I had been traveling for nearly two whole months last summer. I’d been saving up for a long trip for some time now and was ready to allow myself a few months of carefree living.
24, fresh out of university I decided to embark on my first ever trip abroad. I wanted to go somewhere warm for a change. Somewhere where I wouldn’t have to carry tons of clothing and bags with me everywhere. I wanted to test myself and see If I could live up to the challenge of being without the comforts of home. Eventually I decided on Portugal. Beautiful beaches, great weather, and easy on the wallet. Besides, I knew a bit of Spanish, and thought, most people there would probably have at least some grasp of either Spanish or English.
I set out to pack my bag. I opened my wardrobe door and examined it’s contents. My clothing was far from practical. Platform shoes, short skirts, fluffy fur coats. Hardly what you would imagine appropriate to take with you backpacking in Italy. I opened my drawer, the one where I stuff the articles of clothing which I rarely wear. In there I found my bikini, some thick hiking socks, a pair of shorts and interestingly enough. I short sleeved button up shirt from my ex boyfriend.
We had been broken up for nearly a year now. I didn’t have any plan on returning it to him as we weren’t on talking terms. I looked at myself in the mirror. I was wearing a beautiful floral dress and tights. My hair fell in lose dark curls over my round firm breasts. My fringe perfectly framing my feminine face. My ex hated my fringe. He said it was to precise for his liking, but I liked it. I loved the way it accentuated my eyes and made me look interesting.
I slid my dress off and it fell to the floor. I took off my bra. My breasts had grown noticeably in the last couple years. It didn’t feel like my body. This sensual figure. I held the shirt in my hands and felt a guilty surge of butterflies in my body as i slid the shirt on and buttoned it up. It looked good. I was surprised that it managed to fit my body so well. I took it off again and rolled it up and put it in my rucksack.
Later that day I set out to the charity shop to find a few more articles of clothing that would be good for travel. I looked through the women’s section but it had been quite thoroughly picked through. I walked over to the mens section. I could feel my face flush as I rifled through the shirt section. I found a couple other simple and lightweight articles of clothing and paid for them at the counter.
A week later it was time for me to fly out. I got up early in the morning. I took a long and thorough shower knowing that I might not be able to have another one for some time. I washed my hair twice and conditioned it. It was longer now than it had been since I was a child. When it was wet it went just an inch or so past my bra strap.
I remembered the last time it reached my bra strap. I must have been seventeen. It was the end of summer and I was fortunate enough to spend the whole summer with my father. He was much more easy going than my mother. My mother normally made me get it trimmed every 4 weeks. She rarely let it grow much past my shoulders. She had been busy with work that spring and had neglected to take my in to get it trimmed. I, wanting to grow it longer, had neglected to remind her. by the time I went to see my father for the summer it was well past my shoulders. I loved the way I could feel it on my back when I was in the shower. “Just two more months” I told myself till my eighteenth birthday, then I could move out and grow it as long as I wished. About a month later my mother came to pick me up. A week or so past and I was beginning to feel relaxed. I tried to wear my hair in a plait and other styles which my mother couldn’t complain much about. She always hated seeing it in my face. One morning, I got up and poured a cup of tea. My mother was in the kitchen.
“Get dressed soon honey, you have a hair appointment in about an hour.”
My heart fluttered. I tried to play it cool.
“Did I not tell you, I have a huge exam coming up this Monday. Me and Sarah were going to study for it.”
“Don’t you think you’re a little old to be scared of getting your haircut”
“I’m not scared mum, I have to study.”
“Well that’s just going to have to wait. You’ve put it off long enough. Look at the ends!” She examined my pony tail. “Their all dry and scraggly. You’re nearly 18 now. I don’t want to hold you down again”
She smiled at me. I didn’t find it funny though. I was too nervous. I drank my tea and reluctantly got ready to go.
