His eyes urged me on, glittering with triumph and adoration. I moved the scissors closer and closer to my scalp – I’d only started out by his upraised hand as a half-joke. Finally he stopped me. I could see through my tear-filled eyes that the scissors were very very close to my forehead. My legs almost buckled as he said, “There. Cut now.” I shut my eyes and prepared to sever my own luxurious tress from my head. “No. You will watch.” I forced my eyes open and saw myself in the mirror, scissors poised. There could be no turning back now. I closed the scissors slowly – it was as if I sliced each strand separately. The noise was deafening, and heart-breaking.
The hank of hair fell limp in my fingers, and her scissor-wielding hand dropped to her side. Her knees bent – she was preparing to kneel again – but I stopped her with a touch on her chin. I turned her toward me and took a fresh silk handkerchief from my pocket. I wiped her eyes and her cheeks and her nose, gently caressing her face, seeing in her eyes the difficulty of the task she had just accomplished.
I turned her back toward the mirror and ran my fingers through the inch-long bangs she had just begun to cut for herself. “A little long still, but a good start,” I said with a smile, catching her widening her eyes in the mirror as she conceived of inch-long bangs as not short enough.
The haircut I had dreamed of giving her – the cut I swear I had seen the potential of that day a decade ago on the street – had commenced. This process would take all day, and if I handled it right, would drive her to the brink of ecstasy and despair all at once. And perhaps, I allowed myself to imagine, it would lead not just to the end of this arrangement, but to a new one, with an even deeper, more intimate commitment.
She reached up to touch the sharply severed ends, but I grabbed her wrist. “Remember, my dear: Until the haircut is finished, you may not touch our – my – hair. Only when I pronounce the cut finished does the hair become entirely yours. And from this moment on, there will be no mirrors until it is over.”
I shook with nervousness as I felt the power in his grip. He was very serious, and I was only beginning to find out how serious as he led me by the arm down the hall and into the salon room we had set up all those years ago. He gestured to the chair, positioned facing the blank wall like always, and I sat heavily, my knees weak, knowing this would be no trim. With his somberness and precision, it was feeling more and more like a sacrifice by the moment.
He secured me in the chair as usual – torso belted in, thighs, ankles, and wrists strapped to the chair, back straightened with a board, shoulders drawn back by an elastic band binding me to the board, the chair, and his will. He had introduced this after a year or so of our arrangement, saying it was because I kept moving while he was pampering my hair, and he didn’t want to snip in the wrong place during a trim, or mess up the rolling of a set, or otherwise be obstructed in his control of my hair. I had resisted at first, promising to sit still, but he had ultimately prevailed – as I knew he would do in a new way today.
The neckstrip went on, thick and scratchy on my neck. Was it my imagination, or was he pulling it tighter than usual? The heavy black cape snapped open and flew out before me, settling on my chest and lap. I could feel the nylon slide across my nipples as he straightened it and tied it – yes, definitely tighter than usual – at my throat, forcing me to work to swallow.
I wrapped the neckstrip extra tight, and pulled hard on the drawstrings of the cape, securing her fully beneath its shroud. I had pulled her hair clear and then let it drop down to the back of the chair, watching it fall, smooth, heavy, and shiny. I had plans for this hair, and for once it involved really using scissors.
I spread the cape out smoothly, and stepped over to the rack of monitors to ensure every camera was recording in high-definition slow-motion capture. I had videotaped every single session – brushing, setting, washing – everything that happened in this room was recorded, and I had very much enjoyed replaying certain sections over and over through the years. I also dearly loved watching a time-lapse of her hair growth, as it got longer and longer and longer…but now, the style that would end the sequence was fixed in my head, and about to take shape in my hands.
I knew he recorded everything – and that he enjoyed watching his pampering and treatments of my hair. Now that he was recording this, though, I felt nervous. I was embarrassed that something so deeply personal to me, and between us, would be recorded for posterity, for him to watch whenever he liked, even after our arrangement was over.
I sat while he checked the equipment, knowing this would be the last time I would ever be strapped in this way, videoed this way. I had so many wonderful sensations associated with this position, this chair, this room. But the time had come to end the arrangement.
I had met a man. Dating had been difficult while involved in this arrangement, but I was able to do some, if I scheduled carefully – no overnights, nothing that would obstruct his access to my hair first thing in the morning or late at night. He would wash my hair and style it beautifully before I went out on dinner dates, or even for lunch. But every time I got particularly close to a man, he would send me out on a date in rollers – fully rolled, with a hairnet on and everything. The arrangement required it – I had to accept whatever style he gave me.
