Every mother is anxious when their son brings a girlfriend home for the first time. I’m no different.
Freddie has brought girls home before, the “serious” ones that have lasted more than a couple of weeks, but now he’s at university, there’s less opportunity, less visibility. He’s in his final year, so I would have hoped that girls would be on the back-burner and his mind would be on his books, but I’m wise enough to know that that is just wishful thinking. He was with a girl for much of his first two years, but they had a horrible fight and broke up. It took him a while to get another, despite my urging him not to until he’d finished studying. As you’d expect, he didn’t listen and has been with Emily for the best part of six months now. She was “too new” to come home with him at Christmas, but now he’s chosen the run-up to his exams to bring her for the weekend.
I had to put all thoughts out of my head about how critical the next few week would be for him, otherwise there would just be an atmosphere enveloping us, undercurrents of me not giving her a chance because of the potential impact on his future. I resolved to set all of my perfectly natural, perfectly understandable concerns to one side and welcome her with open arms. I’d pretend that she was my future daughter-in-law, mother of my grand-children, just like the others who’d faded into the background since he’d started to show an interest in girls.
My stomach did a little leap when I heard Freddie’s car pull onto the drive. It was at times like these that I hated being on my own. Freddie’s dad had long since gone his own way and I hadn’t replaced him with anyone permanent. I just couldn’t find anyone that I wanted to surrender my independence for.
I went the kitchen so that I wouldn’t be tempted to be a curtain-twitcher and get off on the wrong foot. It would prolong the anxiety for another minute or so and I had to tell myself that it was a small price to pay for not getting caught being the “nosey neighbour”.
The doorbell rang at the same instant that Freddie’s key slid into the lock. I’m not sure what the point was of announcing his arrival, while giving no opportunity to compose oneself before his entrance. As it happens, I’d been ready for them for an hour, just in case they’d set off early.
‘Hi mum, it’s us’ he called out, as if I could be in any doubt.
I went to the kitchen door and out into the hall. I held out a hand in greeting to Emily, but then held out my arms, not wishing to stand on formality.
‘Emily, hello. I’m Suzanne, Freddie’s mum’ I said. I saw Freddie roll his eyes. Of course, who else would I be?
‘Hello, Mrs Barnes’ she said formally.
‘Suzanne, please’ I said, feeling awkward.
I hugged Freddie and we went into the kitchen. I did my best to be the perfect hostess, to be warm and welcoming, but I couldn’t get over the fact that Freddie’s girlfriend was a skinhead. Perfectly respectable, well-spoken, polite, pretty, perfect in every regard, except that she’d hardly got any hair. If I saw her in the street, I’d be rummaging through stereotypes in an instant: lesbian, junkie, ne’er do well. But she was lovely!
We had tea and lunch, chatting at ease, getting to know each other. Freddie told me about his progress, the two of them showed me pictures of their recent holiday. It couldn’t have gone better. Except that all along, I just wanted to know what happened to her hair.
I didn’t ask and she didn’t tell me. Why would she? I didn’t tell her why I choose to wear my hair down to my shoulders, why I don’t bow to the inevitable at the age of forty-six and cut it shorter. My stylist has suggested it a couple of times, but I always think that she does it out of boredom. I’ve been with her for years and have never given her anything to do other than a reasonable trim. It’s an unidentifiable, but natural shade of blonde, which thankfully she’s never suggested that I change. I fell into that trap as a school-girl and it took ages to rescue it. I vowed never to go near a bottle of dye again!
Freddie and Emily went out for the evening so that he could show her off to whichever friends of his were still around. That left me sitting at home, wondering. I wondered until bed-time, which suggested that they had been successful in finding someone to have a drink with.
Freddie always was terrible for having a lie-in on a Sunday, and he clearly hadn’t changed his habits. In contrast, Emily was up early and dressed, joining me for breakfast. I wasn’t sure if Freddie had done it deliberately, but was grateful for some time alone with the love of his life.
‘This is a bit more than I’m used to’ Emily said as she looked at the selection on the breakfast table.
‘Oh, this? I do it every day for myself’ I said with a smile. ‘Actually, it’s usually a cup of instant and a slice of toast’ I added.
‘A treat for all of us then’ she said.
We chatted about what they got up to the previous evening, moved on to more general topics and then I could resist no more.
‘I hope you don’t mind me asking, but your hair…’ I said, not quite sure which direction to go in.
‘Yeah, I know, it’s a bit of a mess. I meant to get it cut before I came to meet you’ she said, rubbing a hand over her bristly scalp. It couldn’t have been more than half an inch long.
