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Kim was a young woman who came to the salon on a regular basis. She had healthy, shiny blonde hair that reached to her shoulder blades. She had long hair for as long as I could remember. Some highlights, some lowlights, sometimes a long fringe, then some layers, then completely blunt cut. She changed a lot of times of hairstyle, except for her length. That remained long. I never even questioned her choice of hairstyle; she knew what she wanted and how she wanted to look like. Kim is one of the happy few with a perfect oval face, capable of supporting whatever hairstyle she wanted. Her salon visits were not frequent, but regular enough to have her hair in tiptop shape.

One day, when it was freezing outside Kim came in. After I took her coat and hung it on the coat hanger, she shivered a bit. ‘Glad to be inside’ was her remark and her radiant smiled told me she was happy to have her hair done. Kim was, like always, in favour of the luxury treatment. Slow reception, bit of small talk, and drink a cup of tea while she seemed to adjust to the salon. She wanted to wait a bit before I did her hair, as she always turned up half an hour too early. Not because she was in a rush to perhaps leave earlier, it just fitted her relaxing time I guess. No hurry over to the salon; leave early, never arrive late with stress. When I knew she was coming, I adjusted my previous appointment to have a moment to spare, half an hour before the appointment when she would arrive. So when Kim was settled with her tea and a magazine, burying herself in the soft couch, I went of to attend to the final details of my other client. At the start, the arrival of Kim half an hour early upset me a bit, it interrupted my other client. The second time however, I fell for the innocent charm of Kim and rearranged my schedule to fit her. Pleasing my customers is my motto.

When the other customer was gone, I went over to Kim. This was the moment she insisted on me having a drink and talking a bit about whatever was on her mind. Sometimes it was the weather, politics or something happening in the world, sometimes it was about what she wanted changed on her hairstyle. So I was prepared and brought my glass of apple juice along. Seated on the couch right of her, she talk about the cold outside and slowly moved on to her hair. She wanted something different, so I made some suggestions of minor changes to her long hair. To my surprise, that wasn’t what she was looking for. She wanted a big change and became flush with embarrassment. That was a new Kim before me, so I inquired what she was thinking about – a medium length hairstyle? Nope that wasn’t it, she wanted it short. That seemed a big relief to her, the big word was out. By her body language I could understand too she was completely uneasy. So instead of just jumping in, I took the conversation a bit further and gently took the conversation to why and how she wanted it done. The state she was in now was not the Kim who could enjoy her haircut, the Kim I had known for some years. A real why wasn’t there, a fear for what was to come certainly was. Having her calmed down a bit, reassuring her she would look just as great with short as with long hair, explaining that I wouldn’t hack of her hair at once, taking it nice and slow, I suggested we would go to the salon and let her look at what we could do. So Kim sat down in the salon chair and I started to play with her hair. I made a ponytail with my hands, pushing it forward a bit, so the result resembled a bob. That wasn’t what she had in mind, it needed to be shorter. So the ponytail became firmer and the idea became more and more what she liked. So then I took some hairstyle books and looked up some of the shorter hairstyles. We discussed them: how much work, how regular the trims needed to be, and what other possibilities she had to style her hair and so on. Having decided what she wanted, I gave her the kimono to change into. She went to the changing room and came back a few minutes later, wearing the red cotton kimono top. We went to the washbasins and she seated herself. After having put a towel around her shoulders, tucked away a bit in the collar of the kimono top, I gently placed her hair in the washbasin. The water at a comfortable temperature, I rinsed her hair. With the shampoo diluted, I applied it in her hair. The ensuing wash was something that made Kim unwind completely. She enjoyed it so much and relaxed completely I often wondered if she stayed awake, having her eyes closed all the time. This time was no different. The second shampoo was even more enjoyment and the application of the conditioner was the ultimate, as I combed her hair with a wide toothed comb, just the way she liked it. The final rinse was always the moment Kim came out of her trance. After a gentle rub to remove most of the water, Kim and I walked back to the chair. Once she was seated there, I put a cape on, put a clean towel around her shoulders and combed her hair. This would be the last time someone would comb her long hair for some time was what went through my mind. I sectioned her hair in the regular fashion in four and used a clip to put the two frontal sections up. Then I separated a smaller part of the hair at her hairline in the back from the two leftover sections and put them up with clips as well.

