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 Cheryl awoke with a certain heft that day. Her late night spaghetti dinner was still churning its way through her. As per usual, her eyelids broke just before her alarm clock began to ramp up and blast a concentrated dose of NPR at her. With a series of thumps, thuds, and a sharp little slap to her alarm radio, she was up and on to the shower.
Her slender frame notwithstanding, Cheryl stopped in front of the mirror to push her stomach out. She examined the perceived distension that her late meal served on a microwavable platter. Even at its fullest, it would be nothing to you, any gentleman suitor, or me. To Cheryl, however, on this day – it meant a million things needed to change.
She scanned up her reflection, picking up her B cups and letting them drop only to bounce about an eighth as long as she would have hoped. Her eyes seemed jaundiced. Her chestnut roots shone manure brown to her through a lusterless blonde. Her hair hung heavy and lifeless. She pushed a frustrated breath through her full, pink lips, and thought how she would at the very least always have those.
As she stepped into the shower, she ran her fingers over her legs. Legs she only attends to when she expects to be attended to. Another grim reminder of how prominently work has figured into Cheryl’s life. In fact, she couldn’t quite remember ever seeing a leg so hairy. Not even her father’s. She shuddered at the idea that somehow his carpeted bag had somehow snuck up on her in her absence from the world of proper grooming.
Almost as soon as she picked up her adorable little pink razor, she put it down. Her desire to make herself feel pretty gave way, once again, to the feeling that no one was going to get close enough to notice.
She lathered up with the frail consolation of her herbal soap and breathed deeply, hoping that the advertisements were not all horse shit. Hoping that it would serve as the precursor to a shampoo induced orgasm that might carry her through the day. It didn’t. The shampoo did nothing of what was once promised. The thought, however, did tide her over on her way to her closet.
When it came to dress up, Cheryl knew how to fake it. She had dabbled in acting prior to growing up and getting paid. She knew just how to build a tone from the wardrobe up. Hell, she had been doing it long before student films and casting couches. She had been a little manic panic skater groupie punk. She’d gone through her dating the black boys and sporting Baby Phat period. She had been so many people, even before she started pretending for a living – or a pittance.
Now Cheryl was playing make believe just to get through the day. Her mission: to create the illusion of power and confidence. Her solution: to cover every inch of her flesh. Her body with fabric, and her face with pigments rare enough to break the bank on. Her only uncertainty that morning was where to stop.
She started out simple: a skin toned bra and a pair of cute little boxer shorts that she usually wore to bed. Next, she broke out a white, button down blouse. Looking at her jungle legs, she resolved to start, down south with a pair of black socks. Next up, chocolate pinstriped, wool pants. Over her shirt went her favorite, deep green, cashmere sweater, and a jacket to match her pants. Double breasted. With one of those pointed lapels. A pair of ankle high, high healed, pointy-toed boots to finish out the number. Everything hugged her curves just right, and she was starting to feel the part. All she needed now was to run a brush through her hair and put her face on.
With her face intact, she was feeling better about the effects of sleep deprivation on her thirty-two year old visage, but no amount of brushing did anything for that end. She tried under, over, from one side to the next. She tried hot air and cool. The roots were killing her, and so was the wave that wouldn’t stay out of her face. Finally, she gave up, skipped breakfast, and was out the door.
Ten o’clock. Cheryl had been seated for over an hour with her stomach starting to turn on itself as her partner, Alan, droned on and on about how an internet presence would revitalize their circulation problem. She had spent the first forty minutes working out how to rework his proposal without alienating him. The twenty that followed have been a brainstorming session of her own.
So far, she had four sure fire ways to elevate her mood: (1) She’d temporarily cut sodas, candy and alcohol out of the equation. (2) She’d scrub down her kitchen and clean up all the paperwork in her living room. (3) She’d return to her running regimen – starting Thursday due to work constraints. (4) Finally, she’d get a haircut, but not just a trim. She vowed to herself that she’d do something entirely new. She’d get something she’d never had before. She was going to throw caution to the wind.