‘I didn’t mean that’ I said defensively.
‘I’m only kidding’ she admitted. ‘I had long hair until I went to uni, didn’t really think that you could have anything else. Then I realised that I didn’t have to do what my dad wanted me to do, so I got it cut. Each time I went to get the ends trimmed, I just told them not to be too worried about what they did and to hack away if that’s what they wanted to do. Eventually, I met my match and she took the clippers to me. Now I just let her do what she feels like; sometimes it’s like this, sometimes shorter and if she’s in the mood, she just shaves it all off. It’s just so liberating after having long hair since I was a kid.’
I looked at her aghast, not quite able to take in everything that she was saying. ‘What does your dad think about it?’
‘We don’t really talk these days. I don’t actually think that either of us knows why either. He doesn’t talk to my mum either, so I don’t really see how he’d know that I haven’t got long hair anymore.’
‘That’s sad, I hope things work out for you both though, if that’s what you want.’
‘I end up getting a bit deep if I think about it too much. He was such a big part of my life and now he’s not. I’m sure we’ll both see sense in the end’ she said, sounding cheerier.
‘So you don’t take any notice of people telling you that you should have long, flowing locks if you want to be feminine?’
‘God, no. I do what I want and other people can take it or leave it. I like it, Freddie likes it and that’s all that matters to me.’
‘Was it that short when you met Freddie?’
She nodded and smiled. ‘Does that surprise you?’
‘I just think that it’s great to see you so happy together’ I replied evasively.
We chatted some more, but I was still fascinated by the idea of Freddie taking up with a girl with such short hair. Maybe it was her personality that attracted him, or her trim body. I don’t know, but none of the other girlfriends that I knew about had hair anywhere near that short. Maybe it wasn’t of interest to him, one way or the other.
I really liked chatting with her. It made such a change from solo meals, which are my lot, unless I meet someone for lunch or have a “hook-up” from time to time. This was easy though, no undercurrent that you sometimes get, just a relaxing chat with no agenda. Maybe I shouldn’t get myself so worked up if it turns out that Emily isn’t the one and he brings another candidate home.
‘I’ll do the dishes’ Emily offered once we were both finished.
‘I wouldn’t hear of it. If anyone should do them, it would be Freddie, but even he’s going to get a pass this weekend’ I replied.
‘He’s terrible on Sundays. You’d think he’d make the effort to spend as much time with you as possible’ she said.
‘He’s fine. It’s given us time to get to know each other’ I said.
‘I’m just going to clean my teeth’ Emily said.
She left me alone, giving me the chance to tidy up before Freddie came down.
I was peering out into the garden watching a robin when she re-appeared.
‘Hi again’ she said to announce herself.
I turned and smiled again.
‘I was just watching my little friend. He comes most mornings and has breakfast with me’ I said.
I’m sure she thought that I was talking about a man, but followed my gaze to see the bird looking to see what was on offer.
‘I was thinking’ she ventured. I looked at her, waiting for her to continue. ‘I think I know what the answer will be, but just in case, I’ve got my clippers with me, if you wanted to give it a go’ she said.
That put me on the spot.
‘I really don’t think I’m brave enough’ I replied.
‘You’d be surprised how good it feels just to let go of your hair. You get trapped in the mindset of having it, but once you do make the leap, you wonder why you didn’t do it earlier and save yourself all the grief of trying to get it into shape for a night out.’
‘I’ve been going to the same stylist for years now. It isn’t really a chore. We have a chat and she does her stuff, for which she gets rewarded handsomely’ I smiled.
‘That’s another thing. You can buy a decent set of clippers and never pay for another haircut again. That first cut more than covers the price of the clippers’ she said.
‘I just don’t think I could’ I replied.
‘Men love it’ she said. I could almost see her asking herself why she’d just said that to me.
‘Absolutely. I’ve been chatted up more since I went this short than I ever was before.’
‘I’ve got a lot to learn obviously’ I replied.
‘Maybe next time?’ she conceded, withdrawing to safer ground.
The rest of the visit flew by. We went to a pub for Sunday lunch, just to escape the stress of trying to cook something acceptable while trying to interact with Freddie and Emily. They dropped me back home and then were gone, all too soon.
The house seemed so empty without them, even though they’d not been with me long. It was almost enough to make me want to pick up the phone to someone that I was trying to get out of my system, but who tended to be always available for one last screw, for old-times’ sake. There’d been a few too many of them!
