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At the beginning of her senior year of high school Jean Johnston shocked her family when she announced that next year she would be attending the state university where she would study to become a music teacher. This news came as a surprise to all of her friends and relatives, not because Jean lacked musical talent–since the age of twelve she had soloed for Smithville Baptist Church choir–but because no member of the Johnston clan had ever set foot in an institution of higher learning. Most of the men worked in the coal mines or local factories; the women typically married in their teens and started having children before they were twenty.

But Jean always had been an exceptional child. She walked at ten months and spoke in complete sentences by the time she was two. Somehow, she learned to read before entering first grade. Quiet and studious, she always got good grades in school. Her teachers praised her tidy handwriting, her richly detailed book reports, and her willingness to help less able students. Jean never had much time for extra-curricular activities because she had to hurry home after school where she shouldered much of the responsibility for raising six younger brothers and sisters, a burden that grew heavier as her mother became increasingly incapacitated with arthritis and emphysema. Her only outlet was the church. Her parents were devout Baptists who did not complain when Jean went to Wednesday night Bible study class and Saturday morning choir rehearsal.

“You know, Jeannie, we’re not going to be able to help you pay the bills at college,” said her father, a bookkeeper for a local auto parts store. “You’ll have to support yourself.”

“I know, Pops,” she answered. “Somehow I’ll find a way.”

Jean’s good grades and determination won her a scholarship from the Smithville Lions Club and a small grant from the teacher’s association. Combined with savings from a summer job as a cashier at the local supermarket, Jean had enough money to cover her first semester expenses. A childless aunt and uncle donated their fifteen year old Dodge Dart to help Jean make the hundred mile trip back and forth from the university campus. Members of her church chipped in to buy her a computer. The whole community rallied to help this deserving student. Except for a handful of talented athletes, few Smithville graduates attended the prestigious state university, but everyone who knew Jean felt confident she would succeed.

Instead of living in the dormitory with the other freshmen, she found a room with an elderly widow who charged her a nominal rent in exchange for assistance with laundry and cleaning. Compared to her chores at home, living with Mrs. Fitzgerald was almost a vacation. Living off campus isolated Jean from much of the collegiate social scene. She never considered joining one of the sororities that dominated the university. She was invited to a few parties, but the loud music, heavy drinking, and easy drug use offended her old-fashioned sensibilities. After the first month she confined her social life to outings with the Baptist Youth Fellowship.

Despite her frugal lifestyle, Jean realized that she would need to find a part-time job to pay the bills for her second semester. Most of the on-campus jobs paid only minimum wage and had limited hours. She needed a better paying job. When she answered an ad for a waitress at a truck stop on the outskirts of town she discovered she could earn as much as fifty dollars a night in tips from hungry truckers. Although she had no experience at restaurant work, she accepted the job without a second thought. With assistance from the more seasoned women who worked there, Jean quickly learned the ropes. They taught her how to balance the heavy trays, to remember how her customers liked their coffee, and not to be intimidated by the foul mouthed cooks. One woman in particular, Marge Haskins, a fifty-two year old mother with three grown children, took a maternal interest in her welfare. “Honey, you’ve got the keep these guys at arms length,” she cautioned Jean about her customers. “Don’t let them get too close. And don’t play favorites. Tell them you love them all the same. Above all, never date a trucker.” Jean thought this was excellent advice. Most of the drivers reminded her of the men back in Smithville–narrow minded with limited ambitions. They were nice enough, but she had higher aspirations.

Jim Schultz was a regular customer who ate dinner at the truck stop three or four time a week. His usually sat at the counter where Jean worked and enjoyed flirting with the shy, serious young waitress. He stood six feet two and weighed two hundred and thirty pounds. His bulging right bicep bore the tattooed inscription, “Semper Fi,” a souvenir from his three year tour in the Marine Corps. Jim still wore his hair in a short military style that stood out, even among the rather conservative truckers. Although he was ten years her senior, Jean was attracted to the handsome trucker. While Jean appreciated his generous tips, more important in her mind was his decided masculine presence. Jim was a real “man’s man”–strong and decisive; respected by other men and admired by women. He was the complete opposite of her sweet but indecisive father who let her mother make all important family decisions.

