The day I was presented to the press as the first woman to be assigned to a front line fighter squadron was cold and windy. A photo shot was set up with me throwing my hat in the air to show how happy I was. As I looked up to catch it the hairpins holding my hair lost their grip and a gust of wind caused my long blond hair to billow out from my head. The next day the headline over the picture in the papers read “The Blond Bombshell”.
When I arrived at my squadron I reported to the C.O. who seemed very friendly and very positive about the changes that had allowed women to join front line forces.
He explained that I would be treated exactly the same as the men in all ways and I would be expected to do my fair share just like the men.
Things were going great for about two weeks until he called me into his office for a talk. He explained that he had received a directive about various conditions which affected women in my position. All of them seemed fair if a little tough, till he got to the last one – hair.
The new directive said that women must have short hair: easier to look after, less chance of getting caught in controls, all sorts of logical reasons – but it meant losing my long hair which I had always kept long even though nowadays it was more often than not stuffed into a flight helmet. As I was the first woman pilot there would be an inspection in a couple of days where I would be presented as an example of the new woman pilot to the press.
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I went back to my room in a daze. I stood in front of the mirror and unclipped my hair and let it tumble down over my shoulders and breasts almost to my waist. I ran my fingers through my long thick locks for several minutes in a state of shock. I gathered it back into a ponytail to pull it off my face, my fingers could barely hold the thick plait of hair in place. It was a high price to pay but flying was everything to me.
I decided to pre-empt my C.O. and the next day I went to the hairdresser’s for a major haircut. I sat down in the chair and as the hairdresser spread the cape around my shoulders and fastened it around my neck, it took all my willpower to stay seated. She undid my hair, which was in a bun, and as I was leaning slightly forward it fell over my shoulders and into my lap. She remarked how my hair was in good condition for such long hair and asked how much I wanted trimmed off the ends. She looked a little surprised when I told her that I wanted short hair but when I explained the reason she reluctantly agreed to chop off my long hair. When she asked how short I lifted my hands up to my shoulders and tried to imagine how much I would have to have cut off to satisfy the Generals and then ever so slowly I moved my hands up past my shoulders, past my jawline, past my mouth until they were just level with my earlobes. That short at the sides with a little of my earlobe showing. She combed out my long hair for the last time and then asked how I wanted the back: rounded so it covered the hairline in a sort of pageboy or chopped in an inverted V at the back and longer at the front. I told her to cut a wedge at the back.
A glimpse of ear and a short back – that ought to keep the generals happy.
There was a mirror on the other side of the salon at just the right angle so I could see everything she was doing. She parted my hair down the centre and pushed the mass of it over my shoulders. She then took a diagonal line from the middle of my head about half way up my ears and then down towards the earlobe and clipped the hair out of the way. She combed the hair on my neck down and lifted the centre section out parallel to my head and using her fingers as cutting guides she cut over 2 feet off, leaving it about two inches long. After the first cut she asked me if I wanted to save the hair as it would be long enough to be made into a wig. I nodded yes and she bent down and picked up the cut hair, placing it in front of me on the counter. She continued to the left and right, lifting up section after section and chopping it off short. The pile of long hair on the counter mounted up and up. The shorter hair was slightly darker and I could feel the coolness on my neck as she evened the ends off by cutting it straight off about an inch above my collar. She then dampened my hair with a spray and combed down the first section of the top layer. It completely hid the shorter hair and it was just as if I had long hair again, if only for a second. She then pushed my head forward to cut the top layer. I could just see the rest of my cropping by straining my eyes upwards, but I will always remember the snip, snip of the scissors and the swooshing sound my long hair made as it slid over the cape and fell to the floor.
