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During my first two years at High School I had been one of the brightest girls in the year, but during the third year (aged 13/14) when I was in the middle of puberty I had started to go off the rails. I used vast quantities of make up and lavished hours on my long (small of the back), centre parted dark brown hair. I had ditched my former friends and I had started to associate with what is called ‘The Wrong Crowd.’ My schoolwork suffered and I began to collect the occasional detention. My parents were very liberal, as long as I was in roughly when I said I was going to be in and as long as my schoolwork was adequate, they gave me a lot of leeway to do as I wanted.

It was too good to last, me and my gang had been discovered in our little hideout one lunchtime smoking and drinking, they suspected cannabis but could not prove it. We were hauled in front of the Headmaster and handed suspensions from school. Mine was three days. I waited miserably in a room as one of my parents came to pick me up. My mother arrived and we walked wordlessly back to the car. She drove back home, you could tell she was white lipped with fury. ‘Amanda, we’ll have more to say on this miserable episode later but suffice to say there are going to be considerable changes to your lifestyle and appearance.’ We arrived home. My father was waiting having been summoned from his Office. He was not in a good mood. ‘We have given you considerable latitude, young lady, to do as you want and this is how you repay us.’ I let the words wash over me and then came the sentence. ‘You will not be allowed out of the house unsupervised until you have shown that you are trustworthy, this will be at least three months. Now go to your room.’ My mother followed me up the stairs to my room, we went inside, I flopped on the bed but my mother went straight to the make up collection and swept it all into the carrier bag she had brought for the purpose. ‘You will NOT be needing make up for quite a while, young lady, we are not having you leave this house looking like a trainee tart. Take off your earrings and rings as well and give them me.’ I complied and she turned around and left the room, leaving me to stew. I tried reading but couldn’t concentrate and I went to bed at the very early hour for me of 7-30pm.

Next morning, as luck would have it, I had a dental appointment where I was due to have some fillings and braces fitted to top and bottom teeth. I had been scheduled to miss the morning session of school in any case. I came down to breakfast wearing tight jeans and a skimpy top. We ate breakfast in silence. Finally when I had finished, my mother said, ‘Amanda, go to your room and change, I want to see you wearing that nice pale blue and white checked dress, and put on white knee socks and your best shoes.’ I opened my mouth to protest as that dress was not one of my favourites. ‘Don’t argue, Amanda, I’m not in the mood, just do as I say,’ my mother responded sharply. I knew better than to argue in the present circumstances and went upstairs to change into the appropriate clothing.

We had a silent drive into the city, my mother found a place to park the car. She then said, ‘One benefit of your suspension means we can get several things done, we’ve noticed you squinting and we think you ought to get your eyes tested,’ She found an Optician and we walked in. ‘Could you fit my daughter in with an eye test?’ mother enquired. Being very early there was no problem and I was soon straining to see the test chart as well as undergoing several other tests. Finally it was over and the optician and myself walked out to meet mother. ‘I’m afraid Amanda is very slightly short sighted and will need glasses to help her with some distance work. Would you like to pick a set of frames?’ He said, indicating several cabinets full of them. I walked over to the designer frames but mother was having none of it. ‘Those frames are not very robust and are very expensive and knowing you, you would break them in no time.’ Eventually she chose a pair of large lensed glasses with a sturdy white plastic frame. ‘I think these’ll do,’ she declared. I tried them on, they did not look too bad on me with my long dark brown hair framing my face. She took the choice back to the optician and said, ‘We’ll be back in about 2 to 3 hours, is that long enough for you to fit the lenses?’ The optician agreed that the glasses would be ready and we left.

Next stop was the dentist, I spent what seemed hours in the chair. I had Novocain local anaesthetic shots in my upper and lower jaws. I had one filling in my upper jaw and some rectification work to a filling in my lower jaw. Finally as the piece de resistance braces were cemented to my top and bottom teeth. It was finally over and with my mouth still very numb I rejoined my mother.

