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?I just have to tell you,? said my husband, shaking his head with genuine appreciation, ?that is a really cool-looking haircut.? He flashed a bashful little smile at the twenty-something brunette who had asked him how one properly cooked a spaghetti squash like the one he had just picked up.

?Oh thanks,? she replied with a girlish little giggle. Her hair was cut extremely short, and close to the head, with her ears exposed; almost like a little boy?s, with the back and the sides practically clipped, although the slightly longer length on the crown and the bangs that hung halfway down her forehead made it feminine, a bit softer and not quite so butch.

I sidled over to my husband and stood next to him, so there could be no mistaking that we were together. Mind you, I?m usually not the jealous sort. Tom is a very nice-looking fellow, and although he?s in his late thirties he still exudes a definite boyish charm. Even without trying?and he?s certainly not one to flirt with someone else in my presence?women are frequently drawn to him. Normally this doesn?t bother me; Tom?s an extremely loving and devoted husband and we have a great marriage. But there was just something about this girl that I found oddly threatening. Not that she was all that gorgeous. Sure, she was attractive, with a wholesomely pretty face and a nice enough figure, but then I?m not exactly chopped liver myself. Maybe it was because of her age. I suppose it also had something to do with the way Tom was blushing like a schoolboy, like I hadn?t seen him do since the time he first met me!

?I just had it cut, actually,? she added, reflexively ruffling the inch-long hair on the back of her head. ?I was a little scared, you know, I didn?t know how I?d look with short hair, but I always wanted to try it.?

?Well, it looks really good on you.? He said this with an enthusiasm I found totally uncharacteristic and a bit disturbing.

?Thanks. It?s taken me a bit getting used to, though. It?s been a big change for me.?

?Hey, Hon,? I said to Tom finally, ignoring her ?this one looks better.? I held up a spaghetti squash for him to see before putting it in our shopping cart. ?I think I?ll make this for us tonight, if it?s okay with you, that is.? I brushed up against him and stroked his upper arm affectionately. ?You know how I always try to please you,? I said, arching an eyebrow suggestively and tossing my own long, honey-blonde hair.

?Oh, of course, Jennifer,? Tom said, turning to me with a quick smile. He put back the squash he had picked out. ?I?m sorry,? he said, turning his attention back to the girl. ?You were saying it?s been a big change for you. Was your hair very long, then, before you cut it??

?Pretty long, yeah.? She grinned at Tom, obviously enjoying his interest a bit too much for my taste.

?Really? How long??

What?s up with this, I thought, growing even more annoyed. Why is my husband taking such an interest in this child?

?Oh, about as long as your wife?s there,? she said, finally acknowledging my presence, ?about the middle of my back.? She giggled again. ?Of course,? she added, now addressing me directly, ?I guess really mine was a bit longer than yours, since I?m so much taller than you.? She said this almost apologetically and with what I took as a somewhat condescending bow in my direction. Then, she straightened up and thrust out her chest. She was taller than me, about 5? 7,? which is not supermodel tall, but at 5 feet even (okay, 4? 11 ??) just about everybody is taller than me. I noticed that her breasts were about the size of mine, nice if not overly huge, but annoyingly perky?like mine when I was her age, I thought, suddenly feeling every bit of my thirty-seven years.

?Well, then, yeah,? I said, deciding to join the fray as it were, ?it must be hard to get used to. I mean, it?s soo short.?I smiled?or, more properly perhaps, bared my teeth. ?Tell me,? I asked, trying to sound casual, ?how does your boyfriend like it?? Turning to Tom, I tossed my own hair with a wink. A bit catty, I know.

?Oh, I don?t have a boyfriend,? she said answered quickly. ?At least nothing serious,? she added. ?But I have no regrets about my haircut. I really like it, and besides, it was for a good cause.?

?Oh,? said Tom brightly, ?you mean you donated it? To one of those charities that makes wigs??

?Yes, the one that helps the children with cancer.?

?Well I think that?s just great,? said Tom, nodding approvingly. ?Isn?t that great, Jennifer?? He asked me, without taking his eyes off Miss Short Hair.

?Wonderful,? I said icily and with a forced smile.

?I wish this one had your courage,? Tom continued. He waved his hand casually in my direction. ?I?d love to see her with your haircut. And I?ll bet she could do some good for some of those kids if she?d let them cut off all that hair of hers.? Then, much to my dismay, he actually winked at HER!

