Heidi’s Story – Bald and Proud
Heidi was born and raised in Cincinnati, a child of the inner city in the seventies. When I met her in Florida, she was putting her life in order after some rather extreme swings. I met Heidi in a restaurant down the street from the barbershop where I had the high and tight shaved.
After I had the shave, I needed to test-drive the new style, and I also needed to eat something. I was hungry and headed for a steak house that looked promising. I could hear the music that was being played over the in-house speakers, and while not strictly my type of music, I thought I could let it fade into the background while I explored this new style and ate my dinner.
I selected a corner table and waited for the server. A young man came over and handed me a menu and said that he would be back with water and did I want coffee. I nodded and he left me to read. When he returned he had water and coffee and set them both down and took my order. I then noticed a young woman three tables away staring at me. I caught her eye and she smiled a self-conscious smile and looked away. I had noticed that she had a buzz that seemed a bit raggy, a little tired perhaps, and it was heavily dyed a dark reddish auburn. I smiled at her and asked if she wanted to join me. She picked up her water and came across.
After the introductions she commented, “I like your hair.” I thanked her and asked if she was alright. She seemed rather depressed to me. She told me she had broken up with her fiancé three months ago and she had come down here to Florida to get him out of her system. She was nearly broke and having trouble finding work. “What do you do?” I asked. She said she had been taking upgrading courses, but had run out of money. “What do you want to do? Do you have a plan?” I asked. At this point she just looked at the table and seemed so sad. She shrugged her shoulders and said she wanted to work in landscaping and gardening. I called over the waiter and asked him to bring two meals instead of one and settled back to listen to Heidi’s story.
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Heidi’s wedding date was set for the last week of February. She and her future husband were an unlikely couple. He was gregarious and outgoing, she, quiet and reserved. They had been brought together by their mutual love of motorcycles. Both rode for pleasure, and Heidi was busy at college when she came home one day to a message on her answering machine. “Heidi, this is Cal, I have to go away, I will call you to explain, I am leaving Cincy. Please don’t be upset, we are too different for this to work. I wanted to tell you, but didn’t know how.” Then the tone sounded and the message was over. Heidi was devastated. She was shaken and she turned to her parents.
Having grown up in the tough inner city, she left her small apartment and walked to the bus stop. She felt numb, and as yet there were no tears. Upon reaching her parents’ home she sat and tried to talk to her mother. While this woman tried to sympathize with her daughter, she also had the belief that Heidi had been “stepping out of her class” in moving uptown and going out with Cal. Heidi’s father seemed quite disinterested and told her to pick some place new and some new friends and get on with her life. She was, after all, 30 and still not settled. Heidi stayed mute, shut herself away and mourned her former life. She neither ate much nor went to school. She seemed to have lost her zest.
Becoming concerned, her mother tried to bridge the distance, suggesting that perhaps Heidi come to the beauty salon with her while she had her hair done. Reluctantly Heidi agreed and the two women walked to her mother’s salon. Heidi’s mother sat in the chair and the regular stylist began the wash and style that was done every two weeks. Heidi watched without much interest until she saw some photos in a style book she was leafing through. There were women in varying stages of short, very short, shaved and bald. On the spur of the moment, she went and spoke to her mother, “I’m going to start fresh, I’m outta here Mom, I’ll call ya when I get where I’m going.” She left the salon, went to her apartment got on her motorbike and headed south. The visions of the hairstyle page were firmly folded in her leather pocket, her shoulder-length hair streaming out from under her helmet as she hit the highway.
Heidi had arrived in Florida and the first thing she did was seek out a cheap salon. She walked in with her helmet tucked under her arm, lay her motorcycle jacket across a chair and waited for the stylists. A young woman came over and asked her what she wanted. Heidi pulled out the page and pointed to the crew-cut. It was super-short and one length. The stylist looked at her hair, fingered it and asked her to sit in the chair she was indicating.
Her hair was damaged, not very thick, nor pleasantly colored, being a murky brown and rather shapeless. The stylist simply took out the clippers and asked her what length she wanted. Heidi thought of how Cal liked to fiddle with her hair, how he would tug it when he rode pillion behind her, and how he always said he liked “girls to look like f’ing girls” when he saw some of the butch cuts on the biker girls. Heidi decided to let the stylist have the say and said, “You decide, I don’t care, so long as it is short enough that no-one can pull it.”
