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It was the last weekend of vacation before sixth grade started. I was excited because it was my last year at John St. James Elementary but nervous because my teacher was brand-new and no one knew anything about her. I didn’t do a whole lot on my vacation, my parents didn’t have the kind of money to go somewhere exciting like the Grand Canyon or even Disneyland. So I just sat around the house most of the time and went over my friends’ houses on occasion. I was glad to be getting back to school cause I was getting bored of staying at home.

It was around ten o’clock on Saturday and I heard my mom calling to me. I went downstairs in my P.J.’s and was rubbing the sleep from my eyes as I entered the kitchen. My mother was sitting at the kitchen table with her coffee in hand and told me that we were going to go shopping for school clothes. I only got to get new clothes twice a year and I was glad to be rid of my kiddy clothes. “So go take a shower and get ready”, she said mussing my hair. “Oh and brush out this rats nest while you’re at it. God, when was the last time you combed through this mess?” my mom asked as she attempted to drive her nails deeper into the mass that had formed at the back of my head. Admittedly I hadn’t showered about three days and paid little attention to brushing and washing my hair.

I went upstairs and turned on the shower water to let it get warm and started to brush out my hair. I couldn’t get the brush through it and put the brush down and picked up the comb. The teeth of the comb stuck hard in my hair as I let out a yelp of pain. I decided that I should try to start combing it out from the bottom, the way my mom had taught me when I was little.

About twenty-five minutes must have gone by when I heard a knock at the bathroom door. “You almost done in there?” my mom asked. “Ugh, no.” I replied with a hint of strain in my voice. I had just combed through the top and the right side of my hair. My arm was getting tired and I was beginning to think it would take a miracle to get these knots out.

My mom knocked on the door and then opened it. She laughed at the sight of me, comb in hand and squinty eyed from the pain. “Do you need some help?” my mom asked. All I could do was look at her and nod pathetically. She told me to sit on the toilet backward and she started at the mess. “Wow” she said, “This is pretty bad isn’t it?” Once again, all I could do was nod my head, which was now starting to ache.

She had been combing for only about fifteen minutes when suddenly she put the comb down and turned off the water that was still running. “This isn’t working” I heard her mutter under her breath. “Just get dressed. I’m going to need to take you into a salon to see what they can do with this.” she said as she fluffed the mass of hair with her hand.

I got dressed, brushed my teeth and went downstairs to find my mom there with her purse in one hand and keys clenched tightly in the other. We got in the car and were off. We pulled into a shopping center not far from home. My mom pulled the car into a parking stall adjacent to a shop that was called Ultra Cuts Plus. My stomach started to sink as I slowly got out of the car. This was the first time that I started to feel that this day was going to go down hill.

My mom gave my name to the receptionist and we sat in the lobby until it was my turn. The shop was pretty busy. There were five people cutting hair, four women and a man. There were even some kids in there, probably getting back to school haircuts. This was something we never had money for. My mom would cut a few inches of my hair off every year and that was about it. So my hair was relatively long, about to the small of my back. I guess that’s was part of why it was so hard to comb through.

Just as it dawned on me that my hair was probably going to be cut somewhat shorter than usual, my mother put her arm around me and asked if I knew that a lot was going to have to come off. I tried to drowned out her words as I was watching a girl a couple years younger than me get her hair cut to a shoulder length bob. That wouldn’t be so bad I thought as I pondered what the haircut would look like on me.

Then I noticed a boy that looked my age plop down into one of the big red chairs. His mother was standing next to him with her hand on her hip, she looked mean. “Cut it all off into a crew cut” I heard her say to the male stylist, the boy slunked deeper into the chair with a look of misery. His hair was long and shaggy. He needed a good hair cut, but when I saw how short the barber was cutting it, I started to feel bad for him.

With that, I was jolted out of my thoughts to the sound of my name. I jumped a bit and then stood up as my mom ushered my to the receptionists desk. There was one of the stylists at the desk when we got there. “My name is Janette and I will be your stylist today” she said as she reached to shake my hand. “Hi, I’m Jennifer” I said shaking her hand. “So what do we have in mind today” she questioned my mom “A nice new do for school or just a trim?” she asked. My mom shook her head and said that there is a bit of a problem. “Her hair is a total mess in the back and I can’t seem to get the tangles out. I was hoping that there was something you could do to fix it” my mother shrugged reluctantly. “Turn around, let see what we have gotten ourselves into” said the stylist. I turned around and she started picking through my hair and then said that she would like to first start with a really good deep conditioner to try to break up the mass.

Before I know it I was caped and sitting at the wash bowl. Janette washed my hair and then put conditioner on it. She told me she wanted to leave it in for a while so it could work its magic and she walked away. I started to think that just maybe this would turn out ok, I’d get a nice new professional haircut for school, better that the trim that my mom would have given me.

About ten minutes later, Janette came back with a really big comb in hand and started to comb away at my hair. She quickly combed through the top and the sides, but when it came to the back it almost seemed as though it was harder to comb through, probably due to the fact that my hair was now wet. She squeezed the water from my hair and wrapped a couple towels around my head and walked me to her station. She towel dried more water from my hair and once again went to combing out my hair. She continued to put more conditioner on my hair as she worked. It didn’t feel as though any progress was being made. She called over another stylist and asked her opinion. The lady picked gingerly at my hair and said “You’re going to have to cut it” and walked away. At this I started to get scared, then I heard Janette call my mother over.

