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While the southern summer weather can be oppressive it also brings about some unique opportunities. Darlinda called at twelve-thirty to make an appointment for 1:00pm. She told the receptionist that she hadn’t ever been to our salon or any hair salon and that she was ready for a big change. She said she had made other appointments elsewhere but backed out of them because she had made them too far in advance and her fears had overtaken her courage. She wanted to do it fast before she could change her mind again. She was calling from a department store not too far away. She sounded intriguing. I was lucky to have the afternoon virtually free so I took Darlinda’s appointment. I knew I would have an exciting challenge.

Darlinda was actually there at a quarter to one. I greeted her in the reception area. She said to call her Linda, thank goodness. She was an attractive young woman in her late 20s to early 30s. Not a great beauty but an attractive woman. Her hair was a dark ash blond in color. She wore her hair without a part, brushed off her face and pinned into a chignon at the back of her crown. I could see her chignon over the top of her head as I approached her. I thought nothing of it. It looked like a typical little bun sported by many women with hair about shoulder length. Then she turned her head and I saw that I was only looking at the top loop of her coiled chignon. She had a monstrous heavy chignon. It covered the entire back of her head from the top of the crown to below the hairline at the nape. It must have extended out from her head by four to five inches. It was massive coils of shiny ash blond hair. I think the fingers on my scissors hand began to move involuntarily. There were no artificial hair appliances used here. I had never seen so much hair on one woman’s head. I knew that today was going to be fantastic.

We went back to my chair. I asked her to sit in the styling chair and you would think I had asked her to sit in the electric chair. I hopped up on the counter top so we could talk. Saying that her hair was magnificent I asked her who styled her chignon. She said she did and that she was quite adept at styling her rather long hair. I asked what kind of style change she envisioned. She said she just wanted to be rid of her hair. Just cut it all off. At this point my radar went off. I could cut her hair off right now and tomorrow she would hate me. She was reacting to something going on in her life. I asked if something was prompting her decision to chop off her hair. She said that she just couldn’t take the weather we were having any longer. We had had weeks of 90+ temperatures with high humidity. It was downright suffocating. Linda said she was originally from Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada where they never had weather like this. She had arrived in the city in November and loved the moderate winter. But the summer was just more than she could bear. When she washed her hair it wouldn’t dry for days. She slept with wet hair and worked with wet hair. When she was out her hair kept her head intolerably hot. Her sad realization was that something had to go. Her long hair, which had never been really cut, only trimmed, and was always a thing of beauty and joy, had become a burden to her. Thus she reluctantly presented herself to me to be shorn.

