Have you noticed how some women are long-haired women? My next client was one of those. Carrie Thompson. I had been styling her hair for years - usually a trim of her long layers, sometimes highlights, and occasionally an updo. She had spoken about new styles over the years but, between us, we always agreed that she would always look her best as a long-haired girl.
She was sitting in the waiting area looking, looking smart as usual. A dark suit, with a short skirt, over a crisp white shirt - and with that beautiful blonde hair spilling over her shoulders and down her back.
She seemed a little withdrawn, not her usual bubbly self, as if something was troubling her. She watched as I began cutting her boyfriend's hair. I didn't really care for Craig. He was a little quiet - some might say shy or reserved - but to me he almost seemed sullen. Today, though, he seemed even quieter than usual.
He wore his dark, thick hair in long chunky layers, which touched his shoulders. Today he asked for it much shorter, which came as quite a surprise.
I enjoyed cutting short styles. Male or female, it made no difference. But only if I felt it suited the individual. With Craig it was difficult to know, but shorter hair would be an improvement.
"So, Craig, how short?"
"Very short, please."
I picked up my clippers and slowly removed the guard that was in place, as I assessed Craig's hair's texture, his face shape, his head shape, before deciding on a style.
"OK Craig. Very short it shall be." And without further ado I slowly pushed Craig's head to one side, turned on the clippers and began to ease the clippers through the thick locks. I was amazed, as I always was, how easily the hair came away - like a knife through butter - and piled up ahead of the clippers as a dark shadow formed behind. I repeated this several times before moving to the other side and repeating the operation. Even Craig's cool seemed to drop a little as he saw himself half cropped.
Once I had finished both sides I moved to the back, easing his head forward as I buzzed the hair away. His bare nape looked elegant and vulnerable. The hair on his crown was still long but with scissors and comb I soon reduced these to very short layers - no more than half an inch, which I combed forward.
"There we are Craig. Is that short enough?"
"Er yes. Quite short enough."
He got up, as did Carrie, to swap places. Craig smiled as he passed while Carrie continued to look perturbed by something.
"Hi Carrie, so it's just a trim today is it. I have to say it hardly needs it - your hair is in excellent condition given its length. I'll just...."
"Cut it short please. Very short."
She sat there, elegant in her black suit, with legs crossed as I combed through her mane of honey blonde hair which streamed down her back like a waterfall. So engrossed was I in combing her hair and checking for split ends (of which I could find none) that I realised I hadn't heard - or rather, must have misheard - what Carrie had said.
"I'm sorry Carrie?"
"I want my hair cut please. The same as Craig's. You can do that can't you?"
"I can, but I'm not sure I will. Why?"
"Because you're a hairstylist, aren't you?"
I thought this was a little unfair. I thought we were also friends. I had no doubt she knew exactly what I meant. My hurt feelings must have shown on my face.
"I'm sorry, I'm feeling a little tense. Basically, to cut a long story short, I insisted that Craig got his hair cut shorter to give him some chance of getting a job. He would only agree if he could choose a style for me - he said that that was only fair. I thought it was a safe bet, as I know how much he likes my long hair. At least, I thought I knew!" She took a deep breath. "I didn't know what he had in mind until we set out this morning. He said he had decided that my hair was to be cut as short as his. I was shocked and tried to dissuade him on the journey here. So I had to resolve myself to a shortish style as I came in - but I assumed he wouldn't have his hair cut too short. But once I saw what you did I couldn't believe. But a deal is a deal...."
"Ooh, I know. But Carrie...." I looked across at Craig who sat there smiling at Carrie. In all my experience, on the occasions when women had brought their partners along for moral support before a major restyle, I don't think any have smiled. Quite the opposite in fact, as men like their women to have long hair. It's a fact. "Do you want me to talk to Craig?"
"No point. Just do it."
"Well, perhaps not quite as short? I could...."
"I would prefer you to do it but, if you would rather I went elsewhere then...." She started to get up.
"No Carrie, I'll do as you ask."
"Exactly the same as Craig's?"
"OK Carrie." I shot Craig a venomous look and wished I had shaved him bald ... and then realised, for Carrie's sake, that it's just as well I didn't!
I shook open a clean cape, waited for Carrie to lift her hair as she usually did and then fastened it about her neck. She was about to let down her hair but I said, "Wait a moment please Carrie. I think it's best if we place this around your neck to prevent the finer clippings from slipping down your neck." I picked up the heavy mat usually reserved for my gentlemen clients. She looked at it as if it was some item of torture - which, I guess, it was from her viewpoint.
She then let go of her hair with audible sigh, clearly thinking along the same lines as me. That was the last she would be able to do in a long while. As I combed through her hair one last time I remembered how often over the years I had trimmed her hair. How often we had shared a joke or a story while I had done it. It was always such a pleasure to have Carrie in the salon. And now this.
I picked up my clippers. And put them down. Picked up scissors and put them down. Picked up the clippers once more and selected a guard, the longest guard.
"Cut it exactly the same please."
