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Theresa took a deep breath and prepared to enter the hairdressers. Her Mother -in- Law’s hand on her backside helped to propel her in. How had she got here? What was going to happen to her?

Theresa had married very well at the age of 23. Her husband’s family were very well off and helped the young couple a great deal to buy and furnish a house.

Theresa was a teacher and she worked for three years before starting a family in her mid twenties. She and her husband had decided to have two children and they duly arrived just over a year apart. Again thanks to her in- laws, Theresa had decided to give up work until the children were old enough to start school.

Theresa’s Mother-in Law (M-i-L) was utterly fearsome, a true British Battleaxe, just think of Margaret Thatcher but instead of the blond coiffure there was a head of immaculately tended steely grey curls. She had strong and traditional opinions of how women should appear and behave. She definitely would not take no for an answer!

Theresa was very deferential and ensured that she dressed in conservative, floral pattern skirts and dresses when she paid a visit. She did not want to offend or upset her in-Laws after their generosity. She was very careful with her long mid- brown hair. Before the children arrived she mostly wore her hair up on these visits: chignons, buns, French twists and braids – she even tried the Princess Leia look! Her Mother -in -Law was most appreciative.

After the children, she found she had less time and pony tails and a careless braid became the norm and this generated a certain amount of pointed comment. Theresa found that her young children liked to play with her hair and this caused a terrible split end problem. She was finding that keeping her long hair smart was impossible. She agonised over to crop it very short but fearing M-i-L disapproval over women looking like men, decided on a long bob with the hair just above the shoulders. It was easily possible for her to wear her hair in a pony tail and well maintained and hairdresser fresh, it did look quite smart.

Her first trip with her new hair to the in-Laws found the M-i-L (whose name was Dinah Willoughby) in disapproving mood.
`Where has your lovely hair gone Theresa?’ Mrs Willoughby demanded.
`I’ve had really bad split ends because the children were playing with it,’ Theresa responded timidly.
`I really can’t approve, it makes you look like an adolescent schoolgirl,’ Mrs Willoughby boomed before letting the matter drop.

Theresa was in the habit of making these visits to her M-i-L every Friday morning. They would push the young children while they browsed the shops and finished with a light lunch. For the next few Fridays, despite Theresa’s best efforts, Mrs Willoughby made barbed comments about her hair. It looked shabby. It was neither one length nor the other. It made her look like a girl. Theresa began to wish that she had made the decision to chop it off.

One Friday, Theresa was having a bad time with the children, her husband was running late and the whole morning was very fraught. Eventually she got her children ready and set off for her M-i-L’s. Theresa had had no time to make up; neither had she brushed her hair or indeed washed it for three days. Her hair hung in lank, greasy curtains either side of her face. She drove up the gravel path to her M-i-L’s house and stopped. She examined herself in the rear view mirror she tucked her greasy hair behind her ears and then delved in her handbag to quickly apply a dab of foundation and some lipstick. She got the children ready. She knew she looked a mess but forlornly hoped that Mrs Willoughby would understand.

She unloaded her car, got the children out and the door opened. Mrs Willoughby looked out.
`Slightly late today, Theresa, punctuality is the courtesy of kings.’
`I know, the children couldn’t sleep, the whole morning’s been a frantic rush.’
`Never mind come in and we’ll have some tea.’
Theresa and her convoy went into the lounge while Mrs Willoughby made the tea and brought it in. She handed Theresa her cup and noticed how scruffy Theresa looked.
`You know, my dear, that I so liked you with long hair and you looked after it so nicely. I didn’t like you cutting it off but today it is an absolute shambles.’
`I know,’ Theresa responded defensively, `but I didn’t have any time to fix it.’
`Well, have you thought of any other styles?’
`Yes, when I had this cut I nearly had the hairdresser cut in a very short crop.’
`No, No that will never do, we can’t have you looking like a man, that’s most unfeminine.’
`Well,’ thought Theresa, `I was right about that.’

The two drove into town, loaded the children into pram and pushchair and walked around the shops. A Street led off the High Street and Theresa had always known the street as Antiques Row because of the many Antique and Curio shops that were down there. Mrs Willoughby stopped and boomed,
`Down here Theresa, I’ve just thought of a solution to your hair problem, my hairdresser is down here and I’m sure she can sort you out. Come along!’
They briskly walked 100 yards and sandwiched between two Antique shops was a pink floral sign with elaborate pale blue italic writing DEBORAH’S HAIR SALON.
`How appropriate,’ thought Theresa, for she would never have said it `for some of the antiques that use the shop?’
`I know its Friday and they are very busy but Miss Deborah will fit you in for a consultation,’ as Mrs Willoughby opened the door vigorously and motioned to Theresa to follow.