I found Emily’s words coming back to me when I was in the shower the following morning, washing my hair. Everything that she’d said made sense, but I suspected that something that was fine for someone of her age wouldn’t be fine for someone middle-aged like me. Maybe hair that short was a draw amongst her peers, but amongst mine? I doubted it. I shampooed, I towelled, I pointed the blow-dryer at it like I always did. For whose benefit though?
My attention was drawn to my phone when I got downstairs. I knew that I shouldn’t, but it seduced me. Here I was, washed and primped, ready to face the day, with no real goal in prospect. I reached for the phone and texted Glen, “Mr Boomerang”, the man who always came back. We were an item once, now we just used each other when the need arose for either of us.
I texted, he said yes. We went for lunch, went to bed. All very predictable.
‘Glen?’ I said, as I lay in his arms while he basked in the glow of his recent efforts.
‘Yes’ he replied.
‘What do you think about me cutting my hair?’
‘Whatever you want.’
‘You could at least try to sound interested.’
‘It’s nothing to do with me, is it?’
‘Do you think it would suit me?’
‘Dunno’ he replied.
‘You’re useless, do you know that?’ I said, slapping his arm in frustration.
‘I don’t know what you want me to say. I didn’t think we did this to shower each other with compliments.’
‘Maybe we shouldn’t do it all.’
‘Maybe, but how many times have we said that?’ he asked.
‘Okay, well’ I said. ‘I’m going to cut my hair, so you decide whether you’re going to answer the phone if I ever ring you again’ I said, getting out of bed.
‘Don’t be like that’ he said.
He was talking to my back. I was already on my way to the bathroom to get myself decent enough to leave. I left.
It actually felt good to have had that little outburst. I replayed it in my head several times on the way home, wondering if we would ever see each other again, wondering if I’d cut myself off from my only current outlet for sexual frustration. Wondering if I meant it about cutting my hair.
I had a long soak in the bath when I got home and then made myself tea. It could’ve been the perfect afternoon, if only it hadn’t involved Glen.
I picked up my phone from the breakfast bar and scrolled through my contacts. That didn’t take as long as it should. I found the number for the salon that I go to. I ran through the conversation in my head. Firstly with the receptionist and then with Kaye, my stylist. That sounds very grand, I know! The woman who’s cut my hair for several years and let me leave the salon each time with a style that’s never been the subject of any conversation. Sometimes, a visit to her has even passed without the slightest observation from anyone else. I doubt that Emily shared that experience. I deleted the contact and put my phone down. I smiled at the folly of it. It was hardly a “final” gesture. I could re-create it in moments, but it made me feel good.
The following day presented a dilemma. I could do some of the book-keeping work that I do part-time, or I could go into town and buy myself something. I went to town, vowing to do the work when I got back. Or not! It would still be there tomorrow!
I wandered up the main street, thinking how it had changed from what it was. That started to depress me, so I concentrated on watching people, particularly women and particularly their hair. I hadn’t really paid attention in the past, but Emily’s words were still fresh. I walked for quite a while, coming to the conclusion that convention was alive and well. I didn’t see anyone who was challenging the norm, there were bobs of various descriptions, long hair, longer hair and only a smattering of styles that could be described as short. Emily would stand out in this company, even if she didn’t in student-land.
I looked in shop windows, but the gaps between shops that held any interest just got bigger. I changed my selection criteria, taking an interest only in hair salons. If that didn’t present the best opportunity of something radical, I didn’t know what would. They ran the gamut from places for pensioners to salons that did piercing and tattoos in the back. I wasn’t sure that either was the place for me. Then again, I could always get myself “inked”. What about a nice little script across my lower belly, saying “Abandon hope, all ye who enter here.” My ex would certainly concur with that sentiment.
Before I realised, I’d done a lap of the shops, with the exclusion of those on the fringes that supplied cheap, high-octane alcohol to the unfortunate. It wasn’t worth the effort going that far out. So, that was it. Nothing in any shop-window in the town that could entice me inside. How sad!
So much for my little outburst at Glen. If my phone chirped with a “get together” invitation (“Get together at the groin” was what he meant, but that was his short-hand), I’d have to decline, otherwise he’d know that I was all mouth and no trousers. Although that was how he liked me, but you know what I mean!
I started to walk back to the car, a mound of book-keeping on the horizon.
There was a black-clad figure standing just to the side of the doorway of one of the salons that I’d discounted as being too trendy. A cloud of smoke erupted from her, partially obscuring her edgy, short scarlet hair. I could see the tattoos on her arms from a distance. That wasn’t a place for me or anyone of my generation. I carried on walking, closing the distance between us. I smiled at her, just to acknowledge her presence, expecting to be blanked in return.
