I can’t believe that I’m 50.
The greeting cards on the mantelpiece say that I am. My driving license insists that I am. I just don’t feel it.
My husband “traded me in” for a newer model five years ago and I decided recently that I’d probably been foolish to try to re-create the domestic set-up that we’d had. That was due in part to the couple of guys that I’ve been with in the past five years, both from a similar mould, both poor substitutes for Jim. A few months ago, I realised that Tommy and I weren’t going to last, which is why I’m sitting here alone, looking at a few cards and a bouquet of flowers from my daughter. She doesn’t live close enough for us to celebrate together, so we’ll make do with a call later.
Did I say I was alone? Not really. I have a nice bottle of wine to keep me company later on, together with a couple of “friends” that I made a week or so ago in preparation for this milestone. I touched a finger to one of those “friends”, still feeling childish-delight at the touch of the metal bar through my nipple. Of course, you can’t have just the one, so I reassured the twin for good measure.
It’s amazing what you come up with when you have time to think. I’d been wondering for a while how to mark my 50th, and that’s when I’d decided to get my nipples pierced. I didn’t have to worry about faux-respectability or what was expected of me anymore. I was pleasing myself these days, so on a whim, I got myself pierced. It took a little more thought to get a tattoo of a little flower just above my slit, but that was done the following day, in good time for it to settle down for any celebration that I might stumble into today. Every time I see that flower, it makes me smile, makes me think that I’m free to please myself. It’s like a little part of me that’s coming into bloom after being dormant for so long.
I looked at myself in the mirror when I got out of the shower this morning, newly-fifty, but in denial. It would be foolish to claim that everything was where it had been when I was younger, but I can be confident in a bikini. Confident that I look good in one, rather than the way that some whale that you see on the beach has forced herself into a bikini and told herself that she looks good.
Nature has been kind to me, one baby didn’t do too much damage and years of tennis have kept me trim. My boobs are pleasingly large, at least that’s what the piercer seemed to think, although any complement went professionally unsaid. All in all, I would pitch myself against most women in their thirties and be confident of coming out on top.
My thoughts about things to do to take advantage of my new-found freedom didn’t stop there. I’d invested in a whole pile of new clothes in recent weeks, things that show me off to my best, things that 50 year-olds in supermarkets don’t generally wear. I want to showcase myself, put myself “out there”, show that I’m open to suggestions. It had taken me a few days after that to decide that I need new hair to go with the new outfits. I’ve hung on to my longish bob for too long and it has to go. I haven’t been able to decide what should replace it though.
I’ve agonised over it, looking at endless suggestions on the internet, but couldn’t decide what to go for. The only decision that I’ve reached is the I should let someone else decide for me. That was today’s mission. Find an interesting-looking salon and let them loose.
I picked up my car keys and walked to my car, conscious of my posture and deportment. If I got myself picked up while I was out, it would be a bonus. That meant looking right, walking right. Not quite a slut-walk, but something suggestive. I got into the car slowly, aware that my trousers were tighter than was sensible. I’d chosen them for someone else to look at, rather than for my own comfort. I’m sure that some people think that a camel-toe is undignified on a lady of my age, but that’s the sort of opinion that I aimed to provoke and dispel today. Maybe when they’d stop looking down there, they could criticise me for not wearing a bra under my shirt, which betrayed the unmistakable dark shadows of my nipples. I’m fifty, going on forty and I’d be disappointed to be home early today. My smile didn’t diminish on the drive into town.
I parked and then did my best to get out of the car elegantly. Maybe a skirt would’ve been better. Perhaps a flash of mature pussy would’ve pleased the guy who was currently watching my exertions from the next row of cars. I made sure that he had a flash of cleavage as a bonus. He carried on drinking his carry-out coffee, pretending in vain that he wasn’t remotely interested.
I hadn’t got a destination in mind. I’d tried to find a salon on-line several times, but the websites couldn’t convey the impression that I wanted. The only solution was to do what I was doing and just walk. If I didn’t find what I wanted here, I’d have to go further afield, to a bigger town.
There were plenty of mobile-phone shops, Turkish barber shops and charity shops. I passed a couple of salons, but you needed to be geriatric to even consider going in. I carried on, convinced that I’d know what I was looking for when I found it. There was a “gender neutral” salon. That didn’t mean much to someone of my generation, but I didn’t dismiss it. Just because I didn’t know what it was, didn’t mean that I should close my mind to it. It could be wonderful, so I filed t away just in case. I walked on, awake both to possible salons and to signs of attention.
I smiled as I walked past a young guy who would probably struggle to get served in a pub. His eyes were on stalks as he walked past me. Where should he look, chest or crotch? Why not both? I turned to look at him as we crossed. He was looking back at me. I smiled at him. My choice of outfit had definitely broadened my appeal. I walked on, wishing that I could’ve thanked him for that not-so-stealthy look. I wouldn’t be looking for the golf-club crowd for my entertainment later on; I’d be hanging round the college gates, if he was anything to go by.
I paused opposite a brightly coloured façade, which could only belong to a hair salon. It looked cheerful, looked intent on appealing to a younger crowd. I went in.
The young receptionist looked up at me, not quite sure what to make of me. Mature, yet not frumpy. Provocatively dressed, and definitely not what she expected. She went for the default approach.
‘Hi, how can we help?’ she asked breezily.
‘Hi’ I replied. ‘I need someone who’s adventurous. I want to just sit down and let them do what they do, see what happens.’
‘Very brave’ she replied with a wry smile.
‘Maybe. I just want something that I wouldn’t ask for’ I replied.
‘When were you thinking?’ she asked.
‘Now, would be good, but what’ve you got?’
‘I’m not sure that we’ve got anything this morning, I’m afraid’ the girl said.