Jean knew Jim was single since he didn’t wear a wedding band and frequently discussed the qualities he desired in an ideal mate with his fellow truckers. She should be humble, hard working, devout, and, above all, she must love children, he declared. The other men listed the physical attributes they desired in a wife–long legs, big breasts, energetic in making love. Jim insisted these were unimportant. “I’m not only looking for someone to share my bed,” he proclaimed. “My wife will be mother to my kids. If anything happens to me, I want a woman who will raise them right.” When she heard these words Jean realized that he was a man of substance; someone who shared her values; someone she would like to know better.

Through the winter months Jean and Jim chatted frequently. He inquired about her classes at the university and her ambitions after graduation. She learned that he worked for a small steel company, delivering loads to factories in the region, that he had held this position since leaving the Marines seven years earlier. When business was slow they sometimes talked till Jaen’s shift was done. Marge frowned at her young protégé to signal her disapproval of their budding relationship, but Jean ignored her warnings. Jim was just a casual friend, nothing more, she insisted.

One snowy evening in the middle of March, after her shift was over, Jean’s ancient car refused to start. When she returned to the restaurant looking for help, Jim volunteered to get it running again. After fiddling under the hood for five minutes, he coaxed the engine to life. “Well, it’s running now, but I don’t think this heap is going to take you very far,” he told her. “How far do you have to go?” Jean assured him that she could make it on her own, but when he insisted on following her back to the house where she stayed, she didn’t refuse. Secretly, she was flattered that this rugged trucker took such a protective interest in her. He seemed so much more mature than the boys in her college classes.

She drove the four miles back to campus with Jim’s pickup lights shining in her rear view mirror. When she thanked him for escorting her, he invited her to see a movie the next night and she accepted. It was her first real date since leaving Smithville. The following week he took her shopping for a used car to replace the terminally ill Dodge. They found a six year old Honda Civic with 100,000 miles on the odometer. She liked the bright red paint job. He declared the car was in good condition and would provide safe, reliable transportation. They agreed it was the right vehicle for her. Jim took over negotiations with the salesman. Afte
r an hour of haggling he drove the price down by four hundred dollars. Jean knew that on her own she never could have won such a large concession. When it was time to arrange the financing, Jim co-signed for her loan. The salesman assumed that they were a couple and they did nothing to discourage his notion.

Their courtship proceeded rapidly; by summer Jim was talking about marriage. Jean claimed that while she loved Jim she wasn’t ready to marry; she was only nineteen and still had three years of college remaining. Besides, she had seen too many of her high school classmates burdened by caring for a husband and small children before they were out of their teens. But Jim wasn’t the kind of guy who took no for an answer. He assured her that she could continue her education after the wedding and he would gladly pay her tuition. More important in Jean’s view was his strong moral argument. “Honey, I know you don’t believe in sex before marriage and neither do I. But I’m only human. I don’t know if I’m going to be able to wait for three years.” By August she had accepted his ring and they began making plans for their wedding the following spring.

They had been engaged for three months when Jim first suggested that Jean cut her long brown hair. They were at a print shop looking at wedding invitations. The attractive woman assisting them was in her mid-thirties and wore her auburn hair in a short bob–a haircut that drew attention to her slender neck and bright green eyes. On their way out of the store Jim remarked to Jean, “Did you notice that saleswoman’s haircut?” he asked.

“Of course, how could I not notice it?” she replied.

“Well, what did you think of it?” he continued.

Jean was rather puzzled by Jim’s interest in the woman’s haircut. Usually he paid little attention to female fashions. “Well, I thought it was pretty darn short,” she answered honestly.

“Do you think it looked good?” he pressed.

“Yeah, I guess so,” she said without enthusiasm. “I mean, it looked good on her.”

“Well, I think you should get your hair cut like that,” Jim blurted out.

Jean was taken aback by his uncharacteristic interest in her appearance. Although she tried to wear nice clothes and carefully applied makeup when they went out, Jim seldom gave her compliments. It made no difference whether she wore her long brown hair pinned up in a bun, pulled back into a pony tail, or falling loosely over her shoulders; he never seemed to notice. Now he was fascinated by this stranger’s haircut. “You’re kidding, aren’t you?” she answered.