I was too shocked to say anything. I had always considered my own long hair to be my very best feature. ?I?d be nothing without my hair,? I?d often said, and I about half-believed it. While I?m constantly experimenting with different styles?layers or no layers, bangs or not, curly or straight?I had never considered cutting it ?short.? Truth be told, I?d always thought short hair, anything less than shoulder length, was, well, ugly. Okay, maybe ?ugly? isn?t the right word, but definitely ?frumpy,? like an overworked career gal, or a harried housewife with too many ill-behaved kids. To me, having short, ?wash and wear? type hair was what women did because they either don?t have or just don?t want to take the time to make themselves look as good as they can. Yes, I?ll concede that short hair looks okay if you happen to look like Halle Berry or Winona Ryder, but still I can?t imagine that anyone, even them, wouldn?t look even better with the long, flowing locks I?d spent so much time and effort cultivating since I was barely a teenager.

Besides, wasn?t cutting your hair short a sign you were over the hill? I?d always resented the notion that women automatically had to have their long hair cut off when they reached certain milestones in their life, like when they get out of college and go to work, or when they hit forty, or if they get pregnant, or whatever. Getting a short cut may have been a rite of passage for most, but it was one I was determined to resist. I?d vowed that I?d always keep mine long forever, no matter what.

Of course I assumed that my husband, and all men, for that matter, felt the same way I did. After all, Tom had always told me that I had beautiful hair, and I know he found my long hair sexy; he always seemed to stroke it or play with it whenever we made love. Yet here he was, carrying on like a teenager with a first crush over someone with a haircut that was shorter than I?d ever consider in a million years. Not only that, but, in a complete contradiction of my theories, she?d had it cut seemingly for no good reason, while she was still so young?and, at least to my husband, it would seem, so damned cute! And to add insult to injury, he had dismissed my own luscious, flowing locks as ?all that hair of hers,? like it was something?well, to be chopped off and discarded, or, literally, donated to charity, like used clothing.

?Come on, Tom,? I said, now hardly able to hide my annoyance, ?we?d better check out before all this goes bad.? I gestured at our shopping cart which, in fact, contained nothing all that perishable, but Tom got the idea.

?Well, see you,? he said to the girl with a stupid smile as I yanked him by the arm and practically dragged him away.

I said nothing to him all the time we waited on line and on the car trip home. Finally, that night over dinner, I had to speak up.

?What was that all about today, Tom, with that girl in the supermarket??

?What girl?? he asked innocently. ?What do you mean??

?That child?young enough to be our daughter, practically?you carried on with about her hair.?

?Oh, that,? he said smiling, waving his hand dismissively. ?I was just being nice, trying to make her feel better. Kids like that can be so insecure about their looks. You remember how you were at that age, right Jenn??

?Yeah, I?m not that old, you know.? I gave him a cold stare.

?I didn?t say you were.? He smiled disarmingly. ?Not that you won?t always be my girl anyway, of course,? he added, gazing lovingly into my eyes. Coming from Tom this was usually enough, but not tonight.

?What makes you think she was so insecure??

?Well, wouldn?t you be if you cut off all your hair like she did??

?And how exactly did you know that?? I pressed him. ?What made you think she ever had long hair to begin with??

?Well, I could tell her hair had been freshly cut; it was too perfect, if you know what I mean?sort of like when I get my hair cut, and every hair is in place.?

?And since when did you start paying such close attention to women?s haircuts? Other women?s haircuts, that is.? Now I had him.

?Okay,? he admitted. ?I guess I have been paying attention to women?s hair lately, especially the ones with the short cuts.? He paused; then added sheepishly: ?Truth is I guess I?ve always had a thing for short hair.?

I was taken aback. ?You think short hair looks better?? I practically shrieked. ?You would prefer that to?me??

?No, I didn?t say that. I definitely prefer long hair on women.?

I was confused. ?But you have a thing for short hair??

?Yeah, I do.? He smiled and gave his shoulders a little shrug. ?Like I said, I think long hair looks better on most women. But there?s just something about short hair on a woman that?s always fascinated me.?

?Are you saying you want me to cut mine, then??

?Look, Jennifer,? Tom said, carefully measuring his words, ?I love your long hair?I think it looks great on you. But you?re so gorgeous you could do anything to your hair and still look great. And yes, I have to confess, I?ve always fantasized about what you?d look like with short hair.?

?So you want me to cut my hair, then,? I repeated. ?You want me to go out and get myself a typical middle-aged woman?s haircut?no glamour, just like every other plain-Jane soccer Mom, right??

