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This is not one of those stories where the mother has her daughter’s hair cut super short or buzzed. My mother actually wanted me to keep my hair long. But my friends from junior high had other ideas. They decided that we should all get short haircuts before entering high school. Even though it was the late eighties and short hair was in style in the big cities, out in the boonies where we lived no one cut their hair really short. We saw it as both rebellion and liberation. So one day in early August before school started we all met at the only salon in our little town to make the change. We all agreed that everyone would get a very short haircut, and if anyone chickened out they would be ostracized forever.

Susan our ringleader was the first up. Her hair was long, thick, and blonde, easily covering her shoulders. She had a picture of what she wanted, so there would be no mistake. It was a spiky pixie cut, a couple of inches long on top and even shorter on the sides, What she didn’t know (but the stylist recognized) was that the sides were buzzed with electric clippers, not just cut with scissors. Susan’s instructions to Mary the stylist was to cut her hair just like the picture. Mary enjoyed giving people drastically new cuts, so she was happy to follow these orders. Mary began by gathering Susan’s hair in one hand. With her other hand holding a pair of very sharp scissors Mary unceremoniously hacked off most of the length with a few short strokes. Mary, not knowing how Susan would react at this first part of the cut, took care to make sure Susan did not stop her. She quickly picked up her Wahl electric clippers and with a loud POP turned them on and pushed them into the back of Susan’s hair. Mary said “The reason the cut looks so good in your picture is that they used electric clippers like these to make sure the sides are nice and even”. It was too late to turn back now.

“You are going to love how a short cut like this feels” Mary said as she continued to buzz all the hair off the back of Susan’s neck. Knowing that it was now too late to stop, Mary slowed down. She wanted Susan to get the full effect of the clippers as they slowly reduced her once beautiful long hair to stubble. After buzzing the back she proceeded to buzz around Susan’s ears. First one ear, and then the other. After what seemed an eternity of buzzing, Mary finally reached the end with the clippers. By this time it was obvious that Susan was enjoying the feeling, and looked sad when Mary turned the clippers off. “Wow that was great” a smiling Susan said. “Now for the top” Mary said. With the scissors and comb Mary hacked off the bulk of the hair left on the top of Susan’s head. Then she went back over what was left and shaped it up. Susan went to the chair looking like a good little long haired junior high girl. She left the chair transformed into a hot chick ready for the big leagues of high school.

All the rest of us couldn’t wait for our turn. We all got variations of this same cut. I was probably the one with the most butterflies in my stomach. Mary made several passes up my head with the clippers before I could catch my breath. Even though everyone looked good with their new short cuts, I still had a hard time getting used to the clippers buzzing me like I was a boy. For me the excitement of a daring cut was never quite as strong as the apprehension of being shorn with the same type of electric clippers that the barbershop used on my little brother. This began a routine that lasted all through high school. Every month we would go to the old salon and Mary would buzz and cut our hair super short.

By my senior year, after almost four years of faithfully going to the old salon to have Mary cut and buzz my hair, I began to have ideas of letting my hair grow out some. Maybe even grow it long. For the first time since junior high I genuinely wanted to start letting my hair grow out. Each time that year I went into the salon with the idea of just getting my hair trimmed. But even though the desire to get my hair cut short was fading fast, there was something about that old salon that seemed to put me in a trance. When I walked into the salon it seemed as if I was once again that freshman girl filled with a combination of excitement, fear, and desire at the prospect of getting a rebellious short haircut with my friends. And Mary was always there ready with her clippers and scissors.
“Hi hon, come on in and sit down so we can get your hair cut nice and cool and short”  she would say. And every time I walked out freshly shorn for another month.

Fall finally came and I went off to college. This would be my chance to get away from home, and turn over a new leaf in life. And the biggest leaf  I wanted to turn was to let my hair grow out. It would be almost four months before I would return home. That would be a good start to my project of growing my hair out. It was the first of December before I finally returned home. My hair growing project was going fine. I had not even bothered to find a salon at college. I just let my hair grow. But now it was sticking out and looked messy. I did need a trim to keep from looking goofy. When I told my mother I was just getting my hair trimmed she smiled. I knew she wanted me to grow it out also, maybe more than me. I unpacked and headed over to the old salon for my  4:30 appointment.