While I was combing the only loose part, I gently tilted her head downwards and took a lock between my fingers and was preparing to cut about 20 cm (8 in) of, Kim asked me to stop. I looked at her and saw she wasn’t ready. She was disturbed and not the relaxed Kim she always had been. I immediately backed away the scissors from her head and inquired what was wrong. She was hesitating she said and didn’t know what to do. As I always want my clients to enjoy the time at the hairdresser as much as possible, I made the suggestion not to cut her hair short right now. She seemed a bit disappointed, but relieved at the same time. So instead of her big change, Kim had a trim that day. When she paid me, she profusely apologised for her behaviour and the lack of courage. I could only try to reassure her there was no harm done and told her again if there was anything that could make her enjoy or relax more, I would do my utmost best to oblige her. She acknowledged and insisted on booking a next appointment in 4 weeks, which was quicker than usual. My proposal to wait a bit and see when she would feel up to it was discarded with her gentle smile and a polite ‘I’d like to book it now, if possible’. In the back of my mind, I kind of thought I wouldn’t see her again. A cancellation by telephone is quickly done and would divide the feeling of shame she definitely had in two events, making it more bearable.

Four weeks later, the booking of Kim came up again and to my surprise, she hadn’t called it off. My idea then was that she would come in for some highlights or some other minor soft change. As clockwork, she arrived half an hour early, but not alone this time. She introduced me to her friend Patricia. I greeted the both of them and took them to the waiting area, offering them something to drink. By chance the previous appointment cancelled, so instead of going back to my client, I told them I was available and joined them with a drink. Patricia, with her long wavy brown and layered hair that danced around her face as she walked, started talking. Kim wanted her hair short, but was afraid she would chicken out again. So that was why she was there. They had agreed that when Kim would chicken out, Patricia would step in and see to it her hair would be cut short today. I noticed Kim was again uneasy, but seemed to resign in her faith. If this was the way Kim wanted it done, then it was OK by me. As I had to be honest, I told them I forgot the exact hairstyle Kim chose 4 weeks earlier. Patricia seemed very keen on having Kim’s hair on the floor as she replied that I could choose as long as it was maximal 5 cm (2 in) on top. To my vague recollection, the style Kim preferred was a bit longer. But having checked with Kim, she said that Patricia was right. Then I
handed a kimono to Kim, which Patricia took. She was really getting in control. They went into the changing room – was Patricia fearing Kim would run away now? – and came back with Patricia directing Kim to sit at the washbasin. As always, I washed and conditioned Kim’s hair gently, not rushing and hoping Kim would enjoy her haircut today. After this was over, I leaded the two ladies to the chair, caped Kim and asked Patricia to sit in the chair next to her. Patricia declined and wanted to stand next to Kim and was determined to do so. Even telling her she might be in the way met with a gentle ‘then I’ll move over’. There was only one way I wouldn’t have trouble with Patricia it seemed and that would be to involve her. So I asked Kim if it would be OK if Patricia would help me by holding her hair instead of using clips. With kind of a relief, Kim said she would like that very much. She remained nervous and insecure, but managed a tiny smile, giving the green light.