“No, I’m perfectly serious,” he assured her.

“Don’t you like my hair the way it is?” she inquired, rather hurt that he was not satisfied with her looks.

“Sure, honey, your hair looks great,” he replied without great conviction.

“So why would you want me to cut it?” she demanded.

“I just think you would look really cool with your hair cut like that,” he explained.

Jim quickly changed the subject, but Jean remained mystified why he was so captivated by the woman’s hair. She realized that there were some things about her fiancée that she didn’t fully understand. The next week they returned to the same shop to place their order. Jean hoped that the woman with the short hair would not be working, but when they entered she was standing behind the front counter. There was no way to avoid her. More distressing to Jean was the sight of the woman’s hair cut even shorter than it had been the previous week. It looked like she had recently come from the beauty parlor. Her radically short bangs left an inch of forehead exposed above her eyebrows; on the sides her hair reached just below her ears, then angled sharply upwards exposing a closely clipped back. The haircut was a striking fashion statement; one that was sure to attract attention from both men and women. Jean stole a glance at her fiancée and, just as she feared, Jim was studying this new haircut with undisguised fascination.

Jim did most of the talking while they placed their order, as usual, and was strictly business, but after they had finished, while waiting for the credit card to be processed, he changed the subject. “Miss, if you don’t mind me asking, where do you get your hair done?” he asked.

“Why do you ask?” she replied, obviously surprised by his interest.

“Well, I really like your haircut; I think it looks terrific, and I’d like Jean here to try something similar,” he told her.

Jean was mortified to hear her fiancée discussing a personal subject like her hairstyle with a perfect stranger. She wanted to protest that she had no intention of cutting her hair, but realized that any comment from her would only create a scene and cause her even greater embarrassment. She listened as the saleswoman replied, “Thanks. I’m glad you like it. I’ve never had my hair cut quite this short, but I think it turned out very well. I had it done at the Shear Madness salon.”

“And where is that located?” Jim inquired. Jean squirmed nervously as he pressed on, oblivious to her discomfort.

“It’s at the Mayfair Mall, about a mile from here. Wait, I think I have their card.” She fished in her purse and extracted a cream colored business card. “Here it is,” she said, handing him the card. “Ask for Terri.”

“And what do you call this style?” he asked.

“It’s called an inverted bob,” she informed him.

As they exited the shop Jean turned to her fiancée. “Jim, how could you?”

“How could I do what?” he asked, bewildered by her sudden outburst.

“How could you tell that woman I wanted my hair cut like hers?” she demanded. “You know that’s not true.”

“Honey, now don’t get all upset. I didn’t mean anything by it. Some day you may change your mind and then we’ll be ready.” He tucked the card in his wallet; Jean knew it was useless to try to change his mind.

“Well, please don’t go talking with strangers about my appearance,” she hotly informed him. “How I wear my hair is none of their business and I’ll thank you not to discuss it in public again.”

It was the first time she had spoken to him in anger and Jim appeared chastened. Jean sulked all the way home in the car. She hoped that her outburst would convince Jim to drop the subject of her hair, but that was not to be. Two weeks later when picking up Jean after her shift at the truck stop, Jim noticed that Lucy, one of the younger waitresses, was sporting a new haircut. While her cut was not nearly as short as the woman in the print shop, Lucy’s style was several inches shorter than her previous do. “Like your new haircut, Luce,” he said.

“Thanks, Jim. I decided it was time for a change,” she told him.

“Makes you look years younger. I wish Jean would try something like that,” he continued.

Jean could feel the eyes of the other waitresses turning in her direction. Her own dark brown hair was pulled back in a pony tail–her usual style. It hung nearly half way down her back. She didn’t frequent beauty salons because they were too expensive. Aside from an occasional trim, she hadn’t had a real haircut since sophomore year of high school. Now Jim was pressuring her to get it cut. The attention was making her self-conscious and she wished he would stop.

On the ride home Jean scolded Jim for his remarks to Lucy. “There you go again, Jim, talking about how I should get my hair cut. I wish you’d give it a rest. You know I want my hair long for the wedding.”

“I’m sorry, honey,” he apologized. “You know I believe in speaking my mind. When I see something that looks good I let people know. That’s just the way I am.”