She propelled me out of the Dentist’s and briskly escorted me to the hair salon which she and I used. She opened the door and ushered me inside. There were two young women chatting at the reception desk, my mother spoke to one of them. ‘Hi Claire, I was wondering if you could fit Amanda in with a cut?’ Claire was the girl who normally did mine and mother’s hair. ‘Yes, that won’t be a problem, we’re not very busy this morning.’ Turning to the other girl, who was the receptionist. ‘I’m not due anyone for another hour am I?’ The receptionist nodded her assent. I was fitted with a black gown and escorted to a chair, somewhat unusually mother followed us the chair. ‘What’s it to be,’ as she fluffed my hair up with her hands ‘shall I just trim the ends as per usual?’ ‘No,’ said mother, ‘she needs a big change.’ ‘What were you thinking,’ said Claire. ‘I want a sensible haircut for a sensible girl, this long hair is too difficult to maintain, I want her to have a short bob, could you give her a high fringe about 1’’ above the eyes, the line of the bob needs to be so that the ear lobes are showing, take it straight back and give her a nice clippered nape.’ I tried to shout out and protest but the very numb state of my mouth meant that I could give out no more than a barely audible gargle.

Claire carefully brushed my hair and arranged it that one section fell down my right side, one down my back and one down my left side. ‘Hold your head still now,’ she cautioned. She took a pair of scissors and brought them to my right side at about 1’’ below chin length, SNIP and a beautiful piece of my long hair detached itself and fell onto the gown. I wanted to cry but did not want to give my mother that victory. Ironically, my numb mouth helped me to bite my tongue. SNIP, SNIP, SNIP and the right hair was gone to land itself onto the cape. SNIP, SNIP, SNIP, SNIP,SNIP and the back hair was on the floor. SNIP, SNIP, SNIP and the left section joined the right on the cape. I now had a rough below chin length bob, Claire sectioned off the back and left, returning with a pair of clippers. She moved my head down. ‘How close should I go? I’ll give her a number 4 which is ½’’, you can then decide if you want it shorter’ she explained to mother. SNAP, HUMMM and the clippers hit the back. I could feel then moving up and down and I could glimpse hair cascading onto my shoulders. She finished. ‘Can you take it shorter?’ mother asked. ‘I’ll give her a number 2 which is ¼’’ ‘said Claire. Again the clippers moved up and down. Mother nodded her satisfaction and Claire switched the clippers off and set them down. Claire motioned me over to the hairwashing station. When I rose all that lovely hair fell on the floor. I walked over to the station where an apprentice washed and conditioned my hair, then escorted me back to the chair. Claire reappeared and proceeded to section off the back and then snipped the wet hair into the line of the bob, more hair was brought down and cut, being at the back this was invisible to me but there was a steady fall of wet hair onto the gown. Claire finished the back and sectioned off the right side she combed the free hair and cut it exactly level with the ear, again more hair was brought down and cut with a fresh rain of hair falling. The process was repeated again with the left side. I tried not to look in the mirror while this was going on but eventually I peeked, I had a little girl’s haircut but it wasn’t over, most of the hair was pushed behind my ears while the top hair was combed forward obscuring my vision. I sensed the cold feel of the scissors on my forehead, SNIP, SNIP, SNIP, and my vision returned to reveal a fringe of wet hair. Claire put her scissors away and reached for the hairdryer. It did not take her long to dry what was left of my hair. She was soon finished and held up a mirror so I could ‘admire’ my exposed nape. I looked impassively at the reflection and I gave a curt nod, but mother was more enthusiastic. ‘Ooh, that’s far better, she’ll find that so much easier to take of. How can we keep this cut looking good?’ ‘Bring her in once a month to keep the cut looking fresh,’ explained Claire. With that it was over, mother paid and we exited.

The final call was back at the Opticians. The glasses were ready and the optician was too polite to comment on my new haircut although you could see the surprise in his face. He handed them to me. ‘Put your glasses on, Amanda, you’ll have to get used to wearing them,’ mother commanded. I put them on and looked in a nearby mirror. I no longer had any long hair to frame my face and the lenses seemed to have grown to huge, owlish proportions giving me a far different look. I gave a rueful grin which revealed my new metallic smile. I recoiled from the mirror. I had gone from looking like a ‘teen queen’ to a frumpy looking ‘plain jane’ in less than 24 hours. I might as well have written SWOT or GEEK on my forehead with marker pen. Of course this was my mother’s plan.

I dreaded the return to school. I knew that if I associated with my former crowd, my new appearance would make me a prime target for bullying. I had to stay away. It was as I predicted, the next few weeks were difficult but I managed to remake some friendships and the matter gradually passed. I kept the appearance and haircut – I even came to look forward to the clippering – for the next two years, but with hindsight it was the correct thing to do to me. It forced me to concentrate on schoolwork at an important time, just when teenage girls can get distracted by make-up, fashion, boys, etc.

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