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Helen had kept her hair cut short for nearly six years.  At first she liked the modified pixie cut.  While it was quite a contrast to her previous long locks, all her friends said the new look really suited her.  Besides, it was so much easier to care for—just a quick shampoo and blow dry in the morning—no more than fifteen minutes and she was ready for the day.  The only thing about having short hair she found annoying was the need for frequent haircuts.  Helen never much cared for the strong chemical smell of the beauty salon.  She was a rather private person and the chatty stylists always wanted to delve into the most intimate details of her personal life, things that she would never confide to a stranger.  But she knew her short style required a trim every six or eight weeks, so she made regular appointments at a top end salon and paid what she considered an extravagant amount to keep her head neatly coifed. 

Eventually Helen got bored with short hair.  She started thinking it might be fun to wear her hair long again.  She noticed that several of the women at the insurance company where she worked had adopted longer styles.  She also saw that the men in the office seemed to gravitate towards the women with long hair, especially when they let it hang down around their shoulders.  She wasn’t interested in attracting other men, but she thought perhaps her husband Brad would find her more alluring with long hair.  Although he had never complained about her short hair, she suspected that, like most men, Brad loved long haired women.  Helen knew the growing out process would take at least a year, but she resolved to give it a try. 

Normally Helen visited the salon around the end of every second month, but now she let her regular appointment pass.  Her light brown hair grew quickly and soon it was well beyond its normal length.  By the third month her bangs were flopping in her eyes; she had to pin them back with little plastic clips to keep them out of her face.  On the sides her ears disappeared beneath the steadily expanding covering of hair and in the back it now extended over her collar. 

It didn’t take Brad long to notice that something was different.  His first thought was that his wife was just being thrifty by avoiding the salon.  He knew Helen didn’t enjoy having her hair cut and was always looking for ways to stretch a dollar.  He concluded she was just being thrifty.  Brad didn’t much like his wife’s shaggy appearance, but didn’t say anything about it.  Helen was hypersensitive about her appearance and any comment about her hair immediately put her on the defensive.  In the past his innocent suggestion that she was overdue for a trim brought a hostile reply.  “Don’t you like the way I look?” she asked and that ended the conversation. 

After observing the growing out process for three months, however, Brad could keep quiet no longer; he had to say something.  One evening while they were watching the news on television he casually observed, “I see you’ve decided to grow your hair longer.”  His choice of words was carefully calculated not to upset Helen’s delicate sensibilities. 

This time Helen was not offended.  Instead she replied, “Yes, I got bored with the pixie cut.  I wanted to see how it would look long.” 

“And how long do you plan to grow it?” Brad inquired, now genuinely curious about her intentions. 

“I don’t know.  We’ll see,” she answered before quickly changing the subject.  Her response was deliberately vague, but Brad suspected he was in for a long wait.  Helen’s announcement left her husband with mixed emotions.  He liked his wife’s hair cut short, the shorter the better, in fact.  Unlike most men, he found short-haired women incredibly sexy, but he never dared share this with his wife.  He was afraid she might think him weird or worse.  If he had not been so concerned about her reaction, he might have urged her to adopt one of the super-short styles he admired so much on other women.  But he was a coward at heart, and never could work up the nerve to confide his secret desire to her.  Instead of confessing his disappointment, he remained silent.  Perhaps Helen would tire of this experiment after a while.  More likely, however, this would be a long, frustrating wait. 

Brad found his wife’s current “in between stage” unattractive by any standard.  But, in a strange kind of reverse psychology, part of him welcomed the news that she was letting her hair grow.  He knew that sooner or later she would go back to short hair.  She always did.  On two previous occasions she had grown her hair for a year or more before giving up and reverting to her previous length.  When that happened he always arranged to have front row seat.  He would invent a pretext for escorting Helen to the salon to watch her haircut.  Seeing his wife’s long tresses being snipped short was a powerful turn on.  He marveled that his wife never had discovered his fetish for short hair.  On most other things she was pretty sharp.  Perhaps she was unaware that a mundane act like cutting hair could have such a powerful erotic effect. 

For now, Brad resigned himself to a lengthy wait while Helen tried the new look.  He knew that nothing he could do or say would change her mind.  For the time being he would have to entertain himself with thoughts of her major makeover at some indefinite future time.  When that time came, and he was confident it would, he fervently hoped he would be present to observe the thrilling conclusion of her experiment with long hair. 

Five months into the growing out process Helen informed her husband that she had made an appointment to get her hair cut.  While she obviously needed a haircut, her announcement took him by surprise.  “Giving up on your plan to grow it longer?” Brad inquired, a little disappointed that she was abandoning the idea of long hair so soon. 

“No, not at all,” Helen assured him.  “Just need to get it trimmed a bit.”  Brad agreed that this was a good idea.  Her shaggy locks lacked any semblance of style.  She definitely needed some professional help.  Any trim, no matter how minor, would prolong the growing out process, but she would look much better during the transition. 

Helen returned from the salon with her bangs and ends neatly clipped.  Her hair was still in that awkward in between stage, but the trim was a big improvement.  She continued getting her hair trimmed every three or four months as she grew her hair longer.  Her friends soon noticed the change and provided plentiful moral support.  They told her how attractive she looked; how the added length flattered her face. Helen began scanning the fashion magazines, carefully inspecting the longer hairstyles that were coming back into fashion, trying to decide on the best shape and style. 