My heart sank. I’d wanted to do this as a “spur of the moment” thing, because I’d always had appointments, always known what I’d look like when I walked out of the salon, before I’d even walked in. I wanted this to be different, just walk in, let them do whatever and then walk out. It wasn’t to be. It was a shame.
‘That’s a shame’ I said, picking up my bag.
I saw her look at me.
‘Are you sure that you’re up for anything?’ the girl asked. I was starting to like her.
‘Absolutely’ I replied, my bag sinking back to the counter-top.
‘Let me just go and have a word with my boss’ she said. This young lady would go far, I thought. I watched her desert her post and hurry down the salon. Her heels clipped up the staircase and she was gone from view. I looked at some of the pictures on the walls. I wasn’t sure if they’d been done at this salon, but there were some fairly radical styles that you didn’t see every day. I was distracted by the memory of the young man that I’d passed in the street, making me smile. I wondered what I’d have done if I’d seen him in a shop or somewhere else that I could’ve engineered a conversation.
The receptionist was making her way back, followed by an older woman. Not as old as me, of course, but more mature than the fresh-faced girl that I spoke to. The most striking thing about her was what I could only assume was a perm, which gave her a cascade of blonde curls that appeared to have been chopped off at chin length. It was lovely.
‘Hello, sorry to keep you. I’m Kerry, the owner’ the woman informed me. She had a genuine smile, or at least she’d perfected one that looked genuine. ‘Now, Sarah says that you’re looking for a makeover, is that right?’
‘If that’s what you call it. I just thought that it’d be fun to put myself in someone else’s hands. Tell them to forget about what they’d normally suggest for someone like me and just go wild’ I said, watching both of their faces light up. ‘Part of the experience is just doing it at random, no appointment, no time to think about it, but I appreciate that it’s not very practical from your point of view.’
I watched both of them take a moment to digest what the mad woman who’d just walked in off the street had said.
‘So, if we can’t do it, you’ll try somewhere else, is that it?’ the older woman asked.
‘I might just forget the whole thing’ I said, hoping that I wasn’t going to make them feel bad. I wouldn’t forget it, of course, but they weren’t to know that. I’d have frankly been astounded if the first place I went into could take me.
‘I’d hate to lose you, if you’re prepared to be that flexible with what you want’ Kerry said. ‘I could make it work, if you were prepared to be a model for a trainee stylist. For Sarah here’ she said. ‘She’s close to doing her final exams, but the chance to stretch her skills would be really helpful for us. She’d be fully supervised of course. And there’d only be a nominal charge’ she continued.
My expression suggested that I was thinking about it. I wasn’t. It sounded like I was putting my familiar chestnut bob at risk. It sounded ideal. In recent times, I’d started to notice that it wasn’t as shiny as it had used to be. I’d even go as far as to use the word “dull” on some days.
‘So you could you do it now?’
‘I can get someone else to keep an eye on reception and I can supervise Sarah myself. I’ve got someone due in a few minutes, but Sarah can work next to me, so I’ll be able to keep a close eye on everything she’s doing.’
Kerry saw doubt flicker across my face.
‘I understand if that doesn’t sound like something you want to do’ she said.
‘It’s not that. I just don’t like the idea of someone watching over Sarah. I’m happy to sign something if you want to cover yourselves, but I’d prefer it if she just has a go. Let’s see what happens’ I said, with a broad smile towards Sarah.
‘What do you think about that Sarah?’ Kerry asked her.
‘Fabulous’ she replied enthusiastically, with a broad smile.
I introduced myself so that they had a name for the appointment book, and we were ready.
‘Okay, just to keep everyone happy, why don’t I leave the two of you to have a chat, so that Sarah can decide what she wants to do. Then she can run it by me first and all being well, we’re good to go.’
‘Sounds reasonable’ I agreed.
‘Come and find me when you’re ready, love’ Kerry said to Sarah, with a nod of acknowledgement to me.
‘She seems nice’ I said, once I knew that she was out of earshot.
‘She’s great, very encouraging’ Sarah replied.
She offered me coffee , which I declined and she showed me to a quiet corner, which I suspect is their consultation area. I tried to make the simple act of sitting down look effortless. It was anything but. I really didn’t want to split a seam!
‘You must think I’m mad’ I said, trying to put her at her ease.
She smiled, too polite to agree with me.
‘I think you’re very brave’ she said.
‘More like very bored with what I’ve stuck with for too long’ I replied.
‘So you just want something completely different’ she said.
‘That pretty much sums it up’ I said. I watched her looking at me, assessing me, formulating a plan. She reached up to feel the texture of my hair.
‘Were you thinking of colouring it, or are you just going to let the grey come through naturally?’ she asked.
‘I tend to think of it as silvery highlights, but a bit of honesty is good’ I replied.
‘Whatever you think’ I replied, determined not to show any resistance to her suggestion, whatever it ended up as.
She nodded, sending all the right signals. I had a good feeling about this girl.
‘Okay, I think I know what I want to do. Let me go and find Kerry. Are you sure that you don’t want coffee?’
I declined the coffee again and watched her walk away. A pretty young thing with a spring in her step. Quietly confident, nice figure.
I looked out of the window, watching the world go by. Wondering whether I’d be hooking up with one of those passers-by before the day was out. I regarded it as a little treat that had been a long time coming.
I watched Sarah come back, the air of confidence strengthened by whatever her boss had said to her.
‘Right’ she said, sitting down again.
‘Are you sure you’re ready for this?’ she asked.
‘More than you can imagine’ I replied with a little smile.
She reached up to touch the chestnut curtain near my right cheek.
‘I’m thinking that we should go short’ she said. I liked the “we”. Her own hair was blonde, straight and long. Well past her
shoulders. I didn’t think that there was any prospect of her going short.
