I was home for the holidays and my hair was getting shaggy hanging over my ears. It had been several months since my last haircut. I hadn’t actually cut it since before I left for school. My mom had been nagging me that I needed to get it trimmed to make myself presentable. It seemed like a good time to fix myself up a bit and could do with a change.
So I booked an appointment at a salon I knew, Alice’s Aveda. Most girls I knew got their hair done there and it was huge so seemed like the safest bet. I had coffee and breakfast that morning then was off. When I got to the parking lot I started to lose my nerve. There were moms and daughters and tons of cute girls walking from their cars to the door. Outside the doors women were standing in their smocks with foils and dye in their hair.
I figured I couldn’t cancel at this point so opened my door and strode confidently towards the salon & spa. Outside the ladies all smiled as I walked up, eyeing my messy mop and thinking about how cute i’ll look cleaned up.
The moment the door opened the sound of blow dryers, chatter and hair spray hit me like a wave. I walked up to the front desk, trying to not get distracted.
“Hi my name is Seamus, I have an appointment.”
“Oh yes, clarissa will be with you shortly. Why don’t you change into a smock and take a seat”
She showed me towards the closest and the hangers of reflective golden brown smocks. Several women were also fitting theirs on. The receptionist helped me into my ill fitted smock and buttoned it all the way down. I walked to the waiting area and tried to calm myself. In the waiting area was a mom and her young daughter and son. Next to me a young professional with long blonde hair sat in her smock. Two older ladies sat chatted away in the corner. I picked up a magazine and tried to stay focused.
“Seamus” I looked up expecting to see my stylist but instead I recognized the face. “Oh my god I haven’t seen you in so long.” There it was, Sarah, my girlfriend from way back in middle school. We’d stayed in tough through high school then lost contact. We stood up and hugged in our smocks like two shiny potato bags. I suddenly became very self conscious of the ridiculous outfit and setting.
“What are you doing here?” she asked.
“Well,” I said motioning my smock “I’m here for a haircut”
“oh my god they do such a good job here. What are you getting?”
“Well I figure its gotta pretty long so I guess I’ll go a bit shorter. I dunno, a bit nervous about it.”
“No no, don’t be you’ll look good with a short cut. Are you thinking of clippering it back like you had in high school?”
“Oh well I wasn’t really thinking that short.”
“Thats such a good look and keep some of this on top.”
“yeah that could be cool. We’ll see. What about you?”
“Oh my christmas cut. I’ve been coming here every year since who knows how long. I just haven’t had time to keep up for it so my mom made me an appointment. She’s in here somewhere”
Just as we were about to chat more I heard my name called.
I turned back to Sarah. “wish me luck”
“Give him a good cleaning” Sarah laughed to my stylist.
“I’m Clarissa” She put her hand out. She was in her 40s and busty. Her hairstyle was shorter in the back and longer in the front and a bit tacky if I could say. It wasn’t a fashionable stylist but a bit more old school.
I followed her into the depths of the salon. Each stations was spread out with full length mirrors and throne like chairs. I passed client after client in long shiny capes that covered their whole body and the rims of the cape nearly touched the floor even when the chair was pumped. as we turned a corner one smaller girl had a cape that flooded out onto the floor like an evening gown. I looked at her in the mirror and we made eye contact and I could feel her nerves match mine in the mirror.
I took a seat in Clarissas chair and looked at myself in the full length mirror.
“So what are we doing today”
“Well I guess clean up for the holidays”
“How long since your last cut?”
“To be honest, probably 3 month. My moms been hassling me about it.”
Clarissa made a whistle noise.
“Your friend said you wanted a good clean up huh? We can get this looking sharp and then your mom will be real happy with you.”
“I guess so.”
“Lets get you going.”
I wiggled in my chair as she pulled open her top drawer next to the mirror. She pulled out the drawer and i saw the sheer shine of the thick folded black cape. It looked so much like a silk dress. She pulled it out and unfolded it. It looked like a flag and its rolled out and she rotated to find the snaps. She threw it over me and it billowed out like a sheet in the wind. It landed over me and truly covered everything but my neck sticking out. i looked down and caught the edge with the rim of my shoes so I could see my toes.
“Lets get you shampoo” She patted my shoulder. I looked up at her and she waved me to follow.