Brad waited patiently.  He saw that Helen was determined to continue her quest for long hair.  Even though her hair now reached nearly to her shoulders, he knew that this length was far from her goal.  She wanted something much longer.  He realized she was not going to return to short hair anytime soon. 

About a year after she had begun growing her hair Helen called to Brad from their bedroom.  “Honey, come here,” she called eagerly.  “I’ve got something to show you.” He immed
iately noticed a difference.  She had pulled her hair back into a modest pony tail.  She turned to proudly display her accomplishment.  “Well, what do you think?” she asked. 

The pony tail was nothing remarkable, but Brad was too savvy to let his true feelings show.  “It looks great,” he lied.  “I’m sure it will be much cooler like that with summer coming on.” 

“I can’t tell you how much I wanted to be able to do this,” she declared.  “I thought it never would get to this length.”  Helen obviously was delighted with her latest achievement and Brad didn’t want to dampen his wife’s enjoyment.  He pretended to share her enthusiasm, but wondered to himself why she would go to the trouble of growing her hair long if she was just going to pull it back. 

Helen’s pleasure with her long hair continued into a second year.  Now that it reached her shoulders the trips to the salon became less frequent.  Brad noticed she now purchased expensive new shampoos and conditioners.  Each morning she spent fifteen minutes brushing and arranging it just so.  Before bed she brushed it again.  It seemed that Helen was completely captivated by her new look. 

According to his wife, there was one problem with her long hair, however—the color.  Helen’s hair was an undistinguished light brown color, not a rich dark brown like her sister’s and not the honey brown she had as a young girl.  As it grew longer, Helen began expressing a discontent her husband had never heard before.  “Brad, how would you describe my hair color?” she asked one evening. 

“Your hair is brown,” he replied noncommittally. 

“Just brown?” she continued.  “Nothing else?” 

“Well, it’s kind of a light brown,” he answered warily, not sure where this line of questioning was heading. 

“Would you call it mousey brown?” Helen asked pointedly.  Clearly something was bugging her. 

“No honey,” he lied.  “I wouldn’t call it mousey.  I think it looks just fine.” 

“Well, I think it looks mousey,” Helen declared.  “It wasn’t a problem when I wore it short, but now that it’s longer, I realize it’s very dull and ordinary looking.” 

“If you’re not happy, you can always change it,” Brad offered helpfully, not really expecting she would accept his suggestion. 

“Do you think I should?” she responded eagerly.  Brad was surprised at this development.  Helen had never discussed coloring her hair before, but now she seemed seriously interested. 

“It’s up to you, dear,” he told her.  “Whatever you decide is fine with me.”  Secretly, however, he welcomed this idea.  Any experimentation with her hair aroused his interest.  A possible change in color definitely intrigued him. 

“What shade shall I try?” she continued, obviously warming to the idea.  “Shall I go lighter or darker?” 

“That’s up to you,” he replied cautiously.  Brad had to restrain himself.  He had always wanted to see his wife as a blonde.  Blondes were his secret fantasy and blonde tresses would fit with Helen’s fair coloring.  He knew that if he suggested it, however, she might be suspicious of his intentions.  Better to wait and see what she decided. 

“I’ll talk it over with Rachel, my stylist, the next time I make an appointment. Perhaps I’ll surprise you,” Helen concluded with a flirtatious wink. 

This was the kind of surprise Brad often fantasized about.  “Yes, that could be fun,” he agreed, trying hard to conceal his excitement. 

Two weeks later Helen came home with a few light blonde highlights freshly added to her brown locks.  “Well, what do you think?” Helen demanded as she showed off her latest innovation. 

“It looks great,”  Brad said, “very sophisticated.” In reality, however, he was disappointed with the change.  The coloring was so minimal that from a distance the dyed strands were barely noticeable.  It seemed that Helen had opted for the most minimal amount of highlighting.  He had been looking forward to a more complete makeover.  Still, he didn’t want to spoil her happiness, so he pretended to share her delight. 

Six months later, when Helen announced it was time to return to the salon for a touchup on her highlights, Brad screwed up his resolve.  “How are you going to have it done this time?” he asked. 

“The same as before, I thought,” she replied.  “Why do you ask?” 

“No reason,” he said, “I just thought you might try adding some more highlights.” 

“Hmmm.  You think I should?” Helen answered.  Rather than dismissing his suggestion out of hand as he expected, she seemed to be seriously considering it.  Brad was encouraged. 

“Well, I liked what you did last time,” he began cautiously, “but I thought you might want to try something a little more dramatic.  You know, more blonde.” 

“Yes, that might be interesting,” she replied.  Brad was pleasantly surprised that she was considering his suggestion, but he wasn’t prepared for what came next.  “What would you think if I went completely blonde?” she asked. 

“You’re kidding, aren’t you?” he replied, genuinely shocked.  Helen had always been critical of her friends who changed their hair color, dismissing them as “cheap bottle blondes.”  He never expected his wife to consider such a dramatic step. 

“I’m perfectly serious,” she informed him.  “Rachel, my stylist, has been working on me for months.  She says I would look great as a blonde.  I wanted to know what you thought.” 

“Wow, that would be amazing,” he exclaimed, no longer able to restrain his enthusiasm.  The prospect of seeing his wife as a blonde triggered a powerful arousal in his loins. 