‘Does that sound like something you want to do? What your husband would think’ she said.
‘I’m the only one who matters’ I told her, in a way that said that there was no-one else to consider. Maybe her first mis-step.
‘Okay, sure’ she replied. She tried to put things right with a smile. I accepted it.
‘You’ve got strong features’ she said.
Did I really just catch her sneaking a peek at my chest? I wondered whether she’d applaud me for letting the twins roam free, or whether she’d think that I should act my age. I wondered what she’d think about the new additions, if she knew.
‘I was thinking that this style hides you away, when you should be presenting your assets to the world’ she continued.
I’m trying my best dear, I thought. I’m bra-less, my trousers split my difference, there’s not much more that I could do without being arrested.
‘So I was thinking of a crop, maybe something shorter if you’re up for it. Kerry thinks you should go really short and make the grey a feature. She even suggested dying it grey all-over, so that you get the full effect right away.’
She looked at me for a reaction.
My mindset was on walking out of the salon looking like a million dollars, if that sum was worth anything anymore. I was thinking about hooking up with a pretty young man and sucking the juice out of him before I went home. She was talking about bringing out my “inner granny”. My horror must’ve been obvious to her.
‘Don’t think of grey as being a sign of age. It can be very elegant. But we could go with another colour if you want’ she offered.
I nodded slowly. ‘Well, I did say that I didn’t want you to do anything that I’d expect and I certainly didn’t see that coming, so well done’ I congratulated.
‘So you’re okay with it?’
‘Why not?’ I said, warming to the fresh-faced girl who now had my whole milestone plans in her hands. I wondered if she had any inkling that someone like me could still be contemplating going out and getting laid. Then again, why else would I be dressed the way that I was.
‘And you’re okay with going short?’
‘Not something I’ve ever done, so why not, again?’
‘It’s going to be really short though’ she re-iterated.
‘Who are you trying to convince? Me or you?’ I asked with a smile. She let the comment pass and stood up.
‘Well, if you’d like to follow me’ she said, re-discovering her confidence.
I waited until she’d turned away before getting to my feet, just in case anything had given way. I looked okay. I pulled my shirt down, enjoying the sudden tightness of the fabric against my unprotected nipples. I followed her down the salon to a styling chair.
Kerry was nowhere to be seen, her appointment apparently not having arrived yet.
I sat where indicated and let her put a gown over me. She must’ve picked up on my reluctance to get comfortable. I was expecting to get up to be taken to a basin for a shampoo.
‘I won’t wash it yet. I can tell that it’s freshly washed and most of it’s coming off anyway, so there’s no point’ she explained.
‘You weren’t kidding when you said you were taking me short’ I joked.
‘We really don’t have to, if you don’t want to. Kerry thought that it would be more striking and she knows that I really like doing men’s hair.’
‘So I’m getting a man’s haircut?’ I queried.
‘Not at all’ she said quickly. She was either very defensive or very offended at my suggestion. ‘I’ll use the clippers, like for a man’s haircut, but it’ll be very feminine. I promise’ she said.
‘I said I’d leave it up to you and I meant it. I want to be surprised and you’re doing really well so far’ I reassured her.
‘So you’re good with what I’m going to do?’
‘Absolutely. I can’t wait’ I said. I wanted a new style, but my desire to get out of the salon and onto the prowl was growing by the minute.
She ran both of her hands through my hair, engaging with it properly for the first time.
‘There’s actually more grey running though it than you might think’ she observed.
Some people might take that the wrong way.
‘It won’t matter when you’ve finished with me, will it?’ I replied, settling back to enjoy the show.
‘I’m going to take it down to one length all over and then go from there. It’ll be easier to work with like that’ she explained, apparently not expecting an answer.
‘I’m in your capable hands’ I assured her.
She opened a drawer to the side of me and took out the promised clippers. Definitely a first for me. I looked at myself in the mirror and said goodbye to the “old” me. I wondered who I’d be welcoming in a few minutes. She opened a black wallet with a selection of bits for the clippers and chose one.
‘Why that one?’ I asked, curious about the process.
‘It’s just a long guard that’ll go through the long hair more easily. Then I can see what I’m doing.
I wanted to ask more questions, but didn’t want to delay her or delay my own exit, for that matter. Places to go, people to screw (hopefully), you know.
She overcame a little glitch in getting the thing attached and then test-fired them. Quieter than I’d expected.
‘Can you pop your chin down for me?’ she said, a preparatory hand on my shoulder. I looked into my lap. My hands were folded under the cape.
The clippers went on again. I felt her run her hand up the back of my neck. I felt a lighter sensation follow in its path. No backing out now.
There was something soothing about the way that she used the clippers. She was stroking me each time with her left hand while the right did the business. Whatever that was. I knew that she’d done whatever it was that she was doing, right up the back of my head, so it was too late for one of those angled bobs or anything like that.
‘Look up for me’ she said. I looked up. There I was in the mirror. Just like before. Familiar dark bob, with its stealthy grey insurgents. The clippers went to my right temple and travelled in a long arc, upwards and backwards. The pretence of a bob was destroyed in that one fluid movement. A tangle of hair had been pushed backwards as if by a snowplough, gathering under the machine until gravity took over.
‘You weren’t kidding about it being short’ I observed.
She paused, suddenly uncertain.
‘You’re fine, carry on. It’s not as if I have any choice now, is it’ I said with a slightly nervous chuckle that undermined the bravado that I wanted to portray.
‘I thought it’d be okay’ she said, clippers poised. ‘I won’t go as short as I’d planned with the final cut, if you don’t want me to’ she added.
‘Go as short as you want, it’ll grow back’ I said in an attempt to get her confidence back on track and to recapture my own resolve.