I stood up in the cape and it swished against my smock as I walked. I passed the other ladies and felt all the eyes fall on me as we walked through the line of chairs. We entered the back room and the lights were dimmer. There was a long row of women all laid back, some seemed like they were sleeping, their gowns all covering them and just their heads back with eyes closed. I walked down the row and found the chair that Clarissa pointed to sat down in the chair and was consumed by the washing.
She covered my shoulders with a towel and then clipped it into place. I got up and we walked back across the salon to her chair. I looked like a football player pads with the towel wrapped around my neck, furthering my humiliation trugging along with my smock and gown. At the chair Clarissa took off the towel, dusted my hair then opened her drawer again. Out she pulled the rubber mat and placed it on my shoulders and started sectioning my hair.
I sat staring at myself in the full length mirror and taking in the ridiculousness of the sight before me. From my neck to below my toes were covered in the draping aveda cape. Even the arm rests were covered in the cape. It was so long that I couldn’t even bring my hands above the cape so I left it covering my full seated body. My hair was parted directly down the middle like a butt cut and parts were clipped up and made me look like a wet dog. The rubber mat sat on my shoulders like an ill fitted shoulder pad and I could see the nerves in my own eyes. This was such a stupid idea, I thought to myself. I should’ve just gone somewhere cheap and quick like everyone else and save myself the embarrassment.
I saw Sarah approaching and was praying she wouldn’t see me. But instead she walked up with her stylist to the chair just diagonal from me.
Luckily just as she got settled in Clarissa rotated me a bit so I wasn’t facing Sarah and instead my chair faced out towards the rest of the salon and all the other nervous clients in their gowns trying to see how long the cut hair is.
Sarah was joined not just by what seemed to me her stylist but also her mom who was in a smock with dye in her hair. This would be so embarrassing if her mom recognized me and I had to speak to her here, like this.
They started talking about the cut and what sarah wanted.
“I just think you should go shorter. You won’t get it cut all year so clean up for the holidays then let it go” Her mom urged her. Sarah sat playing with her hair in the mirror. Her stylist behind her keeps playing around with different styles in her hair.
“I have been liking it long though”
“It’ll grow back quickly” her mom said.
“Fine lets try it.” She muttered
“Exciting!” The stylist said. With that they all disappeared to the shampoo basin.
“Head down for me,” I heard Clarissa say, pushing my head into the cape and snapping me out of my concentration,
I could hear Clarissa started to cut with scissors in the back and its like everything went silent except the sound of wet hair being snipped by cold blade of the scissors. I sat looking down at at the long cape and the shape of my knees shaking underneath. I was happy to be staring down so I didn’t have to feel the eyes of the women across the salon. What did they think of the poor boy with the long hair getting chopped? We’re they all laughing at how silly and miserable I looked? I was a ball of nerves.
Wet clumps of hair started to plop down on the cape. They were 4-5 inches long which was about 4-5 inches longer than I was expecting and was getting quite nervous about what the stylists idea of a ‘clean up’ meant. Out of the corner of my eye I could see Sarah coming back to her seat.
In a moment Clarissa turned me from facing the salon to back towards the mirror. I looked at myself, covered in the cape which was now fully covered with long strips of wet blonde hair. I almost went into shock realizing this wasn’t going to be any kind of trim. My shaggy hair that covered my ears and even grazed my collar was now brutally shorted into a classic boys cut.
In my pitiful state looked over at Sarah. She was already covered in the same long gown and her stylist was fitting the cutting collar around her shoulders with her hair wrapped in a towel on top of her head. As I looked over we made eye contact and she looked about as miserable and nervous as me. “Hi Seamus” she said with no enthusiasm in her voice. “Looking good.” But it felt more like she was encouraging herself than saying anything earnest to me. All I could do was give a weak nervous smile and then go back looking at my butchered hair in the mirror.
I looked over and Sarah’s mom had appeared again, still in her smock and noticed me.
“Clarissa are you giving him a good clean up?” I heard Sarah’s mom say. I groaned internally that she’s seen me.
“Sure am, he’s going to be looking so dapper when I’m done with him.”
“Hi mrs Daultry” I mumbled with her head still pushed down to the cape. She walked around to my side of the mirror and stood beside Clarissa.