?Wrong,? Tom said firmly. ?I wouldn?t want that at all.? He nodded; then, quite seriously: ?Jennifer, I know exactly what you mean. Short hair with no style is frumpy, and not at all you.? He paused. ?But you didn?t think that girl?s hair was frumpy, did you? The one in the supermarket?

?I know who you meant,? I snapped. ?No, I guess not.? I sighed. ?She was good-looking. Yeah, I guess when you?re that young, you can get away with anything.?

Tom shook his head. ?Come on, Jenn, don?t be silly. That girl couldn?t hold a candle to you.? He reached across the table and took my hand in hers. ?I?m sorry, Jenn, really. I shouldn?t have even mentioned it, about the hair. Let?s just forget it, okay??

There was no way I could forget it and it definitely wasn?t okay, but I let it drop for the time being.

That night, after Tom went to bed, I sat alone staring into the mirror of the dressing area outside our bathroom, taking a good hard look at myself. For the most part, I still liked what I saw. As I said, I?m very petite, but I?ve always had a nice enough little figure; even if I?d put on a pound or two in the twelve years I?d been married I was still on the slim side. I?ve always thought I had a pretty face; maybe not beautiful, but I?m definitely cute, with nice, even features, a well-defined bone structure, and big brown eyes that I always thought were my best feature?next to my hair, of course, which was still my pride and joy, the source of whatever glamour and sexiness I possessed.

When I was a little girl my hair had been a very light, golden blonde. As I reached my teens it had grown darker, but never too dark; I?d lightened it from time to time, but now it was completely natural, all me, a rich, honey color with some lighter highlights. It had always been stick-straight, but it would hold a curl nicely, and whenever I got dressed up to go out I used a curling iron to put in a few loose waves?a little tweak here and there, I liked to say. I suppose I?m what you might call a ?high-maintenance? kind of girl. It was now as long as it had been in years, almost to the middle of my back, with some shorter layers framing my face and longish, side-swept bangs. While it was fine textured, it was never ?thin? since I had a lot of it?a nice combination, I thought, since it gave the appearance of being very thick but was still soft and silky to the touch. I ran a hand through the length of it, reflexively twisting it, a habit I?d had since I was a child. As always, it felt great!

And it still looked great?didn?t it? Suddenly I wasn?t so sure. In the harsh light of my illuminated vanity I detected a fuzziness surrounding what in my mind?s eye was always a smooth wave of healthy hair. Split ends! Where did they come from? Oh well, I do need a little trim. Christmas was only a couple of weeks away and Luigi, the man who does both Tom?s and my hair, was coming to the house the day after tomorrow. I guess I?ll wash it tomorrow night, I thought, brushing out the remnants of hairspray I had applied this morning. I?ll have to remember to pick some more hairspray tomorrow, too. Wonder why I?ve been using so much lately? Guess my hair?s just not holding a style. Absently, I reached at the brush with my other hand to pull out the stray hairs that had collected and placed them on the counter.

Oh! My heart jumped as I saw what at first looked like a mouse but which I quickly realized was a rather large clump of what used to be my hair. How could this be?! I quickly ran the brush through the other side; again, a fairly large clump of hair remained in the brush. I brushed it again, and again, until I saw no more loose hairs in the brush. I breathed a sigh of relief as I realized that no, I wasn?t going bald all of a sudden. Still, there was no use denying it: split ends?slight thinning?my hair texture was definitely changing. I frowned. Is this what it?s going to be like, then? Maybe this is why women do cut their hair, when they get older. But I?m not old! I?m still only thirty-seven! I frowned. Am I just fooling myself? Spending all that time on a look whose time had long past, trying to hold onto what was fast fading away?and for what? For my husband, who?d probably start looking elsewhere pretty soon, if he hadn?t already?

No, of course that?s not true, I thought, coming to my senses. Tom is nothing if not faithful, and I know he?d never cheat on me?at least not for real. But even if he?s just fantasizing about someone else, that?s just something that would break my heart. To think that maybe I was no longer attractive to him seemed more than I could possibly bear. Well, at least now that I knew about this odd penchant of his, though, maybe there was still a chance?I shook my head sadly, regarding my reflection, which to me was now that of a deluded, middle-aged housewife trying to be something she no longer was. I suppose it is inevitable, after all, I concluded, as I made my decision. I got up and walked into the bedroom.

?Tom,? I said as I slid into bed next to my husband. ?I?ve been thinking.?

?About what, Jenn?? Tom said sleepily.

?My hair,? I said, blankly. ?I think I?m going to cut it.? I paused. ?Short?I?m going to cut it short.?