I thought back to one disastrous time, the night the seed for this day was planted in my mind.
Jon knew I fancied David – he was smart, attractive, funny, and loved his work as a schoolteacher. He didn’t have a ton of money, but he spent wisely and had a nice house and a good life started. We had spent several dinners together, and a few afternoons too, when David invited me on a weekend escape to his friend’s cabin in the mountains, slopeside at a great ski area. I had to decline – it was awkward to do so without him feeling rejected, but I managed. He stayed in town too, and asked me out to dinner for the night we would have spent in the ski lodge. I said yes, and asked Jon to really do me up nicely.
Instead, Jon put me in the chair, rolled me tightly – using the smallest curlers I’d ever seen – put a hairnet on me, and pronounced me ready for the evening. I protested, asking him to please not humiliate me this way. He refused, and specifically reminded me about the arrangement and my only means of escape.
I was stunned, crushed, embarrassed. I was to meet David in an hour’s time, and we were heading to the finest restaurant in the city. And Jon was going to make me show up there in rollers and a hairnet. Of course, he’d be waiting at my house for my return, too, so he’d know if I had taken them out, or if anything had changed.
I sobbed, knelt, begged, pleaded, asked him to name his price and I’d pay it, if only he would let me look my best. His face was stone as he refused, and ushered me out the door, tears still streaking my cheeks.
Needless to say, David didn’t even buy me a cocktail. He took one look at me, flushed red with anger and embarrassment, and lit into me in the restaurant’s foyer. “How could you? You blow off my offer of a romantic weekend away, and then when I propose a romantic evening, you humiliate me in the nicest restaurant in town? You look awful, and you look ridiculous, and I cannot believe you are treating me this way. I don’t want to see you again.” I remember the words like they were yesterday, striking cold and dark and deep into my soul, as I realized exactly the power this arrangement had given Jon over me, my life, my future.
I knew that if I was ever to have a real relationship, one with any promise of success, I would have to sacrifice the one thing that set me apart from all other women – my glorious, healthy, beautiful, and very eye-catchingly styled mane.
Jon had an endless repertoire of updos, braids, sweeps, and what I can only call structures he would create with my hair – and the variety grew as my hair did. I never wore the same hairdo twice, unless I specifically asked for it. There were various beehives for nights out with the girls, cascading curls for evening dates, sleek chignon twists for work functions, braided buns for working around the house, and halo braids for friends’ weddings. (Some of my friends asked me if he would do their hair and their bridesmaids’ hair – when I asked him, he always smiled and offered the same arrangement to them. I made excuses and told my friends he was really busy. I didn’t want to explain the arrangement, and I definitely didn’t want competition in the hair department.)
I stepped back to the chair, and stroked the very short lock sticking out over her forehead, where she had made the first cut. I felt its strength, its softness – and its brutally short length. I looked into her eyes, which were nervous but serious. Without any further ado, I combed out another section of her forelock, held it straight out from her head, gripped it between my fingers an inch out from her forehead, and laid the scissors flat against my fingers. Looking directly into her eyes, which were again filling with tears, I closed the scissors quickly, snapping the hair from her head. I watched as the remaining section bounced free, high on her forehead.
I took another section, and did the same. And then another, and another. I laid the hair on a table behind her, so she could not see the pile accumulating. And it would be a huge pile by the time I was done.
After I had a nice simple set of bangs cut, I combed through them again, and ran my fingers through them too, feeling their springy energy and lightness. I pushed them to one side, and then the other, enjoying the play as well as the change in her look.
Looking up at him, I could see the ends of my bangs as he played with them, smiling to himself. Then he picked up a spray bottle and gently misted my forehead and face. He combed the bangs straight down and laid the scissors directly on my forehead, snipping quickly, sending tiny shards of hair sliding down onto my cheeks and nose. He combed through a few more times, made a few more snips, and then lifted them with his fingers a bit, separating them, spreading them across my forehead.
I had never had bangs – not even as a child. And now I had super-short ones. I felt the bile rise in my throat as I imagined my friends seeing me this way – hair still very long, but ultra-short bangs, exposing my face, my eyes. No more could I drape my locks alluringly across my face, or even pretend to let them fall loosely over one eye. My face was open to all comers now. And I knew this was only the beginning.