‘Hi’ she said, surprising me. Her tone was friendlier than I’d expected, more educated. I really was going to have to do something about my preconceptions.
‘Hi’ I replied. ‘Do you work here?’ I asked. Stupid question. Why else would she be standing by the door having a cigarette?
She nodded and took the final puff from her cigarette.
‘If I said that I was looking for a drastic change, would I get in through your door?’ I asked with a disarming smile.
‘You’d get in for a trim if you want, but you probably have somewhere that does that for you already’
‘Same person for years, but you can probably tell that’ I replied.
She smiled. I liked her already.
‘Sorry to interrupt your break’ I said.
‘Don’t worry about it. It’s a filthy habit, so it’s good to have someone disapprove while I do it!’ she chuckled.
‘I didn’t mean to, I’m sorry if that’s what it looked like.’
She smiled again and made sure that her cigarette was extinguished before letting it fall into the receptacle on the wall.
‘So, do you want to come in or are you just going to wonder what might have been?’ she asked with a grin.
‘Won’t I need an appointment?’
She shook her head. ‘I’m free for a while’ she said.
We looked at each other. It was as if she was daring me to go in. Did I dare? She hadn’t moved. She followed me in.
I looked around, expecting the salon to have a Goth-vibe or whatever you called it, but it was more industrial, hard surfaces and stainless steel. Much different from what I was used to. I could see one other stylist with a client at the far end of the salon.
She went round the other side of the reception desk.
‘I’m Yvette’ she said.
‘Suzanne’ I replied.
‘So Suzanne, are we looking at that trim or is it really going to be something drastic?’
‘The image I have in my head is drastic for me. It may be everyday to you.’
‘So what does it look like in your head?’ she asked with a smile.
‘The only word that I know to describe it is “crew cut”‘ I replied.
‘Would you like a coffee to go with that?’ she asked, without missing a beat.
‘That would be lovely, thank you. Black, no sugar’ I said.
She went over to the coffee machine and produced exactly what I’d ordered. Nothing for her. I saw her looking at me as she came back with the cup.
‘So what’s brought this on?’
‘My son brought his girlfriend home at the weekend. She’d got hardly any hair and it looked really good on her. She raved about the benefits and even offered to do mine with the clippers that she uses to do hers.’
‘What did your son think about his mum potentially copying his girlfriend?’
‘He wasn’t there when we talked about it. I don’t know if she mentioned it to him, but he’s not said anything.’
‘So we’re talking full-on clipper cut?’ she asked, gesturing with her hand, thumb and index finger set apart to indicate a length. I held mine up, the gap significantly less in my example.
‘That’s a crew cut, alright’ she chuckled.
‘I think the word that sprang to my mind when I saw her for the first time was “skinhead”, but maybe they don’t have those these days.
‘Doesn’t matter what you call it, it’s short!’
‘So why are we talking about it then?’ she asked. ‘There’s plenty of short styles that you could go for that aren’t as extreme.’
‘I know, but I think that I just want to shake everything up. I’m in a rut and doing something different with this, just seems a good place to start’ I said, picking at a tress of my hair and then letting it fall back into place dismissively.
‘So you really want to go as short as her?’
‘She did say that her stylist shaves it all off sometimes. It sounds like she just gives the salon carte-blanche and even with hair so short, she still manages to mix it up. I’ve got no excuse for having hair that never changes’ I said.
‘I wish that I’d got clients like that’ she said with a smile.
‘Maybe you have.’
‘You’re hardly likely to thank me for shaving your head, are you?’ she observed.
‘I’ve got a hairdresser who does what I ask and appears to be on “repeat” until she receives a different instruction’ I said. ‘No, that’s awful of me. She’s a lovely person. It’s not her fault that I don’t challenge her at all.’
‘It’s starting to sound like she’s not your hairdresser anymore.’
‘I don’t know. Maybe I’m kidding myself! Just getting carried away, surrounded by all of this modernity. Her salon definitely doesn’t do piercings or tattoos’ I laughed.
‘I was thinking that we could make you look a bit more edgy and then put a few holes in you, do some nice artwork’ she said.
My look of horror must’ve been obvious.
‘Maybe not’ she added.
‘Sorry, it’s never crossed my mind to do either’ I said, despite my earlier musing.