?What?!? This definitely got his attention. He quickly sat up and turned to face me.

?Luigi is coming over to do our hair the day after tomorrow, and I?m going to have him cut mine short.?



?How short??

?Super-short; not one of those wimpy in-between ?Mommy cuts,? but really cropped, like that girl in the supermarket today.? I managed to muster a smile. ?Think of it as an early Christmas gift.?

?Oh, Jenn, you?re not still thinking about that, are you?? Tom reached over and put his hand on my knee. ?You know I love you,? he said tenderly.

?I know.? I knew he really did, but I also knew that wasn?t always enough. To be sure, nothing is more important than love, but I wasn?t quite ready to give up knowing my husband found me attractive, either.

He leaned over and kissed me. ?And you know I love your hair;? he said, gently stroking the side of my face, ?your beautiful, long hair.?

I sighed. ?Oh, Tom, it?s long, all right?? Tears started to well up in my eyes. ?But I know it?s not all that beautiful, at least not anymore. When I was younger, about as young as that girl?? This was all too much, too overwhelming. In a single day, the image of myself I?d maintained for my entire adult life had been irretrievably destroyed?along with a good portion of my self-confidence. Finally I broke down.

Tom took me in his arms and held me until I calmed down. ?Jennifer,? he said, his eyes gazing intently into mine, ?you?re the most beautiful woman in the world, and you always will be.? I merely shrugged. ?Look, I?m not going to lie,? he said, very seriously, ?I have fantasized about your cutting your hair, and how you would look with little short haircut like that girl had. But it?s just that, Jenn?a fantasy. I would never want you to really do something like that just for the sake of satisfying my curiosity.?

Now I wasn?t sure what to think. ?You don?t think it would look good on me?? I asked, looking for a response that would spare my treasured locks from an unceremonious shearing.

?Jennifer,? Tom said adamantly, ?I don?t care what you do to your hair; you couldn?t possible be anything less than gorgeous to me.? He quickly corrected himself. ?Or to anyone, for that matter?that?s just a fact.? He paused, eyeing me critically. ?I have to say, though, that the truth is you could definitely pull it off.? As he said this, his eyes actually seemed to light up.

?You think so??

?Definitely,? he said, nodding affirmatively. He smiled broadly. ?But only if you really wanted to.? He turned deadly serious. ?Please, Jennifer, don?t do something you don?t want to.?

My husband is a very kind, loving man, not at all selfish, so I knew he really did mean this?but I also knew that deep down some part of him really did want this. What did I want? Well, of course I wanted to be ten years younger, as glamorous and sexy as ever, with a killer body and great hair?but for now I?d settle for whatever I could get. I was desperate for my husband to look at me the way he used to, the way he?d looked at this girl in the supermarket; to make his eyes light up again. Right now, I thought, anything?s worth a try. After all, what have I got to lose (except all my hair, of course)? ?Okay.?


?I?m going to do it.? He started to say something but I cut him off. ?Because I want to,? I said firmly. Then, trying to sound casual: ?I don?t know; the change might be fun.?

?Yeah?yeah, maybe!? he said brightly. ?Might be kind of fun, Jenn.?

Yeah, fun for you, I thought, glumly.

?Hey-a, Jennifer!? Despite the fact that Luigi came to the United States when he was fifteen, has lived here for the past twenty-five years, and has established his own very successful unisex hair salon, our friend Luigi still possesses a thick Italian accent that sounds almost comic sometimes. ?Wow, your hair looks-a gre?

Luigi caught himself, perhaps realizing it might sound inappropriate to tell me how ?great? my hair looked when he was about to cut it all off. I?d called him yesterday to tell him what I was planning to do, that I wanted something other than my usual trim, thinking that maybe if I just sprang it on him without warning he might not be in the right frame of mind to do a good job. To be sure, I was determined to go through with it, but that didn?t mean that I wasn?t still a nervous wreck, wondering how horrible I might end up looking.

Ironically though, Luigi was right. My hair did look especially good tonight. It should have, since I had in fact washed, deep-conditioned, and even put it up in those big beer-barrel rollers today before spending a good hour meticulously styling it. I don?t know why, exactly, but somehow it felt like the thing to do?sort of like in those old movies where the natives sacrifice the beautiful virgin to the volcano, or something like that, and they spend the whole day dressing and making her up. Also, I guess I just wanted to play with my long hair one last time. I knew that after today it would be a long time before I could again.