“Yes, I know that, Jim, and I don’t want you to change, but you never say that you like my hair, only other women’s. Your comments make me terribly self-conscious. I feel like you’re
criticizing the way I look,” she confessed.

“I’m sorry, honey,” Jim said with sincere contrition. “I don’t know why you’re so sensitive. I’ll try to keep quiet, at least until after the wedding.”

Jim was true to his word and did not mention her hair for the next five months. When Jean walked down the aisle of her hometown Baptist church on her father’s arm she looked radiant with her dark hair hanging down nearly to the middle of her back. Marge, Lucy, and three other waitresses made the journey to Smithville for the wedding and told Jean how lovely she looked. “You and Jim make such a beautiful couple,” Marge gushed. “I’m glad you ignored my advice about not dating truckers.” They both laughed at the irony of Marge’s unheeded warning.

After the honeymoon the newlyweds moved into a two bedroom house not far from the university campus. It was rather rundown, but Jim claimed it was structurally sound and quite a bargain. For the next three months Jean and Jim spent most of their spare time working on their new home. He was skilled at carpentry and plumbing while she pitched in on the painting and wall papering. Jean covered her head with an old blue bandanna while she worked. Despite her best efforts, however, she couldn’t avoid getting paint in her hair. In an unguarded moment she cursed, “This darn hair is really getting to be a nuisance.” As soon as the words were out of her mouth she realized she had made a mistake.

“You know, honey, if your hair’s bothering you, it wouldn’t be hard to fix,” Jim said. She knew exactly what he meant, but pointedly ignored his suggestion. It was another reminder that thoughts about her hair were never far from his mind.

The next week they worked in the middle of a record August heat wave. Classes would resume shortly and they wanted to have the house ready by then. The fans placed in the room did little to lower the temperature. Jean’s shirt was soaked with sweat and perspiration dripped into her eyes. Her long hair had been a source of irritation all day. No matter how she pulled it away from her face, it seemed to work loose in a few minutes. She frequently stopped to readjust her pony tail. “If this heat doesn’t let up, I may just decide to get my hair cut,” she exclaimed in frustration.

Of course Jim immediately picked up on her complaint. “There’s no relief in sight,” he observed. “That might be a good idea.”

“Yes, I suppose you’re right,” she said with regret. She knew she it was pointless trying to change Jim’s mind about her hair. It might be better to agree with him, she thought, and then shift the conversation to another subject.

Jim made no further mention of her hair that evening, but the next day he surprised her by calling around noon. Jim rarely phoned during the day; usually he was on the road delivering a load of steel.

“Honey, I’m coming home early tonight. I’ve got a surprise for you,” he announced.

Around four o’clock Jim’s pickup pulled up in front of their home. He bounded up the sidewalk and burst through the door in an exceptionally good mood. “Honey, get your purse. We’re going out,” he announced.

“Where are we going?” she asked.

“Can’t tell. That’s the surprise,” he said.

“Can’t you give me a hint? I’d like to know if I’m dressed right.” She was dressed in her usual around the house work clothes–blue jeans, a tee-shirt, and sneakers.

“Well, you might want to get dressed up a bit,” he pronounced after he examined her casual attire.

Jean assumed that he was taking her out to dinner to celebrate their four month anniversary so she changed into a light skirt and matching sleeveless blouse she had recently purchased at an end of summer sale. She put on her one pair of good earrings and gathered her hair at the base of her neck with the sliver clip her grandmother had given her on her sixteenth birthday.

Jean was surprised when, after driving for half an hour, Jim pulled into the parking lot for the Mayfair Mall. It was on the east side of town and not a place they usually frequented. “Where are we going?” she asked again when they alighted from the truck.

“Just follow me. You’ll see,” he said mysteriously.

Jim took her hand and led her to the second level of the mall. “It should be around here somewhere,” he said as they walked briskly down the spacious walkway. They turned a corner and he exclaimed, “Ah, there it is.” Directly ahead of them Jean spied the sign for the Shear Madness hair salon. So this was Jim’s big surprise! No wonder he hadn’t told her about it; he knew she probably would not have come along if she realized this was their destination. Instantly she dug in her heels.

