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I already had got over the connection flight to San Francisco; nevertheless I dreaded the long rest. I hate these transatlantic flights. Even in Business Class after some hours it gets too narrow, and I just can’t sleep on the plane. Many years ago, when the planes were not booked full, you could, with some luck lie on a row of four seats in Economy Class and doze off for a few hours, but nowadays – all airlines are overbooking the planes, so that even the last seat is sold. Today I have the last seat on the inside and I’m trying to prepare myself mentally for the long flight from San Francisco to Frankfurt. I took with me some files, not necessarily to work on them, but just to have some distraction and to prepare myself for the forthcoming conversations. Unexpectedly some seats remained free, including the one at the window at my side. This way I won’t have to make any small talk and hopefully will be able to get a brief nap.

I briefly sweep with my eyes over the rest of the passengers on this Boeing 747, but don’t see anything of interest. Completely normal business and private people of both genders have filled the business section and are sitting there with the same lack of motivation as I. One of them is typing like crazy on his laptop’s keyboard, a lady in a dark blue suite is leafing listlessly through a thick fashion magazine, a third one is rustling with an air of importance through some files, and there’s hardly a word left that he isn’t highlighting with his yellow marker.

As usual, the on board service is very attentive, they cover the folding table before me with a white table cloth, and serve me the drinks and dishes I choose. I am being attended by a lady, who although friendly, is emphasizing with the blond bun at her neck that she’s over forty. Somehow I pitied the members of the cabin crew, perfectly trained for an emergency; they normally have to supply the passengers with drinks and food, adjust to their special wishes and moods, have to listen to stupid remarks and complaints, and otherwise give them the red carpet treatment.

The only bright spot seems to be a young stewardess, who armed with slips of paper is hurrying through the aisles. There’s nothing that I can criticize about her slender figure; her decent make up shows she has good taste, and her auburn hair, which she has gathered in a low pony tail with a yellow rubber band, is hanging straight and smoothly over her shoulders.

Always when I see beautiful hair in movement, I start getting ideas of doing something with it – play with it, brush it, comb it, plait it, and also thoughts of changing the style. For her I am also getting ideas of different hair cuts, but I discard them all. Her hair is too well cared for and untouchable, brushed straight back into a tight pony tail with shiny perfectly parallel hair strands. Each hair lies exactly next to the other one, and it all ends in a straight line on her back, just beautiful.

My interest has awoken, and possessed by feminine hair, I am letting my fantasy wander to the bun of the not so young stewardess. I’m wondering how long her hair might be and in what kind of a condition. As her hair isn’t stretched very tightly into the bun, I notice that her hair must be curly or at least wavy. The blonde color is uneven, but in naturally different shades. It seems to be quite beautiful, but that can’t be seen, and that’s unfortunate and I’m thinking on how I could get to see them. I don’t have anything to loose, I can only win, even if it’s only a glance at her loose hair. Therefore I thank her when she brings me my gin and tonic, and add casually; “Nice hair”.

As if she couldn’t understand how anybody could appreciate her hair in its present style, she smiles at me with an astonished look and answers: “Thank you sir, I didn’t expect anybody to recognize it.”

The test balloon has started successfully and seems to fly well. Obviously she’s receptive to compliments, because when she arrived at the pantry, she touched her bun thoughtfully and turned to look at me. Thrilled to see if there would come anything else out of my brief approach, I’m waiting for some further signals. But she and the young stewardess are now clearing the dishes and storing them away.

Only two hours have passed since we left San Francisco, and soon we ought to be able to choose among the available movies. After the crew have again gone through the aisles serving fresh drinks, they can relax somewhat and are staying behind the curtains by the toilettes. I just have to go there, so I get up; slip through the curtain and bump against both stewardesses talking. As I had noticed before a strand of hair had slipped out of the bun of the older one, and she’s just tucking it behind her ear, she courteously steps aside so that I can pass.