Now I felt him running a rat-tail comb around my crown, and wondered what would come next.
I gathered the hair on top of her head, a U-shaped section that would keep the top out of the way of what I was about to do. The section started an inch above the tops of her ears, and ran across her occipital bone. I coiled the hair carefully and tightly, and clipped it in place atop her head.
Then I combed down the rest of her hair, down the sides of her head, and down her front, laying all the way down her chest and ending in her lap. I combed her nape hair out, all the way down the back of the chair. Oh, how it shined!
I ran my fingers through it one last time, from her scalp all the way down to the tips, hanging just above the floor behind the chair.
I felt him revel – he did this often, reaching deep into my mane, touching my scalp, and then gently, slowly stroking his fingers all the way down the complete length of my hair. I closed my eyes and breathed deeply – normally, this was among the most relaxing sensations for me. But I knew he was doing it today to savor the last time.
I took hold of my scissors and lifted them to her right cheek. I slid then into her hair just a half-inch, one blade on her skin, the other open wide. I slid them up her cheek, and up, stopping only when I felt her cheekbone meet the rest of her skull. Underneath the curtain of auburn hair, I knew the curve of her ear was just rejoining her face.
I closed the scissors there, and watched as a thin but long tendril slid down her face to her shoulder, and kept sliding, down her chest and belly, coiling in her lap. I saw her eyes move to follow its path, and reached down to lift the severed lock from her cape.
The snip was just as loud next to my ear as the first cut had been at my forehead. It was a solid, harsh SNAP, followed by a breathless pause for both of us, in which the only sound was my hair sliding slowly down my cape. I felt it hit my shoulder, and pass my erect nipple beneath the cape, and saw it curl itself into a neat pile below my belly. I gazed at it briefly, but then he grabbed it.
He lifted it slowly from my lap, and draped it across my face. It stuck on some of the tears that were still seeping from my eyes. And then he pulled it slowly away. The softness and smell of it were intoxicating, and I knew I would suffer their loss deeply. He stepped behind me for just a moment, and when he returned, his hands were empty.
Then, with both hands, he swept the hair that he had allowed to hang into my lap behind my shoulders, leaving my cape dark and bare, where before it had been warm and bright with my auburn mane.
Now her long lovely locks cascaded down her back, and I stepped to her side with eagerness. My scissors were sharp, and my mood light as I angled the scissors up from the previous cut and begin carefully snipping around the outline of her right ear. I carefully caught every strand as it was cut, and added it to my growing pile on the table behind her. As I reached the top, I gently folded her ear down and began snipping at an angle behind it, aiming for the corner of her hairline in back.
Oh god. My breath caught in my throat, my mouth went dry, my eyes wide, my heart quickened. He was exposing my ear – just like that – no fanfare, no announcement, no preparation, not even any gloating. Just coldly revealing the feature I was most self-conscious of. He’d done things like that before, with slick updos and shining braids, but a couple of hairs always fell loose, even from his hairspray-assisted styles. And there was always my actual hair to draw attention away from my ears. Apparently, no longer.
And now he was tucking my ear down to scissor behind it. I felt the blade slide down my neck and turn at the edge of my hairline.
This part would be my favorite to watch on the replays, I thought to myself as I turned the corner to cut horizontally across the back of her neck. I smiled to myself, lifting the scissors and swapping them for another pair that had been sitting on the nearby table, on top of a block of ice. They were cold in my fingers, and I did not delay in sliding them, still closed, underneath her cascading hair, right on her tender skin just below her hairline.
I heard her gasp and felt her shudder as the cold cold steel made contact, and I knew a few droplets of water would run down her neck and maybe even get through the neckstrip to run all the way down her spine.
My belly and chest stretched against my bonds as I jumped with the shock of the ice-cold metal he placed below my hairline. A little rivulet slid down my neck, making me shiver. I found I was in a cold sweat all over, as droplets ran down my breasts and belly. My blood ran cold. I’d never believed that could happen – I’d heard the phrase in movies and read it in books of course, but I had truly never felt ice in my veins the way I did right now. He was going to expose my neck, too.
Of course I had guessed that, since he loved seeing it when my hair was up – and especially loved seeing it redden when he would flirt with me, or flush with embarrassment when I reported back to him the compliments I had gotten on my hair. But like my ears, I could always imagine that my neck was covered, or would be soon, by a stray tendril or something. Now the pale expanse of my neck would be visible to all, and I knew this meant that the head of hair atop my neck would be especially striking and eye-catching. His updos and creations with my long hair had always used my features to draw people’s eyes to the places he wanted – a sweep of hair leading to a gleaming gem hidden in a bouffant, or curls cascading down a plunging neckline open almost to my belly button.