?It looks-a like you just wash it;? Luigi offered, somewhat lamely, ?that?s-a good, I like to cut it clean.? Since he?d often told me he preferred to cut my hair BEFORE I?d shampooed it, I knew he was just trying to make conversation. ?So, Tom,? he asked my husband uneasily, ?I do you first??

?No, I?ll be first,? I said quickly, before my husband could say anything. ?That way I can get us some coffee while you?re doing Tom, and we can all visit for a while when we?re all finished.? Of course I really just wanted to get this over with as soon as possible.

?I can make the coffee, Jenn,? Tom offered helpfully.

I chuckled. ?No, why don?t you just sit down and watch.? I caught Luigi?s eye and winked, but I don?t think he really caught on to the fact that my husband was finding this so exciting?or at least I hoped he was; that was the whole point, of course.

I smiled bravely and plopped myself down in the chair from our dining room set that I had set up here in the foyer of our townhouse. I always had Luigi cut Tom?s and my hair here, since the floor is tiled, making it easy to sweep up the cut hairs; also, the room is mirrored on three sides, so it simulates a salon in that the person getting their hair cut can observe their image in the mirror. Tom rather timidly retreated to the living room that was adjacent to the foyer and sat down the couch, a vantage point from where he could observe unobtrusively.

Luigi opened up his little bag and spread his tools out on the desk in the corner of the foyer. Producing his striped cape, he put it around me with a flourish. He deliberately lifted up my long hair and placed it outside the cape, gently snapping the cape together behind my neck. ?Okay, then, so you want this cut like-a this?? asked Luigi, holding up the picture Tom and I had settled on after searching the internet the better part of the previous night. It was of the South African actress Charlize Theron in a movie she?d done with Johnny Depp called ?The Astronaut?s Wife,? in which she sported an updated version of the 1960?s Vidal Sassoon haircut: extremely short all around?maybe an inch or so?and laying pretty flat and very close to the head, off the nape of the neck and with the ears exposed, with maybe just a little bit more length on the top, and straight bangs; a wee bit longer but essentially the same haircut as the infamous ?supermarket girl? who had caught Tom?s eye and started all this. I later learned that in hairdresser parlance it was usually just called a ?short pixie cut,? or just a ?pixie.?

I tried to answer, but the words stuck in my throat; all I could do was nod affirmatively.

Luigi picked up a wide-toothed comb. Standing directly behind me, he ran it through the back of my hair? then again?and again. Finally, he made a part down the center and sectioned the length of my hair into two ponytails, deftly slipping a little rubber band around each. He stepped over to the desk and picked up a large pair of shears.

?Okay now,? he said, standing back and observing my image in the mirror, ?this is it?you?re-a sure now??

I could feel myself perspiring under the cape. I closed my eyes and, with all the energy I could muster, I nodded and whispered a barely audible ?sure.?

In a flash he was behind me, firmly grasping one ponytail. As he held my long hair in his hand I experienced the oddest sensation in my stomach. For a few moments it seemed that time actually stood still. I felt almost as if I had somehow left my own body, and was floating towards the ceiling, high above the room above us?

SCRUNCH! Abruptly, I was brought back to reality by the sound and sensation of the big shears slicing through my hair. SCRUNCH?SCRUNCH?SNIP! It took just four cuts to separate the ponytail from my head, a good ten inches at least of hair gone, just like that! SCRUNCH?SCRUNCH?SCRUNCH?SNIP! Four more cuts and the other ponytail was off, too.

What I saw now in the mirror was utterly surreal. For the most part I didn?t look different at all, really. The top of my head and the hair surrounding my face looked exactly like it did moments ago, but the flowing expanse of hair in the back was now gone, replaced by a rough-looking bob that hung just below my chin. It was as if I were looking at a photograph of myself that had been altered, as if a piece of it had been airbrushed out.

?Uh, here, you wanna hold-a this?? asked Luigi, as he awkwardly offered me the two severed ponytails.

?Oh! Okay,? I said quickly. My own hands were trembling as I took them from him without looking and placed them on my lap. When I finally glanced down at what used to be my beautiful long hair, I was again overwhelmed by the enormity of what I had done. Try as I might, I couldn?t stop the tears from flowing.

Tom was now standing next to me. He gently took the ponytails and placed them on the desk. ?You can donate those to the kids with cancer, Hon,? he said, trying to sound positive. He then began to rub my shoulders. ?That?s really a beautiful thing to do, especially this time of year.?

?Oh, yeah,? chimed in Luigi, ?those will be very good for-a the wigs for the kids.?

I hadn?t actually thought of that, but I was glad Tom reminded me, and that actually helped me calm down. Tom bent over and kissed me on the top of my head, then retreated to the living room.