“Right,” said the stylist, and she fitted a guard over the clipper. “This will take it down to a half inch, we can go shorter from there if you want.” She then flicked on the clippers and Heidi felt her head bent forward and the large steel touch the back of her neck. She wondered if she should call it off, but didn’t. She sat there, mute as usual, and let this stylist shave off her hair. She felt the run of the clippers up her nape, over the bump and peel off at the top of the crown. Once the back was shorn she moved to the side. Putting her head up, Heidi could see in the mirror, but the front was yet untouched. She then saw the clippers in reflection placed on her cheek and swiped backwards arching up over her ears to meet the shaved area behind her ears. The next swipe took it higher. Three swipes and the left side was shaved to half an inch. Next the right side was given the same treatment. With each swipe, Heidi felt liberated and was feeling less and less sad. Finally all that was left was the strip down the middle and it was gone in a deft and final pass. The stylist brushed her bristles with her hand and Heidi watched as a tiny cloud of clippings flew off her head.
She looked at the stranger in the mirror and thought that it didn’t look too bad. She turned to the stylist and asked her what she thought. The stylist thought that she could go shorter if she wanted. Heidi thought about it and decided to let the stylist finish with whatever she wanted to do. Whereupon a small set of clippers was fired up with a small metallic popping sound. Heidi asked what she planned to do. The stylist told her that she was going to take it down to an even quarter inch and then shave the hairline. The only instruction Heidi had given her was make it the same length all over. The picture she liked had a very short 1/8th of an inch, but the stylist felt that with her thin hair it would be too unattractive. She then ran the clippers in measured order over Heidi’s head making certain that all the little remaining hairs stood up in perfect alignment. Next she painted hot creamy shaving soap around the hairline and proceeded to use a straight razor to shave the hairline completely away. The finished product was a very clean and neat crew-cut.
Heidi brushed her head with her hand and felt the silky softness. She was cautioned to use a light gel or mousse to keep it standing properly as it got longer, or to have it trimmed every couple of weeks. Heidi thanked her, paid and left. Her helmet had to be adjusted for the lack of bulk and that done, she got back on her motorcycle and headed south, deep into Florida. She didn’t have any plans, no contacts and very little self-esteem. She tried to get work as a landscaper but all she could get was daily work. One company hired her for a week to do lawns and some formal gardens, but mostly it was just temporary work. Funds running low and nothing being accomplished, she finally wound up in the same restaurant as myself and spilled her story.
I looked at her head of hair that actually resembled a porcupine and told her that without a proper hair-cut no-one was going to hire her. Looking like she did simply led people to believe she was a punk. The color, she told me, was a henna she had tried. We talked some more, and I paid for both dinners and asked her if she wanted to do something about her image and her general appearance. I suggested she begin with the hair. I realized she couldn’t grow it overnight, but she could neaten it and wear a wig, so we walked to my car and headed for the strip mall by the beach I had passed. There we found a hairpiece shop and she selected a short and sassy looking style that really made her face light up.
“Are you sorry you cut your hair?” I asked as I self-consciously rubbed my hand over my own shorn head.
“No, I’m just sorry I can’t keep it looking nice. But I would like it to be like this wig.”
“Then we will take the wig and you will wear it, and we will take you and have your own hair attended to, however you want it.” Heidi then burst into tears and this tough looking biker-broad sank into my arms and sobbed.
The next day, after a night of sobbing and raging and hurtful feelings being shed, Heidi was ready to take charge of her life. I took her to the barber’s where I had gone and asked the barber to take care of her, give her what she wants. Heidi looked self-consciously at me and said, “Make it like hers.” I looked on that as a huge compliment and I had the great pleasure of watching Heidi be transformed from an unsure porcupine to a stunning high and tight. A little longer than mine, and with a faded landing strip, but shaved to the skin up to the crown and up to the head’s natural arch. Her horseshoe ended further back than mine too. Mine ended just at the front of my ears, hers faded back towards the crown area. On the whole she really was looking and feeling better. She stuffed the wig in her pocket and we walked out together.
With the wig and the new feelings she had from her cathartic collapse, Heidi was able to find work with a small company that specialized in private lawns and shrubs, and the last I heard she was managing to put her life back together. I really hope she is able to. I became quite fond of her. Her brusque and dismissive attitude, her tough girl image will take a while to drop, but perhaps they are Heidi. Perhaps her means of survival is the image. I’d like to know how she fares, however I am on my way to New Orleans.
Thank you Heidi for agreeing to let me tell your story. I hope you have success and find some measure of happiness.
Bald and Proud