‘Absolutely’ I replied, watching the hair on my crown joining its companions on the floor. I won’t say that I wasn’t afraid of such a dramatic change, I could justify it to myself the same way that I resolved to get my nipples pierced, get my tattoo, come into town dressed as I was. She carried on mowing.
‘That’s quite a change’ Kerry’s voice interjected. ‘How’s she doing?’ she asked me. I’d been so enthralled with what Sarah was doing, that I hadn’t heard Kerry approach.
‘Fabulous’ I reported. ‘This is exactly what I needed’ I added, looking at the covering of hair on my scalp. Less than an inch all over. I’d never have believed that I could let someone do it and not be freaking out about it.
‘What’s the plan now, Sarah?’ Kerry asked.
‘I was going to do the colour and then the final cut’ Sarah explained. The moment had arrived when she was going to “grannify me”,
Kerry examined me in the mirror, deploying her full experience or maybe just taking a last look before her protégée applied another decade to me.
‘I know that was what we thought, but have you taken a moment to re-assess what you’re doing?’ Kerry asked.
I was in the middle of a full teaching session here.
‘Not really’ Sarah confessed a little sheepishly.
‘If you went shorter than we talked about, you could save time and that way, save Jill from too much maintenance in the weeks to come’ Kerry explained. ‘You’ve already brought her features to life, and that’s only going to become more evident as you go shorter.’
I was a little perturbed at the thought of having “deadened” features when I’d come in.
‘So what do you think?’
Sarah joined Kerry in regarding me as a still-life model. Any chance of involving me in this, ladies? They’d threatened me with going grey, now that appeared to be off the table, in favour of turning me into my old Uncle Bill. Sarah looked at me from different angles.
‘Are you thinking of taking the sides right down?’ she asked her mentor.
‘I think so. If we shave it to here’ she said, indicating a point high up on the side of my head.
‘Did you say “shave”?’ I butted in.
‘I think it’d look really good. We’d be following your brief to the letter and definitely doing something that you wouldn’t ask for yourself’ Kerry continued.
‘I hadn’t thought that you’d go that far though’ I said.
‘We don’t have to, but I think it would look great. Daring, a statement. You’re obviously someone who wants to stand out’ she said, glancing downwards to acknowledge my outfit, hidden beneath the gown. ‘It’d be really bold.’
‘Bald?’ I repeated, having mis-heard.
‘We could start with the sides, but if you wanted to go all the way, I think you could carry it off.’
‘Hang on, we’re talking about shaving my head completely now?’
‘If you want. I think the idea of colouring it probably isn’t right for you. It gets you into a cycle of maintenance and I think you’d probably decide to shave it after a while anyway. You’d be super-short already and you’d just think that it’s too much effort to make an appointment, pay good money just to have a uniform colour. Shaving it gets rid of all those issues at a stroke.’
‘I’ve got time and I can afford it, so we can cross those off straight away’ I objected.
‘Okay, so do it because it’ll look stunning’ Kerry pressed, getting in to her stride now.
‘Are you talking about all of it or just the sides?’ I asked, still stunned by the suggestion. I’d come in for a change, possibly a dramatic change, but the idea of shaving my hair off hadn’t been anywhere near my thinking of possible outcomes. I thought they might do some outrageous colour, a funky cut, something asymmetric, but I hadn’t gone this far.
‘The more I look at you with it this short already, the more I think you really should just shave it’ Kerry said, her head nodding to confirm her thinking. She looked at Sarah with the unspoken question.
‘I can certainly see what you mean’ she answered.
‘I’ll look like an old man’ I objected, yet to embrace the concept.
‘Not with that body, you won’t. You’ll look like a striking woman, confident in her own sexuality’ she said.
‘Thank you, I think’ I said, with a chuckle.
‘So are we going for it?’ Kerry asked.
‘I’d need more time to think about it’ I said.
‘How about if I tell you that we’re going to cut it so short anyway, that you may as well just go for it?’
‘So I haven’t got a choice?’
‘You did pretty much put yourself in our hands.’
‘I did, didn’t I’ I replied. ‘It doesn’t really give Sarah much practice though, does it?’
‘True, but think of the bragging rights she’ll have at college. How many of her mates will have shaved a woman’s head?’
‘You could look at it like that, I suppose’ I replied.
It went quiet. I wondered what effect my bravado would have on my plans for later. Was I really going to let this girl shave off my hair?
‘Well, what are you waiting for, young lady?’ I said.
I saw her look at Kerry. Saw Kerry nod. Saw her pick up the clippers and unclip the front part.
‘Look down for me again’ Sarah said, her hand on the back of my head, up near the top. I felt the clippers touch the back of my neck, below where I thought that my hair actually began. The sensation moved upwards. She was actually doing it. Kerry was paying close attention. So much for the notion of her taking a back seat. She had a ringside seat and didn’t look like she was prepared to give it up. She was the least of my concerns. Was it too late? How was I going to get some guy’s attention if I looked like I was on day release from an institution? My boobs were going to have to run interference to distract him from what was going on above the neck. Was there a wig shop nearby? So many things going through my head while the clippers were going over it.
Sarah was following the same pattern as before: back of my head; right temple; up and over. It was seeing the patch of skin at my temple that brought home to me the full impact of what was happening. That was my scalp that I was looking at. I was moments away from being bald. Who the hell did this willingly? Had I done it willingly? I wasn’t so sure. It wasn’t against my will, but it certainly wasn’t what I’d thought I’d asked for. Then again, I had, very deliberately, prepared the ground for it to happen. Go to a salon, ask them to do something that I wouldn’t ask for myself. I kept coming back to that point. I had actually asked for this, although not in so many words.
The pattern changed. Sarah didn’t move from the right side to the left, she went for the “economy of movement” approach and went
over the top before tackling the left-hand side of my head. There was no going back from that. I took in a deep breath.