She pulled the neck of her tee-shirt down slightly to give me a glimpse of part of what must be an extensive design. ‘Ever thought of something like this? That would rock your man’s world!’ she laughed.
‘There isn’t anyone to enjoy it at the moment, even if I did it’ I said, with a hint of sorrow in my voice. Was I really saying goodbye to Glen, along with everything else?
‘I doubt that’ll be the case once we’re finished with you’ she said with a sympathetic smile.
‘So you’re going to take on a restoration project?’ I asked.
‘We can be that dramatic if you want, but I have one condition.’
I looked at her expectantly.
‘You sleep on it. I’ll book you in tomorrow and if you decide that you really want to start anew, we’ll do it properly.’
I wasn’t expecting that. I thought that she’d want me in the chair so that she could take my money and be done with it. This didn’t sound like she was after a quick turnaround.
‘Just so that I know what I’m meant to be thinking about, what have you got in mind?’
‘We can stop with you hair if you want, but I’m thinking a couple of piercings at least and a nice little design to tantalise your new man. Or lady’ she said, winking at me.
‘Wow! That’s a lot to think over. I’m not sure that I’ll get past thinking about the haircut’ I replied.
‘You definitely should’ she said, reaching forward to pat me on the upper arm.
We agreed that I’d give her a call in the morning if I’d changed my mind, otherwise I had an appointment with Destiny first thing.
I retraced my steps back to the car, looking into each salon that I passed with a new perspective. What sort of response would I have got if I’d gone into one of those instead of disturbing a random stylist’s cigarette break? Would I be already sporting a new look? Would they have tried to talk me out of it? Should I go in and dip a toe in the water? I could always do it and then cancel my appointment with Yvette.
It was too late. I’d walked past them all and reached the car. I looked in the vanity mirror, seeing a middle-aged woman looking back at me. I adjusted my hair. Would I still be able to do that this time tomorrow? I was intrigued. I’d talked to someone who didn’t look like someone that I’d normally talk to and she’d turned out to be friendly and helpful, generous with her time, just the sort of person that I needed. How shallow did that make me? I really needed to broaden my outlook. My mind was a jumble of images all the way home and it didn’t let up until I went to bed.
I lay in bed and watched the daylight assert itself. I didn’t know what time it was; early, but no point in trying to go back to sleep. I jumped in the shower, washing my hair leisurely, thinking about Emily with her shorn head, thinking about Yvette with her vivid red hair and chest tattoo that promised untold mystery for anyone fortunate enough to tread that path. I looked down at my own body, still the original wrapper. Was I really going to let Yvette use me as a blank canvas?
I went downstairs for breakfast in just my short, silky robe. I didn’t bother fastening it, but wore it to protect any unexpected, unwary callers. I sat with my toast and coffee, trying to imagine a different landscape. I’d seen young women in town with the edges of elaborate tattoos peeking out from their skirt, ink going from mid-thigh to who-knew where. It wasn’t something that I’d ever given much thought to. I tried to imagine my arm like Yvette’s, covered with elaborate geometric designs. I couldn’t. Some sort of proverb? What if my outlook on life changed and I was lumbered with text that meant nothing to me anymore? I decided that tattoos probably weren’t for me.
I had the morning daytime show on the TV for company, but for some reason it was irritating me. I turned it off.
I showered leisurely and got dressed, but the clock told me that I was still too early. I flicked through a home magazine, wishing the time away. It was relief when I could be on my way. It was difficult to concentrate on the road, because my mind was racing ahead to what was going to happen. Yvette didn’t seem like someone who messed around, so it was fair to assume that if I showed up for the appointment, she was going to take advantage. I’d played with my hair in the bathroom mirror, but whatever I did, I couldn’t get to a point where I could properly picture myself with hair as short as Emily’s.
‘Good morning’ Yvette beamed when I opened the salon door.
‘Good morning’ I replied. ‘I’ve been expecting you, Mr Bond’ I added nervously. No reaction. ‘Not a fan, obviously’ I added.
Yvette was wearing a black dress. Almost. It had a plunging neckline, revealing much more of the design on her chest. It made you want to see more, just to find out how far it actually extended. She saw me looking.
‘It goes right round’ she said, turning her back on me. The back that wasn’t covered by any material. Who wore a backless dress with a plunging neckline to work? That was the stuff of parties and parties with people that you knew well, at that. She didn’t lie though. The extravagant design did cover most of her back.
‘I spend a lot of time upstairs’ she said.
‘Very impressive’ I said, not quite knowing what to say.
‘I thought I’d show it off for you a bit more today’ she smiled. A brief pause. ‘So, here you are?’