Starting at the bottom from just above earlobe level and at least two inches above the shorter under-hair she slowly and carefully snipped the line of the wedge, first up to the occipital bone and then down to the other ear. The hair fell away like a curtain revealing the short hair again. As my hair was untouched at the sides it made the back layer look incredibly short and I panicked a little, thinking she was taking too much off. The next two layers were combed down over the guideline and quickly snipped off as well. The next section combed down at the back was high enough to continue over my ears to my temples so she piled all the rest of my hair on the top of my head in a big damp bun. She then pulled my head back upright. Although I could see a large pile of hair on the counter in front of me, my hair looked almost the same as when I used to get the ends trimmed. She cut the back before cutting the sides. At this point I could see straight through the sides of my hair as the back was completely cut off. The sides just hung down waiting for the scissors to do their job.
The next cuts she made I would be able to see directly in the mirror in front of not in some far off double reflection. She moved around to the left side and as I felt the scissors touch my ear I almost jerked away as it felt so high. The scissors slowly started moving forward and downward. With a few quick careful snips my earlobe appeared, as she cut the hair which had been combed forward fell into my lap and then slithered onto the floor. All that was left was a strand in front of my ear, covering my cheek and hanging down to my waist. One final snip and the side was finished. I slowly turned my head from side to side looking at the long and then the short. The right hand side was then reduced to the same length. She continued this layer upon layer until the last layer was ready to be cut. I could see the strong line of the bob beneath a thin veil of long hair. She carefully combed it down, checked the length and then slowly, snip by snip, the last wisps of my once long hair fell to the floor and the bob was finished. I was amazed at the difference it made. My neck seemed much longer and the line of the bob accentuated my jawline. I even smiled at the results.
It was side parted, one length with no fringe. She dried my hair, which took no time compared to normal and then picked up the mirror to show me the back. The top layer looked smooth and smart but the wedge looked a bit untidy. I knew this wouldn’t be good enough so I asked for her to cut it shorter. She pushed my head forward and clipped the longer top layer of hair up and then combed the shorter neck hair between her fingers and cut off any which showed above them, quickly reducing the wedge to three-quarters of an inch. I started to move my head back but she held it in place as she picked up a small comb and a smaller pair of scissors and before I could say anything she bent over and started running the comb up through my hair and, using it as a cutting guide, started cutting the hair even shorter. I thought at first that she was just evening up any untidy hairs but AGAIN and AGAIN the comb raced up my neck, from bottom to top. Each time she cut just a little less high up my neck and although she was only cutting off a fraction of an inch at a time the short hairs cascaded down my neck in a continuous shower. The hair got shorter and shorter until I could see my scalp starting to appear at the bottom. It seemed impossible for it to get any shorter but still the comb and scissors moved up and down my neck until she was no longer lifting up hair with the comb but snipping off any which remained showing above it. When she finally pulled my head back into an upright position she had tapered the wedge from half an inch at the top to a buzz at the bottom. When she showed me the finished cut in the mirror I just nodded half in a daze. It was finished… gone was the long hair and instead I had a bob, a SHORT bob. She tied the cut hair up with a piece of ribbon and held up a two-foot-long ponytail.
I walked outside and ran my fingers through my hair from front to back. The front felt comfortably normal but instead of finishing in a thick ponytail the hair suddenly finished at the occipital bone, barely a hand’s width from the crown of my head and then there was just short bristles of hair. For hours afterwards I kept reaching up to my neck unable to believe that what I was feeling was actually my hair, the short stubble felt as if it belonged to someone else. I sat in front of the mirror looking at the stranger with short hair. I held up the cut hair at the side of my head and hid the join between long and short hair imaging that it was still all mine.
The inspection day arrived and I was called into the CO’s office where the Generals asked me how things were going and said how pleased they were with my progress, but my hair was too long. It would definitely have to be cut over the ears. I was sent off for a ‘quick trim’. I asked how much of a ‘trim’ and they all replied, “Above the ears.”
The hairdresser was surprised to see me back so quickly asking for an even shorter haircut. We decided to go from a bob to a top-of-the-ear wedge cut, keeping the same basic style, one length and swept over from a side parting.