“Brad, you surprise me.  You mean that you would trade in your mousey brown-haired wife for a sexy blonde beauty,” Helen teased.  She sensed that the prospect of going blonde gave her an advantage over her husband and she was determined to exploit it. 

Brad blushed.  He tried to find some words to hide his desire, but knew she would see through any attempt to deceive her.  “Well, I guess I’ve wondered what you would look like as a blonde, especially after you had those highlights added,” he confessed. 

“Well, you just may get your wish, buster,” she said with a smile and a wink.  Brad was flabbergasted.  He had never seen his wife act in such a provocative manner; more than her hair was changing.  His support for altering her hair color seemed to give her newfound confidence.  Now he was happy she had decided to grow her hair long. 

For the next week Brad had trouble sleeping.  He imagined his wife’s hair every possible shade of blonde from platinum to a rich honey color.  On Tuesday he overheard Helen on the phone making an appointment to have her hair done on Saturday, but she said nothing about it to him.  She probably wants it to be a surprise, he concluded. 

Saturday afternoon while Brad was mowing the lawn Helen walked out the front door and headed for the car parked at the side of the house.  “Where are you going, hon?” he asked innocently. 

“I thought I’d go look for some new clothes,” she said sweetly.&
nbsp; “Macy’s is having another one day sale.  I should be back in a couple of hours.” 

“Have fun,” Brad called as she backed down the driveway. He was tempted to follow her to the salon, but decided it was best to wait at home. 

The next three hours were pure hell.  Brad tried to keep himself occupied with yard work, but his brain was working overtime envisioning his wife as a blonde.  Finally, he decided an icy shower was the only way to cool his longing. 

He was in the shower when Helen returned.  “Honey, come here,” she called sweetly.  “I’ve got something to show you.” 

Brad turned off the water and jumped out of the shower.  He quickly dried himself and wrapped the towel around his waist.  He went into the living room where she stood waiting for him.  He could hardly believe his eyes.  He was accustomed to thinking of his wife as a reasonably attractive middle aged woman with a nice figure and a winning smile.  The woman standing in front of him was a stunning blonde bombshell.  Her hair was now a light platinum shade.  When she left the house it had been hanging straight down her back.  Now it was styled into waves that bounced around her shoulders.  She had replaced her subdued pink lipstick for a brilliant shade of red and her brown eyes were generously accentuated with dark eye shadow.  She wore a new summer dress cut lower than anything she had worn before.  He was speechless. 

“Well, what do you think, Brad?  How do I look as a blonde?” she asked. 

“Wow,” Brad stammered, hardly believing how his wife had transformed herself into a Marilyn Monroe look alike.  “Your clothes, your makeup.” 

“Yes, I decided to make it a complete makeover.  Do you like it?” she asked coquettishly. 

“Like it?  I love it!” he exclaimed as she twirled and shook her head, tossing her new curls from side to side.  “You look totally amazing.  You really took me by surprise.” 

“That was my plan,” she admitted.  “I thought in addition to changing my hair color, I should change some other things as well; make it a complete transformation.”  Helen obviously was pleased with Brad’s reaction and he was ecstatic. 

“I’m amazed.  I don’t know what to say,” he continued. 

“You don’t have to say anything.  Uncle Wiggly says it all,” she said, pointing to the unmistakable bulge beneath his towel. 

Brad could hardly keep his hands off his wife that night.  He fixed a celebratory dinner and opened a bottle of wine they had been saving for a special occasion.  They went to bed earlier than usual and made love with a passion that had been lacking for the past two years. 

Helen spent more time than usual Monday morning preparing her hair and makeup.  Brad knew she was very concerned about how her co-workers would react to her new look.  When she arrived home from work Brad inquired what her office mates had said.  “Well, the guys loved it—that was virtually unanimous,” she reported, obviously pleased. 

“And what about the women?” he asked. 

“I don’t think they were too crazy about it,” she said.  “I mean, they said it looked nice and all, but I got the impression they didn’t rally mean it, like they were just trying to be polite.”  Brad she could tell she was disappointed with their lukewarm reaction. 

“They’re just jealous,”  Brad assured her.  “They just wish they could look as good as you do.” 

“Yes, I’m sure that’s it,” she answered, but she didn’t sound convinced. 

A week later Helen arrived home in a foul mood.  She slammed the front door and did not give her usually cheery greeting.  “What’s the matter, hon?” Brad inquired. 

“You won’t believe what happened to me on the bus,” she began, her anger just barely contained.  “This young guy I’d never seen before sat down next to me and started hitting on me.” 

“Well, you’re an attractive woman,” Brad observed.  “I hope you let him know you’re married.” 

“Of course,” she replied indignantly.  “But this never happened to me before.  Do you think it has something to do with my hair color?” 

“Could be,” her husband answered.  “Most men find blondes especially attractive and you are a very good looking woman.” 

“Well, I wish they kept their hands to themselves,” she remarked. 

“Did that guy feel you?”  Brad demanded, rapidly growing as angry as his wife. 

“Yeah, he put his hand on my ass,” Helen admitted. 

“I hope you told him where to get off,” he said. 

“I did, but he just smiled,” she continued.  “He made me feel cheap, like somehow I had encouraged his advances.” 

In the following weeks Helen reported three similar incidents.  Never before had she experienced any type of sexual harassment.  Although she was reasonably attractive, she never stuck out in a crowd.  Her breasts were on the small side and her face did not usually invite second glances from strangers. 