‘Here I am’ I confirmed.
‘Ready to boldly go where you’ve never gone before?’ she asked with a smile. ‘I’m more of a Treckie than a James Bond fan’ she confessed.
‘I’m curious’ I replied.
‘Well, I thought we could start off upstairs.’
‘Upstairs? Didn’t you say that’s where they do that?’ I asked uncertainly, with a slightly impolite nod to her chest.
She chuckled. ‘This took a bit more than a single visit. I just thought we can start you off in a small way and that’ll take your mind off your hair. How does that sound?’
‘I’d been thinking the opposite’ I replied.
‘There’s something that appeals to me about your haircut being the crowning glory, rather than just the starting point.’
‘So, what have you got in mind?’
‘How about we go upstairs? That way, it doesn’t quite depend on your imagination’ she said.
Before I could answer, I was looking at the expanse of the design on her back as she walked towards the stairs. I followed out of politeness, but wondered what lay in wait at the top.
It was bright, well-lit, with a couple of big chairs and a treatment table. Not unlike a dentist’s surgery, I thought. She beamed at me, expecting me to be impressed. I was mildly scared. Yvette had stopped by a display case and looked at me in invitation to join her.
‘My dad had something like that in his garage for all of his useful bits and bobs that he said that he might need one day, but never really did’ I said, looking at the tray of various metal bits.
‘The difference is that this stuff gets used.’
She opened the case and picked out a couple of rings.
‘I was thinking that these would be interesting’ she said, holding them up to show me.
‘Are they what I think they are?’
She nodded, holding them in front of her. ‘You could start with these and then go for bigger ones after a while’ she said.
‘I can’t really imagine…’ I started to say, but was stopped in my tracks when she eased the fabric of her dress aside to reveal her left breast, adorned with a silver ring through the nipple.
‘Does that give you an idea?’ she asked with a smile.
‘That’s more of an idea that I expected’ I laughed.
‘It’s the easiest way’ she said, drawing the material back to restore decency.
‘And you really think someone of my age could get away with that?’
‘Believe me, I’ve done it for plenty of women older than you. They say that they just want to do something that no-one would expect them to do.’
‘I certainly wouldn’t expect me to do it’ I laughed.
She looked at me.
Even though Yvette had floated the idea during our initial chat, I never dreamt that I would be sitting in front of her, topless while she prepared to use instruments of torture on me. I don’t want to dwell on the detail, but within minutes of me climbing those stairs, the familiar had become very different.
‘I can’t believe I let you do that’ I said, looking down at the silver ring through each of my nipples. I couldn’t believe that I was sitting in a public space topless from the waist up, either, chatting to her as if it was part of my every day existence.
She handed me a plastic binder.
‘Have a look through those, see if anything takes your fancy’ she said.
I flipped it open to the first page and looked up at her. I flicked through a few more pages. She waited patiently.
‘That’s too much for me’ I said after a while.
‘I don’t think so. You’re here, what’s stopping you?’ she urged.
‘It’s a big step. I’d have to think about it really hard’ I said.
‘Okay, no pressure. I’ll print you out some designs and we can get you started another time, how about that?’
‘I’m happier with that.’
‘You absolutely have got to do it though. It’ll change your whole outlook on life.’
‘That sounds dramatic.’
‘Just think of a design twisting up from your thigh, wrapping round your body, coming up here’ she said, pointing to my cleavage.
‘I’m not sure I’ve got the patience or the money for you to do that’ I replied.
‘We’ll sort something out’ she said.
We left it there and I made myself decent again, while she busied herself tidying away her tools. By the time she turned her attention back to me, you’d never have known what she’d just done to me.
‘Right Mrs. How about we do what you’re really here for and get that hair cut off?’ she said.
‘You’ve distracted me so much with these that I’d forgotten about that’ I joked, cupping my hand just in front of my chest. It would be a while before I was ready to make actual contact!
‘I can do it up here for you if you want, or go down to the salon, whichever you prefer.’
‘Have you got your things up here?’
‘Everything I need’ she replied ominously.
I looked at her, not knowing what else to say or do. She nodded, as if to transfer positivity to me and then she was gathering what she needed. I was gowned and made ready for the most daunting thing that I’d done since I’d had my nipples pierced a few minutes ago. This was going to be a momentous day! I looked at her, wondered where she’d got a set of clippers from without me being aware of it. She saw my focus.
‘I haven’t got any scissors up here’ she said as if it were the most natural thing in the world. How about popping downstairs to get some, I thought, then recalled the conversations that we’d had. Scissors didn’t feature in any of them.