No doubt he was up to something similar now, only with remarkably shorter hair. I shivered again as I felt the cold metal move.
I opened the cold scissors and began nibbling through her tresses right at her hairline. I let a few fall freely and enjoyed watching them slide slowly down to the floor. But the rest I caught and laid out on the table with the other cut lengths. The tender skin of her neck was revealed, and the sharp line of severed locks was captivating. I turned the chair slowly from side to side, ensuring the cameras caught every angle.
Whenever he swiveled the chair, I knew he was lining me up for the cameras. I felt my ears and neck and face flush with embarrassment at being put on display this way, and then – when I realized that the cameras would catch how red I was turning – I turned even redder still, with outright shame at having my embarrassment discovered.
I felt air on my neck, and knew it was laid bare. Oh god. The scissors turned up now, behind my left ear, and kept snipping. The snaps grew louder as he climbed up and over my ear, folding it down again, and then coming down in front and pausing.
I looked at her, so different now – just one long long hank still hanging, in front of her left ear. The rest of her hair was short – short bouncy bangs, and a helmet of hair cut precisely to her hairline around her ears and nape. There were no layers – just a smooth, satiny sheen of hair stopping abruptly where my scissors had traveled.
I ran my hands over the shiny locks that remained, feeling their softness and their sharp ends.
I spun her in a slow half-circle for the cameras, not letting her catch a glimpse of the mass of hair I had already removed.
I reddened again as the chair swung back and forth, and bowed my head a little to hide the tears running down my cheeks. He gently reached over and lifted my chin high, and, leaving his hand in place, swung me back and forth again. I had no doubt that my tears were catching the light perfectly for his cameras.
I knew this couldn’t be it, because he still had all the hair clipped atop my head to deal with. He had not spoken, and our agreement was that while I was in the chair, I would not speak unless spoken to. All of this had been done in total silence, with only the sound of the metal on my hair penetrating my mental fog of disbelief.
Was I really throwing away a decade of amazing pampering – and a future of even more? I remembered when my hair had first been long enough to put into a ponytail – using bobby pins at the nape, of course, to catch the stragglers. He had been so thrilled he put me in ponytails for a week, carefully hiding the pins and even the hair elastic so it looked like my hair just levitated there. And I had felt so free, feeling the tail swinging on my neck, knowing that one day I would remember this length and think it was very short. Now here I was recalling that day and remembering how long my hair was.
And yet the sacrifice still seemed worth it. This man I had met was incredible – truly a dream come true. We got along famously, and had a blast together, even doing the most mundane things. But I knew I could never truly be with him until I was released from this arrangement. And that meant a major, heartrending sacrifice – surrendering my hair so I could be free.
I worried that I might no longer be attractive, might no longer be eye-catching, might no longer even be interesting without my hair. But there was no other way to find out if things might work between us. Jon had made that clear when he forced me out in rollers with David – I could have no truly free self for a relationship with my hair pledged to this arrangement.
And then he reached up with his scissors and took what I knew was the last snip of this section of the haircut. I sat with a mound of hair coiled on my head, my ears, face, and neck exposed. The tears flowed.
I settled the chair straight again, and stood in front of her. Her eyes were sad and tear-filled, her cheeks streaked, her nose running slightly. I took my handkerchief and wiped her eyes, her cheeks, her nose softly. I fluttered her bangs lightly with my fingers, and smiled. Then I spoke for the first time since we had begun.
“Pick a number – one, two, or three,” I said. She paused, trying to figure out what I was asking. “Two,” she said slowly, uncertainly.
I nodded and turned to pick up clippers and attached a number 2 guard. I held them in front of her and watched her eyes widen. Then I turned them on.
There was an incredibly loud POP and buzzing filled my ears, the whole room. In sheer panic, I sat stock-still. I did feel warmth spreading down my legs, though, and realized – with a sudden, hot flush of my face, ears, and neck – that I had lost control of my bladder. I didn’t know whether that was more terrifying or the fact that he was about to shave my head. He chose the word “surrender” in my ritual for a reason, and now I knew what that reason was.
She wet herself in terror that I was going to shave her bald. I had no such plan, but it suited me to let her think so.
To be continued…