Immediately after I entered I began to feel almost light headed and a little dizzy. All the old sounds,smells, and sights of this place seemed to cover me like a blanket. “Hi hon” said Mary as she greeted me. “So glad to see you back home for Christmas. Come on over and have and seat and we’ll get started on your haircut”. I found myself following her instinctively to her chair. I would tell her I just wanted a trim once I sat down and got comfortable. After I sat she immediately threw the cape over me and clipped it at my neck. ” I see you are ready to get back to a nice, cool short haircut for the holidays”. I opened my mouth to speak but the only sound made was the loud POP of Mary’s electric clippers as she turned them on. Immediately the clippers were brought up to my neck. “Quick, say something” I told myself, but only a silent croak came out of my mouth. And then I felt the cold blade of the clippers start quickly pushing up my neck. It was too late. Mary must have made four passes up my neck before I could take a breath. “You sure do look good with your hair cut short. I bet you couldn’t wait to get back home and get a good short haircut”. And with that she proceeded to shear away four months of hair that I had so carefully nurtured. First the back of my head, then the right side, then the left. With a number three guard there was not much hair left on the side. Then she took the guard off and shaved around my ears and the bottom of my neck. She used the comb and scissors on the top to reduce the length, then finished the top with thinning shears. “These shears will give your hair texture, and make it stand up better” she said as she hacked into what was left of the hair on top. I had forgotten how much my ears and eyes seemed to jump out of my head with my hair cut this short. When I got home my mother was certainly surprised. “I thought you were just getting a trim” she said. I just gave her an “Oh well ” look and went upstairs to hide.

Looking back I realized that I was taken off guard. All those familiar sights and smells of the old shop confused me. But it wouldn’t happen again. Next time I would avoid the old shop when I came home. I would go somewhere else to get my hair cut before I went home. That would be the plan. A foolproof plan.
This time it was almost five months before I returned home for the summer. My hair again had not been touched. So a few days before going home I decided to get a trim, so there would be no chance of needing to go back to the old shop. I had the new salon trim the ends, mostly in the back so it did not stick out. A nice blunt cut to accentuate what length I had.
By the time I headed home I had forg
otten any worries I had about my hair. My thoughts were on my new summer job, seeing old friends, and hanging out by the community pool on the weekends. But just as I rolled into town, my car went completely dead. Since this was the pre cell phone era, I looked for a pay phone, but there was none. I knew the closest phone was in one of the businesses in the strip mall up ahead. But since it was late in the evening, most had their lights off. “Damn”, I realized that the only business open this late in the evening was the old hair salon. OK, I will just run in and use the phone to call Mom and then wait outside until she comes. I took a deep breath, and in I went.

This time I was ready for the old smells and sounds. My head did not spin after I entered. I looked for the receptionist, but there was no one at the desk. Just then Mary saw me, dropped what she was doing and came right over. “Tammy, it’s so good to see you. Your sister told me you were coming home today. I see you came right down to get your usual summer haircut”. “No”, I said “Actually my car broke down and I came in to ask if I could use the phone”.  Mary said “Sure, come on back and have a seat and call from there. You look like you could use a breather.” She led me to her big soft swivel chair. Boy, that chair did feel good after walking up the hot road. The phone was busy the first few times I tried, but finally after a few minutes Mom answered the phone, and said she would come pick me up. “Are you sure thirty minutes” I said, “because I am supposed to meet some friends later tonight.” “OK” I said, “I will be waiting”.
When I hung up Mary said “Well that ended up OK after all. Now you have plenty of time to get your hair cut.” Sitting in her big soft chair those several minutes after the long walk, I had cooled down and relaxed to the point that I was getting drowsy. So when she spoke I couldn’t immediately think straight. “But I don’t have an appointment” I said, thinking that would be the polite way to say no. But Mary heard this and must have interpreted it to mean yes. Oh, don’t worry about that” she said as she proceeded to throw her cape over me, “I’m all caught up.” My head started spinning. “But I have friends coming over tonight, and Mom is coming now to pick me up soon.”  “Don’t worry” Mary said, “I’ll have you finished way before she gets here. I know how much you like short hair in the summer when it gets so hot, and this way you won’t have to come back tomorrow. ” As she finished this last sentence she popped the clippers to life, and immediately plowed them right into the back of my hair. “This will get you back to your usual good looking self. In just a minute you will start to feel the cool breeze on your neck”.
How could this be happening! Only a short time ago I was in my car driving into town. Now I was in the one place I had vowed I would stay out of, having my hair buzzed down to nothing again. I could feel the clippers slowly, methodically buzzing my hair away. What I did not know was that Mary had put a #2 guard on this time, so that my scalp was showing through it was so short. What I also did not know was that this time Mary buzzed higher than usual, so that the entire back and sides of my head were being buzzed to almost nothing. Five months of hair came raining down. When Mary cut the top, she made a few extra passes with the thinning shears. She said she wanted to make sure I had plenty of texture to my hair. I wanted to ask her how hair this short could have any texture at all. As she had promised I was finished well before my mom showed up. Needless to say Mom was shocked. “What happened? I thought you were going to grow your hair out this time” she exclaimed as we drove off.  So did I.

