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Cut for Camping by Jemma
Although I can now look back on the incident with a certain fondness and even a wry smile, it was not amusing at the time and actually led to a three-week spell in a baseball cap (not at all the type of fashion headgear I would be seen dead in), and then a ten-month period during which I did not visit a hairdresser’s or have any kind of haircut, apart from a little assistance from my husband!
Let me explain…
It was late June and we were preparing for our customary summer holiday to France. This time, rather than renting a Gîte for the two weeks we had decided to go on, what for us was quite an adventure – a camping holiday in the Dordogne. Admittedly the tents were already in place, but it was still a step into the unknown for me. Although my husband, Rob had travelled while at University, I’m afraid I was used to my home comforts and not used to ‘roughing it’.
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However, I decided we needed to break out of the routine that had gradually started to pin us down since our marriage three years earlier. So it was that I decided camping would not be that bad an idea.
Being an obsessively organised person I knew I needed to plan well in advance. And I was doing reasonably OK until the Friday before we left on the Sunday. Maria, my usual mobile hair stylist, had rung up just two hours before my appointment and said that she had gone down with a virus which was sweeping the neighbourhood and would not be able to make the appointment.
I made the right sort of sympathetic noises but knew it was a big spanner in my well-oiled machine. Just two days to go and no hair appointment.
It was a particular blow because I had decided I wanted my somewhat dated ‘Princess Di’ type style brought forward a few years. I had also decided, quite bravely for me, that I would have my hair a little shorter and easier to manage as I would be camping and presumably not have the usual facilities and equipment to give it the usual twice-daily pampering.
I was desperate, and desperate times call for desperate measures. I grabbed my purse and went striding out of the door and off down the street. I had only been to the hairdresser’s shop at the end of the street once before, a year last Christmas in similar circumstances. I had left the rather 70s style salon with what looked suspiciously like a 60s bouffant, only brought up to date with a spiky little fringe. It was not as I usually had it, and although I had tried hard to explain exactly what I wanted it must have got lost in the translation.
The hairstyle was not disastrous but I was sufficiently disappointed not to return again until now! I edged nervously into the mist of perm solution and hairspray and heard the doorbell ting behind me.
“Hi, can I help you?” came the little voice from somewhere in the mist. A pleasant but young girl by the name of Sam, who was clearly struggling under the weight of make-up and floral patterned slides in her hair.
“Yes I’m in urgent need of a haircut,” I blasted out, much more loudly than I had meant. My resolve to be decisive and confident in situations like this had gone a little too far again. I sounded almost demanding and thought about apologising. But no, I must stick to the plan.
After a few minutes of semi-hushed whispers way down at the far end of the salon, I was approached by Sue – a strong looking girl in her mid-twenties with shoulder length straight blond hair cut in a fairly accurate bob. “Hi I’m Sue, I’ve got half an hour before my next appointment, was it just a trim you wanted?” It hardly sounded like a question, more of a statement.
“Er, yes, but a bit shorter,” I mumbled. How pathetic! I start off confident and then become a mouse, all within two minutes. I must get a grip I thought to myself as I settled into the red vinyl and chrome chair that Sue pulled from under the counter and turned it towards me by way of an invitation to be seated.
Sue draped a light a shiny black cape over my shoulders, clipped it at the neck and took a step backwards. I could feel at least four pairs of eyes in the salon looking straight at me and I quickly remembered why I had not been in a salon like this for so long. I hated it.
“So, have you any ideas, or shall I just trim the ends?” Sue suggested, not really wanting a response as she picked up scissors and comb from the counter.
I straightened my back and in a voice similar to the one I used when I first arrived, stated: “No. I want something a bit shorter and more up to date that’s not going to take so much managing.” Sue looked long and hard at my reflection in the mirror.
“Oh, do you want the same style, just a bit shorter then?”
I suppose I must have sounded a little impatient when I blurted out: “No, something different and shorter please!”
My relationship with Sue seemed to have got off to a particularly bad start. I couldn’t believe how unhelpful she was being and she couldn’t understand why I wanted my hair changing or how that should be done. We had drawn a blank in our communications, and Sue just started to cut.
With the lightest of touch she picked up a lock at a time and smoothly snipped, little by little all around my head. Some 20 minutes later my hair was a slightly shorter version of the hairstyle I had entered with. It wasn’t any different to my usual monthly trim with Maria, in fact it wasn’t quite as short. It was not a camping hairstyle.