“I think we’re going to have to cut it” Janette said to my mother. “How short?” was my mothers reply. “Well, it’s pretty close back here” she said as she took my mom’s hand to try to feel the space between the knarled mess and my head. “Oh no!” my mother said in shock “That will be so short!” she exclaimed. With that I started to cry. They were going to have to cut it off like the boy with the crew cut.

I started to sob and pull at my mom’s sleeve and beg her not to let them do it. Janette tried to alleviate the problem and said that she could leave the top long and cut the back and sides short. My mom looked at her and said, “Do what you can” and went back to the waiting area. I was left all alone with the stylist and the big pair of scissors that caught my eye on her table.

“Don’t cry sweetie,” Janette said patting my on my shoulder “It’s just hair, it’ll grow back, I promise.” And with that I felt her go to work. She slid the scissors up against the back of my head and heard them crunch several times through the knots. She would then pull the scissors out with the mass and move to another section. After a few more times the entanglement was removed. I could feel cool air on the back of my neck and head, it was a feeling that I couldn’t describe.

Janette then sectioned of th
e crown of my hair and secured it at the top of my head. I saw her reach for a pair of clippers that were in a drawer and she was searching around for something else. She pulled out a black piece and snapped it to the clippers. “Put your head down, sweetie” she said and she pushed my head down. “That’s right put your chin all the way to your chest.”

Pop! Went the clippers with excitement, tears started welling up again. Flashes of the crewcut boy ran through my head. I started breathing heavily as she ran the clippers up the back of my head in one stroke. Suddenly she turned off the clippers “Not short enough” I heard he mutter as she went back to dig in the drawer. She popped off the black attachment and put the new one on. She turned the clippers back on and followed them up the same path as the first. Then she quickly started a new path a little to the left and continued on over my left ear. She then went back to the right side and finished that side. I began to sob out loud as I felt tufts of hair fall over my left shoulder and then my right.

“The worst it over, please don’t keep crying” Janette said with sympathetically. She pulled down the top of my hair and combed it out. She picked up the scissors and I felt them press cold against my cheek. Schnick, schnick, schnick went the scissors as more hair slid from my cheek down to the cape. I started to get a little dizzy at the thought of the loss of all this hair. How much was actually left? She continued to cut all the way around until the hair on top of my head fell to just about the bottom of my earlobe.

Janette then motioned for my mother to come over. My mother covered her mouth quickly, but not soon enough for the gasp to escape. “Oh my god that’s so short!!!” she exclaimed. “I had to take it down to a number two on the back and sides” explained Janette. “It’s really short, but it will grow back soon enough” Janette attempted to be encouraging. “What about the top?” my mother questioned. “That’s what I wanted to know” said Janette. “We discussed leaving it long, but look here” she said motioning to the back of my head. “I had to take the back up pretty high and I think it looks a little awkward with the top left long. It’s really thin in the back and you can see the undercut shows through. What do you think?” Janette asked my mom messing my hair around. “Well I agree that it looks bad, but she’ll look like a boy with the top cut short!” my mom exclaimed. With this I began to cry again. I glanced up at my reflection in the mirror and could see my eyes were red and puffy. I then continued on to look at my hair. It didn’t look all that bad, in fact there was enough hair left and I still looked like a girl. “It looks fine!” I bursted out! “Leave it!” I cried. “Just stop cutting off all my hair!!!” I whined. “I promise I will brush it!!!” I wailed.

“But honey, you haven’t seen the back” my mom pressed on my shoulder to sit me back down in the chair. I hadn’t realized that I even stood up. My legs were shaky so I sat back down. Janette hand me a mirror and turned me around to look at the back. The back of my head shown through the sparse ear length of the top and it did indeed look bad. I put down the mirror and hunched over and continued to sob. “Just do what you can” was once again my moms reply as she walked again back to the waiting area.

This time Janette did not try to make me feel better. She swiftly grabbed the clippers and put on a different attachment and plowed through the top of my hair, this time much more quickly than before. As she continued to buzz off what remained of my hair, I began to feel cold. The sound of the clippers sounded numb in my head and I just gave up. She then started working more precisely, changing guards on the clippers to taper the back and sides. She then pulled out a straight edge razor and in a few swipes shaved or the little remnants of hair left on the nape of my neck. “You’re all done kiddo” Janette said hastily as she took the cape of and hurried me up out of her hair. I think she didn’t want me to catch a glimpse of myself in the mirror and start bawling again. It was too late, I stopped cold in front of the mirror and looked hard into it. I didn’t recognize what I was seeing. It looked like a picture I saw at my Grandma’s of my dad when he was little. My head was so pale and there was barely any hair left on my head. I started to cry again. Janette rubbed her hand over the top of my head and said “Awe, it’s not that bad, it’s kinda cute on you.” With that I ran out of the salon with my head down. I ran as far as I could until I couldn’t run any further. I walked the rest of the way home, ran upstairs and cried myself to sleep. My mom woke me up at dinner time and told be that she felt really bad about what I had been through, but hoped that I would remember to brush my hair from then on out. Despite the whole ordeal, my mother never let me grow my hair out any longer than my shoulders.

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