Yet again, I sectioned her hair in the regular fashion in four, but now I combed the two frontal sections in her face. I asked Patricia to go stand before Kim, blocking mirror for Kim. I gently bent Kim’s head forward, divided the back sections and asked Patricia to hold each side with one hand. Her beautifully manicured nails took hold of the long wet blonde hair that was soon going to be on the floor. I quickly combed the locks left in Kim’s neck, picked then up and cut them to just a finger’s length. I wanted this to be over as quickly as possible for Kim. Patricia seemed very agile at holding the hair nice and tight and without having to undo a clip all the time, I was schnipping off the next long lock within a minute. My plan was to cut the most of the length in one go and style the cut in a second. Kim didn’t utter a word as she felt her hair being cut very short, but Patricia did. She ‘encouraged’ Kim by saying stuff like: ‘Oh Kim, your hair will be so neat.’ ‘It is just great to watch your hair slide down the cape.’ ‘You definitely need it cut even much shorter than he’s cutting it now’. Patricia was really into it. For Kim, I couldn’t see as Patricia was holding her head firmly bent, chin on chest, reporting each lock I was cutting off. When I asked Kim if she was OK, she tried to nod but couldn’t, as my new help didn’t release her hold for a second. So a soft ‘yeah’ was all the reply I got. Feeling a bit sorry for Kim, under control by her friend, I quickly cut the back of her hair short. As requested, the length on top would be no more than 5 cm (2in), so it ranged from one cm ( 0.3in) at her hairline to 6 cm (2¼ in) on her crown. Patricia seemed satisfied, ruffled through the freshly cut hair and said to Kim, it still was way to long. Now Kim could look in the mirror for the first time, but couldn’t see anything yet. She raised her hand to go and have a feel, but Patricia stopped it before it got there. ‘Now don’t be so curious, you can feel it when he’s done chopping it all off’. Not exactly the words I would have chosen to calm Kim. So I quietly went over to the left side, directed Patricia to Kim’s right side, parted the hair at her left side and asked Patricia to hold the long hair. Without me asking, Patricia made Kim to tilt her head to her and blocked her view with her arm. Whether she did that on purpose or not, I still don’t know. What I do know is that Kim watched each lock slide over the cape, ending in her lap. The point of no return for the haircut was long past, so I asked Kim if she would feel more comfortable with Patricia sitting down. She wouldn’t she said. It actually made her feel safer, knowing her hair was literally in Patricia’s hands. So we continued this unique haircut. Kim being cut short, Patricia acting like the most ardent short hair fan, while sporting long flowing locks herself. It all seemed a bit hypocritical to me. Being given the opportunity I wouldn’t hesitate for a second to let Patricia part with her long locks, even as she was doing a great job helping me. That only reinforced my opinion I guess, as to me all female hairdressers should have a short haircut. Where would they get the authority or audacity to cut other women’s hair short while keeping long hair themselves? A bit like a dentist with rotten teeth advising you to brush and floss regularly. That’s just not done and not trustworthy advice. Such thought were going through my mind as I made the connection from the hairline at the back to the ear, that was completely naked and the scissors touched Kim’s neck. It made small goose bumps appear that seemed to stay for a while. Patricia was still going on and complimented Kim on her beautiful ears, asking/directing me to make sure Kim wouldn’t have long sideburns. Nice and short, just as the rest. But to highlight Kim’s radiant eyes – were still going to radiate after her long hair was gone? – come out better, I opted for a V-shape that I would style a bit to the front, so the sideburns weren’t probably as short as Patricia would have hoped. She didn’t insist anymore however, maybe waiting to see the final result. Having her left side cut short, Kim could see for the first time, where I was taking her. Was it my imagination or did the fear start to disappear and was Kim relaxing more? Not that I could hesitate for a second, Patricia was already at my side to take over. So I moved to Kim’s right and after parting Kim’s hair to her right side and Patricia holding on firmly, the cutting recommenced. Not much later, that right side was even to the left side and when I combed Kim’s hair back, she could have a first peek at what it would become. This time I was sure, radiant Kim would be back in no time! That relaxed me a bit and warned Kim, this time the locks with the most length would follow the others. Patricia didn’t know what to do anymore, as there was no head to hold. So she sat down on the second chair after having positioned it so she could see it all. But after the first lock on top fell down and I started to cut the guideline for the top, she stood up and leaned against the small shelf in front of her mirror to get a better