Meanwhile, Luigi had gotten a spray bottle and a comb. He wet down my hair and combed through it. Now the sides hung down limply, barely chin-length, while the top lay completely flat against my head. He put down the spray bottle and picked up a pair of scissors, one not as heavy as the shears he had used to remove the bulk of hair in the back, and began carefully combing my hair into sections.

?I have to get a good line,? Luigi remarked off-handedly. ?That?s the most important thing with-a short haircut, a good line.? He began to cut the hair all around my head, working slowly but steadily, combing out a section at a time, grasping it with the fingers of one hand, and pulling it straight up or out while precisely but firmly slicing off all the hair below the fingers. Long pieces of wet hair began to fall, littering the floor and my shoulders.

Because there was so much hair to cut and because he was working so slowly he kept having to stop cutting and spray it again to keep it wet. During one ?break? I glanced down at the floor and saw all the hair he?d cut off. Now it had dried, forming what looked like huge, furry dust-balls, and there was an awful lot of it, more hair than I?d ever had cut off at one time in my entire life. Normally, when I was just getting a trim, I was extremely cognizant and concerned about the length being cut off, trying to figure out approximately where and how it would lay, how it would look. Oddly enough though, this time I wasn?t nervous at all; actually, by now I was somewhat numb. While on a certain level my mind comprehended what he was doing, what part of my hair he was working on, I had no sense at all of how much length he was cutting off. But I knew it was almost all of it, and that when he was finished my hair would be very, very short. In any event, I had completely stopped thinking about what it all meant, what I might look like when it was done. It was almost as if it were happening to another person.

Finally, Luigi stopped cutting and put down the scissors. My hair was starting to dry now, and I made a conscious effort to look at myself in the mirror and form an idea of what I looked like. At first blush, I wasn?t exactly thrilled. My hair looked nothing like Charlize Theron?s in the picture, but more like the rather style-less crop of a middle-aged suburban Mom, the exact look I absolutely hated. I shook my head and frowned.

?Don?t worry,? said Luigi quickly, sensing my displeasure, ?I?m not finished. I just had to get the line.? I still wasn?t sure what he meant, but I hoped it meant I would look better when he was finished. With that he picked up another pair of smaller, sharper-looking scissors and began to cut again, starting on the back of my head. It was such an odd sensation, feeling him tugging on hair which only minutes ago had been over a foot long but now was barely an inch, and it was ever odder to feel the cold metal of the shears brush up against the nape of my neck. Once again this was making me very nervous. What have I done? I thought to myself. This is just going to be sooo short! My mind started racing. I began to wonder how many years it might take to grow all that hair back, but this just made me start to tear up again, so I tried to banish these thoughts. Resigned to my fate, I made up my mind to just sit back and try to relax, to just concentrate on how if felt physically to be having my hair cut.

Truth be told, it actually felt pretty good. Usually, while having my hair cut?or, really, just trimmed?it seemed almost a perfunctory for the hairdresser. Not that I?d ever gone to many who weren?t at least passably competent, it?s just that no one had ever cut it quite so meticulously as Luigi was now. It felt different, and really nice, to have someone paying so much attention to me, to be working so intently. I sensed how hard he was working, trying to do a good job, and I really appreciated his effort. Also, it felt kind of?well, sexy, in some strange and inexplicable way, even more so when he finally finished the back and began to work on the sides, his hands brushing up against my ears as he cut the hair on the side of my head. But the best part was when he actually cut around the ears: the way he gently folded them down cut the bulk of the hair around them, and then the clearly audible little snips as he precisely clipped away all the stray hairs.

And I was rather pleasantly surprised at what I saw in the mirror: my perfectly formed little ear peeking out from under my hair did look kind of cute! I couldn?t wait for him to move on and cut the other side. ?Yeah, it?s a good thing you have-a nice ears,? said Luigi, who must have been reading my mind. ?They don?t stick out, so I can cut off all the hair around them and it look-a good.? My mind?s eye conjured up an image of myself with big Dumbo ears, and this made me giggle.

Luigi laughed too. He was probably a bit relieved himself; I suppose it must have been a bit hard on him, too, knowing how emotional this whole process was for me. ?You know,? he remarked earnestly as he stepped back and observed my nearly-complete transformation in the mirror, ?this haircut is really gonna look good on you. It goes good with your face. Besides,? he added, ?someone as little as you really shouldn?t have all that hair.? I?d never appreciated anyone commenting on my short stature, particularly if it could be construed in any way as negative, but I let it pass?after all, he was still the one holding the scissors. He picked up a comb and ran it through the hair on the top of my head, eyeing it critically. ?Oh yeah,? he continued enthusiastically, ?this cut is really good with your hair type. I think you?re really gonna like it.?

