“Not too short, right?” I showed him the picture of the perfectly coiffed model sporting a layered bob. “I like this.”
He held up the chin-length strand of hair – his comb flirting the frayed ends. Lifted the razor and sliced – two inches from my head.
“Excuse me?” I stammered.
“What…wait, you said it wouldn’t be short.”
“Darling,” My stylist leaned in close, coffee mixed with processing cream oozed from his pores. “Oh, my, god, this bob is doing nothing for you – nothing at all. You look exhausted.”
“I look exhausted because I don’t sleep.”
Sweat pooled on my upper lip. Perimenopause hormones swept over me like a tsunami of hot flashes; the plastic cape snapped around my neck, trapping the heat. I was melting.
“Well, it shows. This hair is dragging your face down; I will make you look ten years younger. Trust me.”
Hives popped up on my chest. I scratched at my clavicle.
“Don’t move.” He held the jagged blade next to the nape of my neck. “This will be stunning. You won’t look like yourself.”
Crimson blotches crept up my neck, the burn of sweat and itch like a layer of fire ants marched towards my face. I twitched.
Don’t just sit here. Get up. Move. Talk.
He fluffed the quick-to-dry fuzzy hair, and a halo of curls formed when he sliced tight to my temple. The sound of shearing hair whooshed in my eardrums like an arrhythmia.
Maybe I’m having a stroke. Get up!
I lifted my arms.
Equal strength and movement.
My knuckles tightened around the armchair. “I don’t think a razor-cut. Too curly, don’t you think – too short?”
Words escaped in whispers; the cape was cutting off my air.
Maybe I was becoming hypoxic
I inhaled – opened my mouth – nothing.
Stop him.You know better. Stop him.
He spun me away from the mirror.
I could feel the razor tug at the delicate shafts of hair. The fluctuating hormones had caught up to me, and my hair was shedding like a labrador in spring-time. It was everywhere but on my head. I watched as dark curls fell onto the cape, one ringlet after another, enough to make a cropped wig.
“Now for your bangs. Let’s straighten them first.”
He rubbed the hair off my forehead. “I see side-swept, baby-bangs.”
I swallowed nausea.
Maybe I have the flu.
“I like them thick and straight across. Thank you.”
Don’t be polite, for crying out loud. You’re being scalped.
He pulled hard on the hot iron, from root to tip. Stray strands caught in the barrel, and I could feel the hair tugged from my head, ripped out in their prime. Steam rose in front of my eyes.
I closed them.
“There, done. You look amazing.” He brushed the remains of how I defined myself from my shoulders and spun me around.
My heart stopped.
I’m going to faint.
Well, hello, Mrs. Brady.
I ran my fingers through the short layers.
I would never be able to straighten this.
Goodbye, Carol – hello, Alice.
I held up a strand of hair that rested two inches from the crown.
It would take months to grow this out, maybe a year.
The hives boiled under my skin. The itch was everywhere and nowhere. I rubbed the back of my neck and felt the stubble of a shaved hairline.
“Do you love it?”
Do I love it?
I took a deep breath.
“No,” I shook my head side to side in a tremor of disbelief and watched the thinned-out, razored edges flip up at the ends.
“No, no. I don’t love it.” I unbuttoned myself from the confines of the cape and unstuck my legs from the pleather chair.
He looked incredulous, “why didn’t you say something?”