(This is a recollection of a story that is true. I was reminded of it when my 11-year old daughter came to me the other day and asked if she could get her long hair cut short like a friend of hers. I was taken back to a time many years ago when I gave up my long hair-but unlike my daughter-not by my own choice.)
It was early summer in the mid 80's and I was a few months away from my 13th birthday. What a great time it was. I was looking forward to becoming a true teenager---and starting at a new junior high school in the fall.
I had always had long hair---well past my shoulders. It was straight, shiny and well-kept. I loved it. And so did my mother (at least so I thought). For years, I never had more than just a bit trimmed from the ends---to keep it looking nice and neat. My younger sister was never quite as fortunate. At three years my junior, she was always the subject of my mother's whims when it came to things like clothes and hairstyles.
My sister endured short haircuts throughout her youth. Pixie cuts were my mother's favorite. You know, the kind of boyish-looking hairstyle that's only an inch or two all around. Kim never really liked getting her hair cut short---but she eventually got used to it. I was so glad that I never had to suffer the same fate.
Or so I thought.
One day a couple of weeks after school was out for the year, my mother came to me and said, "Lauren-you're going to be a teenager soon and it's time that you get a more grown-up hairstyle. I was a little shocked. What did she mean "more grown up?" Maybe she wants me to style it more.maybe some curls or a flip or something like that. I had a curling iron but never used it-preferring to keep my hair stick-straight.
"I made an appointment for you at Becky's Beauty Spot for the day after tomorrow," she said. "We'll go together and get your hair cut." She never said the word "short".
I was almost afraid to ask. I had a friend whose mother always cut her hair short during the summer. Usually, it was a pixie cut or a short bob and because it was cut short every summer-it never really grew very long during the school year before it was time to get it cut again. I was worried that mother may have decided that was the way to go for me. I had visions of looking like a boy!
I finally worked up enough nerve to say, "Mother-you're not going to make me cut my hair short, are you?" Without any emotion---mother said, "Well, Lauren, yes I am." I felt a chill go down my back. "Short hair is easier to take care of. Look at your sister, Kim," she quickly added. "Her pixie cut is so cute and so easy to care for". "You'll look cute, too, in something short".
Wednesday came all too quickly and that morning I found myself in the car on the way to Becky's. For two days before, I was pleading with my mother to reconsider. I even offered to get it cut to my shoulders if she would agree. But she said, "No-Lauren-I want it much shorter this time."
The owner of the salon was a 30-ish lady with short hair herself-styled in a kind of bob with a short neckline. She greeted us that morning and said, "Hi Lauren-it's a big day for you today, isn't it?" At that point, the tears started to come and I couldn't stop them.
"Now don't cry, young lady," Becky said as she tried to console me before we started. We lived in a small town and Becky's salon got a lot of traffic. She gave haircuts to a lot of the girls I knew. She'd had this scene played out before in her salon. I was still crying when she made a suggestion to my mother.
"How about doing this in stages?" she said. "We could cut Lauren's hair in a page boy or long bob for now and go shorter gradually over the summer." My spirits brightened a bit at the prospect of not losing all my hair today.
Before I could even say "Yes-let's do that" my mother quickly said, "No, Becky-I don't want to go through this several times." "I want to get it over with at one time". I started crying again-this time even more.
"Stop it, Lauren," my m
other commanded. "If you don't, Becky will cut your hair even shorter." Becky clearly seemed uncomfortable with this little exchange, so she quickly said, "Let's get started." "I'll cut the bulk of the length off while Lauren's hair is dry and then wash it for the final styling".
She pulled my hair back into a ponytail and put a rubber band in it. Then, without warning, she took a pair of shears and SCRUNNNNNCH.sheared off several years worth of my hair.
I opened my eyes to see that my long, beautiful, shiny hair was gone. In its place was a rough-looking bob that extended below my ears. I was devastated!
"Let's go to the shampoo bowl, Lauren". She washed what was left of my hair and towel dried it before we went back to the chair. All this time, mother seemed to watch with approval.
"What I'd like is something that is really easy to take care of," my mother said. "Pixie cuts are good or a short bob or bowl," Becky suggested. It's like they were talking past me-never asking me what I wanted!
"OK", mother said, "Let's go with a bowl cut with clippers in the back". I couldn't believe it! Then my mother seemed to sense my fear and sadness. "Lauren, don't cry anymore," "When I was your age, my mother cut my hair short and I cried, too."
"You'll get used to it," Becky added. Then she started pinning up some of my hair so she could do the clipper line. She put a towel around my neck, above the cape.
Becky took these big electric clippers (like the kind used to give boys crewcuts) and turned them on. There was a loud SNAP and a hum..and before I knew it, she was shaving the back of my neck. "Keep your head down, Lauren," Becky told me. "This won't take too long, " she added.
She made quick work of the back---clippering my hair into a kind of "V". Then, there was more pinning of my top hair and Becky took the clippers around the sides of my head. The long part of the bowl would be just above my ears and everything else was going to be clippered off.
It took her about a half-hour to finish the cut. The bowl was cut to the top of my ears and my long bangs were cut halfway up my forehead. The back and sides were nothing but stubble. I felt so embarrassed and sad.
As she whisked off the cape, long pieces of hair went flying to the floor. Becky took a brush and brushed off my neck to get rid of the little shaved hairs that remained.
"You need to bring Lauren in about once a month now," Becky told my mother. "That will help keep the cut looking neat and sharp." "Don't worry," mother said, "She'll be back every month from now on."
Mother paid Becky the $8 for the haircut. Before we left, I begged for a scarf or something to put over my head-but mother said, "No, Lauren, you need to get used to your new hairstyle". She rubbed my clipped neck and said, "It's so soft," "I really like it and I think you will, too", she added.
I said nothing on the way home. I just cried.and cried and cried.
I never did get used to the haircut. I hated it from the first day. And my mother made me wear short hair from then on-all the way through junior high school. At various times, I had bowl cuts, bobs, wedges and even a real short pixie cut my mother made me get right before a big school event.
I vowed I would never do something like that to my daughter. I don't have to. Now, my daughter came to me to ask if she could have short hair. How things have changed.
By the way---I told her "No"! But maybe I'll reconsider. After all, it is her hair!
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