With that he resumed cutting, again combing my hair out straight up and out, then grasping it between his fingers and snipping off all the hair above them. Maybe it was just because I was more relaxed, but it appeared that he was working much more quickly now. Anyway, it seemed like it took only a few cuts before all the hair on my crown was shorn, too; a trifle longer than the hair on the rest of my head, but expertly blended so that there was no visible line of demarcation; he?d asked and I?d told him that?s how I wanted it. He then switched to a very small pair of scissors and began to trim a stray hair here and there that he might have missed; then, he cut a few notches into my bangs, so that they weren?t just cut in a line straight across my forehead, and giving them a slightly feathered effect. . Finally, after an ordeal that I later realized had taken a good forty-five minutes, Luigi turned around and put down the scissors. ?Well, all done!? he exclaimed. He was still standing in front of me, as he had been while he cut my bangs, so I couldn?t see myself in the mirror. I realized this was no coincidence but rather his way of building the suspense, because he kept moving to block my view as I tried to catch a glimpse of myself. Now, my heart began to beat faster as I realized that I had really and truly done it; I?d just cut off practically all my long hair and gotten an inch-long little pixie cut.

Luigi stepped aside and turned around, regarding my image in the mirror just as I saw myself for the first time with my new and very, very short haircut. ?Well, Jennifer, whadda you think?you like??

Well, I couldn?t possibly say I liked or not, because at this moment I couldn?t even think; I was almost literally in a state of shock. An actor friend who had landed a small part in a Hollywood film once tried to explain what it was like to see himself onscreen for the first time: ?it looks like exactly like yourself, only much, much bigger, and somehow completely different.? I?ve never been in a movie, but I imagine what he was talking about was something like this. It was me, alright, but it wasn?t. Well, actually, it was?it was really ME, without what I hadn?t before realized was such a huge distraction. Unless you practically cut it all off like I did, it?s hard to appreciate how much impact your hair has on your appearance. For the first time in my life I was really seeing my face.

And happily, as the initial shock gradually wore off, I began to really like what I saw: my lush lips, full but not too much?my cheekbones, prominent but delicately molded?my cute little nose that turned up ever-so-slightly at the tip?even my squared-off, typically Polish jaw-line about which I?d always been ambivalent, thinking it a bit hard and too full for a woman but which now somehow seemed rather gracefully feminine. But what was most astonishing to me were my eyes?they appeared to me absolutely huge and, I thought, infinitely more expressive than they had been when I still had my long hair, just so incredibly?open, I guess. If the eyes are truly the windows to the soul, then having my hair cut short was like opening a dark curtain and letting all the bright sunlight shine through.

?You like?? Luigi repeated.

?Oh, my God!? I blurted out.

By now my husband had joined us and was standing behind me, observing my reflection in the mirror. ?Well, Jenn,? he asked with not a little bit of trepidation, ?what do you think??

?What do you think??

?Well I really like it,? said Tom softly, leaning over very close to me, ?but the only thing that matters is what you think.?

I turned to face Tom, our heads inches apart. ?I think,? I said, gazing into my husband?s eyes, ?I love it.? I could see the relief on his face as I said this. ?I REALLY LOVE IT!? A huge smile broke out across my face. ?I?m glad you talked me into it,? I said with a wink.

Tom could now barely contain himself either; obviously, he was just as overwhelmed with emotion as I was. So we kissed?the act that had been created for very times like then, when there was no way for two people to adequately express with words all that was in their hearts.

?Oh, this was all-a Tom?s idea, then?? Luigi asked, obviously a bit confused.

?No,? I said, without turning around, ?it was a mutual decision.? Tom and I kissed again?probably a bit too deeply than we should have in front of someone else, I thought, as Luigi embarrassedly shuffled about, not quite knowing where to look. ?Well,? I said, finally turning away from Tom, ?I guess that?s it, then.? I started to rise from the chair, regarding myself again in the mirror and absently tugging on and adjusting my bangs.

?No, wait; hold still for a minute.? I sat back down and Luigi picked up a brush and a hairdryer and blew my hair dry. ?Now with this-a cut,? Luigi said, ?you can-a wash it every day, if you want, and just blow it dry?only take-a thirty seconds or a minute.? For hair this short it literally did take only took a minute, but it actually did make a difference; blow-drying it gave it just a little more ?oomph,? a bit of extra fluffiness on top and body all around, and brought out all the natural beauty in the texture of fine, perfectly-straight dark-blonde hair. ?If you wanna change, you can use a little mousse, and comb it back, or make it stand up,? he added.

