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I had just started teaching and was not finding the job easy. Each night I would come home and pour out one tale of woe after another about badly behaved kids to my husband who listened sympathetically and gave me encouraging noises. Eventually one night after another of my bad days he said, ‘Who is the most feared teacher in the school?’

‘Mrs Roberts,’ I replied.

‘And what does she look like?’

‘Oh immaculate, from her skirts to her make up to her perfectly set hair,’ I replied.

‘And what do you look like?’ he asked then continued ‘ you look like a tramp with your long hair dragged back into an unkempt ponytail, you dress in shapeless slacks and scruffy tops your body language is all wrong and the children respond to this.’ I agreed he had a point and started to dress more smartly, dresses and skirts replacing the shapeless tops and slacks. This was partially successful but I still had bad days and my husband soon got fed up with my moaning again

‘Look,’ he said, ‘ you have to go the whole way, you must get your hair done and your make up sorted out.’

‘But I don’t want to look like Mrs. Roberts,’ I replied ‘besides you won’t like me with short hair.’

‘It doesn’t matter what you look like,’ he replied, ‘you should go the whole way.’ I chewed this over for a few days and half heartedly decided to do it, but I could not dredge up the courage to phone up a city centre salon and ask for a perm and set.

On the Friday after school, before the half term break, I drove through the adjacent village and noticed a small hair salon. From the visible hairdryers it catered for a more mature clientele. I parked the car and walked past. A couple of ladies were in the middle of hairdos. I wanted to walk in but held back and returned to the car. Several times I ventured out but there was always someone in the salon and each time I drew back. Eventually 10 minutes before the salon was due to close I noticed it was empty and the owner was emptying her till. I took several deep breaths and opened the door, a bell jangled as it opened and the hairdresser looked up.

‘I’m just about to close,’ a pleasant looking woman in her late 30s or early 40s said.

‘ I need your advice,’ I replied.

‘Go on,’

I fumbled in my handbag and took out a picture of Mrs Roberts that I had cut out of a school magazine.

‘I want a radical change and I was thinking of a style like this,’ as I handed the picture over.

She studied the picture, then looked at my long hair, whistled softly and said, ‘That’s pretty drastic, not many younger women choose to have this sort of do these days, are you absolutely sure you want to go through with it?’

‘Yes,’ I responded.

‘You don’t sound completely sure,’ the hairdresser answered, ‘look, I’m booked up tomorrow but Monday morning is free so we can make an appointment then if you like.’

‘That’s OK,’ I responded, ‘I’m off all of next week.’

‘That’s good,’ she answered,’ it will give you Saturday to think about whether you want to go through with it If you do, then be prepared to be here most of Monday morning.’

I nodded my assent and I made the appointment

The hairdresser introduced herself as Debbie and handed me a card with the details.

‘Please phone me as soon as you can if you decide not to go through with it, I can then book in other customers.’

I agreed, said that I would see her Monday at 9am and walked out of the shop. I drove home then told my husband I had made the appointment. He smiled.

‘I knew you would in the end.’

Saturday morning saw me in agonies of self doubt and several times I took the phone off the hook to cancel but each time I replaced it. In the afternoon my husband suggested we go for a long walk. I agreed, halfway along I had a major attack of the jitters and demanded my mobile. He fumbled in his pockets, couldn’t find it, turned to me, shrugged his shoulders and said ‘I must have left it in the car.’

Something in me said that he had done this on purpose.

By the time we reached the car it was 5-45 p.m. and the salon would be closed. I now had to go through with it. Sunday saw me counting the hours. 22 hours to go, 18 hours to go. Bedtime was 10 hours to go. Monday saw me awake with a tight feeling in the pit of my stomach. I breakfasted on tea and toast and all too soon the clock said 8-45 am. I drove over to the next village and parked the car. I wanted to call the salon on the mobile with a spurious excuse but I couldn’t. The clock in the car showed 8-59 am. I got out, locked the door and wended my way to the salon. Finally my courage kicked in. I opened the door. The bell rang. Debbie looked up.