Now that I knew what the situation was, my approach would be the need for a style change for her long-term happiness, not just in response to the weather. I asked to see what we had to work with. With that Linda stood next to the chair and I stood slightly behind and off to the right side of her to see everything. With her left hand she held her chignon and with the right she began to remove the chignon hairpins that held her hair. She removed four massive faux tortoiseshell hairpins and handed each to me. With practiced hands she deftly located the end of her tresses and uncoiled them from the base of her chignon. Then she released her left hand. The shiny, thick coils of her hair spilled downward, untwisting as they fell. When they came to a stop they were still twisted once or twice and reached to her knees. I thought that I would need to sit down. This is the dream of every hairdresser. To have carte blanche to transform a never before touched, virgin head of hair. I couldn’t restrain myself. My hands were immediately in her hair. At first she instinctively moved away. I put a hand on her shoulder and told her to relax, I wasn’t going to immediately lop off her tresses. I didn’t even have the shears in my hand, yet. I scooped up her tresses in both hands. Her hair was so beautiful. I held her tresses in my hands for a moment and then ran my hands down the entire length releasing her hair from the final twists of the chignon. Her hair was so heavy it felt like it must have weighed pounds. Her hair felt like silk. It was in magnificent condition. Obviously, Linda had lovingly taken care of her hair. The ends were free of split ends, trimmed in a blunt line and about as thick as her hair at shoulder length. She said she deep conditioned her hair once a week and protected her hair from the elements. I raised my chair to its highest level and had Linda return to the chair. I picked up a brush and began brushing her tresses. I was halfway across the salon when I finished each stroke. Quite a large crowd of interested patrons and stylists gathered around us. The mood was anticipatory of the dramatic event. Many could not allow this event go by without participating. Many held locks or the totality of Linda’s hair in their hands. The brush was passed around for all to find out what the brushing of such a head of hair was like. Someone said that Linda’s hair would make good wig hair. Another said she had enough hair for several wigs. One woman offered to buy Linda’s hair right there and said she would double the price if she could wield the shears. An older woman said she would double that woman’s offer for the honor. This was just too overwhelming for Linda so I shooed everyone away or at least had them back up a little. Linda and I needed to talk about styles. I asked what she wanted, how short would she go in her search for coolness. She said she wanted to have her hair off her back and shoulders. My heart pounded at her response. I suggested we look at some possible short bob styles. We looked at some style examples and she picked a blunt chin length bob. I told her she would love the freedom and styling options such a cut would give her. With that she said do it before she lost her nerve again. I asked Linda to stand. A quick application of the measuring tape revealed Linda’s hair was 53 inches long. I brought her hair smoothly back and tied it just at the base of the neck. I separated the huge ponytail into three tresses and began to braid her hair. Braiding such a head of hair was exhausting. When the braid was finished I tied the end of Linda’s braid with a matching blue ribbon. The braid hung down Linda’s back. I measured a braid circumference of seven and three-quarter inches. I asked if she was ready. She bravely nodded yes and with that I picked up the scissors. I held the braid just where it was tied at the top. The volume of the murmuring from the gathered masses was growing as they jostled for position. I positioned the shears just above where the braid was tied. Once again, I asked Linda if she was ready. She said yes. With that I began cutting. The braid was so thick I had to cut and cut. My hand grew tired and I hadn’t severed her braid yet. Finally after what must have seemed like hours to Linda, her braid came free in my hand. The braid was so heavy I don’t know how Linda had held her head up. I displayed the braid to the gathered throng and then handed it to Linda. Linda held the braid with both hands and for a minute looked like she would burst into tears. Then she looked at her reflection in the mirror and smiled. She said her head felt so light. She laid the braid on her lap and ran her hands through her short hair. There were no regrets over the decision she made now. I asked if she was ready to continue and she said yes
. I lifted the braid from her lap and asked what she wanted to do with it. She said she wanted to keep it for a memento. I said OK, but I was crestfallen since I coveted her hair for myself. I gently laid the braid into a box. I had to double it over because of its length. I couldn’t close the box completely so I then tied the box with a blue ribbon and set it on the counter top. I told Linda that her hair would make a perfect hairpiece for her whenever she had that urge to have long hair again. I said if she ever wanted to make her shorn braid into a hairpiece to bring it back in and I would see that a quality piece was made for her from her own hair. With that I had Linda change into a salon frock. I needed to even the line of the cut. I set the line of the bob at chin length. As I cut little wisps of her hair slid down into her lap. Linda played with these tufts as I graduated the bob just slightly around the face to enhance her styling options. When I was done with the dry cut, I took Linda back to the shampoo basin and washed her bobbed tresses myself. We talked about how much simpler shampooing would be for her and how quick her bob would be to dry. I wrapped her head in a towel and we went back to my styling chair.

I combed out her hair in a minute with nary a tangle. Linda said she certainly wouldn’t miss the comb-outs and tangles of her long hair each time she shampooed. I checked the lines of the bob, made just one or two touch-up snips and we were ready for styling. Using a blow dryer I first styled an everyday look for Linda. From a right side part I styled her bob smoothly turning the ends under. Very smart and professional. Then for that special occasion I did a quick roller set. For the brush out I had her flip her head upside down, applied a small amount of hairspray and brushed through. When she flipped her head up we used the brush just to give some definition. The final style was slightly messy with lots of height and volume. The smile and Linda’s face indicated we had done the right thing. We talked about other styling options. I told her that to maintain her style we would need to trim her hair every four to six weeks. With that we were finished and Linda got out of the chair. Reluctantly, I handed her the box that contained her braid and escorted her back to the receptionist. As she went out the door, boxed braid in hand, I hoped that I would see her again.

A month later Linda was back for a trim. As the cut progressed she talked excitedly about how her haircut had transformed her image of herself and her life. She said she had missed her long hair for a couple of days but now she couldn’t understand how she had ever lived with that long hair. She found her bob very easy to work with. When we were done and her hair was styled she got up to leave. From her large leather tote bag she pulled a small shopping bag and smiling handed it to me. She said she didn’t want to be reminded of her past anymore. In the bag was her braid still tied as when I had cut it. Linda said I could sell it, have a wig made from it or do what ever I wanted with it. I gave her a hug and said thanks.

I still see Linda about every four weeks and of course I have her gorgeous thick heavy braid to remind me of that special day we shared.

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