When I’m leaving the bathroom, the two of them are still chatting and I go involuntarily one step backwards. The older one doesn’t seem to be happy with the loose strand, because she has opened her bun and is currently in the process of combing it. Open mounded I admire the length of her hair, which is splaying down to her hips, not very thick, but wavy and even. The younger one has lifted a strand from the mass of hair and is inspecting its ends: “Split ends, Megan.”

“What’s that?”

“The ends are split, you should cut off an inch,” I overheard her saying. Megan too lifts a strand, holds it before her eyes and is pulling on its ends with her fingers. Both women step aside to let me pass, but that isn’t my intention. I’m leaning against the bathroom’s doorframe and am enjoying enthusiastically the view, trying to hide my excitement.

“Is there something I can do for you?” the younger stewardess asked courteously, still holding the hair strand.

“No, I’m just enjoying the view, if you don’t mind” I answered. With raised eyebrows, she looked at Megan, who turned to me, “Oh, the gentleman who complimented me on my hair, It’s OK Cathy.”

She evidently already had heard about my compliment, because with a flip of her head, she brought her pony tail to the front, smoothing it with her hand. I feel like I’m getting a red face. It’s said that people signal interest in each other, by stroking their own hair – at least that’s what the theory about body language says.

“Do you like our hair?” Cathy’s question is open and direct. I answer with the same openness.

“Very much, I’m delighted!”

“Are you knowledgeable about hair?”

“A bit,” I answer hesitatingly.

“Then, I’m sure that you can confirm that she has to get her hair trimmed.” she says, and grabs a thick hair stand from Megan’s neck, divides it, and holds one part towards me, so that I can inspect it, and analyzes the other one herself. The resulting scene is just divine. Cathy and I are standing behind Megan, whose loose hair is hanging down, with exception of the two strands that Cathy and I are holding and that are being pulled apart like a curtain.

With immense delight I pull the long strand through my fingers and look at the hair ends, as attentively as Cathy, and see that some hair ends are split.

“You’re right Cathy” in my opinion only scissors can help here.”

“You see Meg; the gentleman says the same as I.”

“How much?” Without emotion she inquires about the consequences. Cathy and I look at each other, and she indicates with a movement of her head that I should answer.

“One or two inches, probably,” I tell Megan.

“That’s all?”

Now I really don’t get what’s happening, there’s this woman with extremely long hair, that must have taken a long time to grow to this length, and then she remarks as if she were sorry, that only a few inches have to be cut off.

“You can be glad, that they aren’t split so badly, that there has to be cut off more,” I answer and try to find out what her point of view about this matter is.

“Yes unfortunately.”

“What’s the matter?” Cathy isn’t able to comprehend the eventuality that’s hiding in Megan’s statement.

“You know, I
‘ve had long hair all my life.”

“Precisely! You surely want to keep it, or don’t you?”

“I’m not sure.”

“What’s the meaning of that? Do you want to cut it short? That can’t be true.” Scared she let go of Cathy’s hair, grabs her own hair and is holding it as if somebody were about to take it away from her.

“Why not? Short hair is trendy – and I think I’d look younger.”

Then I join the heated conversation “If I may say something, I think that a short hair style would look well on you. I’m sure that you would look younger if you wouldn’t put your hair into such a tight bun.”

“You see!” Megan seems to be glad over my confirmation, and adds turning towards Cathy, “The gentleman too, says OK.”

“You’re really brave, Meg. It took ages for your hair to grow to such a length, and now you just want to cut it short. When I think of the time and effort I’ve devoted to my hair, then I can hardly believe what you’re saying.”

“You’re right. It’s a waste of time and money. That’s why I want to cut it short. Definitely!”

“I also think that it’s very brave of you to attempt this step. After all you have very beautiful hair.” I really mean what I’m saying, and I think that this compliment is getting to her. Although I won’t have much time in Frankfurt, I might find an opportunity to be present when she gets her hair cut: “When do you want to go to the hairdresser? I’d like to be present to give you moral support.”

“I don’t know. But you’re an expert. What style would you recommend?”