‘Are you okay?’ Kerry enquired. I’d forgotten that she was there. Hadn’t she said that she’d got a client coming in? Either
something had happened to that or she’d passed it on to someone else, so that she could watch my transformation.
‘Yes, I think so. It’s just a shock, that’s all.’
‘If it helps at all, you look so much better than when you came in. That style wasn’t doing much for you and the colour was tired.
Now you look vibrant. Alive. Stunning’ she said.
I thought that she was getting a little carried away. All that I could see was a fifty-year old bald woman, where I’d wanted to see a forty-year old MILF. Maybe I’d been expecting too much.
‘Stunning? Really?’ I said, my surprise evident. I peered into the mirror, trying to convince myself that the reflection was
actually me. A bald person was staring back at me, only the earrings and make-up betraying the fact that it was feminine. Oops, showing my age there.
‘Why sound so surprised. You’ve just revealed what’s been hidden up to now. Don’t think of it as being bald, think of it as showing off what you really are’ Kerry said in a bid to re-assure me.
‘You’re just saying that. I’m bald, there’s no getting away from that’ I said, noticing Sarah still guiltily holding the silent clippers. I carried on staring at my reflection, pleased that I had got to the point where I could acknowledge it as ‘me’. I brushed a hank of my hair off my lap and on to the floor with the rest.
‘I’ll grant you that. But it’s how you wear it that counts. Think of it as wearing a revealing outfit. You know what you’ve got and you’re putting it out there’ she continued. Was that a quiet dig at me not wearing a bra?
‘Head up, chest out’ you sound like an old teacher of mine’ I laughed.
‘That’s exactly what you need to do. Just say “Look at me!” and you’re there’ she said.
‘I’m certainly somewhere that I didn’t expect to be, I’ll tell you that’ I countered.
‘We aim to please’ she said with a smile.
‘Looks like your work here is done Sarah, so thank you for showing me something that I never expected to see’ I said, trying to make her feel better.
‘Not yet, it isn’t. There’s one more step and this is one where Sarah will benefit’ Kerry said.
‘She gets to practise her skills with the razor’ Kerry said, as if it were the most natural thing in the world.
‘There’s nothing left though’ I observed.
‘Have a feel’ Kerry urged. ‘It may not look like it, but it’s still rough. Sarah will make it perfectly smooth.’
‘You just keep on surprising me’ I laughed. I shrugged my shoulders in preparation. I flashed Sarah a disarming smile to tell her that I was fine with what she was about to do. After all, the damage was done, as evidenced by the pile of hair all around me. Hair that looked tired. Hair that possibly explained why I hadn’t had a nibble since I split up with Tommy, even if I would probably have rebuffed any such nibble. Was it such a loss? We’ll see, but it could’ve been revived with a bit of professional colouring and I could’ve gone on my way. That’s probably what most salons would’ve done. I was really pleased that I’d stumbled on this salon, rather than “most salons”.
Kerry moved away, but was back almost immediately, clutching an aerosol can and a plastic packet. Shaving foam and razor, I deduced. I wasn’t wrong.
Sarah aimed the can at my scalp and squirted.
‘You might find it easier to squirt it into your hand first’ Kerry suggested. There was some teaching going on after all, it wasn’t just about ridding me of my hair.
Whether it went straight onto my scalp or paused briefly in Sarah’s hand, the cream was now being spread over my scalp. I smiled. I just couldn’t help it, it looked so funny. The approaching razor re-asserted the seriousness of the situation though.
‘Have you shaved someone’s head before?’ I asked, feeling that I could engage Sarah in conversation, now that I wasn’t going to spoil any surprise. The fact that she was using a safety razor also gave me confidence.
‘A couple of times. I’ve been trying to get my boyfriend to do it, but he won’t’ she said.
‘Why do you want him to?’ I asked, thinking that she’d left the door open.
‘I just think he’d look better. His hair has got a curl to it and it goes mad when he goes to the gym or plays football. I told him just to shave it, but he won’t.’
‘Maybe if you tell him about today, he’ll think again.’
‘I hope so’ she said with a chuckle.
‘Good luck with that!’ I said, before we both settled back into a comfortable silence.
I watched the razor, thinking. I was going to need to do my make-up differently, work on my eyes more. I’d need bigger earrings too. I was going to have to re-think everything about my routine. I’d need to cancel my appointment with Carol in a couple of weeks. She’d wonder why, but could I tell her that I’d gone and shaved my head? She’d think that I’ve gone mad. Should I worry what she thinks? Maybe she hadn’t done me any favours in recent times. Maybe she should’ve said that I needed to do something more radical to look my best. Was it because of her that I was sitting here without any hair. She’d let it get to a state where someone thought that I’d be better off without it. I’d make up a story. I’d been going to her for a long time and I didn’t want to hurt her. There’s nothing to gain from that.
The white expanse that Sarah had started with had shrunk dramatically. Polar ice caps and global warming came to mind. I still couldn’t see any dramatic difference, although I had to concede that there wasn’t the same dark shadow that I’d had previously. I was really bald now. I watched her finish, noticing that I was looking quite serene in the mirror. Kerry was still in my peripheral vision, observing rather than teaching. I actually liked that she was there, taking an interest. She hadn’t shuffled off, afraid of what my reaction was going to be. She knew that it was getting more positive with every stroke of the razor.
‘There’ Sarah said, pulling me from my musings. ‘I just need to rinse you off and then we’re done’ she said.
‘Simple as that’ I replied.
‘No more bad hair days, no more time spent trying to get it to sit the way that you want to. You’re just straight out of the shower and on the road’ Kerry butted in.
‘Got to look for the positives’ I agreed.
‘That’s all that I can see. Positives. I can’t say it enough, you look great!’ she said with a smile.