Now that she was a blonde all that changed.  When they went out together Brad noticed that men of all ages ogled his wife.  When they went to restaurants waiters seemed more attentive.  Instead of welcoming the increased attention, however, Helen resented it.  She bought a floppy straw hat and started stuffing her hair inside to discourage their attention.  Still, the problems continued.  Helen complained that male co-workers kept inventing excuses to come to her office and ask for advice.  She found an anonymous note on her desk saying how hot she looked.  It got to the point that she was reluctant to get on an elevator with a man unless another woman was on board. 

Brad tried to be sympathetic, but he couldn’t restrain his honesty.  “You know, you wouldn’t be having these problems if you’d kept your hair short,” he told her.  Brad sensed an opportunity.  He hoped that he might be able to persuade Helen to have her hair cut again.  To have his wife both blonde and short-haired was his idea of perfection. 

“Yes, I know,” she agreed, “but I find it annoying that I can’t wear my hair the way I want without running into lewd comments from horny guys.”  Helen did not seriously consider Brad’s suggestion.  He knew she had put too much effort into growing her hair long.  She was not going to abandon her new look so quickly. 

“Guess that’s the price you pay for looking glamorous,” he observed. 

Then one evening a month later Brad heard Helen softly cursing in the bathroom.  “Anything the matter?” he inquired. 

“Come here,” she demanded.  “Look at this,” she said, pointing to the dark roots clearly visible along her part.  Brad had noticed them earlier, but knew better than to mention anything to his wife. 

“Guess that’s the price you pay for being a blonde,” her husband commented. 

“Yes, a touchup once a month for the rest of my life,” she replied disgustedly.  “I suppose I should have known.”  It seemed that she was no longer so thrilled with her new look. 

Brad expected Helen to make an appointment to have her roots touched up, but instead she continued
to let them show.  By the end of the second month they were clearly visible from across a room.  The emerging two-toned effect was less attractive than either the platinum shade or her natural brown color.  Brad knew commenting on his wife’s hair was risky, but he could keep silent no longer.  “You really do need to do something about those roots,” he admonished her. 

“I know, I know,” she sighed.  “It’s such a pain.” 

The next week Helen finally made an appointment at the salon that had done her initial coloring.  On Saturday she and Brad headed toward the mall where the salon was located.  It was a busy fall afternoon and the mall was full of shoppers.  “I’ll just wander around while you’re getting your hair done,” Brad said as they walked through the crowd.  If she wasn’t planning on getting her hair cut, he had no desire to wait around the salon. 

“It should take about an hour and a half, maybe a little longer depending on how busy they are,” Helen told him. 

“Good.  That should give me plenty of time to get my hair cut,” he said.  “I think there’s a barbershop down this way,” he said, pointing down a long corridor filled with shoppers.  “I’ll stop there while you go to your appointment.  I’ll meet you back here in ninety minutes.” 

“Sounds like a plan,” Helen agreed and they walked off in opposite directions. 

Brad found the shop without any difficulty.  Unlike the small neighborhood barbershop he usually patronized, this one was part of a chain that advertised inexpensive cuts for the whole family.  He saw a small waiting area in the front and six chairs in two parallel rows extending back along either wall.  Brad had hoped that he might find female barbers employed there, but was disappointed to see four men in traditional white smocks cutting hair.  Three were middle aged and one was considerably younger.  All were busy when Brad entered the shop.  The barber standing closest to the entrance looked up and motioned towards a row of plastic chairs where three men and a teenage boy sat waiting.  With four barbers working he calculated it would be half an hour before his turn was called.  Still, he had plenty of time before Helen would be done. 

Brad picked up an old copy of Sports Illustrated from a stack on the table in front of him.  He idly turned the pages, not really interested in the out-of-date stories in the magazine.  After about ten minutes Brad was surprised to see Helen striding in his direction.  All of the barbers noticed her as well.  They momentarily stopped cutting as they tried to figure out what she was doing in their shop.  Helen ignored them and sat down in the seat next to Brad.  She let out a little snort of disgust.  Normally Helen kept her emotions under control, but Brad could see that she was upset about something.  Her eyes were flashing and her mouth was set in a frown.  Her body language indicated she was very angry.  “Something wrong, hon?” he asked. 

“Well, yes,” she complained.  “Rachel, my stylist, called in sick today, something about a strep throat.” 

“Well, people do get sick,”  Brad observed.  “You can’t blame her for that.” 

“I know, I know,” and answered.  “But you think someone at the salon could have called me.  That’s the least they could do.  After all, I’ve been a good customer for nearly three years.  Now, when I really need them, they can’t take me.” 

“Isn’t there someone else who could do your hair?” he asked. 

“Not today.  They’re all booked up on Saturdays.  They said I’ll have to come back sometime next week,” she stewed.  Helen’s disgust was palpable.  Brad couldn’t remember ever seeing his wife this angry. 

“That’s a shame,” he sympathized.  “Isn’t there another salon in the mall you could try?” 

“I’m afraid I’d run into the same story—no openings or a long wait.  Saturday is their busiest day,” she explained. 

“Why don’t we go get something to eat?  My haircut can wait,” Brad offered.  He didn’t think that Helen would be willing to wait for another thirty minutes while he got his hair cut. 

“No.  You need to get your hair cut,” she said.  “I can wait.” 

“Are you sure it’s all right?” he asked. 

