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High school was an interesting time for me. I was a teenager, studying at boarding school, living away from my parents for the first time. I reveled in my new-found freedom; while the school had its rules, I no longer had somebody watching over me all the time. I could hang out with friends when I wanted, watch TV when I wanted, and eat what I wanted. Looking back, I was overall responsible; I studied diligently, got all my homework done, kept my room clean, and graduated with a 3.75 GPA. I didn't miss out on fun though, and enjoyed spending time with my close knit group of friends. We would study together, taking breaks to talk about which boys we liked. When we were done studying, we would do each other’s nails and gossip. We also loved to do each other’s hair. Sometimes we would sit in a circle, and brush and style the hair of the person in front of us, much like a massage chain. It was always fun to see who could create the most elaborate braid or up do. Sometimes we would all wash our hair and French braid it before bed to have nice waves come morning.

Monica had the longest hair, reaching down to her butt. Rachel had the shortest, typically hanging down to her bra strap. She was always trying to grow hers out longer; she’d sometimes get it down to the small of her back, but then would go home on break and come back with a few inches trimmed off and her hair back to its former length. The rest of us had hair of varying lengths between the two extremes. Mine fluctuated around my mid to low back; unlike Rachel, I avoided the salons, and diligently trimmed it myself if it was ever in need.

The six of us tried to go out and explore on weekends. Sometimes our trips would take us to the local cheese factory, sometimes the chocolatier, or when there was one close by, sometimes we would go to a fair or carnival. Other weekends though we would take the bus to the local mall. It was nothing too extravagant, but offered us a chance to keep up with the latest fashion, and spend some quality time hanging out away from the bustle of school, and the cold and rain outside.

On one trip after not having gone for a while, we noticed a new store called the “Wig Factory”. What really made it stand out though, was the long line of people lined up outside. We went over for a closer look and saw that the doorway the entrance was really two, one labeled Sell, and the other purchase. I noticed a sign on the wall down from the entrance a little ways. It explained that the wig factory made quality wigs from human hair, sold at an affordable price. To make the wigs, they purchased virgin hair from the public, avoiding the markups that the suppliers put on hair. The rate fluctuated, but today it was $10/inch, an all-time high by the looks of the line. I felt giddy thinking about everything I could buy with the money. I estimated my ponytail to be about 18-20”; that meant at least $180 dollars to spend as I chose was huge at the time compared to the $20/week spending money my parents doled out through the school. Looking at the other girls, I realized I would have some company.

We were all quiet as we waited in line. The line was moving surprisingly quickly and before I knew it we were walking through the door, and the sight that greeted us around the corner was like none I had ever seen. There was a line of barber chairs on a track reminiscent of some ride at Disneyland. I could see people ahead of me being helped into chairs at the end of the line, once the woman, or occasionally man, was seated and buckled in, the chair would move forward and out of sight. It didn't take long for it to be my turn; I could feel butterflies in my stomach as the attendant helped me into the chair and helped me buckle and tighten the safety harness.

Once I was secured, the chair lurched forward and brought me to the next station, here it met up with what looked like a hood dryer. Another attendant pulled my ponytail band out and guided my hair up into the hood. While I had originally thought it was a dryer, I quickly realized that it was more of a vacuum. All my hair was quickly sucked up into it, and as I moved down the track, I could feel it tighten and seal along my hairline. I was impressed at how exact it was, sealing right behind my ears, along my neck, and right across my forehead. I must have looked funny with the hood on my head, but without mirrors on the wall and the other chairs outside my vision on either side, I’ll never be sure. My heart beat with excitement and nerves as I felt some sort of band tightening my hair into a ponytail against my head. The tension released, and I realized the machine must have just chopped off my ponytail.

I continued to slowly move along the track, and felt water being sprayed on my head. I could then feel it start massaging shampoo over my head. The massage felt so nice, and I was a little disappointed when I once more felt water. It was followed by conditioner being combed through, and rinsed away. While not as nice as the massage, it was certainly an interesting and pleasant sensation. Just as the second rinse completed, I felt a cloth being patted on my head. My chair then rounded the bend revealing a large salon.

The hood was lifted off my head, and a stylist helped me out of the chair and led me over to a station. As I walked, I could feel my wet hair hanging down around my face, it ended abruptly at my chin though and my head felt much lighter, both foreign sensations for me. I also noticed as I walked that there were at least 40 stations, probably more, they were all lined up in rows. The mirror at the station provided me with my first glimpse of my new style. My estimation of the length in front was correct; it was different seeing hair framing my face. It did look to be much shorter at the back though. I reached back and confirmed that it was no more than an inch at the very back.

I was soon enveloped in a cape, and Jean, my stylist asked how I wanted it cut. She showed me pictures of a variety of styles, and gave me a few minutes to flip through them. After some thought, I decided to go shorter and asked her to leave a couple inches on top with long bangs side swept bangs, but to cut the back and sides short to match the back.

I had already lost quite a bit of hair, but there was still quite a bit to be cut. Never having been to a salon, I enjoyed watching Jean snip away at my hair, slowly reducing it in length as she combed it this way and that. She put down her scissors and picked up her clippers. I had seen them used once or twice when I walked by the local barbershop, but never imagined they would ever be used on my hair. They felt nice as she worked them up my nape and up each side of my head, huge clumps were falling from the sides as she buzzed it all short. She was soon dusting off my neck and after taking off the cape showed me different ways I could style my hair. I loved how it looked, and was looking forward to experimenting with styling it.

I was lead to the front of the salon where a cashier counted out $190 dollars in cash, handing it to me with a thank you and a smile.
There was a window behind her showing a conveyor belt with ponytails passing along it. There was no way to tell which was mine, but I caught a glimpse of one distinct that might have belonged to my red haired friend Elizabeth. I walked down a short hallway and out into the mall.

Rachel had been ahead of me in line and was waiting with an angled bob and a grin. Her hair looked amazing and we hugged and starting chattering about the experience. We greeted our other friends as they came out. We all enjoyed comparing styles, Amanda got a variation of the angled bob, she had bangs, and the back was cut a little higher than Elizabeth’s. The rest of us got various pixie cuts except for Julie, who went all the way and had her hair buzzed to peach fuzz. Everyone looked incredible with their new looks, and we all rubbed our hands over Julie’s head, telling her how impressed we were by her guts. We spent the rest of that afternoon walking around the mall spending some of our new money. We capped everything off with a nice dinner at our favorite Italian restaurant before taking the bus back to campus.

I had many other fun times with the girls, but our adventure that day is still one of the most exciting.

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