‘Hopefully I’ll share your enthusiasm before too long.’
‘I think you will. Let Sarah rinse you off and then have a look at yourself without the cape on. That’ll make such a difference’ she said.
I nodded and trailed after Sarah to a basin where I experienced the briefest visit to a basin that the salon had seen for a long time, I suspected. Sarah played the warm jet over my scalp, surprising me with how good it felt. It was wonderful and I was disappointed when she turned the water off as soon as her objective had been achieved. My objective would’ve taken longer, but was perhaps best experienced in the privacy of my own home. I wasn’t expecting that. Was that the sort of positivity that Kerry meant?
Gentle hands encased my head in a soft towel, wiping the droplets of water away. The towel was taken away and then the gown was undone. Kerry’s moment of truth was upon me. I stood up, more concerned about the seams of my trousers than the fact that I probably just flashed a boob at Kerry when my shirt fell open with the force of gravity.
I stood in front of the mirror. Silent, uncertain and then astounded. That really was me. Me without hair. My eyes definitely looked bigger, my ears didn’t, thankfully. I knew that I was treating any observer to nipple-shadow and camel-toe, but my eyes didn’t care. I was bald. Was that really going to work when I left the safety of the salon?
Kerry had sidled up beside me, a comforting hand placed on my shoulder. Sarah busied herself with sweeping up and tidying the evidence away.
‘You’re a knock-out’ she said, looking me up and down. There was no hiding from her. ‘See what I mean though, you’re announcing to the world that you’re proud of what you’ve got.’
‘Maybe I should’ve put a bra on’ I said, feeling slightly self-conscious.
‘If you had, you would’ve given me a different impression altogether. I wouldn’t have thought that you’re as daring as you clearly are. Who knows, maybe you’d have escaped with a nice little crop.’
‘So, I’ve only got myself to blame for this?’ I said, pointing to my bare scalp.
‘Not at all. You can blame me if you want, but I think you’ll be thanking me once you get used to it’ she said.
I reached into my purse to get some cash for Sarah. She’d done a great job and I’m sure that her wages weren’t overly generous.
‘Thank you so much’ she said, astounded at how much I’d just given her.
‘You’re welcome. Maybe you should have another word with that boyfriend of yours’ I said, smiling.
‘Definitely’ she said.
‘Well, do you feel like a coffee?’ Kerry asked. ‘You’ve earned it.’
‘Yes, please’ I said, deciding that it would give me a few more minutes to get used to myself before I had to brave the outside world.
‘I was thinking we should pop out’ Kerry said as she saw me waiting expectantly for her to issue the order to one of her staff.
‘Oh, yes, fine’ I said, surprised.
‘I could do with getting out for a few minutes’ she said.
‘Didn’t you have a client due?’ I asked.
‘I did, but I gave her to one of the other girls.’
‘So that you could watch the freak-show?’ I laughed.
‘Not at all. I was purely there in a supervisory capacity’ she replied.
I paused by the front door while Kerry went to let one of her other staff know that she was going out. Then it was time to step out from the protective cocoon. I thought that I should have a phrase prepared for such a momentous event; not quite “moon landing” momentous, but not far off it.
‘Deep breath’ Kerry said, seeing my hesitation. ‘Chest out, head high!’ she added. I laughed and did exactly as she said.
We went round the corner to a place that she knew and found a seat in a secluded corner. I was conscious of her looking at me.
‘Checking me for cuts?’ I asked.
‘No, I just can’t believe how it suits you’ she said.
‘Keep telling me that and I might start to believe you’ I replied.
‘You’ll see it soon enough’ she said confidently.
Our coffees arrived and we paused while the waitress set everything out on the table.
‘Am I going to have an angry boyfriend on the phone later on? she asked. I’d seen her check my finger for a ring while we were in the salon.
‘No and I don’t think there’s a chance of one until I grow some hair back. I’d planned to cruise the mall after I’d had my hair done, see what sort of trouble I could get myself in to. That won’t be happening now’ I said, a hint of disappointment in my voice.
‘It’s my birthday, too’ I added unnecessarily.
She looked at me.
‘Happy Birthday!’ she said breezily. ‘What’s stopping you doing what you’d planned?’
‘I can hardly do a flick of the hair and flash a “Come hither” look at anyone I like the look of, now can I?’ I said.
‘I think you underestimate yourself. You’ll turn the head of every male with a pulse, and probably quite a few women too’ she said.
‘That’s probably a larger pool of potential mates than I was looking for.’
‘Maybe you should. Widen your horizons, I mean. The old “you” is back in my salon, why not see what the “new” you can do?’
‘It’s not something I’ve ever considered. I was married for a long time. Replaced him with a couple of poor substitutes. Today was just going to be a bit of fun. I thought I might try a bright, young thing for size’ I said. I saw her expression. ‘Sorry, too much information’ I added.
‘I admire you’ she said, surprisingly.
‘Why not. You could’ve just joined a flower-arranging club, that sort of thing. Instead, you’ve grabbed the situation by the balls and decided to do something about it.’
‘Well, when you put it like that’ I said, with a smile. I stirred my coffee.
‘Most definitely. You had a certain something about you when you came in this morning. You had a plan, even if it didn’t go the way that you thought it would.’
‘I was expecting a couple of inches off, a purple streak through it, that sort of thing’ I admitted.
‘You clearly hadn’t bargained for me’ she said, with a glint in her eye.
‘I’m so glad you let me’ she said, quieter now.
‘Let you?’ I queried, before catching her meaning. ‘So this was all your idea? It wasn’t Sarah’s thing for me to go really short?’
‘She was going to go “Mia Farrow” on you. Colouring it grey was her idea.’
‘But not the super-short cut.’