She then wet my hair and pinned up the top layer at ear level. At the back the line ran in a straight line between the tops of my ears, an inch long fringe of hair waiting for the scissors. I was expecting to see her pick up the small comb and scissors but she walked over to the desk and picked up some electric clippers. She explained that they would be better and give a more even length. She paused and then added that as she had not expected me to be back so soon she would have to use a guard that was the same length as the shortest hair on my neck. I said nothing and slowly bent my head forward allowing her to buzz my neck off with four quick cuts. Each cut started out with a shower of short hairs which gradually got longer until the top layer was reached and an inch long chunk fell away. My neck was now just a layer of stubble from the tops of my ears to my hairline.
Combing down the first layer on the side of my parting she slowly snipped it off at ear level, starting from the back and over my ear at the sides leaving the sideburns about half way down my ears. She kept working on the same side and it only took a few minutes to chop the rest of my bob down to ear length. As she moved around to the other side I was tempted to ask her to leave it as it was, as the asymmetric cut looked and felt beautiful. I shook my head and the bob sexily fell over my eye, while on the other side the strong line of the wedge made my other eye stand out like a beacon. But I sat silently as the other side was reduced in length to match the first. Finally I felt the scissors crunch across the back of neck at what seemed an impossibly high level.
It was a beautiful geometric cut but to see my hair above my ears was hard to bear. My hair was also very thick… too thick, giving me a mushroom look. I asked her what see could do and she suggested layering or if I wanted to keep the one length look she could under-cut it. Okay, I said, not really understanding what undercutting meant.
I was a bit confused when she started by pinning my hair up yet again about an inch and a half above the line of the wedge all the way around and when I asked she explained that she would remove this hair to allow the top to sit down closer to my head.
Okay, I said and yet I again I assumed the position: head forward, chin on my chest. I felt the clippers run up the back of my neck, this time over the occipital bone and into the long hair of the bob. In a matter of seconds the hair was once again tumbling down my shoulders and into my lap. I looked at myself in the mirror as she clipped from the back to the side and then the other side only leaving wispy sideburns.
When the Generals saw the Mk.II they turned me straight around and said this time they would come and supervise.
First no sideburns. Snip, snip, and they were gone.
Next a fringe. They asked me to shake my head and as my fringe had been combed over to the side it fell over my face where it reached to the bottom of my nose. Compared to the sides it looked really long. A fringe HAD to be cut. The hairdresser placed the scissors level with my eyebrows and was just about to start cutting when they said higher… and higher till the scissors were a good inch above my eyebrows. She slowly cut across my forehead and four inches of fringe fell into my lap. Now, incredibly, the hair at the sides started to look long.
Obviously the hair on top of my head needed evening up. She combed the hair on the crown of my head straight up between her fingers, taking my fringe as a cutting guide. Three inches of hair showed above her fingers, which she rapidly snipped off in big chunks. My hair, so long used to the weight of waist-length tresses, started to spring straight up.
Finally, no layered haircuts. The hairdresser combed up my hair at the side, exposing the short buzzed hair and explained that because of the undercut hair the taper to the longer top hair wouldn’t start for an inch above my ears and I would end up with a short back and sides, but they just repeated, “No layers.” Reluctantly she picked up the clippers for the final time and slowly ran them up the side of my head. The blades slowly disappeared under the longer top hair over the short undercut hair till they met the longer top layer. The buzzing lowered in tone as they started to cut. The long teeth of the guide cutter appeared through the longer hair and as she angled them away from my head to taper the short side layer into the longer top layer. At each stroke a big chunk of hair fell away from the blades. It seemed like the whole side of my head had been shaved off. She moved from front to back and then round to the other side. A little evening up with the comb and scissors and finally the Generals nodded their satisfaction.
I looked in the mirror at my shorn scalp and ran my fingers through the short cropped hair on the top and the fuzz cut high at the back and sides, it was hard to believe that it had been a magnificent mane of hair.
The press printed before and after photos under the headline “Blond Bombshell” becomes “Blond Buzzbomb”.
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