“Sure, I’ll get over it,” Helen assured him.  “You go ahead.” She picked up one of the ancient magazines and pretended to read an article just as Brad had done.  But her husband noticed that Helen’s attention soon shifted to the barbers working in front of her.  He suspected that his wife had never been in a barbershop before.  It seemed she found the masculine atmosphere fascinating.  She began to pepper him with questions. 

One of the barber’s was shaving his customer’s neck with a straight razor.  “Why is he doing that?” she asked.  When another patron had his short hair clipped straight across the top, she inquired, “What is that style called?”  Anticipating Brad’s turn in the chair, she queried, “How will you get your hair cut today?” 

Helen’s questions stopped when the boy who had been sitting next to her got up and walked to a waiting chair.  His wavy brown hair was long and shaggy, reaching well past his collar.  He slid into the chair and the waiting barber draped a white cape over his shoulders.  They exchanged a few words and then the barber grabbed a large black clipper and without any warning began mowing most of the hair from the young man’s head.  In less than ten minutes all of his long hair was on the floor.  The teenager emerged with a brief buzz cut–no hair more than a quarter-inch long.  He looked into the mirror, ran his hand across the stubble on his head, and smiled broadly, obviously pleased with his new look.  The young barber also seemed quite satisfied. 

Brad noticed Helen watching the boy’s haircut with total concentration.  Unconsciously, she began stroking her own long tresses.  He wondered what she was thinking.  Before he had a chance to ask, the youngest barber called out, “Next” and Brad rose to take his place in the big barber’s chair.  “This should only take about twenty minutes,” he advised. 

“That’s okay, take your time,” she replied.  Brad didn’t understand the reason, but it seemed that the atmosphere of the barbershop had taken the edge off his wife’s anger. 

As the barber began Brad’s haircut he nodded toward Helen.  “Nice looking woman,” the swarthy barber commented.  “She your wife?” 

“Yep,” Brad replied. 

“She looked kinda unhappy when she came in here,” the barber observed. 

“She was.  She had an appointment to get her hair done at the salon down the way, but they told her to come back next week,” Brad informed him. 

“That’s too bad,” he commented. 

“Yeah, really wanted to get it done today,” Brad informed him. 

“She’d never have that problem here,” the barber volunteered.  “We never turn anyone away.” 

“That’s the difference between your place and a beauty parlor,” Brad observed.  “We don’t have to worry about appointments.” 

“So maybe your wife shoul
d get her hair cut here,” the barber suggested. 

Brad was shocked by his proposal.  Normally women didn’t get their hair cut in a shop like this.  Even though it advertised itself as a “unisex haircutting studio,” he could see no hint of a feminine influence.  There was a poster showing women’s styles on the far wall, but aside from that this place looked and smelled like his old barbershop.  The barber obviously didn’t know Helen.  “No, she’s just waiting for me,” he assured him. 

“You know, do we cut ladies hair here too,” the barber continued, speaking louder so that Helen would be sure to hear him. 

Brad noticed that his wife was following his conversation with the talkative barber.  He didn’t want to say anything that would offend her.  “I’m sure she’d rather get her hair cut in a salon,” Brad answered with confidence.  “Besides, she needs to get her color touched up.” 

“Well, we don’t do color, that’s true, but we don’t charge nearly as much as the salon,” he persisted.  “She could save twenty, thirty bucks getting her hair cut here.” 

Although the idea of Helen getting a barber shop haircut was an intriguing possibility, Brad knew it was out of the question.  Helen would never allow a barber to cut her hair, not with so many others watching.  “Look, I’m sure she’s not interested,” he curtly informed him. 

The barber let the subject drop and resumed cutting Brad’s hair.  Helen never returned to reading her magazine.  Instead, she followed Brad’s haircut with unusual interest.  In about fifteen minutes the barber was nearly done.  He loosened the cape and applied warm lather to his neck.  A few sure strokes of the razor finished the job.  The barber used a soft brush to dust Brad’s neck and forehead and then shook the loose hair from the cape. When Brad stepped down from the chair and reached into his wallet to pay for his haircut Helen rose to join him.  She reached up and caressed the short hairs on the back of his head.  “Nice job,” she complimented the young barber. 

Brad took a couple of bills from his wallet to pay the barber as Helen waited at his side.  “Now it’s your wife’s turn,” the barber teased, winking at Helen.  He had seen how closely she was watching Brad’s haircut.  For some reason he seemed to think that he might persuade Helen to follow her husband into his chair.  Or perhaps this was his way of flirting.  Either way, Brad resented the barber’s effrontery. 

“Look, I told you she wasn’t interested,” Brad said, obviously annoyed at the barber’s continued efforts. 

“No harm in asking,” the barber innocently protested.  “Just trying to drum up a little business.” 

Helen, however, didn’t seem to share her husband’s irritation.  As Brad turned to walk out into the mall, she placed a restraining hand on his arm.  “Just a minute, honey,” she said.  She turned to the barber and asked, “Do you cut women’s hair?” 

“Sure, lady, like I told your husband we cut everyone—men, boys, girls, ladies.  All kinds,” he volunteered.  “We got a special today—it’s half price for ladies.” Brad saw no sign advertising this special; he strongly suspected that this was a ploy the barber had invented to lure his wife into his chair, but he had no basis for challenging the truth of his statement. 