‘Good to see you, you know I was certain that you would cancel,.’ she said.

‘I wouldn’t have done that,’ I lied ‘ I want to go through with this.’ ‘Good,’ she said , ‘let’s get started.’

She placed a black smock over me, tied it securely and led me to a chair. Next she carefully brushed my long hair before tying a pony tail in it.

‘Ready?’

I nodded. She then took a pair of scissors and neatly amputated the pony tail. She laid the pony tail in front of me and said, ‘you can take that home with you later.’

I gave a weak grin.

‘ Let’s get you washed,’ she said, escorting me to a basin and placing a towel around my shoulders. My hair was washed and conditioned before she led me back to the chair and commenced the cut. My hair was layered with the maximum length over my collar and about 2 inches below my ears. A small fringe was added to complete the cut.

She then wheeled a trolley containing trays of assorted coloured curlers to me. ‘I’m going to give you a reasonably tight perm,’ she explained.

She started to wind small red coloured curlers onto my hair commencing at the nape and continuing to the forehead. For the final roller in my fringe the direction was reversed. During this time she explained that curly hair was easiest to set and how I had now 2 styles in one. I could sport the set or have a very easy wash’n’go style which would leave the hair in its curly state. Systematically she wound the left and right side and during this time we exchanged typical hairdressers chat about holidays, the weather and the latest celebrity gossip. To finish a barrier cream was applied to my forehead and nape and a long coil of cotton wool wrapped around the edge. She broke open a plastic bottle and applied the nozzle over my head. The liquid was ice cold and the sensation was pleasant but I shuddered as I caught a whiff.

‘You can disguise it all you like but perm lotion always stinks.’ She explained. A plastic cap was placed over my head.

‘Right, we need to leave you for a while,’ she said

I was left alone with a magazine. A male customer came in for a cut and blow when she had finished she came over and checked the perm.

‘Hmm, 5 more minutes I think.’

This was soon over and my hair was thoroughly rinsed before the neutralizer was applied.

‘We need to leave you again, do you want a coffee?’ she asked

I agreed and went back to the magazine. She left me and started to check her books returning to examine my hair.

‘OK you’re done.’

Back over to the basin for the final rinse.

In the next stage, larger diameter rollers were wound on in a different pattern to the perm wrap, again to more hairdressers chat, a different lotion applied and a hair net placed on my rollers. I was taken to the dryer, again this was a whole new hairdo experience for me. I sat down and the cover was lowered over my head, the machine whirred to life and warm air cosseted my head and shoulders. It really was a pleasant sensation and one that I wanted to repeat. Eventually a bell sounded and it was back to the styling chair.

‘Last lap now.’ Debbie said.

The net was taken off and the rollers removed. Debbie then teased and backcombed my hair sculpting into an immaculate coiffure of soft curls with a little fringe at the front. I was astounded at the transformation. I looked 10 years older and instead of an overgrown girl, a sharp featured, severe looking woman stared back at me. She doused me extra hold hairspray, turning my hair into a hard carapace then held up a mirror for me to admire the back.

‘That’s incredible,’ I gushed, ‘I’m so glad I went through with it.’

‘You’ll need to come in regularly to get it set,’ Debbie explained and I made another appointment for the Saturday. I paid her, gave her good tip and waved goodbye.

I went back home but had to wait for my husband to return from work. As he came through the door his face sagged in amazement.

‘Wow, you look so different. I told you that you should go the whole way.’ However, the return to school was the ultimate test. My colleagues in the staffroom were open mouthed at my transformation. However I had to face the pupils. Arriving at my first class a particularly odious boy shouted

‘Oi, Miss have you been on Extreme Makeover?’

‘Don’t be absurd you ridiculous boy, come and see me at break for detention.’ He lapsed into sullen silence, something I had never been able to do before. I found I could stop any misbehavior simply by staring at the malefactor. As to my husband he just loved being punished by his schoolmistress for any misdemeanours in the bedroom.

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