I decided to let Sue in on the secret as she asked: “There – that’s better isn’t it. Will that do for you?”
“Well no, not really,” I blasted out. “I did really want something different and shorter. Something that will not take any looking after while I’m away camping. I don’t want to be fussing around all the time and trying to get it to be perfect. I need it to be easy.”
A slow smile spread across Sue’s face. “I’m with you,” She said, with a belated nod of recognition. “Something easy,” she confirmed.
With a firm push she pointed my head downwards, picked up the scissors again and started to work – in a decidedly more resolute manner. The snipping was faster and more intense, and although I couldn’t see what was happening there appeared much more direction in Sue’s actions.
Finally she moved around to the right side of me and recommenced the fast snipping on the right side. Her actions were fast and a little confusing to the eye, but she seemed to be picking up locks of hair and reducing them to about half their length. When she shuffled away around me to the other side I could see a very different haircut emerging.
Finally the snipping stopped and strong decisive combing began. In the mirror I had become a little too boyish for my own liking. A much shorter hairstyle had appeared – as far as I could work out about one and half inches long all around, with wavy sideburns reaching the bottom of my ears. Oh dear, that looked a bit 70s.
Only my fringe was left at its original length. That was until Sue moved around in front of me, blocking my view of the mirror, and began her feverish combing of the fringe. Snip, snip, snip, I could feel the fast blades high up my forehead. As Sue moved back away I could see the damage! The fringe was now riding high up my forehead with a good two inches above my eyebrows.
I could barely recognise the boyish face looking back at me. Although the cape was black I could still see the mounds of my dark brown hair that had piled up in my lap just before I shuffled a little in the chair and they slid off onto the tiled floor.
As I was trying to get to grips with this new person staring back at me, Sue was busy fumbling around under the shelf she emerged with something, I assumed was a hairdryer – although my hair was not wet, it had been cut completely dry.
In one deft movement she pushed the plug into the socket, placed a firm hand on the back of my chopped neck and pushed my head down until I could only see the mirror if I raised my eyes from this sunken position.
Sue had become a lot more forceful as the haircut progressed. I thought at this point it must surely be over and Sue was probably just blowing the stray hairs out of the way. I was wrong!
A click and clack and a deep electric hum filled the air around my head. Before I could even begin to guess what was happening I felt the tingling metal on my neck and it was moving – up and up and up. Finally after what seemed like agonising minutes, but in reality was probably five seconds, it stopped. Back to the bottom and up again. Fully four or five pushes had been completed before my mind had refocused enough to take in this amazing turn of events.
With growing panic but still no words forming on my lips I raised my eyebrows and peered up to the mirror. I could see Sue with a determined gaze looking at the back of my head and presumably the route she had just ploughed with what I now knew were electric hairclippers.
Not in my wildest dreams had I imagined my minor re-style would involve an encounter with these clipper things. I had never even seen them used in a ladies’ hair salon before.
As Sue released the pressure on my head with her hand my head sprung back up, almost like a recoil action. The clippers clicked again and the silence was massive. I could not see what exactly had happened to the back of my head but I could hazard a good guess when Sue swiftly shuffled around to stand right beside me. As she moved her arm wafted a slight breeze that hit me right on the neck like an icy clamp! I could feel the slightest movement of air on my neck.
Just as I was about to ask about Sue’s intentions in case it was still not all over, she flashed me a little smile, placed her hand on the top of my head and pushed it away from her on a severe angle.
“Just match up the sides here, and then we’re finished,” she reassured. Click, clack burrrr, the clippers jumped back into life, appeared from a point out of my restricted vision and ploughed into the hair at my temple. This time I could not only feel what was happening I could also see, and I didn’t much like it. As the clippers were pushed higher a big wave of hair was gathering on the steel blades, and then when it got too large to balance there, slid down over the back of the clippers, over Sue’s hand and out of sight.
Pulling my ear down the clippers were placed right at the top of my ear and took off northwards again. Seven pushes later (I counted them this time) Sue was happy – I could see her smile. She shuffled off around the back and repeated the whole process again with military precision.