“Jimmy, you’re not taking me in there, are you?” she demanded.

“Yep,” he announced proudly. “I made an appointment for you at five o’clock.”

“You made an appointment without even asking me?” she cried.

“Sure. I wanted it to be a surprise,” he said proudly.

“But when did I ever say anything about getting my hair cut?” she protested.

“Why just the other day,” he explained. “Didn’t you say your hair was getting to be a nuisance?”

“Well, yes, I did say something like that,” she reluctantly admitted.

“And just last night didn’t you say that you had decided to get your hair cut?” he continued.

Too late she realized that her husband would seize on any casual comment and use it in his crusade to see her hair cut. “Jimmy,” she protested, “I said I might get my hair cut. There’s a big difference between might and will. I never said I wanted to get my hair cut.”

“Well, what was I to think? I knew you wanted your hair long for the wedding and for six months I didn’t say a word about it. I figured now that we’re married you’d be ready for a change,” he explained, trying to pacify her. Jean realized, much to her regret, that her unguarded comment the previous evening was all the opening Jim needed. His one track mind had jumped to the conclusion that she was finally willing to get her hair cut the way he wanted.

“But I know the kind of haircut you like–really, really short–and I’m just not ready to do that,” she pleaded, trying to think of an argument that would dissuade him.

“I understand, honey, but you haven’t had your hair cut once since we began dating. Can’t we make some kind of a compromise?” he offered.

Jean was relieved to hear Jim suggest a compromise. “Well, I suppose I could get it cut a little shorter,” Jean conceded. “After all, you did go to the trouble of setting up this appointment and we did come all this way.”

“That’s great, Jeannie. I made your appointment with Terri. Let’s not keep her waiting,” Jim said triumphantly. He seemed almost gleeful as he grabbed Jean’s hand and pulled her into the salon behind him.

Although Jean doubted that her husband had ever set foot in a beauty salon before, Jim took charge in his usual fashion. “Mrs. Schultz is here for her five o’clock appointment,” he announced to the young receptionist.

“Yes, Terri will be right with you,” she politely replied.

They took a seat on sofa near the front door. Jean nervously looked around the salon. Six stylists were working on customers in various stages of their haircuts. She noticed that all of the stylists wore rather short hairstyles. It seemed that most of the customers were getting short cuts too. She was certain that Jim was enjoying the sight of so many closely clipped women. Jean thumbed through the book of styles on the table in front of her. Most of the models pictured on its pages displayed shorter styles as well. This salon certainly lived up to its name, she thought. She had noticed their ads in the local newspaper. They were part of a chain that catered to busy working mothers. The stylists worked quickly and customers ca
me and went in a steady stream. Their prices were low and their profit came from high volume.

Before long a thirtyish woman with bleached blonde hair cut in a very short punk style appeared in front of them. “You must be Mrs. Schultz,” she observed. “I’m Terri Raspberry. I’ll be your stylist tonight. Please come with me.” Jean cringed to think that this woman would be working on her hair; she definitely was not the sort of person she would have selected, but felt she had no choice. She was surprised when Jim rose from his seat to join them. Terri looked at Jean with a quizzical expression, but Jean just shrugged. Jim watched intently as Terri removed the clip from Jean’s hair and gave her a good shampoo. As the warm water washed over her head, Jean began to relax a bit. Perhaps this won’t be so bad, she thought to herself. Perhaps I am overdue for a haircut.

When Terri finished the shampoo Jim followed them back to the salon’s main area. The stylist combed through Jean’s damp locks, drawing a clean part down the middle of her head. “I see you’ve been doing some painting,” she remarked.

“Yes, we’re working on our house and I can’t seem to keep the paint out of my hair,” she admitted.

“It’s a shame,” the stylist commented, “otherwise your hair’s very thick and healthy.”

Jean was not encouraged by the Terri’s observation. She dreaded what she knew was coming next.

“Do you want me to cut out the sections with paint on them?” she asked.

“Can’t I just use paint remover?” Jean pleaded, desperate to keep her long hair.

“That stuff really damages your hair,” Terri replied. “If you used water based paint it would have come out when I washed it, but it looks like you used oil based paint.”