“Would you be able to cut mine now?” she asked. “I mean, I don’t have an appointment or anything.” Brad was shocked to hear his wife’s sudden interest in a haircut.  Helen had mentioned nothing to him about getting her hair cut.  In fact, only a few weeks before she told him she planed to continue growing it until it reached the middle of her back.

“Sure, lady.  We don’t take appointments and you’re next in line,” the barber replied.  There were five other customers, all male, sitting in the waiting area, but all had entered after Helen. 

“And would you cut my hair the way I tell you?” Helen persisted. 

“Well, we don’t do anything fancy,” he said, a bit defensively, “just plain, simple haircuts.” 

“That fine, just fine,” she replied.  The barber seemed surprised that Helen actually accepted his offer.  His tone had been playful, teasing.  He obviously didn’t expect her to take his invitation seriously.  But she did.  Now he would have to deliver on his promise. 

Helen slipped out of her jacket and handed it to her husband.  The barber retreated to his chair and dusted Brad’s loose hairs from the red leather seat, preparing for his next customer. 

“Helen, what are you doing?”  Brad protested. 

“I’m going to get my hair cut, didn’t you hear?” she told him. 

“Yes, of course I heard you, but this is a barbershop,” he argued. 

“So?” Helen retorted.  “I thought you’d like to see me get my hair cut.  You never objected before when I got it cut short.” 

“But you never did it in a barber shop,” he reminded her. 

“Well, while you were getting your hair cut I started thinking,” she told him.  “I know you liked me as a blonde, but it just isn’t working out the way I planned.  I’d be much happier if I went back to my old mousey brown color.  I hope you don’t mind.”  She looked at him with a supplicant expression, asking his permission. 

“You mean you’re going to get your hair cut that short?” Brad continued.  “You know you could just dye it your old shade.” 

“Yes, but that would be too much trouble.  We’re here and I want to do this now,” she informed him firmly.  It was clear she had made up her mind; nothing he could say was likely to change it. 

Brad didn’t know what to say.  Although he had always wanted to see his wife receive a barber shop haircut, he was shocked by her impulsiveness.  He didn’t want her making a rash decision that she would regret later. 

Helen sensed his concern.  She gently informed him, “Brad, you take a seat.  This shouldn’t take long.”  She accepted the barber’s invitation and stepped up to his waiting chair.  She crossed her legs and pretended this was perfectly normal.  Her husband retreated to the seat his wife had occupied just a minute before.  He couldn’t believe what he was witnessing—his long-haired wife sitting in a barber’s chair calmly waiting to have her hair cut.  The other men in the shop shared Brad’s amazement.  They put down their magazines and newspapers to view this unusual spectacle. 

The barber pulled a strip of tissue from a dispenser just as he did for his male customers.  Helen gathered the hair off her shoulders so he could wrap the tissue around her neck.  She obviously had been paying attention to the other haircuts and understood what was expected of her.  The barber flipped open a clean white cape, draped it around Helen’s shoulders, and snapped it behind her neck.  She sat still in the chair the young barber selected the needed instruments. She flashed Brad a brief nervous smile as if to say, “I hope this turns out all right.” 

The barber began running his comb through her long hair.  “So what will it be?” he inquired casually.  “You want I should trim the ends?” he inquired.  His bus
inesslike tone sounded like a woman’s haircut was an everyday occurrence, but Brad knew differently. 

“Nope, no trim today,” she answered decisively. 

“You want me to cut it short?” he asked, his disbelief evident in his tone. 

“Yes, I want a short haircut,” she said with the emphasis on “short.” 

“You sure, lady?” the barber asked, obviously surprised by her announcement.  Despite his bold offer to cut her hair, it was clear that he hadn’t really expected Helen to request anything extreme. 

“Yes, I’m sure,” she insisted.  “I thought it would be fun being a blonde, but I was wrong.  Now I want to go back to being a brunette.  When you’re done all the blonde hair should be gone—only brown hair left.” 

“Lady, that’s a pretty short haircut,” the barber observed.  Only about an inch and a half of dark hair was visible along Helen’s part.  The haircut she was requesting would require the amputation of more than a foot of hair from her head.  “You sure you want me to cut that much?” 

“Yes, that’s what I want.  Cut it all off,” she commanded without a trace of regret. 

“Okay, you’re the boss,” he replied. 

Brad couldn’t believe his ears.  Of course, he had been looking forward to this day since Helen first announced her intention to grow her hair longer.  Still, this was totally out of keeping with Helen’s past behavior.  The other occasions she had converted from long to short hair, the decision had come after prolonged deliberation.  The appointment had been booked far in advance.  Helen had spent weeks searching fashion magazines for the style she desired.  She had gone to the salon armed with a picture of the new style she desired.  This impulsive decision was totally out of character.  Brad concluded that the unwanted attention she was receiving from strange men had provoked this uncharacteristic move. 

With no further conversation, the barber gathered Helen’s long blonde hair in his fist, pulling it tight behind her head.  He slipped an elastic band around the pony tail and fastened it at the base of her neck.  Grabbing a large shears from the counter behind him, he opened the blades and placed them around the thick bundle of hair. 

“Lady, you’re sure you want to do this?” the barber asked, giving Helen one last chance to change her mind. 

“Yes, go ahead,” she answered rather wistfully.  Brad could see that his wife was reluctant to part with the hair she had so lovingly cultivated, yet resigned to her fate. 