The opportunity seems to be favorable. Although I’m not an `expert’, just someone obsessed with hair, but even so, I guess that I have some taste and can recognize what would suite her. Cathy had withdrawn somewhat and was leaning against the stainless steel counter and was suspiciously observing the developing scene. She was still holding her pony tail with one hand, while the other hand was playing with the hair ends.

“You’ve got wonderful hair, Megan, and I am quite sure, that a wavy Bob style would suite your features. You probably just would have to cut your hair to about an inch below your chin and get the ends layered, so that it doesn’t look too severe. I’m sure that as your hair is currently so stretched, as soon as it’s shorter it will get wavy or even curly. Now the weight of you long hair is pulling the curls straight, once it’s short this won’t happen anymore.”

Standing diagonally in front of her I take one half of her hair and am holding it backwards in such a way that it billows in an curve towards the front and with the other hand I push it upward so that it looses its tension, in this way she’s able to see in the small mirror of the pantry, a semblance of the previously mentioned style.

“I know exactly what you mean, I too have thought about such a cut, easy to style.”

“Exactly, I’d call it a ten finger style. With you type of hair you could let it dry naturally after washing it, you’d just have to crush it now and then with your hands. You also could on some days work in a little bit of wax, to achieve a straggly look; another option would be to tuck the hair behind your ears or comb it back on one side with gel – many possibilities, anyhow more than with the bun you have now.

Cathy speaks again: “You seem to know a lot about hair styles, Mr. …?”

“Pete, just call me Pete.”

“It’s you profession, isn’t it?

What shall I answer? If I tell them the truth, then perhaps they won’t listen to me anymore, if I lie, then they will survey notice it and I’ll make a fool out of myself, which is worse. As I don’t want to lie, there only remains the truth, which I duly confess.

“No, Cathy, it’s not my profession, I’m not a stylist or something like that; although I have a great liking for women’s hair and have been allowed to cut the hair of some acquaintances. I hope you’re not angry with me now.”

“Why should we, …” and “No, no …” both are saying at the same time, and Cathy continues: “I like what you’re suggesting for Cathy. I think that it would look good on her.”

“Alright, let’s go for it.” Megan claps her hands and gives me a challenging look.

“What do you mean – go for it?”

“Do it, cut it off.”

“Yes, how, where, what with?” After all we are not in a beauty salon.”

Cathy and Megan are grinning at each other, and my astonishment and helplessness seems to amuse them. Cathy opens a door of the pantry, pulls out a drawer, briefly rummages in it and takes out some scissors.

“How about this?”

“Ladies, please. We can’t play hair salon here.” Although I’m secretly hurting with the desire to get a chance to cut Megan’s fabulous hair, I just can’t figure out a way to accomplish this. But Megan insisted: “An easy-to-style must also be easy to cut, otherwise it’s no good. Think it over, Pete.”

I can’t let this challenge go unanswered. I’m digging in my brain, trying to find a solution.

It must be possible to do it standing.

It has to be done quickly.

It has to be precise.

Afterwards there mustn’t remain any hair lying around.

The minutes pass, while I’m thinking of all kinds of possibilities, evaluating them and discarding them again. Cathy meanwhile is opening and closing the scissors, while Megan is combing through her fabulous hair with excitingly slow strokes, and is patiently awaiting my answer.

“Got it!” I have thought of a way in which it can be done. In a women’s magazine I once saw a hair cut, that was done with only two cuts. I still remember the main statement; the preparations have to be very precise, because otherwise the result will be unsatisfactory.

The opening and closing of the scissors stops, and Megan too halts the combing in the middle of a stroke, places the comb on the counter and looks at me questioningly.

“Megan, please stand here.” I direct her to stand with her back towards the pantry’s counter. “Cathy, I need two rubber bands. Can you get them for me?”