“Yes, we did,” Jean sadly acknowledged.

Then came the critical question. “So how do you want me to cut it?” she asked. “Just a trim or something more?”

Before Jean could open her mouth, Jim spoke up. “My wife would like a short haircut.”

“Short? How short?” Terri’s question was directed to Jean, but Jim answered for her.

“You should cut it about here,” he said, pointing at a spot near Jean’s chin. “And then you should cut it up like this,” he said, tracing a diagonal line with his finger towards the back of her head. Jean knew that Jim was describing the same haircut worn by the woman in the print shop. She realized he hadn’t abandoned his desire to see her transformed into a copy of that saleslady. “I think it’s called an inverted bob,” he added.

“Yes, you’re right,” the stylist replied. “That’s going to be quite a big change,” she said with obvious relish. Jean could see that Terri was enjoying the prospect of such a major makeover. She also realized that this plan was going forward without her consent. Jim had enlisted the stylist as his accomplice in this plot to cut off her hair and she willingly joined in.

“Jim, that’s too short,” she protested.

“Honey, I think you’ll look really cool with your hair cut like that. What do you think, Terri?” he asked.

“Yes, I’m sure this would be a great look for you Mrs. Schultz. It’s very fashionable,” she agreed.

“But I’ve never had my hair that short,” Jean continued to protest.

“Well, it’s up to you, of course, but I think your husband has the right idea,” Terri added.

“Honey, I want you to try it–just this once. If you don’t like it, you can start growing it back right away,” Jim pleaded.

Jean had never heard her husband beg for anything. This obviously was more important than she realized. She owed him a great deal and she had been taught at home and in church that a woman should do everything possible to please her spouse. While she was not happy at the prospect of such an extreme makeover, she felt powerless to resist the combined onslaught. She knew that her husband had his heart set on seeing her with a short haircut and would not be satisfied until she gave in. Reluctantly, she decided to go along with his request. “Well, I suppose I could try something shorter,” she said halfheartedly. “But not too short,” she cautioned.

“That’s great,” Terri exclaimed. “Let’s get started.” The stylist sprang into action before Jean had a chance to reconsider. She began by sectioning her hair with large plastic clips. She combed the front section straight down over Jean’s forehead until it covered her face. Then Terri inserted her scissors above Jean’s eyebrow and quickly cut away a wide swath of dark hair. Long strands of hair slid down her face and landed in her lap. Jean gasped when she saw herself in the mirror. Her new bangs stopped halfway up her forehead, in almost exactly the same place as the short-haired print shop woman. The long curtains of hair hanging down on either side formed a dramatic contrast to her shortened bangs.

Jean scarcely had time to get used to the bangs before Terry began attacking the side of her head. She cut a precise diagonal line starting near her jaw and moving higher up toward the back of her head. Jean watched in dismay as two foot lengths of hair silently fell down her shoulder before coming to rest on the floor.

Within minutes Terri had removed most of the long hair that Jean had cultivated for the last five years. After cutting the left side to match the right, Terri exchanged her scissors for a cordless silver clipper. She switched on the power and the blades buzzed ominously in Jean’s ears. Jean had seen her father and brothers get their hair cut with clippers, but didn’t realize they were used on women as well. Before her customer could utter a word of protest Terri lifted up the hair in back of Jean’s head with her comb and clipped all of the hair protruding between the teeth. Jean sat paralyzed as the stylist continued trimming the back of her head. She couldn’t tell exactly how short it was, but she knew it would take years to grow back to its previous length.

Terri returned with a blow dryer and brush to fluff and arrange the finished cut. When she was done she held a mirror at the sides and back of Jean’s head so she could inspect the finished product. “Well, what do you think?” she asked proudly. Jean barely recognized the image she beheld. The new look was dramatic and very stylish; Terri had done a good job, but Jean was not pleased. It was not in keeping with her conservative upbringing. She believed that women who called attention to themselves with outlandish clothes or extreme hairstyles were cheap and tawdry. She worried what the women at her church would say.

Jean saw that Terri thought her new look was fantastic and she was too polite to insult the stylist’s handiwork. “It’s very short,” Jean observed cautiously. “It’s going to take a while to get used to it.”