Helen closed her eyes as if awaiting the executioner’s axe.  The barber hesitated for a moment, and then closed the blades together.  The scissors did not cut easily through the ponytail; Helen’s hair was too thick. The barber grimaced as he sawed through the fat bundle of hair.  After considerable effort he finally managed to separate the hair from her head.  Helen opened her eyes and winced when she beheld her altered image in the mirror. 

Seeing all those months of effort disappear in a brief moment was almost more than she could bear.  The loose ends of her newly shortened hair fell forward around her cheeks in a rough bob.  Helen brushed the hair out of her face and unconsciously tucked it behind her ear.  The barber held a foot long blonde pony tail aloft for her to view much as he would display a trophy fish, but she was not interested.  “Get on with it,” she ordered.  The barber casually tossed the bundle of severed hair on the counter behind his chair. 

“You want I should use the scissors or the clippers?” the barber asked. 

“What?” Helen asked, not comprehending his question. 

“You want I should use the scissors or the clippers to cut the rest of your hair?” he explained. 

“I’ve never had my hair cut with clippers,” Helen objected.  “Won’t they leave my hair terribly short?” she asked. 

“That depends,” her barber explained.  “I can use the clippers with an attachment to give you a buzz cut like the kid who was here before, but I don’t think you’d like that.” 

“Yes, you’re right about that,” she agreed. 

“Usually I use the clippers over comb method,” he explained.  “That way I can taper your hair on the back and sides, leaving it short at your neck and then gradually getting longer as I go up your head.  Of course, it will still be pretty short if you want me to cut out all of the blonde.” 

“Okay, that sounds good,” she consented.  “Go ahead with the clipper and comb.” 

Brad was amazed at the words coming from his wife’s mouth.  He welcomed the change, but couldn’t believe the scene that was unfolding before his eyes.  While the barber prepared his equipment, Helen looked across the room and smiled weakly at him.  He wanted to offer her some words of encouragement, but his mind was blank.  He could only gape in amazement. 

The barber selected a large black clipper hanging from a hook behind his chair.  He ran a few drops of oil across the blades and tested the motor.  Then he clipped a metal attachment over the blades.  The barber approached Helen from behind and placed his left hand on top of her head, pressing her chin down toward her chest.  He switched on the clippers and placed them at the base of her neck. Brad closely observed his wife.  She closed her eyes as if she couldn’t bear to watch and bit her lower lip, but said nothing to halt the shearing that was about to commence. 

The barber lifted the hair off her neck with his comb and passed the clippers across the teeth. An inch of blonde hair fell from the blades, leaving a horizontal strip of dark hair in its place.  He moved the comb further up her head, selecting another section of blonde hair.  This time an inch and a half of the colored hair dropped to the floor.  The barber carefully worked his way up the back of Helen’s head, each time removing a longer section of hair.  The clippings silently fell to the floor at his feet.  Helen sat motionless as the barber busily clipped away her platinum locks.  When he reached the top of her head the back had returned to its original light brown color.  It was skillfully tapered from the bottom to the crown.  At the base of her neck the hair was no more a quarter of an inch.  At the top it was about three-quarters of an inch, the length of a standard men’s haircut but far shorter than anything Helen had ever worn before. 

The barber gently lifted Helen’s chin and she opened her eyes.  She glanced anxiously into the mirror, but from where she sat she could see little change.  From the front the longer blonde hair with dark roots was all that was visible.  She smiled bravely, but it seemed that she was struggling to maintain her composure.  Brad prayed that she wouldn’t break down and create an embarrassing scene in front of the interested spectators. 

The barber didn’t give Helen much opportunity to consider what was coming next.  He quickly shifted his attention to the side of her head.  He selected a section of hair in front of her ear and guided his clippers across the comb.  A small avalanche of blonde hair fell from the blades and landed on her shoulder.  A second pass cut it closer.  Now Helen could see just how short her hair was being shorn.  It was a standard length for
a man—less than half an inch—but extremely short for a woman.  She watched intently as the barber continued cutting up toward her temple.  As she had instructed, the blonde hair was disappearing and was replaced by a steadily expanding pelt of short brown hair.  She smiled bravely as the dyed hair fell away.

After he had removed the last of the blonde hair from her right side, the barber switched off his clippers and returned with his scissors, cutting closely around the contour of Helen’s ear and carving her sideburn into a sharp point. 

Then he took up his clippers and comb again and turned to her left side.  It took only a few minutes to reduce the other side to the same length as the first.  Helen watched her transformation with a combination of fascination and disbelief.  Her bemused expression seemed to say, “I can’t believe this is really happening to me.” 

Helen wasn’t the only person captivated by her haircut.  One by one the other barbers in the shop stopped their work to focus on her radical makeover.  Outside the large picture window a crowd of shoppers gathered to witness the spectacle.  If Helen was aware of the attention directed toward her, she betrayed no hint of self-consciousness. 

When the barber rested his clippers again she stared into the mirror and began to laugh.  The sight she beheld was strange indeed.  On the sides her hair was quite short; on top it was still three or four inches long.  The sides were brown and the top was blonde, except where her roots showed through.  The two-tone effect was startling.  Helen gasped and blurted out, “You better continue.  I look ridiculous like this.” 

The barber sensed her dismay.  “Don’t worry,” he assured her, “I’ll take care of the rest in a minute.” He exchanged his scissors and comb for a spray bottle.  He began squirting a fine mist of water over her head.  Then he massaged her damp locks. 