But I knew that for the most part I?d just be keeping it straight; after all those years of spending so much time and effort on my hair, it would be nice to be able to take a little break?and even nicer to know that it still looked good that way! You know, it is the strangest thing. All of my life, I?d vowed never to cut my hair; I?d always thought that if I ever did it would be a very unhappy milestone. Well, it definitely was a milestone, but it certainly wasn?t unhappy. I thought that short hair would signal the end of my youth, that once I did I?d never again be attractive or sexy, either in my own or the eyes of others, most especially my husband. Now, however, I realized how utterly wrong I had been. Not only did my hair look good short, but I looked good with short hair. Not only that, but for the first time in my life I was able to really appreciate my other features. I?d decided to cut my hair out of desperation, at a time when my confidence in my appearance had been badly shaken; ironically, actually cutting it restored all my lost confidence, and then some.

Furthermore, I realized that, as important as one?s appearance is to one?s self-image?and yes, hair is no small part of that image?it really didn?t mean as much as I thought to the one person who mattered the most besides me: my husband. Sure, I know now that he does have a ?thing? for short hair, and that my cutting mine was kind of a turn-on for him, but I also know that he told me the truth when he told me that the only person who?s opinion of how I looked that mattered was me. If I hadn?t liked my new haircut so much, or even worse, if I had been devastated by it, I know he would have been, too, and no amount of visual stimulation it might have given him could have made up for that. Still, it did spice up things in the bedroom for a while! Nonetheless, and even though he loved the new look and knew that I did, too, he suggested a few weeks after the cut that if I wanted to grow it long again some day he certainly wouldn?t object. Perhaps surprisingly, I told him I just might. After all, you know what they say about variety.

As one might imagine, my new haircut created quite the sensation, and was pretty much the hot topic of conversation that Christmas among Tom?s and my family and friends. Opinions varied, but were all pretty extreme?some thought I looked absolutely smashing, others couldn?t believe I could have been so foolish. Just about everyone, though, commented something to the effect that making such a dramatic change to my look took a lot of courage and self-confidence?if only they knew! I have to admit though that I definitely reveled in the attention. And, as an added bonus, I received a lovely thank-you note from the organization to which I donated my hair. It?s always nice to know that you were able to do something to help someone in need, even if my motivation in cutting my hair was basically selfish.

I kept my hair cut short all winter, letting Luigi trim it whenever he came over to cut Tom?s hair, about once every four or five weeks, before deciding to try to grow it again out that spring. As I had always feared, the growing out process was awkward, but I kept with it for about four months or so. That summer proved exceptionally hot and humid, though, and I found that even a chin-length bob couldn?t compete with a nice little pixie cut for keeping cool and comfortable. So, one particularly warm night I decided to cut it short again, even shorter than before. This time, Luigi used electric clippers on the nape of the neck and the sides of my head, leaving the hair about half an inch long. I wouldn?t go for an overall buzz, though, and insisted on keeping the crown longer, with bangs, sort of like Josie Bisset on ?Melrose Place,? only shorter.

By the fall, though, I was determined to grow it out again. I had Luigi give me one last ?interesting? short haircut, what they call an inverted bob, about chin-length in the front, with very short baby-bangs, with about half the back of my head clipped. That was a little more than two years ago, and I?ve basically been growing it out ever since. I do give Luigi a lot of credit, actually, for keeping me looking reasonably stylish much of this time, even though that sometimes meant cutting off more length than I wanted, stretching out the growing out period even more.

Eventually I did regain my length. Now my hair hangs a good three inches past my shoulders, with some shorter, face-framing layers and the familiar longish, feathery bangs I?d favored since I was a teenager; hey, what can I say, guess I?m still a child of the 1980?s. So as I write this now I?m back to being a long-haired girl once again?ironically, perhaps, as I turn forty years old, one of those ?haircutting milestones? I?d always been determined to resist. I find this pretty exciting, in a way?but not nearly as exciting, in fact, as reaching yet another ?milestone;? I just found out I?m pregnant with, God-willing, Tom?s and my first child! My due date is early next September, which means I?ll spend the summer in late pregnancy. I?ve already decided, though, that I?ll be keeping my hair long?that is, unless it becomes REALLY uncomfortable?guess we?ll just have to wait and see!

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