I got in the car and we drove to the hairdressers. It was a small run down salon with just a couple chairs. I dragged my through the door, my mother leading the way. There was only one woman working. A middle aged woman, Sandra. I hated her. She had a terrible mom bob with ugly chunky highlights and spiky in the back. Her nape looked freshly shaved. She wasn’t an ugly woman, she could be pretty if she didn’t have the worst style ever.
“Oh hi Christine. Hi Holly, come on in. I’m just finishing up with my last appointment. Take a seat I’ll be with you in just a moment.” She said, snipping away at the long red locks of a young woman in her chair. Piles of dark red damp hair began to cover the floor. Some were 3 or 4 inches long. I wondered if it were supposed to be trim she was giving her. The woman started with a U shaped hair cut but Sandra hacked straight across, destroying the length in the middle.
I sat there quietly looking at a magazine and ridiculous haircuts that were both out of fashion and totally impractical. Short bobs and mullets that would only look good on tiny models with stick straight hair and loads of time in the morning to get ready. My mother picked at my ponytail again.
“hmm” She said “Looks like you spent a lot of time in the sun this summer. It’s very damaged.
I ignored her. Then I heard the blowdryer turn off and knew that it was nearly my turn. The woman got up and paid her and thanked her and left. She dusted off the chair and swept the pile of dark red hair into the corner. Then she beckoned me to come over to the washing station.
“Come on holly lets get you washed up”
She scrubbed my head roughly with her her long nails. It felt like the vigorous washing would cause even more damage to my hair. She talked to me as she did it.
“How have you been, darling. I haven’t seen you in such a long time. Your hair sure has grown. Are you growing it out?”
“No she’s not” My mother answered for me. “We’ve been neglecting getting it cut. I’ve just been so busy with work and all lately.”
I didn’t like my mother’s answer but didn’t have much time to respond as I was soon whisked over to the cutting station. She dried my hair and began to comb it out. It was very long indeed. Far past my shoulders. It looked so elegant. Much better than the silly bob haircuts my mother always made me wear.
“So how much are we going to cut today? Did you want to keep the length?” Sandra asked me.
“Yes I’d like-” I tried to say but my mother interrupted me.
“It’s very damaged on the ends here don’t you thing?” My mother said.
“Yes I see. Maybe take off the damaged bit give her a good healthy start” Sandra said, running her fingers over the ends.
She began sectioning my hair. Leaving the back to hang down.
“I’m going to get rid of some of the bulk and we can take it from there ok Holly?”
I nodded nervously. I felt a lump in my throat as I felt her comb out a large section of the back and ruthlessly snip across. I couldn’t see where she was cutting but I could feel the blades just below my shoulders. I tried to see how much hair was being cut. I could see bits that were 3 inches or more dropping down from the cape. She let down another section. A much bigger section was hanging down.
“Would you like me to leave it straight or layer it up a bit?” Sandra asked my mother.
“I think some layers would work very well with her hair texture. What do you think?” My mother replied to Sandra.
“I think it would suit her very nicely.” She said as she began to comb my long hair upward and snip very close to the crown.
I felt my stomach drop as I saw six or seven inches of hair slide down the cape. I wanted to cry as she continued to comb my hair and snip it at the crown. She reached my face and asked my about my fringe.
“Just keep it out of her eyes,” My mother said.
Sandra combed my fringe upward and hacked it down to about an inch above my eyebrows. She “layered” the front so that it looked dated and feathered. Then she went to work with her thinning scissors making short work of my thick curls.
Then she blow dried it with a round brush. Dry and curled at the ends it was even shorter than I feared. I had the haircut of a 40 year old mother. It just barely reached my shoulders. Not quite a bob but much much worse with short uneven layers all over the top. The kind of haircut you can’t even put in a ponytail but not short enough to be cute. I was absolutely humiliated. It took everything I had to hold back the tears in the salon and suffer through the praises of Sandra and my mother.
That was the last time I had my hair to my bra strap. And here I was. 24 years old. Looking in the mirror. I was in simple strappy top with a mens shirt over it and short shorts wearing a rucksack with everything I would need for the next month.
To be continued…..