s no one else here but two other stylists, a man and a woman. Before my butt is even fully in the chair, a cape flies over me.
She spins me around to face the mirror, holding my shoulders instead of the chair. The man and woman are leaning on the wall behind me, watching out of boredom. As she pulls my hair out from under the cape she’s draped over me, I can feel her thumbnails lightly brush my nape, and her other fingernails run gingerly along my jawline. She pulls my waist-length hair out in two large pigtails before letting it rest on the cape.
“Lotta hair here, missy…” her tone is teasing. She grins at me in the mirror like I’d just told a joke, raising her eyebrows. I laugh a little to hide my growing uncertainty as she snaps the button on the cape shut. “And such a pretty color…I love this deep brown.”
“Thank you…I just need it trimmed a little, I guess…” I lightly squeeze the leather armrests as the man and woman behind me smirk a bit. My stylist breaks the silence as she shows me her hand. “Y’know…I’m not allowed to have these nails, but I’m gonna keep ‘em until I get caught!” She beams. She’s still chuckling at her own silly idea of a rebellious streak as she grabs a long pair of scissors from the table.
“What’s…um…what are the rules about hair here?” I ask hurriedly.
She clicks the scissors at nothing while she thinks of an answer. “Oh, sweetie, you really don’t know? Well…have you seen any women in this city with hair past their bra straps?” She makes an “aww” noise as I shake my head.
The scissors go back on the table. She disappears to a back room, and comes back with a laminated piece of paper. It has six style illustrations on it, with length choices ranging from a pixie cut to mid-shoulder blades. I notice glumly that all the styles have blunt bangs.
“This would be so cute on you! Especially the bangs, you’ll get used to ‘em!” Her slender finger, with its slightly pointed nail, is resting above #3, a chin-length bob. She quickly takes the paper back, picking up the huge scissors again as she sets it on the counter. I stare at my reflection with a look of borderline horror on my face as she happily chats with her coworkers, apparently oblivious to my unhappiness.
“Uhm…just do a #6”, I say weakly.
She actually pouts, running her hand over my hair until it’s level with my chin. “Sweetieee…with all this thick, wavy hair, a little bob would look darling on you…”
I just shake my head. That’s way too short. I haven’t had my neck on display like that since my mother chose my haircuts when I was a child…and I’ve never had or wanted bangs. The stylist and I sigh in unison, for vastly different reasons. The scissors are clicking in the air again, and I can tell that she’ll be more than happy to lop off more a foot of hair for a #6, in spite of the playfully sulky frown she’s giving me in the mirror.
“I’ll do your bangs first, sweetie,” she’s already spun me to face the wall. I feel sheepish, so I try to avoid looking at the man and woman who’ve got nothing better to do. My stylist lifts my chin, and I see that all three of them are looking at my face. The other woman goes behind me and grabs two combs, handing one to my stylist, who seems a little eager to get busy with the scissors.
I quietly stare at the pattern on her shirt as both women comb my hair. They’re separating the bulk of it from the front section that’s about to be cropped to my forehead. The other woman pulls it all over the back of the chair, letting me feel it drop like she wants me to enjoy my length while I can.
As soon as she’s got what she needs combed out in a curtain over my face, I can feel her gathering it in her hand and lifting it towards her. Before I can even open my eyes, she’s putting the scissors to work, going teasingly slow with the huge shears. As the cut strands are let loose from her fist, the ends land on my cheeks and over my mouth. The feeling of it, combined with the painstaking crunching sound, is making my heart race.
I can’t see how much she has in her hand, but I can feel how much length she took off when she drops it unceremoniously onto the cape. It slides down to my lap, forming a puddle. “Sorry, sweetie…couldn’t resist!” Her smirk is present in her tone. She’s carefully combing it out again, apparently ready to do it professionally, now. I resist the urge to squeeze my eyes shut in discomfort when the cold shears touch my forehead. Being slow with a purpose this time, she makes a neat line in the middle of my forehead as she snips her way across. What was left of the front section slowly contributes to the puddle in my lap, strand by strand.
