I met Elizabeth in an interesting sort of way. I was shopping for a suit in one of the high end department stores at the mall. Looking through the section labeled in my size, settling on a nice plain gray I heard a voice say; “I think you’d look much more striking in the navy blue…” and as I turned to see who was offering comment I was completely taken aback at her appearance. If you’ve ever seen those Ralph Lauren ads in the magazines you’d swear you were looking at Elizabeth’s picture… Lonnnnggggg brown hair the color of a perfect espresso, big blue eyes framed by trendy wire rimmed glasses, beautiful smile, white silk blouse, navy blazer, wool tartan skirt all wrapping around a perfect size 5 body. OK, OK so it wasn’t really the first time I’d met Elizabeth. A few months earlier I had been conducting a sales training seminar for retail sales people and Elizabeth happened to be one of the participants. We had flirted a bit at break time, but me being the insecure guy around women that I am, I definitely classed her as way outside my league. (And besides, what about that LONG hair? Not really your type Michael…)
So there she stood, smiling, suggesting navy blue while I stood there with mouth obviously open… She laughed and directed me to the navy. We chatted all during the fitting while the tailor did his level best to keep me looking forward instead of down at Elizabeth. Mustering all the nerve I had, I asked her what time she finished work and if she would join me for a glass of Cabernet at a local cafe. She cheerfully accepted my invitation and…
You know the best thing about her long hair was when we made love and I lifted her on top of me it hung down around my face and chest and tickled me in the most delightful way. I actually loved to bury my face in it and wrap it round us both while in the most intimate positions.
And then came the night when, rolling over, she was laying on her hair and screamed when it pulled as she moved; “one of these days I swear I’m going to whack this mess off with a butcher knife and be done with it.” Needless to say I stopped in my tracks when she said that. To this time I had not revealed my hair cutting obsession and for whatever reason I didn’t do it then either. But the seed was planted…
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I began to fantasize about taking her to my haircutter and directing the clipping of this beautiful woman. I visualized her at shoulder length in a sleek Lauren Bacall bob… chin length in a severely buzzed and inverted flapper crop… buzzed sides and back with little ringlets on top… close brushy crew-cut and me cradling her head in my hands as we made love. I was obsessed!!!
A few weeks later while having dinner I finally broached the subject of hair with her… I referenced her comments from before and asked if she had ever seriously considered having her hair cut shorter. (I may have forgotten to give you all that description; Elizabeth’s hair hung in loose ringlets to about 5 inches below her waist.) She surprised me by saying she had considered it many times but because it was so long had always been afraid of the radical difference it would make. And besides she thought all men loved long hair. I have to admit, as a loyal short hair fanatic, I loved her hair and the thought of it being scissored and shorn was both happily exciting and scary. I had always been definite in my preference for cropped hair but this time I wavered. Finally I said, “I love short hair on women!!” Surprising me again she smiled and asked for a quarter; “What’s the name of that place where you get your hair cut? Do you think Chrissie is in now?” My stomach did a slow roll and I felt the blood drain from my face (it was obviously rushing elsewhere). I looked at my watch, noted that it was about 6:15 and said that Chrissie usually leaves at about 5:00. (Chrissie is a whole different story; petite blonde, always wearing her clothes about a size too small and acting for all the world as if she didn’t know it. Chrissie wore her hair in a spiky crew with long texturized bangs that she kept flipping out of her eyes when she bent over to cut hair. If you had to pick someone she resembled most; try Meg Ryan, although Chrissie was actually cuter. Chrissie was not only a cosmetologist but also a barber and she was quite proud of how she handled the tools of the barber’s trade. She loved to cut hair! Chrissie and I had dated a couple of times and had found that we were just not each other’s cup of tea… She was a wild one and though I would better appreciate it now I just couldn’t keep up with the “9 1/2 Weeks” flavor she gave to the relationship. We parted amicably and now she loved it when I could talk one of my current partners into letting her ply her craft on their unsuspecting head.)
So here I was torn between the beauty of Elizabeth’s hair (on her head) and the beauty of Elizabeth’s hair (on the floor at Chrissie’s). I reached in my wallet and pulled out Chrissie’s card and handed Elizabeth a quarter for the phone. Bet you don’t know where this is going, eh?
Of course Chrissie was there and was actually just packing up to go. She had spent and hour and a half too much on one of the “blue ladies” as she called the older women who thought she was just darling and how she would make a perfect match with their son, nephew, second cousin, whatever… But this time the perm turned out to be not what the woman wanted and Chrissie had spent the extra time straightening the perm and hoping her hair didn’t just crisp and crumble like overcooked bacon. I could tell Chrissie was trying to beg off and then Elizabeth said the magic words; “Michael thinks you do the best job on short hair!” Hearing one side of the conversation… Space… “Yes he’s right here with me now” Space… “Of course he’s coming with me, I wouldn’t do this by myself”… Space… “You will, Great!… We’re on our way!… She’s waiting for us, Michael, isn’t that sweet?” Uh-oh, I could just see Chrissie’s little wheels turning.