“Honey, you look great!” Jim chimed in. She knew he was anxious to see her with a short haircut; still, his obvious enthusiasm was rather embarrassing. She wondered what the other women in the shop would think about a husband who took such an interest in his wife’s hairstyle.

“You’ll need to come back every four or five weeks to keep it looking sharp,” Terri interjected.

“Yes, we’ll make an appointment before we leave,” Jim replied. It was clear that Jean would not have an option; he intended to keep her in this short style.

When the couple left the shop and rejoined the bustling foot traffic of the mall’s central corridor Jean was near tears. They walked for several minutes without saying anything. Finally Jim sensed that something was wrong. “What’s the matter, honey?” he asked when they reached the parking lot.

“Oh Jimmy,” she sobbed. “My hair–it’s so short! I hardly recognize myself. When we went into that shop I had no idea that she was going to cut it like this. I agreed to let her cut it shorter, but when I sat down in that chair it seemed like neither you nor
Terri listened to a word I said. She just went ahead and cut it the way she wanted. And you were even worse. You encouraged her. Doesn’t my opinion count for anything?” She burst into tears and Jim took her into his powerful arms.

“Honey, I’m sorry. I know it must be a shock, but you’ll get used to it. I think you look really great. Just think how much time you will save in the morning. It will only take a few minutes to fix this style compared to the hours you spent fussing over your long hair.” He held her and patted her back. Jean felt Jim’s fingers as they slowly massaged her bare neck and cautiously explored the short hairs above. She knew he was fascinated by her new haircut.

“Yes, I do suppose it will be easier to care for,” she conceded. “But what will my friends say? They’ve never seen me with short hair.”

“I’m sure they’ll love your new look,” he assured her. And he was right. When Jean reported for work Monday evening Marge, Lucy, and the other waitresses oohed and aahed over her new look. They treated her short haircut as a sign of maturity; an indication that she was now a married woman and no longer a college co-ed. “You look like a new woman,” they told her, “so smart and stylish.” Jean had never thought of herself as a trend setter, but after the haircut she began paying more attention to her appearance. She asked the other girls for tips on makeup and started applying eyeliner and mascara to emphasize her brown eyes. She also noticed that Jim was more attentive at home. When they made love he enjoyed fondling her short hair. Jean could tell that it turned him on. As the weeks passed she gradually became more comfortable with her new look. When the time came for her second appointment she was reconciled to keeping her hair short.

Jim made sure she didn’t forget. “Remember, you’ve got your appointment at Shear Madness this afternoon,” he reminded her.

“Yes, I know, honey,” she said.

“Would you like me to come with you?” he offered.

“No, that won’t be necessary,” she answered. She didn’t want him tagging along. She found his presence in the salon and his obvious enthusiasm made her uncomfortable. It didn’t fit with her image of her manly husband.

“I hope you’re planning on going back to Terri,” he continued.

“Yes, I have my appointment with her,” she assured him. She knew he would insist that she return to this scissor happy stylist.

“I really liked the way she cut your hair last time,” he added.

“Yes, Jim, I know,” she sighed. It was only the hundredth time he had told her.

When she returned to Shear Madness Terri was waiting for her. “Mrs. Schultz,” she welcomed her, “good to see you again.”

“Please, call me Jean,” she insisted.

“I wasn’t sure you’d be coming back,” the stylist confided. “You seemed kinda freaked out last time.”

“You’re right, I was,” she agreed. “I wasn’t prepared for such a short haircut. You took me by surprise.”

“Sorry about that,” she said. “I work pretty fast. Some stylists take their time, but that’s not me. Still, I think it turned out well. This style looks darn good on you.”

Jean smiled at the flattery. She still wasn’t used to people praising her looks. This had never happened before. “Yes, you’re right. Once I got over the shock I could see that you did a very nice job. I’ve gotten tons of compliments.”

“So what are we going to do today?” Terri asked.

“Same as last time,” Jean replied.