‘That was for me’ she said, sitting back with an enigmatic smile. She reached for her cup, but it was too far away to be picked up comfortably.
I tried to process what she’d just said. I went over my calculations, because I couldn’t believe the answer that I’d arrived at. I re-checked. Same answer.
‘That’s two things this morning that I didn’t see coming’ I said eventually, picking up my own cup, because I could. She raised her eyebrows.
‘Have I shocked you?’ she asked.
‘”Surprised” is a better word’ I replied.
She nodded again and sat closer to the table so that she could drink her coffee. I saw her looking over the rim of her cup at me.
She put the cup down and smiled.
‘That was a conversation killer’ she said.
‘Sorry, it’s a lot to take in. To be honest, I was hoping to attract an energetic twenty-something young man who wasn’t too fussy, for a “no questions asked” tumble in the hay. ‘You don’t fit that description’ I added.
‘I could try. I’m energetic. I can get Sarah to give me a haircut. With the lights out, you’d be none the wiser’ she said with a grin.
‘That’s just it. I do want something different, not what I thought I wanted before. That doesn’t interest me now.’
‘So, it’s a lot to take in’ I said.
‘There’s no hurry’ she said, picking up her cup again.
‘Except that I’m dressed like a slapper on the pull on a Saturday night’ I said, looking down my front.
‘We wouldn’t be sitting here if you weren’t’ she said. I smiled again. We took refuge in our drinks.
‘You really got her to shave my head for your own devious purposes?’ I asked after a while. She shrugged and smiled. It went quiet again.
‘What if I only fancy bald women?’ I asked pointedly.
‘Only fancy bald women.’
‘I don’t know that I fancy any sort of women’ I replied.
‘But have I got you to the point where you’re considering it?’
‘Have I got you to the point where you’d consider joining me?’ I countered.
‘Joining you in bed or joining you in being bald?’ she asked, surprising me.
I paused. ‘Both’ I said, picking my cup up to hide behind the remains of my coffee. I don’t know where that came from.
She looked at me.
‘I know this really great salon. I’m pretty sure that they could fit me in if I just turn up’ she said.
It was my turn to look at her intently.
‘I’m not sure that would be good for business’ I said.
‘Maybe it’ll attract a new type of client. A more interesting, adventurous client’ she said.
‘You’re really going to go back and do it?’
‘Watch me’ she challenged.
‘And then what?’
‘I’m the boss. I can take the rest of the day off. Then I can look at those piercings properly’ she replied.
‘I was hoping that you didn’t see’ I said, slightly embarrassed.
‘Then you should do another couple of buttons up’ she chastised with a smile.
She picked up her purse.
‘I can’t believe this is happening’ I said.
‘You came out this morning to get your hair cut and to spread your legs for a stranger. Looks like you’ll have done both by lunchtime. That’s what I call good time-management’ she said with a wicked smile.
We stood up, left a tip on the table and started to walk towards the exit. Her fingers brushed mine. There was a frisson that I haven’t felt for years. Just from a sly touch. Maybe this was worth pursuing. Maybe it didn’t involve the danger of having difficulty walking, if I picked a guy who was too energetic. I gave her hand the quickest confirmatory squeeze and then left the coffee shop as outwardly respectable as when I’d gone in. We headed back towards the salon.
‘Where will I meet you?’ I asked, pausing at the corner.
‘Aren’t you coming in?’
‘It’ll look weird’ I replied.
‘Why? We’ve had coffee, talked about you shaving your head. I’ve decided to give it a go, what’s weird about that?’
‘Won’t tongues wag when we walk out together afterwards?’
‘I know mine will’ she replied, before putting a hand on my arm. ‘Sorry, too soon, perhaps’ she confessed. I smiled.
‘You know what I mean’ I said.
‘I’ll fire anyone who looks at us sideways’ she threatened with a smile. I smiled, but paused.
‘What?’ she asked.
‘Haven’t you…aren’t you with someone?’ I asked awkwardly.
‘I’m the same as you. Slightly shop soiled, but available’ she replied. I winced. ‘Okay, maybe not the best choice of words’ she said with a laugh.
I was getting to like her.
We walked in to the salon and Kerry went back to “owner” mode, looking this way and that, making sure that all was as it should be.
Sarah clearly knew to let this moment pass before speaking.
‘Hi Kerry’ she said brightly, looking first at her boss and then at me, standing just behind her.
‘Hi Sarah. If I get Anne to cover reception, will you do a job for me?’
‘Sure’ Sarah said, smiling at both of us. She seemed to be looking for any signs of retribution from my direction. I smiled my most disarming smile in return. Kerry disappeared, leaving me with the woman who took my hair.
‘How’re you liking it?’ she asked.
‘I’m getting used to it’ I replied. ‘It certainly will make getting ready that much quicker’ I added.
‘Good, I’m so pleased’ she said.
Probably more relieved than pleased, I thought. Kerry was back and walked the same fateful path that I had walked earlier. I looked at Sarah. Sarah looked at me. I held out a hand to say “after you”. We both trailed after Kerry, who stopped at the same styling station that had claimed my hair. She looked round at the two approaching figures.
‘Have you spoken to Simon yet? Told him you shaved a client’s head?’ Kerry asked.
‘No, he’s on a course today, so I can’t ring him’ Sarah replied.
‘Good’ Kerry replied. Sarah looked at me and then back at Kerry.
‘When I say “good”‘ Kerry continued ‘I mean it in the sense that you’ll have more to tell him.’
I felt sorry for Sarah. Kerry was dragging it out.
‘You’ve got another client for a head shave’ Kerry said. Sarah looked back up the salon in search of this next client.
‘When?’ she asked.
‘Now’ Kerry said.
‘I don’t understand’ Sarah confessed.
Kerry smiled and plucked a gown off the stand.
‘Help me on with this, would you?’ she asked.
