The Platinum Factor
Most of my friends just sort of laugh about it. I’d be the first to admit it, too. I’ve come to terms with the fact that I’m not the brightest bulb in the room. People don’t hold it against me, but I have a very hard time being taken seriously. Let’s face it, when you sound dumb, most folks just assume that you are.
Everyone has heard the term ‘dumb blonde’, well, with my below-average intellect, and high-pitched voice, I’m sort of the poster child. So, it probably wouldn’t surprise you to learn that I’ve had more than my fair share of blunders in my nineteen years.
Surprisingly, and in spite of my ditsy brain, I’ve had no trouble keeping a boyfriend. I guess, at my age, looks are more important than conversation, although I’ve never really had any trouble talking. Whether anyone wants to hear what I have to say is another matter entirely.
I’ve always had the most gorgeous platinum-blonde hair, that reached most of the way to my bottom. Everyone always said it was my best feature, especially the boys. I was never one for putting on makeup, but no one ever noticed. I’m guessing that was a good thing.
I guess it’s time to talk about my latest, and probably biggest screw-up, at least in the eyes of my boyfriend. I feel just the opposite, but that’s my own opinion.
My father, fed up with my apparent laziness, said that I absolutely had to start earning my keep around the house. “Either get a job and start contributing around here, or you can find someplace else to live.” That was close enough to what he had told me.
So, with no real prospects for college in my future, I set out to find a job. It didn’t take very long at all, actually. There’s a small diner in town that serves a lot of the older crowd in town. They took me on as a server. I was a bit nervous about having to remember orders, but the owner assured me that as long as I could write legibly, there would be no problem.
My first day there wasn’t a disaster, and so I figured I was going to be fine. I only screwed up one order, and that was because two tables ordered practically the same thing.
One thing that bothered me about the job, was the hairnet I was forced to wear. It was uncomfortable having all my hair bundled up inside that thing, especially when I was back in the kitchen, where it was so hot.
That first night, I had to wash my hair three times to get the grease out of it. I knew that I would need to do something, but dreaded the idea of cutting my hair.
The following day, I cornered one of the older women who worked with me and I asked her what she did with her hair.
“Oh, about a week after I started, I had it all cut off. It was so much more comfortable after that. I haven’t had long hair since.” She explained.
I saw how closely cropped her hair was under the hairnet, and shuddered at the notion of having mine cut anything like that. That night it was the same story all over again, just to get my hair clean. If it was just the washing of it, it wouldn’t have been so bad. It was the drying and brushing that got to me. Before this job, I washed my hair twice a week.
After the third day, I finally said enough was enough. Over intense protests from my then-boyfriend, I decided to at least get some of the length taken off. By the time I got out of work, however, it was too late to make an appointment. I just hated the idea of waiting until my next day off to do something.
As I was walking home, (I didn’t own a car) I happened to notice a small shop across the street. I knew it was a barbershop, because of the red spinning pole by the door. In the window, I noticed a small white sign: ‘Ladies’ Cuts’.
I ignored all the warning bells going off in my head as I crossed the street. You know, it wasn’t that I didn’t know any better, I just didn’t listen to my own better judgment most of the time.
As I peered in the window, I noticed that the shop seemed pretty empty. Then a voice startled me from behind. “Help you with something, young lady?”
“Looks like it’s closed,” I said, meaning the barbershop. I turned, and was greeted by an older gentleman, a kind expression spreading over his careworn face.
“I’m not closed. I just ran down to the pharmacy for a pack of gum.” He popped a stick in his mouth, and then offered me one. I declined.
“You work here?” I asked.
“I own the place. You’re not thinking about cutting that lovely hair, are you?” He inquired.
“Actually, I am,” I answered, shyly. “I work in the diner across the street there, and this hair, well…”
“I understand. A few of the girls there, see me for their haircuts.” He unlocked the door. “Why don’t you come inside and we’ll talk about it.”
The place wasn’t like any salon I’d ever been in. Instead of the bright colors and acrid smells of hair dye and bleach, there was a warm, almost cozy atmosphere to the place. The smells were different too, a mix of wintergreen and old wood.
“I really hate to cut it,” I offered, “but it’s getting ruined by the heat and the grease.”
“Well, I want to tell you that the girls that come in here, don’t usually walk out with long hair.” He paused for a moment. “They come here for a reason.”
“What reason?” Not meaning to sound dumb.
“Usually because they can’t get their haircut as short as they want from the salons in town.” The man chuckled.
“Do you have to cut it short?” I asked, hoping that there was some happy place between long and short that he would be willing to do.
“No, I don’t. Look…
“Courtney.” I finished.
“I’m Charles, but everyone calls me Charlie.” He looked at me seriously. “Courtney, I can cut it any way you want. It’s just whether you’ll be satisfied with it once you put that hairnet on.”
My thoughts immediately went back to the diner and how hot things had been in there that day. “I get it.”
“Tell you what. Why don’t I give you a nice off the shoulders bob, and see how that works? You can always come back and have it cut shorter. Once it’s cut there no putting it back.” He spun the large leather and steel chair to face me, and I felt obliged to climb in.
“I think that will work.” I agreed, perhaps not realizing just how much of my hair was about to hit the floor.
“You sure do have lovely hair, Courtney. It’s a shame to cut it, but I understand why you’re doing it.” After fastening a long red and white cape around my shoulders, he slowly ran a comb through the matted length of my hair. I was embarrassed over how greasy it was, but there was nothing to be done about it. “I see what you mean about what it’s doing to your hair. Maybe this is for the best.”
I watched as he picked up his scissors from the counter and spun me away from the mirror. Desperately wanting to see what he was doing, I was forced to make do with the Norman Rockwell prints on the opposite wall.