After that, she had nothing else on her mind. She was genuinely excited for the first time in months. For the first time since the last time she went to the dentist and got all of that annoying, calcified plaque removed from the back of her teeth where her tongue would rub it all day and night. She knows – simple pleasures – but she doesn’t care.
Just as she didn’t care at that moment. She didn’t care about what Alan had to say about the importance of the internet in their future. She didn’t care about whether Jane or Mark or Mbune noticed she was doodling hair styles on her legal pad. She puts in her time. She can take a little bit back. Shit, Constance and her, “Oh, I can’t make that meeting. Donny has an away game.” Not to mention Walter’s constant trips to his orthopedic specialist so he can keep up with his Iron Man training. She was firm. It was more than okay for her to take a little time for herself.
Her head began to dance with visions of asymmetrical bobs, and bangs. She got chills at the thought of a brisly nape, and her hand running through her hair without stopping at a knot. She thought about all the colors she might wind up with. About strawberry blonde, burgundy, platinum. Maybe something a little bit out there. Something like silver, or a twinge of purple added to her natural brunette. She imagined her hair as soft as the wool on her thigh. She felt warm. Her muscles tensed and she became aware of the blood flowing through her.
She hadn’t felt anything but stress in quite some time. That is stress and bloat. She had felt so heavy for so long and, suddenly, movement felt effortless. She felt like a whole rather than the sum of her parts.
When it came time for lunch, Cheryl put in for some personal time, cutting out for the day. She told herself she’d get some work done from home after she finished straightening and got in a workout. She couldn’t shake that feeling of guilt, but she could justify putting it off to the side. And the closer she got to the mall, the further back it slid.
She decided to do an anonymous walk-in rather than go to her usual stylist. This way, she thought, she could avoid being talked out of her little flight from sensibility. Sensibility hadn’t been very kind to her of late anyway.
She walked into a little place called Sugar. Cheryl walked in like she didn’t give a shit. Without even looking at the girl at the front desk, she announced that she was there to get a cut and color and that she was in a hurry. Before the girl could even answer, she was in a waiting chair reading an outdated issue of Glamour. She quickly tired of  page after page of advertisements, and grabbed a Newsweek that was twice as old.
Twenty minutes passed, and so did her excitement. But only briefly, and only due to a lengthy article about Rawanda. It all came surging back, though, with the words: “Cheryl! We’re ready for you.” She got weak for a second. She suddenly started to worry about what the woman would say w
hen she said to cut it all off.
She went through the motions. Back to the shampoo station where all the stress was massaged away in the warm water. The shampoo girl sat Cheryl up and put her hair up in a towel to dry.
The stylist made her way over and asked, “So what are we going to do today?”
“I was sorta’ thinking about cutting it all off.”
The stylist took a deep breath. “All off, huh?”
“Yeah, just about. I want to do something drastic.”
“Do you have a usual stylist? Why the drastic change with a complete stranger?”
“Honestly, I just didn’t want anyone trying to talk me out of it. A lot of good that did me.”
“Alright, well, how about  you sit down in my station, and we’ll just start cutting and see where we wind up?”
“Sounds like a plan.”
Cheryl takes a seat, and Donna – the stylist – gets to work. Cheryl holds her hands in her lap, focusing more on the warmth of her legs than the clumps of hair falling. Her hands nervously make their way up to that cashmere sweater. She thinks about all the times she curled up in its soft warmth and she could feel her nipples get hard as her hairs stood on end. Even her leg hairs started to tingle as she felt the KRRRRRP of the scissors at the lengths of her hair. She didn’t want to look up, hoping that when she finally did, she would hardly recognize the girl in the reflection.
“Okay, Cheryl. What do you think?”
Cheryl looked up, surprised that Donna would be finished so soon. Her excitement melted away quickly as she took it in. Her hair had been cut to an even length bob just above her shoulders.
“I’m sorry, did I catch you right before you get off?”
“I want it all off. Seriously. I want to be a totally different woman. Short in back, on the sides, up top. I want it short.”
“Okay, okay. I just wanted to make sure.”