After that experience I took no chances. It was six months before I even went in another salon. I swore I would walk home ten miles before I would walk into the old salon again. This time I would grow my hair out and keep it long. This time there would be no slipups. I skipped Christmas at home just to make sure I didn’t come near the old salon. I skipped summer as well. I got a job at college and stayed there all summer. It was not until spring of the next year, almost two years since that last fateful haircut that I finally had to return home. My sister was graduating from high school, and I was expected to attend.

My hair was almost touching my shoulders by this time. I had even had it highlighted. It looked great. I could tell my mother was pleased by the big smile on her face. My only problem was I needed a good trim to give it some style, and to get rid of  the split ends so it wouldn’t look frizzy. I had made two appointments before I left for home, but both times emergencies messed them up. Sensing my apprehension of having to get my hair cut back home, my mother told me that the old salon where I had formerly gone had closed and that Mary had retired. Our little town had two new salons, so I could get my hair trimmed without having to go to the old place. Boy was I relieved. I wanted to look my best for all the friends and relatives who would be coming, and now I could without worrying myself sick about a possible slip up.

I called and made an appointment with the closest of the new salons, with a person named Eve who had been recommended by a friend. I drove over after lunch. The new salon was clean and bright and hip looking. Not at all like the old salon. I liked it right away. The receptionist smiled and cheerfully invited me back to a chair. She threw the cape over me and fastened it around my neck.  “Your stylist will be right with you”. I sat back and relaxed in the big comfortable chair as I waited. It was several minutes before I heard footsteps coming up behind me. Then my senses were shattered like falling glass as I heard a voice call my name. “Tammy hon it’s so good to see you”. It was Mary. The Mary. The one and only Mary. “Wha, wha, what are you doing here? I managed to stammer. “I thought you had retired”. “Oh I had, but they were so busy the owners asked me to help them, and I couldn’t say no.” As she said this she began to arrange stuff on the table behind me. “But I had an appointment with Eve. Is she coming to trim my hair?” I said desperately. “Yes I know you did, but her son just broke his leg at school and she had to go with him to the hospital. We all decided to split her customers up so no one would have to be inconvenienced. When I saw your name I told them I knew just what kind of haircut you wanted, so here I am. This will be just like old times.” After saying that the sound of the clippers popped to life in her hands. “But I don’t want it all cut off” I bravely stated, silently congratulating myself that I had finally spoken up. “Oh don’t worry, I remember how exactly how you like it”. And with that she pushed the clippers under my hair and started up the side of my head. My God, it is happening again!! And again it was too late. Ten inches of carefully grown hair came sliding down the cape and onto the floor. “You always did like short hair. Buzzed on the sides and back and leave a little on top. Just like you said you don’t want it all cut off. I remember when you and your friends all got the same short cut every month. I saw Susan and Pam last week. And I believe I saw Sarah before that. They were all in for a trim. In fact, I think you are the only one of your group who still gets a short haircut.”

I couldn’t believe how much hair was piling up on the floor. I noticed several people looking my way, to get a look at someone getting a drastic makeover. As I could feel her reaching the end of  buzzing the back and sides of my head, I decided I would tell her to not cut the top so short this time. This way I would at least have some hair left on my head. I would speak up as soon as she turned the clippers off. But when Mary finished she did not turn the clippers off. Instead I heard one Snap, followed by another Snap.  “The stylists here have taught me a new method for short cuts like yours. Lately I have been using
the clippers for everything on really short haircuts like yours. I just changed the guard from a #2 to a #8, so your hair on top will be nice and even”. With that said she quickly lifted the clippers to my forehead and pushed them backward. The feel of the clippers on the top of my head completely freaked me out.  I felt my stomach turn upside down. Even after all those years of short hair I had never had my hair buzzed on top. This was the shortest haircut I had ever had in my life. I felt like I would faint as she slowly made pass after pass after pass over the top of my head. It only took a minute or two to completely buzz the top of my head, but it seemed like an eternity. When I looked down  in my lap and on the floor, the sight of all that hair completely sucked the wind out of me. Next Mary took the guard off and used the clippers and comb method to blend the two different lengths together. Then she used the clippers with no guard to shave around my ears and neck. I didn’t move one bit. I was beaten down. By this point she could have shaved me bald and I would have just sat there and let her.

Just as she was finishing up, the phone rang. “Tammy it’s your mother calling for you” Mary said. Tammy’s mom was breathing heavily, as if she had just run to the phone. “Tammy, I just found out that your old stylist Mary is working part time at the salon you are at, and I just wanted to warn you. It seems as if every time you and her get together you end up shorn.” “Thanks Mom, but you are too late. I’ll see you back home.” As I hung up the phone Mary asked if I wanted to make an appointment for next month to keep my hair looking sharp.  Sure why not” I found myself saying, as I got up from the seat and stood on the floor covered with my hair.

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