I jumped slightly when she test-fired them. They worked.
‘Okay. We’re going for one of your son’s girlfriend’s styles? Is that right?’ she said, more of an act of persuasion than a question. ‘Any preference for which one?’
‘What do you mean?’
‘I can keep this on or take it off’ she said, holding out the clippers and detaching the plastic comb-thingy on the end.
‘How short is it if you don’t put that on?’
‘I’d say that it’s the length that you’re after’ Yvette replied, tilting her head for effect.
‘It’s short, isn’t it?’
‘It’ll be exactly what you came in for.’
‘You don’t give much away, do you?’
‘I tell you what. Let’s do this quickly and I’ll do you a nice bit of ink just for you and your man. On the house, how about that?’
‘So you’re trying to incentivise me to do something I’m not sure about, by using something that you know I don’t want. Genius!’ I laughed.
‘You know you can’t wait to see your man’s face when he gets a flash for the first time and he sees more than he bargained for’ she chuckled, adding a dirty edge to her laughter.
‘I don’t know what to say to that’ I replied.
‘You don’t need to. Just tip your chin down and think it over for a couple of minutes’ she said.
I looked down at the shiny grey material that covered my lap. I heard the sound, I felt movement at the back of my head. She was really doing it. She stopped. Well, it was more of a pause because the movement started again. Still at the back of my head, but to the side of where she was before. My nipples were sore. I tried to distract myself from that by thinking about her suggestion of a tattoo. How much would that hurt? Despite actual discomfort and the threat of further discomfort, the passage of the clippers up and over my right ear refused to be subdued. What was I doing? I’m a middle-aged mum. A mum of a son at university with too much time on her hands and no-one to fill those hands. Hands that hadn’t grappled with a man other than Glen for far too long.
I was aware of the clippers approaching from the front now, higher than they’d been when she navigated the curve over my ear. This was the side of my head. It only struck me then that there was no mirror for me to look in. Well, there were mirrors in the room, but they were positioned for piercing and tattoo clients, not ones having impromptu haircuts. None of them were within my field of vision. The clippers took the adjacent path, taking a strip from the top of my head. Not the very top, but high enough for it not to be classed as “side”. I took a breath and closed my eyes. It was too late now and had been for several sweeps of the clippers. I was a skinhead, whether I liked it or not.
I repeatedly told myself that I mustn’t rush out of here and show Glen. I had to cut myself off from him and start afresh. After all, that’s what I was doing here. Letting Yvette sweep away the old and usher in the new, whatever form that took. At the moment it was a good haircut and bits of metal in my tits! I took a deep breath.
‘Almost done’ Yvette said, as if it were a good thing.
‘This is the part where I say that I’m not sure’ I said.
‘Not at all. This is the part where I tell you that you look great and that you’ll wish that you’d done it ages ago.’
‘I hope you’re right’ I replied.
I bided my time until the clippers went quiet.
‘Is that it?’ I asked. ‘Can I see?’
‘Not quite’ Yvette said.
She moved away and was back again almost immediately. To my relief, I’d heard the clippers being put down on the worktop somewhere behind me.
I felt her hand on the top of my head, moving around.
‘Is that product, or whatever you call it? I’m not sure I want any of that’ I said.
‘It’s not product’ she said, without attempting to enlighten me.
Her hands went away after a thorough exploration of my head.
‘Stay still’ she said as she felt me tense at the new sensation.
‘You’re shaving me?’ I asked, scarcely able to believe that I was asking the question.
‘Think of it as a finishing touch.’
‘I don’t want that. The skinhead’s fine’ I said.
‘We went straight past that’ Yvette confessed.
‘I thought you were doing it like my daughter-in-law?’ I queried, presumptuously promoting a girl that I’d met once to a fully paid-up member of my family.
‘I said that it would be one of her styles. I thought that this one would suit you best’ she said.
‘Is it too late?’
‘It’s beautiful. You’ll see in just a minute’ she told me.
I went quiet. What was I going to do? Despite all the bravado, I hadn’t thought for a million years that I’d be walking out bald. The caress of the razor calmed me, as long as I detached the action from the effect.
The shaving stopped, Yvette patted my head with a towel and I looked at the hanks of my hair that lay at my feet. At least no-one would know about my piercings unless I wanted them to. What could I do to keep my baldness private?
‘Let’s take a break shall we?’ Yvette suggested.
‘I want to see’ I said, knowing that I didn’t.