My, my, my… This is another fine mess you’ve gotten yourself into Michael… You know what I was thinking right at that minute? I liked Elizabeth, I loved sex with Elizabeth, I even liked to talk to her most of the time… But could I last through a grow-out when she had cut her hair just because I liked short hair. I quickly found out how much I had underestimated Elizabeth (by the way you never, ever call her anything but Elizabeth; not Liz, Ellie, Betty, Beth, Liza… never ever.) She was more excited than I had ever seen her and said that she had thought about this for a long time and really didn’t even need moral support from me. She couldn’t wait to be free of the bondage of lengthy shampoos, conditioners, comb outs, curling irons, etc., etc. I was pretty much speechless as she took my hand and we headed off to see Chrissie.
Sometimes I really miss L.A. (like when I think of this story). Chrissie’s shop was within a stone’s throw of the Century Plaza Hotel in Century City and was one of the most recommended in the area. At the time it was done up in retro barbershop motif; black and white checkered floor, 1950’s barber chairs, all set off by the decadence of ’80’s gilt chic wherever you looked. The place dripped of money. Sometimes I really miss the ’80’s (like when I think of all the money we spent then). In the stark fluorescence, Chrissie stood out like a beckoning angel, albeit one possessed of very earthly charms. She was wearing her signature; jeans (remember designer) and tank top. And she was alone in the shop (surprise again, he said with tongue in cheek). Welcoming us back she said, “Hi there Elizabeth… And Michael (with a glance).” What was she thinking? Angling her chair in Elizabeth’s direction she waved her in like one of those guys with the flashlights who guide your plane in at the airport.
As Elizabeth sat down in the chair, Chrissie scooped up her hair and swept the cape around her… “You’ve got such beautiful hair, why in world would you want to cut it? (Chrissie liked to play little games like this before she went in for the kill. She liked to yo-yo certain clients back and forth until they were nearly ready to back out of a serious change and stick with a trim.” She ended this discussion with; “Oh never mind that, it’s only hair, it’ll grow if you don’t like it and besides it will look very sexy on you, won’t it Michael?” I nodded with all the conscious recognition of the little dog whose head bobs in the back window of certain Chrysler New Yorkers on Interstate 40. I was incapable of rational response.
“How short do you want to go?”… “Short…” “An inch, two, what?” “Long top and short like yours on the sides and back” My body sunk into the chair I had pulled up close and I desperately tried to hide the swelling that had begun to overtake my chinos… Chrissie saw what I was doing and smiled at me.
Chrissie loved to use the clippers but I had always seen her start this kind of cut with a shampoo, comb out and scissors to pare it down to a reasonably manageable length before using them. This time however she told Elizabeth that since she was going so short that she would do the whole cut dry to save precision clipping time for the end product. With that, she picked up the trusty Osters, clipped in the rough blade and holding the hair on the left side of Elizabeth’s head straight out, clicked them on and went at it. The soft whirring of the Osters was hypnotic and helped to further lull me into a semi-trance state. She turned them blade side down and sliced through the thick ringlets clipping off 24 inches of hair and unveiling the hint of Elizabeth’s ear through the locks that remained. She continued this process working slowly around Elizabeth until plait after plait of soft brown ringlets had gathered in a circle around the chair where Chrissie worked. Elizabeth was very still and I couldn’t tell if she was going to cry or what… She reached out from under the cape, plucked her glasses from the counter and placing them on her face checked the progress. She smiled! She reached up and ran her fingers through the rough cut ear-tip bob. “I love it!! Keep going…” Chrissie mussed Elizabeth’s crop and gently ran her fingers back through her hair from temples to nape… Knowing Chrissie, this was an overtly sexual move aimed directly at me. It missed though and hitting Elizabeth, I could almost hear her purr as she angled her face to the light and slightly arched her back.
Chrissie changed blades and with clippers and comb began to taper Elizabeth’s hair… up and down the nape, up and down the sides… working with smooth, cool efficiency she had soon bared Elizabeth’s ears and was actually giving a slight scalp fade around the ears and in the back. Elizabeth was gorgeous in her transformation; long, elegant neck, small but beautifully shaped ears (she’d now be able to show off the diamond dangles I’d bought her without pulling her hair back.) And her eyes… they leaped right out of her face!
Putting the finishing touches to the new Elizabeth, Chrissie took her to the back where the shampoo bowls were to wash off the strays and make the hair fresh for the final blow dry… After what seemed like too long I got up and walked to the back to see what was taking so long. Walking slowly around the corner I caught sight of two women so engrossed in one another that I could have detonated an atom bomb and they would never have noticed me standing there. Chrissie was bent over Elizabeth at the shampoo bowls and was slowly running her tongue back and forth over Elizabeth’s freshly shaved nape. I quickly walked back to my waiting chair and tried to compose myself.
The ladies walked out of the back looking pretty certain I had no idea what had gone on in the back. But Chrissie’s unmistakable blush gave her away completely. Chrissie turned on the dryer and began to style Elizabeth’s new cut. She was beautiful, better than I had even imagined. A touch of spray on the finished product and voila! I paid Chrissie, tipped her well and gave her a knowing glance at which she blushed again. With that I led a totally new woman from the bright lights of the salon into the cool evening of the Westside. I miss L.A., I really do… (Especially when I think of those sparkling buildings, flashing diamonds and Elizabeth’s eyes)