“Good,” Terri replied as she went to work trimming Jean’s short locks. It wasn’t long before Jean realized her instructions were going unheeded. In four weeks her hair hadn’t grown noticeably longer, but the eager stylist soon clipped nearly half an inch from her bangs and more than an inch from the sides. After her first visit to the salon Jean’s ears had been completely covered by flaps of brown hair; now they were half exposed. Terri cut the back shorter as well. When she got her clippers out she didn’t bother to use the comb. Instead she snapped a plastic guide over the blades and pressed it directly against Jean’s neck. She drove the clippers higher up Jean’s head than last time. Jean watched and listened in a mild state of panic as her stylist administered one of the shortest haircuts she could imagine. She had requested the same haircut as the last time, but Terri completely ignored her instructions. She wanted to tell the blonde stylist to stop cutting her hair so short, yet it was useless to protest. Terri would administer the haircut she had in mind. She wondered if Jim had called ahead and given her secret instructions. Jean sat quietly and decided to accept her fate.

When she had finished brushing every hair into place, Terri stepped back and asked, “Well, what do you think?”

“It’s awfully short,” Jean protested feebly.

“Yes, but it really suits you. You have nice small ears and a fine neck. You should show them off,” she urged.

“Yes, I suppose you’re right,” Jean reluctantly agreed.

She ran her fingers through the short hair on the back of her head. “It’s just that I’m afraid I’ll look like a guy with my hair this short.”

“Nonsense. Not with this style; never in a million years,” the stylist assured her. “Just be sure to come back in four weeks to keep it looking good.”

When Jean arrived home she found Jim waiting for her. His enthusiastic reaction confirmed her expectation. “Honey, you look great!” he exclaimed. “You got another really fine haircut.”

“I don’t know, Jim,” Jean confessed. “It’s so short.”

“Short hair looks good on you,” he insisted.

“I know you think so, but Terri doesn’t seem to listen,” she complained.

“What do you mean?” he asked.

“Well, I asked her to cut it the same as last time, but this is much shorter,” she grumbled.

“Well, it is the same style as last time, just a bit shorter,” Jim argued in defense of the ruthless stylist. It seemed that no cut Terri administered would be too short for him.

“Nothing I said seemed to sink in. She just went ahead and cut it the way she wanted,” she continued.

“She knows what looks best on you,” Jim maintained. “You should just let her go ahead.”

The third time she returned to Shear Madness, Terri gave Jean an even shorter cut, clipping the hair on the sides of her head above her ears. Jean noticed that each time she came home with a fresh haircut Jim couldn’t wait to make love. He took great pleasure in running his fingers through her newly cut hair, especially in the back where it had been buzzed. Nothing seemed to turn him on more than her short hair. At first Jean appreciated the extra attention, but after a while she became concerned. Was there something strange about her husband? Why was he so passionate about her hair?

To please Jim, Jean kept returning to Shear Madness for monthly trims and Terri continued as her regular stylist. Jean soon learned that Terri considered herself a tonsorial artist. She didn’t like to administer the same haircut twice in succession. Her calling was to create a fresh masterpiece with each appointment. Over the years Jean’s look gradually evolved from a brief bob to a modified pixie style that left her ears fully exposed; jagged bangs replaced the crisp line across her forehead; on top her hair was scarcely two inches long. Terri made sure that the back remained clipped as short as a man’s; she wouldn’t listen to Jean’s pleas to let it grow longer. “You’ve got a nice neck, honey, you shouldn’t be afraid to show it off,” was her standard reply. Jean grudgingly complied. She felt trapped between her obsessive husband and her uncompromising stylist.

Although Jean enjoyed the convenience of short hair, she found herself yearning to return to the longer hairstyle she had worn bef
ore they met. She knew that Jim preferred her hair cut short. Nothing she could say would persuade him to change his mind. She loved her husband deeply and didn’t want to risk his disapproval. He brought home a steady paycheck and supported her as she completed her studies and became established in her first teaching position. Jim didn’t go out drinking like many of his trucker buddies; one week in the fall for his annual deer hunting trip was the only time he spent away from her.

Jim helped around the house and when she became pregnant with their first child he showered her with attention. He beamed with pride when Jean insisted they name their son Jim Junior. She knew he would be an excellent father. Although all her female friends were attracted to his rugged good looks, the only time he looked at another woman was when he spotted one with extremely short hair. She considered herself lucky to find such a devoted husband. Wearing her hair cut short was a small price to pay in exchange for such a faithful spouse.

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