Initially, Brad had thought the barber was going to cut the top of Helen’s head as short as the sides and back, but it now became clear that he had something else in mind.  He inserted his hand into the two-toned hair, selected a lock from her forehead, and sliced off about two inches of blonde hair.  He quickly grabbed a second lock and continued cutting from the front to the back.  Helen watched sadly as her last remaining long hair was rapidly removed.  Now the longest hair on top of her head was about two inches.  No style she had worn in the past came close to this brief length.  Still, some of the blonde coloring remained on the tips. 

Finally, the barber removed the last long lock from Helen’s head and casually tossed it to the floor.  He turned from the chair to put down his comb and scissors. Helen took advantage of the pause to run her fingers through the short crop on top of her head.  A bemused smile creased her face, as if she couldn’t believe what was happening to her.  Before she had time to get used to her radically altered appearance the barber returned with a large dab of styling gel in his hand.  Without uttering a word, he began massaging the product into hair the top of her head.  At first Brad couldn’t imagine what the barber had in mind.  Instead of parting Helen’s hair and brushing it to the side into the modified pixie style she had worn before, he began brushing it up off her face.  Soon her hair was sprouting straight into the air.  The effect was sort of a punk look with a profusion of short spikes.  It was an interesting concept, but evidently not one that Helen appreciated.  He turned the chair so she could view the finished product in the large mirror.  A pronounced scowl signaled her displeasure. 

“What’s the matter?” the barber asked, concerned that his customer was not satisfied with the style he had created. 

“Don’t get me wrong, you’ve done a good job, it’s just that this cut is not exactly what I had in mind.  I wanted to get rid of all the blonde,” she reminded him. 

“Sure, I can fix that if you don’t mind going a little shorter,” he agreed. 

“Go ahead,” Helen commanded.  “I’ve gone this far, it won’t hurt to go a little farther.”

Now the barber grabbed his clippers again.  He removed the guide and approached Helen from the side.  He used his comb to isolate the silver tips of her hair and passed the clippers lightly over the top of her head, chopping off the platinum ends.  A steady shower of short blonde hairs fell from the blades onto her forehead and the shoulders of her cape.  As he worked over the top of her head, a new contour took shape.  In place of the thicket of spikes, a short rounded crown emerged.  He carefully passed his clippers back and forth across her head until he was satisfied the every hair was uniform in length.  Then he tapered the sides until they blended evenly with the rest of her hair.  At last he switched off the clippers and stepped back to allow his customer inspect her radically altered appearance. 

Brad stared is disbelief at his wife.  She now sported a sort of modified buzz cut.  The hair was not clipped as short as the boy who preceded him, but was barely three quarters of an inch.  The sides and back were cut even shorter, as a man’s haircut would be. Remains of Helen’s blonde hair lay scattered across the floor and clung to the cape.  Not a trace of the artificial color was left on her head. 

The barber turned the chair so Helen could inspect her new style in the large mirror.  She said nothing at first, just passed her hand across the top of her haircut, letting the ends of her shortened hair tickle her palm.  She turned her head from side to side to inspect the unfamiliar sight of her uncovered ears.  She ran her fingers down the back of her head, checking the length.  The barber waited, obviously worried that she might object to the ultra-short cut he had just administered. 

For a long minute Helen said nothing.  Finally, she announced, “Yes, I like it.” 

The barber smiled in relief.  He unfastened the cape from behind her neck and shook its contents onto the floor.  He removed the tissue from her neck and turned the chair so she could step down.  When she got up from the chair she was greeted by a spontaneous round of applause from the barbers, the other customers, and the curious spectators gathered outside.  It was obvious they admired Helen’s courage and enjoyed viewing her transformation. 

“Well, what do you think?” she asked Brad as she stepped down from the chair and walked over to where he sat. 

“It’s quite a change, that’s for sure,” he meekly replied. 

“But do you like it?” she insisted.  “I hope you’re not disappointed.  I know you liked my hair blonde, but I just couldn’t stand getting harassed by strange men any longer.” 

“Darling, you look marvelous,” Brad observed with genuine feeling.  “I liked your hair long, but this is better, much better.” 

“Do you really mean it?” she persisted. 

“I mean it,” Brad insisted.  “You look great.  I hope you’ll keep it this way for a long time.” 

“I just may do that,” his wife answered.  “Pay the man.” 

Brad reached into his wallet and handed a twenty dollar bill to the waiting barber.  “Keep the change, you certainly earned it.”&am
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The barber gathered the severed blonde pony tail from the counter and said, “You want this?” 

Brad reached out his hand.  “I’ll keep it for a souvenir,” he said. 

Helen and Brad walked out of the barber shop and into the throng of shoppers in the center of the mall.  As they walked Brad noticed heads turning in his wife’s direction.  Her new haircut was attracting nearly as much attention as her old look, but this time most of the admiring glances came from other women.  “Love your haircut,” one called as they passed.  Helen beamed at the unexpected complement.  “Guess you’re not the only one who likes it,” she observed. 

Brad noticed how Helen held her head erect, walking proudly down the center of the mall.  He was pleased with his wife both for the courage she had shown and for the way she now carried herself.  He felt that they had opened a new page in their relationship.  Now he was confident that he could tell Helen about his short hair fetish.  With any luck, in the months ahead they would continue returning to the shop for his and hers haircuts.

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