look. She was definitely fascinated with Kim’s long hair getting cut short! After the top lost about 40 cm (16in) on each lock, the regular Kim was there again. She started to relax, the big parting was over. Patricia seemed to get slightly uneasy, she had nothing left to do, her role was over as Kim’s long hair lay on the floor. She had calmed down a bit and gently complimented Kim on her hair. Kim was being a good girl, as she still hadn’t felt at her short hair. Then I started to make the second cut. Again I started at the back, snipping off another cm ( 0.3in), using the scissors over comb technique. Kim didn’t need Patricia’s help to keep her chin on her chest. She really was a good girl, apparently pleased at loosing some more hair. When I was pleased with the texture, I started to finish her left side. Patricia was standing a short distance behind me at my side, watching me work. Kim exchanged brief glances with me and smiled. She was happy and Patricia didn’t even notice. She was caught up in the scissors trimming more hair, the comb going through it and even more hair being trimmed and remained pretty much quiet. A brief mmmm was followed by a silent whaw, a nod and a ‘you look great Kim’. Patricia was mesmerised by the sound of the scissors over comb and what she saw. Because I didn’t want Kim to look to sweet, I started to slice her hair on top to reduce it to about 5 cm (2in). The final finish came as I took a razor and started to shave Kim’s neck, behind her ears and slightly at her sideburns. The razor seemed to be an instrument of horror to Patricia, as she couldn’t let her eyes go from it for a minute. Some calming lotion on the shaved parts, some soft wax on my hands that went through Kim’s hair, a slight brush that went through her hair and she was done. The result was, as could be predicted by even the worst hairdresser, great. The haircut framed Kim’s beautiful face and (pfew) radiating eyes. Styling would be a breeze – just some wax or gel after the shower and she would
be ready to go. I took the handheld mirror and let Kim watch the back. She turned her hair a bit to the left and right and a big smile came on her face. She went with her hands through her hair and got almost ecstatic. The long locks that had rested on her lap fell on the floor, but Kim couldn’t care less. She was really pleased and enjoyed the short haircut. She seemed to want to feel her hands slide through her hair, again and again. This was a good time for me to let her style her hair again herself this time. She went like ‘Gosh, it is SO easy, I’m loving it now and will enjoy it much more every day!’ Patricia smiled too and complimented Kim over and over again. Kim changed back into her regular cloths quickly, but I noticed she left her jacket in the changing room. When I told her so after she paid me, she told me she wasn’t leaving yet. The question mark on my face must have been so clear as she introduced me to Patricia again, Patricia Highsmith. Mrs Highsmith was my next appointment, a first timer. The extra time I always take to get to know the new client wouldn’t be needed for her. I had seen her in action and knew exactly what kind of treatment she would get if it were up to me. Then Kim told me they had agreed when Kim’s hair would end up short, Patricia would follow. They both were too scared to do it alone. Patricia was getting red in the cheeks; it almost matched the kimono I handed her. That was why she was more and more silent as time passed. Her turn was coming up and she had known it. So 1½ hour later, Patricia knew exactly what it felt like, being cut short with the assistance of her friend. Since Patricia had less hair to loose than Kim, I introduced a novelty for her. Instead of using the scissors over comb, I used the clippers over comb technique. When I popped the clippers on, Patricia got a bit uneasy. That was something she had coming, treating her friend the way she had. Kim really enjoyed the Patricia’s haircut, just like I did. It almost never felt better to cut a woman ‘down to size’. The fact my little helper was looking like a hairdresser’s assistant should, helped; no doubt about it. A nice short haired, sweet and smiling assistant that enjoyed every second of her hair being short and having someone else join her.

Kim became a very frequent customer. She never grew her hair out again and just like with her long locks, made some minor adjustments from time to time: highlights, a less wispy fringe, the sideburns shorter, then a bit a longer and so on. Patricia came back a second time feeling obliged, as Kim had almost made the second appointment for her before she left. Patricia’s second time was like a first time, as I had to discover exactly what she liked. She and Kim were apparently not that different, except for the fact Kim never asked for the clippers and Patricia did every time. Her fear for the clippers were gone too I guess and must have enjoyed it. The two of them never came back together anymore though. Each one of them wanted to enjoy their own relaxing time, ending up looking better to boot.

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