I heard the schink, schink, schink of the scissors as they severed my blonde mane, somewhere close to my left ear. Long tendrils of silvery hair slid over the cape and onto the dark wood of the planked floor. It was like some deranged waterfall, only it was my precious hair. I watched as the sea of blonde spread around the chair as the barber finished cutting the other side. He made some minor adjustments with some thinning shears, wrapping up with a flourish.
“Ready to see?” He asked.
All I could do was nod as he spun the chair around to face my own reflection. He had said an off the shoulders bob, and it was all of that. It was a good two inches off my shoulders. I turned my head to the left and the right, trying to decide whether I hated it as much as I wanted to. The thing was, it actually looked good. It certainly made me look younger.
I remembered having my hair cut like that when I was eight, at the insistence of my mother, who had grown tired of the tangles and snarls. I reached up and hefted the ends with my open palm. It felt as though a huge weight had been lifted, and it probably had. That much hair had to weigh something. It did feel odd though, to feel the air moving over my neck, which was more exposed than I was used to.
“I think I like it.” I finally said, after a worried expression crept over his face.
“Good.” He sighed, relieved.
I paid him the twelve dollars that he asked for and left a five-dollar tip, which he tried to refuse. I insisted he take it, if only for compromising with me. All the way home, I was loving how light and airy my hair felt as the ends brushed against my neck. I just knew how much more comfortable I was going to be at work the next day.
Well, one thing was for sure. My boyfriend was more than a little upset over what I had done. He showed up that evening, I think only to check out the cut I had described over the phone.
“Courtney! How could you have cut off all your hair?” He scolded.
“I didn’t cut it all off,” I said, tugging at the front points of the bob.
“Practically. Jeez.” He sighed. He hopped back in his car and took off, but only after asking for his ring back. I was so upset I threw it at him.
“Loser,” I grumbled. And he was. This was just a simple haircut. Did he think I was going to keep my hair that long forever? I stormed back into the house, angry, but certainly not upset over him dumping me.
The next day at work, everyone was complimenting my new haircut. Most of the other women smiled knowingly when I told them where I went for the cut.
One thing I noticed that wasn’t a plus, was that I was no longer able to pull my hair back into a ponytail. Instead, the bob just bunched up inside the hairnet. I didn’t really care until I went to brush it out later. It still took me washing it three times to get the grease out, although the drying time was considerably shorter.
So, it wasn’t a great surprise when I ended up back at the barbershop three days later. Frances, one of the other servers was heading over there after her shift and suggested that go with her. I really had no intention of cutting my hair any shorter. I was just being friendly, or so I thought.
“Frances. How are you, love?” The barber smiled, dropping the newspaper he was reading on the counter.
“I’m fine, Charlie. Just in for a trim.” She ran her hand through her already drastically short curls.
“I seem to remember this young lady from the other day. Courtney, is it?” He added.
“Hi. I’m just tagging along here.” I made sure to point out. Frances gave him a look, and then took her spot in the chair.
“I’m thinking something a bit shorter this time, actually. Maybe get rid of some of this curl?” Frances suggested.
“I can do that. It’s going to be short though.” Charlie warned.
“That’s just fine. I’m not trying to please anyone but myself.” Frances insisted.
I watched as the barber lifted a set of clippers from the counter and brushed them out, before they popped to life. Was he really going to use those? Snapping an attachment on the things, he raised them to Frances’s neck and pushed them into the tightly wound curls.
Unlike me, he never spun the chair away from the mirror, so I was treated to the show as he slowly peeled away most of the hair from Frances’s neck. I was captivated as more and more of her scalp was exposed. Working his way around the sides he did the same, laying her ears bare where they were once framed in chestnut curls.
To be honest, I was astonished that she would let him cut her hair this way. It just seemed so… masculine. Charlie finally set the clippers down and began to take off most of the length on top with a comb and scissors. One thing was certain, he had definitely rid her of her curls.
All too soon the cut was finished, and I found myself a little disappointed, and even a little bit aroused by what I had just witnessed. “It looks really great.” I assured her, as she stood up from the chair.
Frances scrubbed her fingers up the back, seemingly pleased with the cut. “That’ll do for a while.” She slipped Charlie a twenty, and we left the shop together, although something inside was urging me to stay.
“Can I give you a lift home?” Frances asked, as we reached her car.
“No. I like the walk. I only live a few blocks down anyway.” I smiled, again admiring the drastically short haircut she now sported. “See you tomorrow?”
“I’m off ‘til Friday. I’ll see you then.” And with that, she pulled away.
I was left standing there, almost bewildered. I turned to start home, but I was unable to keep myself from turning right around and marching back into Charlie’s shop.
“Forget something?” Charlie asked, looking up from the paper.
“I think I did.” Without any prompting, I climbed into the chair.
“Still a bit long for the diner?” He asked.
“Definitely,” I admitted.
“How about I just start cutting and you tell me when to stop?” Charlie offered, as his cape found its way around me once again.
“That will be fine,” I said, nervously. The butterflies in my stomach seemed a bit lower than they had been a few moments before.
He raised his scissors so the blades rested an inch below my ears. Bravely, I shook my head. He raised them to my earlobe, but again I indicated no. Smiling, he opened the blades and slipped them into my hair at the very top of my ear. This time he didn’t wait for a response, closing the blades and exposing my delicate ear for the first time I could ever remember. Not seeing any reaction, he set down the scissors and snapped an attachment on the same clippers he had used on Frances.
“Shorter than hers.” I blurted, before I could stop myself.
“It’s going to be very, very short,” Charlie warned.
“That’s just fine. I’m not trying to please anyone but myself.” I mimicked.
So, as the clippers began peeling platinum strands from the top of my head, I felt the butterflies give way to unmistakable arousal. I was hooked, and there was no going back.