Cheryl crossed her fingers and Donna snipped away. Cheryl watched this time, and more hair fell. Eventually, Donna broke out a straight razor. She began taking off long, thin pieces of hair, and Cheryl started to get less inspired. She had seen this done before. She had seen the older housewives with their Lilly sun dresses, getting their low maintenance, hairdos. Their Sharon Stones and their Hillary Clintons. Cheryl realized it was time to wait it out and cut her losses.
Cheryl had to put an end to it, “Just make sure it’s more Sharon Stone and less Hillary Clinton.”
“You read my mind,” Donna replied.
All Cheryl could think was, “You sure as shit didn’t read my lips.”
“I’m so glad you didn’t make me shave you. I’d die if someone saw me give a cut like that.”
Cheryl just kept her mouth shut and waited Donna out. She started to feel heavier in her seat. Her clothes started to feel too hot instead of warm. Her clit and nipples no longer engorged. Her cheeks no longer rosie. When it was all said and done, she felt about ten years too old, and she thanked god a so-called “short” haircut was so much cheaper than a long one.
As she walked out, she ran her fingers through her hair, and marveled at how light it was. As she passed the other storefronts, she admired how much sexier she looked with her slender neck exposed to the world. She felt thinner. She adjusted the collar of her shirt, picking it up. She liked how her hair fell just over it. It wasn’t enough, though. She wanted to go further.
Cheryl remembered back when she went through her punk phase. She remembered the sensation she felt when the older girls would clipper cut her nape and around her ears under her long, pink and blue hair. She longed for the cool, velveteen quality to it. It made her also think about the older girls, and how sexy they were. How her boyfriend would look so longingly at them. How they had such a beautiful sheen on the sides and in the back where it tapered down to nothing. She thought about the spiky texture up top and the way it fell flat by the time they woke from stupors on Sunday mornings. Just thinking about it, she felt the blood return to her nipples. She couldn’t help but smile as she remembered one of the older boys – naked with his skinny, rippling chest – thrusting away with his thick, hairy member at his girlfriend as he pulled at the little bit of hair she had at the top of her head.
And just as she came to, she crossed a barber shop window where there was a pictorial history of all those styles that she remembered so fondly. The styles that no women’s stylist had ever been willing to give her. Those styles that never showed up in any of those hairstyle books at the salons. The styles that girls whispered about when their classmates donned them. The styles that attracted the unmitigated scorn of old ladies when the young, tattooed, chain laden, punker girls prowled the streets.
Cheryl’s hear began to pound. She had found her destination. She would get her new `do. There and then, at the age of thirty-two, Cheryl would get the haircut she had longed for since she was thirteen. She walked on in to the barber shop, and a kind looking older gentleman named Leon wrapped a cape over her chocolate, wool suit. She pointed at the diagram. Leon smiled, and asked if she was sure. She nodded, and he went to work.
Cheryl could hide her excitement as Leon turned on his clippers right away. He had ad number five guard on them. Her muscles tensed up all over. She had never felt like that before. She had never had sex that was so gratifying.
Leon ran the clippers all over her head, reducing everything to an even length. Then, he started going down one guide at a time. He ran the clippers from nape to crown and all around. Each time he went to a smaller guard, he drew it away just a little bit further from the top. Eventually, there was no guard, and Cheryl Swore she could feel the floating blades rub against her skin. It tickled. She laughed out loud.
Suddenly, the clippers stopped and Cheryl felt Leon tugging at the hairs at the top of her head. He began feathering the top a bit and then he used some water and gel to part it and flatten it down. Leon brushed away the fallen hair, she paid, and they parted ways. Only after she selected a lollypop for the hell of it.
She walked away pawing her head, making sure to restore the top to its flat state. She even relished the prickly hairs that had slipped into her collar. She hadn’t felt anything like it since she was a kid. The only thing that bothered her was the idea of covering it up with the onset of winter. At least she didn’t have to worry about messing it up.
The next day, after having spent all night experiencing the new texture of her hair, it almost lost its luster. Then she realized how excited she was to start gauging reactions.

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