She undid the gown and swirled it away from me. My sore nipples led the way to the mirror across the room or studio or whatever it’s called. I put a hand to my head.
‘Fuck’ I said before I could stop myself. ‘Sorry, I didn’t mean to…’
‘Don’t worry about it. It’s a shock, but by the time you get home, you’ll be getting used to it. I bet you’ll be sending pictures to your son’s friend tonight.’
I couldn’t tear my eyes away from the stranger in the mirror. Was that really me? Yvette put her arm around me and hugged me.
‘You’re gorgeous, absolutely gorgeous. That did nothing for you’ she said, her head turning briefly to where I knew that my hair lay, where my conventionality lay.
‘You’re probably the only one who thinks that’ I said quietly. I wanted to cry, but not here.
‘Just you wait and see. You’ll have more admirers than you know what to do with. Look at your eyes. Your head’s perfect for this.’
‘I’m not convinced’ I said. I was rewarded with another hug.
‘Would it help if I told you that I’m going to do mine as soon as you’ve gone’ she said.
‘You’re just saying that.’
She shrugged. I went back to staring at the stranger in the mirror.
‘Suzanne’ I heard, bringing me back from wherever I’d been. A place where I had a full head of hair, I know that.
I turned towards the voice. Yvette was standing there brandishing the clippers that she’d used on me.
‘You get first go’ she said. It took me a moment before I understood.
‘You want me to…’
‘Why not. It’ll make for a better story when I get home’ she chuckled. She held the clippers out to me. I looked at her. She smiled.
‘Go on. You know you want to’ she said, lowering her head invitingly.
I looked at her carefully sculpted scarlet hair. The hair that had made her so striking when I saw her outside the salon for the first time.
‘I can’t’ I said, holding the clippers out to her.
‘It’s fine’ but next time you see me…’ she promised.
‘I’d better be going.’
‘So I can’t tempt you with a little artwork of your very own?’
‘Next time, perhaps’ I said.
I watched her raise her eyebrows. ‘So there’s going to be a next time?’
‘I can’t go back to my usual stylist like this, can I?’ I said, trying my best to raise a smile.
‘That’s what I like, captive clients’ she laughed. I touched my scalp, just in case I’d imagined what had just happened. I hadn’t.
Yvette ushered me downstairs and did her best to communicate through my shock. I walked down the road with a vague memory of having paid her for what I’d already come to think of as my “boob baubles”, but having got my head shaved for free, as an introductory offer. Somewhere in there was a vague promise to let her loose with her crayons, somewhere that no-one would see. Not unless I got lucky of course!
I walked to the car, almost disappointed that no-one seemed to take any notice. I’ve just had all my hair shaved off and no-one cares! Maybe there’s a lesson in there for me?
I made it home. Closed the door. The tears came before I got to the end of the entrance hall. I don’t know how long I sat on the bottom of my stairs, but it did the trick. I picked myself up, took a breath and went to make tea. That should sort everything out!
Some time later, I found myself standing in front of the bathroom mirror, freshly showered. What a transformation from this morning! I’d taken longer in the shower than usual, just getting used to the changed landscape. Now I was just looking at myself, realising that it would take time to get used to, but that I would indeed get used to what I was seeing. It was weird not to feel hair on my head, but I likened it to the first time that I gave in to the urging of a guy that I was with to shave down there. That was weird, but now I’d never go back to the unruly tangle that I’d had before. I liked the smoothness down there, loved the heightened sensation when I was touched, or even licked there. I held out the same hope for my scalp and resolved to force away the negative thoughts that I’d been having and just embrace it. I wanted to explore my newly-adorned boobs more closely, but that would have to wait. I dried off and went to my special drawer to find a pair of my “slut knickers”. See-through, completely useless as knickers, but they made me feel sexy as hell. They would be my outfit for now.
I went downstairs and poured myself a glass of wine, smiling at the decadence of drinking so early in the day, at wandering around the house wearing next to nothing. I picked up my phone and took a few selfies in the lounge mirror, taking care to ensure that I was only visible from the shoulders up. I sat down and leaned my head back against the sofa. I took a deep breath and sent a text to Freddie. “Just want to warn you. Got a new haircut. It’s short. x”
It was late when the reply came.
“Em wants to see. Send picture.”
I did, filled with trepidation. My phone pinged.
“Yvette at Rebel Hair” I texted back.
“Cool. My mums cool!” came the reply.
You’re not wrong there, I thought, stroking my scalp. Now I just need to find a grown-up who agrees.