I put down the guard. Once more I looked at Carrie's wonderful hair. I don't think I had ever seen such wonderful thick, long, blonde hair. I had certainly never cut such hair before - even clients with long hair who had decided to go shorter, usually justified by it being in such poor condition, would always have just a proportion of the length cut initially ... and often no more subsequently with fear winning out.
So I stood there poised with the clippers in my right hand while my left reached out and gently eased Carrie's head to one side.
Her eyes opened wide as she heard me turn on the clippers and move them towards her right temple. She tensed as the clippers touched her cheek. And she shook as I slowly and reluctantly pushed them forward and she saw 3-foot lengths of her blonde hair slide down the cape and into her lap. No dark trail was left behind the clippers in Carrie's case - her blonde hair giving all the appearance of having been shaved to the bone.
Her hair being thick resulted in the clippers making little headway on the first push despite the large volume of hair already collected in her lap. I pulled the clippers back and brushed the hair away from the clippered area and felt Carrie shiver. With her head still to one side her eyes stared at her reflection with the look of a deer startled in the headlights, willing me with her heart to stop. I saw a tear emerge from the corner of her eye and slide down her cheek.
"Do you want me continue?" She didn't move. She didn't say a word. "Carrie, do you want me to cut off the rest of your hair?."
Having moved to one side she could see Craig in the mirror, and he could now see her. She smiled at him, presumably hoping that he would say stop, you don't have to go through with this.
However when he saw that we had not got far his bland expression became one of surprise, then anger.
She, almost imperceptibly, nodded. So I had to continue. It was what the client was asking me to do. So I decided that this had to be done as quickly as possible.
I moved her head once more to the vertical. She looked momentarily relieved as if she thought I might be refusing to continue. But, as I sectioned off the crown hair by making a parting around Carrie's head a couple of inches above the tips of her ears, she began to realise what I was doing. I secured this hair at the crown in a loose roll. I once more admired this hair that continued to stream down her back from this horizontal parting.
Then, without further ado, I picked up my sharpest scissors, placed them at chin level and closed them and with a sickening crunch another mass of hair fell away. I proceeded to swiftly work around her head, opening and closing the scissors. Masses of hair slipped away, quickly filling her lap and falling to the floor in small mounds. In my haste to cut I almost slipped up on these silky lengths.
Within a matter of just a few seconds I had reduced Carrie's well-conditioned and trimmed waist-length hair to a poorly cut bob. It was ghastly - the shocked look on Carrie's confirmed my opinion as her eyes widened even further than before.
To save her feelings further I gently but firmly pushed her head forward, quickly picked up the clippers once more, turned them and drove them along Carrie's neck which now lay horizontal. Hair, admittedly much shorter now, but still thick, flew everywhere as the clippers swept forward, again and again.
I watched, almost detached, as the crude bob was replaced by bare skin. Once I had cleared away all the remaining hair - I relaxed my grip and as Carrie's head came up I removed the grips holding the crown hair. So thick was this hair that it tumbled down and hid most of the damage I had wrought.
The look on Carrie's face was one of a person who had awoken from a nightmare and realised that the things that they thought had happened, hadn't actually taken place. Except it had! And the look of relief was quickly replaced by one of incomprehension as I grabbed my scissors once more, collected the long lengths and snipped them off.
I swiftly reduced the extremely uneven bowl that now fell around her head into a short crop, combed forward like Craig's although mercifully due to the thickness of her hair it remained quite full, so I chopped into it to give a chunky, spiky look. The layers blended into the cropped sides, which, certainly from a distance, looked shaved.
The end result was quite pleasing and I would have been more than proud to achieve this with any of my shorter haired clients. But, as I surveyed the floor around the chair, I could feel only a great sense of loss and almost tearful.
Carrie kept her eyes straight ahead. After a short period during which she appeared frozen her arm moved under the cape that still enveloped her and more hair slid from her shoulders to join the mass on the floor at her feet. Her fingertips tentatively felt the hair, or the absence of hair, at her temple.
The look on her face was almost one almost of awe, her mouth opening in an almost perfect 'O'. The fingers slid to the back of her head and slowly down her nape. And she let out a little involuntary exclamation. I held up a mirror to allow her to see, for the first time, her new rear view. No longer a cloak of hair enveloping her back but a bare nape. She let out another, much louder, exclamation halfway been terror and joy.
I moved the mirror around so that she could take in the full magnitude of the change that had taken place. And as the initial shock seemed to fade away, the 'O' closed, and the corners of her mouth slowly rose. She actually smiled - and smiled broadly.
"It's wonderful, absolutely superb. Thanks so much."
It was my turn to be shocked. Almost automatically I removed the cape and she jumped up. She paid me, tipped me generously as she usually did and called across to Craig.
I had deliberately ignored Craig who appeared to be shocked by the transformation he had caused.
As he passed, I couldn't resist. "There, I hope you're satisfied. At least Carrie appears to be reasonably happy with the result."
Craig simply looked at me blankly as if I had said something he couldn't quite comprehend and then trotted out of the door, talking animatedly to Carrie who continued onwards giving all the appearances of a little dog.
I turned away and began to sweep up the mountain of blond hair covering the floor.