Theresa wheeled her youngest child into the shop. The first thing that she noticed was the heat. The next was the smell. At first a sweet smell hit her nostrils then a few seconds later a faint whiff of rotten eggs which the sweet smell just failed to cover. Theresa guessed correctly that it was perm lotion.
`Ah, Good Morning Mrs Willoughby,’ said a lady behind a desk, ‘an unexpected pleasure, we weren’t expecting you until Tuesday.’
`I know you are busy, Miss Deborah, but my Daughter-in Law needs a consultation. I’m sure you can oblige.’
Theresa’s eyes met Miss Deborah’s and she looked on the grey hair which Theresa thought would break if anyone touched it. She looked every bit as formidable as her M-i-L. Miss Deborah rose and beckoned Theresa to follow her.
`I’ll mind the children, you’ll only be five minutes,’ said Mrs Willoughby.
Theresa was escorted through the shop where stout and not so stout matrons were at various stages of their coiffures. She was motioned to sit in a semi private alcove near the washing station. Miss Deborah fingered her hair for half a minute.
`A good cut is absolutely essential; I think near the bottom of your ears, I wouldn’t go any shorter as it won’t suit your face.’
Theresa had no problem in agreeing to that, she had wanted to chop it off after all.
`A perm is also most desirable,’ Miss Deborah continued.
Theresa’s eyes flashed in alarm and she interrupted,
`I’m not looking like a poodle and I definitely don’t want a frizz,’ she said defiantly.
`My Dear,’ said Miss Deborah with magisterial condescension, `have you ever had a perm before?’
`No.’ Theresa responded. She had been forced back on the defensive.
`Well, I will explain why you should have one, firstly we need some curl in the hair to support the set, secondly your hair is slightly on the thin side, when it is permed it will swell and give you more volume and thirdly it reduces considerably any greasiness in the hair which I am sure you will agree you suffer from. I know perms are out of fashion but you will really benefit from one. My staff have given thousands of perms so you will be in very safe hands.’
Theresa nodded weakly unable to counter any of these arguments.
`You will need a set as well but we can decide on that later as there are so many to choose from. Come, let us rejoin Mrs Willoughby.’
They returned through the shop. Miss Deborah summarised her findings and Mrs Willoughby t
urned to Theresa
`I think that is very sound advice, you will look like a lady again. I think you ought to make the appointment.’
`err, umm I’ll have a good think about it,’ Theresa stalled desperately.
`Young Lady your hair requires urgent attention; do you want to go around looking like a tramp?’ Miss Deborah interjected.
It was too much, with two formidable ladies against her, Theresa collapsed and said
`All right I suppose so.’
`Good good,’ Mrs Willoughby boomed,’ I suggest next Tuesday morning. We can have our hair done together.’
`I’ll put her in with Barbara, she’s our perm specialist.’ Miss Deborah crooned.
Seconds later they were out on the pavement.
`Time for lunch.’ Mrs Willoughby commanded.

That evening Theresa recounted what had happened to her husband who convulsed laughing.
`I’m really not at all sure about this.’ Theresa complained. `They just forced me into it. You know I don’t like offending her. I’m going to look like some dreadful old battleaxe.’
`They say that you marry your mother,’ her husband replied.
`Tell me, how do you work around her?’ said Theresa
`Well, I’ve found that if you go along with what she says, then later raise some plausible reason why it can’t be done she usually backs down or forgets about it. Wait a few days and give her a good reason to back out.’

Theresa quickly thought of a reason but to give her M-i-L less time to respond waited until Monday afternoon before phoning.
`Good Afternoon, Mrs Willoughby, I’ve bad news. I can’t get a baby sitter. I would be in the hairdressers all tomorrow morning and you’ve a meeting after your hair appointment so you can’t look after the children. I’ll have to cancel, can you explain to Miss Deborah for me?’
`I see, my dear, there doesn’t seem a way around this. I’ll see what I can do.’

One hour later, the telephone in Theresa’s house rang.
`Ah, Theresa, Good news, I’ve found a nursery. We drive past it every time we go to town. Silly of me not to think of it before. Anyway, I’ve booked the children in for the morning. Your hair appointment is safe and I’ve contacted Miss Deborah to say you’ll definitely be coming.’
`Thank you, Mrs Willoughby that is most kind.’ Theresa politely replied while cursing inwardly, `I’ll see you tomorrow.’

Tomorrow dawned. When her husband kissed her goodbye he said
`I look forward to seeing my very own battleaxe tonight.’

An uneasy drive to her M-i-Ls
`Good Theresa lets go.’ Mrs Willoughby boomed.

They stopped off at the nursery dropped the children off and drove to town, parked the car and walked to the salon with its pink and pale blue sign. Theresa’s heart rate climbed and climbed. They were outside the salon and with her M-i-Ls hand on her backside they were in.

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