Cathy rummages again in the drawer which is still open, and quickly comes up with a small bag of red rubber bands, which she proudly holds toward me. At the moment I’m not paying attention to that, I’m asking Megan to bend forward and to toss her hair to the front over her head. She wordlessly follows my instructions, resting her buttocks against the counter. Her long hair is curling on the floor of the slightly swaying plane, and Cathy and I have to take care, in the narrow space, so that we don’t step on it. With Megan’s large toothed comb I’m combing carefully her hair from the back to the front. At ear level I part it; and comb the hair that’s below it backwards, so that it’s again on her back. Then standing in front of her I gather with both hands all the other hair at the height of her forehead and tell her to stand upright again. Carefully I comb all the hair that’s over her ear level into a pony tail and fasten it with one of the rubber bands that Cathy gave me. The long tail falls over her face and her breast reaching her waist. I also make a pony tail with the hair that’s on her back and hold it together with a rubber band, exactly at the middle of her neck, directly at her hairline.

“You look funny, Cathy says. “I’m thrilled to see what’s going to come out of this.”

“You really know what you are doing, don’t you?” I can understand Megan’s doubts and therefore try to calm her a bit.

“This is going to be the famous `Pete’s two step cut’. Have you ever heard about it?”

“No, never.”

“Megan, you still can say no. Once I’ve started cutting then it’s too late. Please think carefully if you want to risk it.” I’ve lifted the pony tail at her neck a bit, and am asking Cathy to place the scissors just over the rubber band.

“With an almost pained expression on her face, Megan looks at her colleague. “Cathy, help me please!”

Without any hesitation, as if she hadn’t heard anything, Cathy starts cutting, and after many small cuts she manages to cut through the thick hair strand and it’s laying h
eavily in my hand. The hair on the back of her head lies in a nice line that goes from the center towards the sides, on her neck.

With her head bend forward Megan had endured our proceedings, and while she is holding with both hands the other pony tail in front of her, Cathy and I exchange the scissors with the severed pony tail and are both stoking Megan’s shoulders.

“How does it look?”

“So far it looks really good, Meg. I think you should let him go on,” Cathy answered, but can’t avoid an expression of sorrow when she glances at the long hair strand in her hand.

“OK then. Second step, keep on going, Pete!”

I also had placed the rubber band on the pony tail at Megan’s brow at the height of her hair line. But the cut isn’t going to be there, so I fasten a second rubber band at the height where the nose joins her forehead. With the open scissors placed just above it our eyes meet for a brief moment. I just can’t go on without her consent, which she gives me with a small nod and a wink.

This time it’s taking considerably longer to cut through. The pony tail is much thicker and I have to take great care to make a straight cut as the hair tends to be squeezed out by the pressure of the closing blades.

I can’t describe the feelings I’m having during this action, it’s not only the excitement from the cut, but also an equally large amount of curiosity, to see how the cut will actually look, and if Megan will look like I’m imagining she’s going to look.

With a small jerk, the scissors sever the last hair strand liberating Megan from the weight of the long hair, as well as from the burden of having to take care of it. She had been holding on to the end of her ponytail and as soon as I finish cutting, the whole fabulous hair mass falls to the front with a distinct plop on the floor. With incredulity she keeps holding on to the severed splendor.

Even during the cut the cu off strands have been aligning themselves around her head and are now forming a layered chin long bob that blends into the previously cut section at her neck. Quickly I ask Cathy to hand me a wet rag, with which I’m moistening her hair before she gets a chance to look into the mirror. I want to give her curls a chance to present themselves in the manner that hadn’t been possible during many years because of the pull from the weight of her long hair. And my hope is rewarded – as soon as her hair gets damp, the waves in her hair begin to form, which I’m reinforcing by crushing it with my hands. The result is exactly the style I had described a while ago during our conversation. Satisfied I give Megan a chance to take a look in the mirror.

Her happy smile and the carelessness, with which she drops her former ponytail, so that she can dig with both her hands into her hair, are all the assurance I need. Nevertheless, not content with that, she hugs me gratefully, and is happy with her new more youthful look.

All this is surpassed by Cathy, who looking thoughtfully at her hair asks with feigned innocence: “Pete, when are you flying back?”

To be continued.

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