“Oh I just think boys looks so good with it’s hard and clean in the back. You don’t want any scruffy hairs.” Mrs Daultry said
“Oh I couldn’t agree more,” Clarissa sparked back. “We’re giving this one a good clean up for his mom for the holidays.”
I felt so weak watching the hair continued to tumble down the cape and being treated like a child.
“How is your mom Seamus?”
“She’s fine, happy to have us home for the holidays”
“Oh I bet she is and she’ll be so happy to not have you look like a muffin top too” the two women laughed.
Sarah was also now head down with her long brown hair spread out like a curtain around her head. We both sat obediently and nervous in the chairs as our stylists cut off more than we wanted as her mom watched over us.
“Well that’s the basic cut done” Clarissa said, ruffling up the hair on top of my head. The sides were barely a half inch and could hardly stand on their own while the top still had an inch and a half of length. I was relieved I still had something left on the sides.
Sarah looked up from her cut to eye mine. Her face and emotions were totally blank. I looked below her cape covered feet and noticed a building pile of hair underneath her. I guess she did have something to worry about.
As I saw Sarah I also saw Clarissa reach into her drawer and pull out a pair of clippers. She started unrolling the chord. I sat up and adjusted myself. The biggest part of the cut was done and maybe I could speak up before it got any worse. I could still walk away with a workable cut.
“Maybe we could keep the back and sides a bit longer. It’s kind of nice like this.” I tried.
“If we left it like this it’ll just be messy again and over your ears in a week or two and that’ll look too awkward.” Clarissa said
Sarah mom turned to Clarissa. “Yes bring this up real short in the back. Those always look so nice when you do that.” The two ladies murmured in agreement.
I heard the clippers boom to life and my chair swiveled towards the salon. The humming clippers caught the attention of several of the clients and they all stared at me like I was on act going on to perform. I took a deep breath looking out at all the eyes and braced myself.
“Head down please” and then whether or not I wanted it my head was pushed towards my chest. Clarissa kept her hand firmly in my neck/shoulder and I felt the cold steel of the clippers buzzing my nape. I have to admit the sensation was soothing if not arousing. Tufts of dry hair littered my cape. She she did swipe after swipe, moving carefully around my head small hairs piled on my cape making it look like sand and hay covered my body.
When my chair rotated back to the station I caught sight of my cape covered self. My back and sides has been clippered down to an unfashionable bald fade. The dried longer hairs had pooled in my lap like a sheered dog.
“Oh my god so many makeovers happening today!”An older salon worker in her 50s swung by and Mrs Daultry and the stylist starting chatting. Sarah stylists starting putting layers in the dry hair and hair was flying everywhere. I looked over at Sarah who looked like she was on the verge of tears. She looked at herself directly in the mirror, unflenching, trying to block out everything that was happening. A huge pile of dark hair that looked like a small dog sat in her lap. Her hair that was once nearly to her but had been taken up just below her shoulders.
I was so distracted with embarrassment and thinking how I could escape this that I missed Clarissa cutting the hair on top of my head. It was barely an inch long and hardly parted. She left me bands that sat straight across my forehead almost as if I had a bowl cut.
“Okay let’s put you under the dryer” I looked at her confused. She stepped away from the chair, “follow me”. I slowly picked myself up from the chair, standing for the first time since the shearing. As I stood the pile of hair that collected on the cape made a sliding sound and then plopped onto the floor. I clumsily walked around the chair, feeling Sarah’s eyes on me. I was self conscious of my silly outfit with the long cape still covering me. As I walked out onto the salon floor I was frightened that I might trip over the long hem of the cape. The cape swished against the smock underneath. I walked across the stylists chairs and kept my head down trying to not make eye contact and praying I didn’t run into anyone else I know.
We walked towards a crowd of women in the back and crowded together. We passed the coloring room where women were standing around gossiping as they processed. Next to the room was a half circle of old school hair dryers and cushions. Of the 6 dryers, 3 of them were in use and Clarissa pointed me a dryer wedged in between two other women. One was a bit older in her 50s sitting in the gold smock while the other was closer to my age covered in the full cape and smock and sitting nervously. She looked about as enthused to sit next to me as I was to sit next to her. We both felt awkward in our predicament and wished it would be over as soon as possible.
For the first time I pulled out my phone and tried to distract myself or just kill time as much as possible. Women were milling about and every time they saw me they did a double take.