Sarah paused. ‘You?’ she burst out.
‘And what’s odd about that. You did a wonderful job for Jill and she’s convinced me to give it a go’ Kerry explained, with only a passing nod to the truth.
‘It’s just…it’s just everybody knows your curls’ Sarah protested mildly.
‘That’s why they need to go’ Kerry said boldly. She held the gown out to Sarah.
‘Everyone’ll freak out’ Sarah said.
‘Good!’ Kerry confirmed. I admired her resolve. At least I’d got out of bed this morning with the intention of looking very different by the end of the day, which I doubt that she had. Sarah got the gown to the right configuration to accept its next occupant and held it out for Kerry. Kerry slid into it easily and turned to let Sarah join the fastening strips to lock her in. She sat down in the chair that had so recently held me.
‘Do you want to do it in stages?’ Sarah asked.
‘I need to be somewhere, so let’s just get it done’ Kerry said impressively. She’d decided that she was going to do something and nothing was going to stop her. Quite how she’d explain it to her staff, I’m not sure, but I pulled up a chair from the next styling station to get the best view that I could.
‘Here goes’ Sarah said, picking up the clippers.
‘Not the best phrase to use with a client, but I couldn’t have put it better myself’ Kerry said, ever the tutor.
Sarah turned the clippers on and stood poised. I could see her trying to decide the best approach. How best to meet with her boss’s approval. No pressure, I thought.
I waited for the left hand to go to the back of Kerry’s neck. I knew that the clipper-bearing right hand would follow as the two tag-teamed their subject. I was wrong. Left hand went for the forehead, brushed back the corkscrew curls and paved the way for right hand. She’d been positively gentle with me, compared with the approach that she was taking with Kerry. Was she imagining that it was her boyfriend sitting in the chair?
I watched the clippers move swiftly across the crown of Kerry’s head, from her forehead to the back. The second pass followed without hesitation. This was definitely a girl who’d got a taste for shaving heads! I wondered what was going through Kerry’s head.
Was she as calm as she looked? Her expression was impassive, as if it were just another day at the office. It wasn’t for either of us, but I had the added anticipation of the unknown, whereas she’d obviously been with other women and had somehow also engineered the potential encounter with me. Was I really going to get up close and personal with another woman? I’ve been known to watch lesbian porn, I’ve been known to find it titillating on occasions, although I never thought that I’d be doing it myself. Hopefully Kerry would make allowances for my inexperience, if we did indeed get that far.
Sarah was making rapid progress. So much so that I didn’t need to imagine how Kerry would look without those cute curls; she was all but bald already. Her delicate blonde hair was spiralling off her shoulders and on to the floor. It was fascinating, even arousing, when I thought that she was doing it because I’d effectively asked her to. I watched Sarah finish the clippering, admiring the curve of Kerry’s scalp. I hadn’t really thought about the shape of my own head or explored it for any imperfections, but seeing Kerry’s perfect shape made me sneak a quick caress of my scalp. Nothing awful, I’m pleased to say.
The scene was almost like a silent movie now. The clippers were silent and Sarah was spreading shaving foam over Kerry’s head. It had amused me when she did it to me and it amused me even more to see Kerry submit to the same process. A new razor was unwrapped and the shaving began. Soundless, effortless, the razor slides through the foam sheen. Kerry was becoming balder, my own moment of truth was getting closer. I was trying to convince myself that I found another woman attractive, in the sort of way that I would want to do something about it. Of course, I could acknowledge that another woman was pretty and see how she would be attractive to a man, but it was a whole different kettle of fish to try to put a lifetime of learning and behaviour to one side and adopt something new.
I watched Kerry walk to the basin area to be rinsed off. The soft towel appeared, did its job and was tossed to one side. She stood up and let Sarah free her from the gown and then she turned to me, giving me my first unencumbered view of the bald woman who was going to turn my world upside down in a very short time. I beamed a smile at her, reluctant to say anything that could give the game away. I wasn’t sure if she was “out” at work and didn’t want to be the one to do the deed unwittingly. She moved across to look at herself in a mirror, in her own clothes rather than in a gown. Her hand went to her scalp. She nodded her appreciation.
‘Thanks so much Sarah’ she said. ‘I hate to leave you with the clearing up, but I’m going to leave you with the clearing up’ she added with a smile. ‘Let’s go’ she said in my direction.
‘See you soon, Sarah’ I said with a little wave.
I followed Kerry out of the salon, convinced that all eyes were on us, but wasn’t sure that that really was the case. I trailed behind Kerry at a respectable distance as she walked briskly in the direction of the coffee shop we were at earlier. She stopped abruptly when we rounded the corner, almost causing me to career into her.
‘What?’ I asked, surprised.
She looked at me intently. She put a hand on each of my hips. I returned her gaze. It was more than just a look, it was lustful. She leant in and I was having my first actual kiss with a woman, in a public place, of all things. Soft, gentle and deeply sexy. How different from being rubbed by bristly male skin! She broke away, although still touching my hips. I couldn’t believe that I was letting her do it. What if one of my neighbours saw me? She eased back to gauge my reaction to the earthquake that had just shaken my world.
‘I think we should take our time. Take things slowly’ she said seriously.
‘Okay’ I replied. That was fine with me.
‘How about we have some lunch first and then maybe you’ll let me find out whether you forgot to put knickers on too’ she said with a smile.
‘That’s less patient than any man I’ve ever known!’ I said, sharing her smile.
‘I know, I’m terrible, but I’ve been told that I’m also very, very good’ she said, with a slow caress of my bald scalp.
I looked at her. ‘How about we skip lunch’ I invited.
‘That’s the spirit’ she said, giving my backside a cheeky squeeze. It would soon be far more than that, I thought as we walked towards my car.