“Wanna seee…?” Her chirpy voice is back. She’s excitedly spinning the chair before I even respond. Judging by the face I’m making at my reflection, you’d think I’d seen a bird run into some glass at full speed. These bangs look awful on me. I hate the length, and especially the no-nonsense bluntness of it. I mournfully touch the pile in my lap, shocked. This is only a fraction of what’ll be taken off by the time I leave.
All three are staring at me, but my stylist has her eyes set on the rest of my hair. She runs her fingers through it, seemingly apathetic to my displeasure. “Let’s get rid of all this length, now, girlie.” I mumble a reminder that I want to keep it as long as possible, but the “mm” noise she makes in affirmation could just as easily be taken as defiance.
I feel a tug as she gathers the rest of my hair in her hand. This time, her fist is a lot more full – my hair has always been very thick. She can hardly bear to wait a single minute to start chopping again…the awful crunching sound of the scissors in my hair is back in full force. As far as I can tell, the place she’s cutting is down far enough to leave me with a #6, #5 being shoulder length. Everyone in the room knows that she could buzz through even a huge handful like that with clippers in less than half a minute, but her huge shears are apparently her favorite toy.
After what feels like ages of relentless crunching, there’s an extra loud snip as she cuts through the very last strand. Beaming at me in the mirror again, she holds up more than a foot of my hair for everyone to see. The other two are actually smiling…I can’t believe all that was attached to my head. As she giggles and admires the huge ponytail, I reach up and try to feel how much hair I’ve got left.
The man steps up and breaks his silence. “Sandy, you’ve made it all uneven.” He holds out his hand, resting the other on my shoulder. “Not that… I want the scissors.”
Sandy happily hands them over, then drops all of my lost length in my lap, with the rest of the hair she cut off. The pile is fairly heavy, but I’m too busy staring at it in awe to push it to the floor. “I’m sure it’s fine…” my voice sounds embarrassingly meek.
My heart starts beating fast again as he shakes his head, playing with the length I still have. “So scissor-happy that you can’t even do it right.” As he’s staring at me in the mirror, he gets a little glint in his eye. A quick snip sends a six-inch piece sliding down the front of the cape. “Looks like I’ll have to take it down to a #3, ma’am.”
I can’t keep the tears from forming as they all smile. Why are they doing this to me? Is all this even worth the trouble? I’d almost rather pay thousands of dollars in fines if it means I won’t have to be humiliated like this. His fingers are at the top of my head as he positions the scissors at my jawline. He pauses to tease me a bit, ignoring my tears. “Don’t move, unless you want to end up being twins with Mary.” Mary is the quiet woman who’d combed my hair…she has a fresh pixie cut.
I just close my eyes again, leaning away from him slightly as he starts to cut. Unlike Sandy, he prefers to make quick, efficient cuts, pausing to snip here and there as he spots errant strands. I can feel the soft clumps of hair sliding down the side of my neck before they tumble softly onto the cape. As he works his way around, he pushes my head down so he can work on the back. He does this at a painfully slow pace, having an ongoing conversation with Sandy about how cute it’ll look if he cuts more off.
When he’s satisfied with it, he has me look up again while he cuts the other side. I stare sullenly at the mirror, watching the last big hunks slip down the cape. I’ve never seen such a huge pile of hair. He and Sandy inspect my new haircut, continuously finding tiny snips and cuts to be made like they don’t want me to leave the chair. But Mary is sweeping the floor around me, which I take as a good sign.
Finally, he stands back. “Alright…there you go.” They all have the same little smile on their faces, admiring my puffy new bob that they know I don’t want. In fact, staring at it in the mirror, I realize that I hate the whole haircut. I feel embarrassed to even step outside like this, but I know what’ll happen if I say that to these three. Sandy takes the cape off with a flourish, sending some of the hair flying, but most of it sinks dramatically to the floor. There’s so much that I have to step on it as I get out of the chair.
They refuse payment, saying something about city funding, so I just hold my newly naked neck as I shuffle out quickly, again wanting to cry. At least I won’t have to get my hair cut for a while.