Before long the stylist came over and the girl next to me left with her. I was relieved for a moment as the dryer room started to empty and there were less eyes on me. That was when I saw Sarah, her stylist, and her mom enter the room. Sarah was still in her smock and long black cape looking like a dress up doll and having lost the excitement I saw when she first walked into the salon. Her face and mood were solemn.
“Why don’t you take a seat next to Seamus.” Sarah obediently walked over in her ridiculous gown and plopped down like a wet bag.” The stylist lowered the hood and turned it on. Sarah didn’t move once or even blink in the process.
“Now let’s go get you washed up” the stylist said to Mrs Daultry and they walked off together.
Once they were gone and the room had settled I turned to Sarah “your hair looks really good.” I didn’t know if she even wanted to be spoken to or even acknowledge that we were here.
“I hate it” she said, tears starting to fill her eyes. She clearly was making gestures with her hands as her cape melts jumping up and down. “I normally see Jess and she knows exactly what I want to do with my hair. My mom didn’t tell me she booked it with her stylist and they just ruined it.” She pulled her hands out from under the cape to wipe away the tears. She sniffled a few times and seemed to be better.
“Change is hard but it’s often just takes a week or two to adjust then you’ll realize how good you look with this.” She smiles and wiped another tear.
“Thanks you were always so sweet.”
“And your haircut looks great too. Do you like it?”
“This is much shorter than I expected. I guess it’ll just take some getting used to.”
“You look really really cute. Trust me.” With that she smiled a genuine smile and I felt warm.
I looked up and saw Mrs Daultry gossiping with the other older ladies and pointing towards us as we were laughing. She had gotten the dye washed out and sat at a blow dry station.
We sat for more minutes in silence, Sarah sniffing occasionally. Then Clarissa appeared and pulled the hood off of me.
“Oh wow this looks good. Let’s get a picture of you.” She waved and I stood up my wide cape sweeping everything around me and Sarah. I didn’t turn back to say goodbye and followed Clarissa back into the salon. We walked to a side wing of the salon with windows looking out into the garden. There was a walking path there into the entry and I spotted two women approaching the salon and they have a giggle and motioning to each other at the sight of me standing there like a giant grape. “Up against the window.” Clarissa said from behind her phone camera. I shuffled over and stood there trying to smile. I was staring straight into the reflection of the women I’d seen in reception. Her long hair had been sharped into a straight bob at her jaw. Her stylist was going through now with the tiny clippers and sliding off fluffy platinum hair. I shifted as Clarissa took more pictures and tried not to look at the women watching me as she has her neck buzzed.
“Oh these look great, come on back.”
At this point I was used to walked around in the cape and smock so shuffled along briskly back to our home seat and settled into our chair. My hands were free now so I tossed my hair a bit in the mirror. It was a terrible cut, almost like a high and tight but with a bowl cut fringe. This would be so embarrassing going back to school with. I hoped I’d grow fast.
Clarissa came behind me and reach for me neck. She uncoupled the cape and dragged it across my body.
“You’re free” she said. “Glad ya like it”
“Thanks” I tried to say as cheerfully as I could muster. I followed her back through the salon, unphased by all the eyes on me.
“Wow what a clean up, Clarissa! Looks great” one of the stylists shouted and her client looked over at me waddling in my smock to the reception.
As we passed through the waiting area I saw a boy, probably 15 sitting with his mom who was buttoned up in her gold smock. He looked like he was pleading with her and putting on a pouty face to try to preserve his shaggy skater hair. In the middle of his pleading we made eye contact as I followed Clarissa through. His eyes went to shock or horror or confusion. His mother noticed me and beamed. “Now that is a decent cut. Doesn’t that look good.” She said to her jaw dropped son. He could see how this was going to unfold. I got to the reception, paid for the cut then finally walked back into the closet. I paid no attention to the onlookers and quickly stripped the smock away and threw it in the laundry bucket. I walked out without looking back and didn’t want to see anyone else.
I sat in the parking lot and texted Sarah.
“Sorry I didn’t say before leaving. Hope you settle into your new cut. I promise it’s a good look”
In my car I took the long route and drove the roads.
After a few hours when I got home I had a text from Sarah “it’s fine. But it was good seeing you today. You were very sweet. Let’s get a drink this week?”