And military happened to be a very appropriate term as I could now see the completed side of my head. There seemed to be absolutely no length left to the hair, it was cropped as close to the skin as it seemed possible. I suppose technically it wasn’t quite shaved but it was very close to it. This clipping had been taken to a good two inches above the top of my ear. I was completely speechless, and even if I had anything to say it was far too late.
Click – even louder than before and the electric hum was silenced. It seemed ages since either of us had said anything. I was still struggling for a sentence when Sue spoke.
“OK I’m just going to tidy up the lines,” she said. I wasn’t sure what that meant either but I saw her remove a piece of plastic from the clippers, and then flick them on once again. She moved around behind me and once again thrust my head down with my chin pressing into the spiky little hairs that were all over the plastic cape. The vibration on my neck started again, but this time just at the bottom, just moving up and down about an inch or so all along the back. Then Sue moved a little to the side and began to dab out a line with the clippers that seemed to be running from my neck up the side of my head towards the top of my ear.
With each little dab the clippers let out a ‘scrunch’ as they carved a path upwards. As they reached my ear Sue moved around still further, folded down the top of my ear and held it there while she continued with her dabbing line.
When my red ear sprang back into place it seemed a long way below the line of my hair. Sue had shaved out a large arc over the top of my ear. Even from the awkward angle I was at I could see a clear quarter of an inch of white, white skin above my ear before we reached the hairline, and even then it was little more than stubble.
How could I sit here and just watch while this unbelievable haircut was carried out? I still to this day can’t really explain it. I’d like to say I was enjoying it, but I certainly wasn’t – I was petrified. I’d like to say I was enjoying the hairstyle that was emerging, but again I most definitely wasn’t. Gone was the old me and now right before me was person who looked like they were about to begin an army career and in an effort to impress had gone way beyond the regulation cut required.
I had summoned enough of my wits to speak, but just as I opened my mouth, Sue blurted in. By way of explanation and as if to emphasise her point, she flicked on the clippers once again, pushed my head down so I could not speak anyway, and said:
“I decided to just lift the hairline a bit.” As she spoke she dug the clippers in to my neck again and pushed upwards half an inch or so.
“It just looks a bit neater and gives a very clean neckline, even though it will require a little attention every now and again.”
What Sue meant was my hair now started halfway up the back of my head and every three or four days would sprout a forest of stubble where she had shaved it completely bald.
“Just the sides now,” said Sue as she moved around and brought the humming clippers close to my ears again. What on earth could she find around there which hadn’t already be mown to oblivion, except, no, surely not the wavy sideburns that at least gave some semblance of femininity to the vision that was staring back from the pink framed mirror.
With one thrusting move Sue twisted the clippers in her hand and almost stabbed at an area level with the top of my ear. The blades sunk in and the wavy little sideburn slid down my cheek. I thought in an optimistic split second that I may at least get a cute little triangle sideburn, but no, it had been mercilessly sheared high up the temple in a perfectly straight line, leaving yet another splash of pure white skin, shining out loud and clear. The same side got the exact same treatment. That would have been it had Sue not taken the sideboards off too high and because, as she explained, “The hair is a bit stronger just here, I’ll just have to get this smoothed off with a razor.” With a nervous succession of dabs with a long shiny steel straight razor, Sue completed the final touch to this bizarre haircut
With cape now unclipped and loosened and holding up the mirror to the back of my head she began the explanation.
“I’ve taken it down quite tight all around and raised the hairline both on the neck and over the ears, to give a really smart look with strong lines, it won’t take any looking after at all.”
Sue smiled and stepped back, shaking the cape and leading me over to the reception area.
I can’t remember much about what I mumbled as I left. I certainly didn’t argue or complain, I think I just paid and left. I do however remember the feeling of the air all around my head as I stepped out back up the street.
I also remember Rob’s initial reaction on seeing my new haircut, it went something like: “Good god what happened? You look like you’ve just signed up for the army, what on earth possessed you to have your hair shaved like that?” Notice, he didn’t even say cut, he said shaved.
Well he certainly got to know that haircut quite well over the next few weeks as I struggled to keep the stubble at bay as my proper hairline tried to grow back. Being the neat and tidy person I am I just had to keep it clean and enlisted Rob to help out every three days with his Gillette razor and foam. I think he actually got quite into it and I swear at one point my hairline had actually been raised a further half inch.
I had the longest neck in France that summer but a haircut I couldn’t wait to get rid of. Unfortunately it took quite a long time!