Just A Trim

Just A Trim

Just a Trim by Sean O’Hare

“I know you don’t want me to cut my hair, James. But it really does need a trim. That’s all – just a trim.”

James is acting a bit precious once again. I have only known him for the couple of months since I started University but, as he often was, he is tending to be a bit too bossy. We have a fun relationship – I think perhaps I’m in love – but whether it continues may well depend on him adjusting his behaviour.

My hair is one thing he seems particularly concerned about. It’s blonde, quite thick and reaches halfway down my back. Mum always kept it trimmed at home but several months away and a few too many smoky and alcoholic parties have left it looking a little tired, particularly at the ends. But James says he loves my long hair and while we are together he insists I should never cut it. He refuses to accept the need for it to be trimmed.

It’s Wednesday afternoon and we’ve just passed a small salon “Just Cuts”, just off the High Street, and I noticed a sign in the window: “Free haircuts. Models required for Sandy, our new trainee. For details enquire within.” The word ‘Free’ caught my eye – it is near the end of term and funds are getting tight. OK, so she’s a trainee, but I only want the ends trimmed so she’s unlikely to wreak havoc on my long hair which should keep both James and I pleased.

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“But why Becky? It looks fine.” This is becoming a little tiresome.

“James, that’s enough. It needs a trim. Go for a walk and meet me here in about half an hour.” I’m feeling a little peeved by his attitude as I turn away from the sign and push open the glass door and march confidently in.

I feel a little less self assured now I’m inside. Hairdressers have always had this effect on me for some reason. Probably one of the reasons I’ve let my hair grow long and why I always let Mum trim it for me. Most of my friends experimented with different lengths and styles though school but I resolutely kept mine growing to my waist and beyond. It was only once I had finished school that I thought of asking Mum to cut it shorter so I didn’t look quite so much like Alice in Wonderland before starting University… I even decided to stop wearing the hairbands!

It was strange. Initially I only wanted to have it cut a few inches shorter, so it was above my waist but the thoughts of having more than the customary half an inch filled my mind – sometimes during the day, and frequently at night. Before I went to sleep I would look in the mirror and try to decide precisely how much to ask Mum to cut. Six inches was a lot but would take it to my waist. Perhaps more – ten inches? But that’s nearly two years’ growth. And as I became used to that idea I wondered if it would look better – thicker perhaps – if Mum cut it shorter still… to the middle of my back?

It seemed that I was becoming obsessed in my mind about having it cut… and the thought of having it cut. They were feelings similar to those I had experienced when friends had their long locks cut into fashionable bobs and short crops. I often questioned them on how they felt about losing so much of their hair – some quite openly talked about it while others seemed to shy away from my persistent questioning which caused me to hold back in later years. Feeling a little ashamed but not knowing quite why.

The middle of my back. One evening I held one hand there and looked rather awkwardly over my shoulder into the mirror to see what this meant for my hair. Nearly 15 inches! That night I fell asleep with that thought on my mind and remembered waking at least once mumbling 15 inches to myself. When I awoke the following morning I realised that I would need to sort this out.

So it was on one Sunday afternoon in July that I sat down on the familiar breakfast bar stool in the kitchen. Mum brushed my hair through as usual and with the comb and sharp scissors she reserved for the purpose, prepared to trim the last half an inch from my hair. I could feel the comb resting on my bottom, so long had my hair become.

“Er Mum,” I said, “I wonder if you would mind cutting it a little shorter please. You know, with me starting at University and everything.”

“Of course Rebecca. Good idea. After all as it might be some time before you get back here for the next trim once you’ve tasted the student life.”

“Thanks. But I will come and see you…”

She combed it through once more and I felt the comb just below my waist. “Hmmm we’ll see. The important thing is that you enjoy yourself and enjoy the course… probably in that order!” She’s a great Mum really. “Phew, this will be over 4 inches Rebecca. I’ve never cut so much off before. Are you sure?”

I gulped. “Actually Mum I would like you to cut even more. To here.” I held out my hand to indicate the middle of my back. And gulped again.

“Becky! You can’t be serious! That’s… that’s well over a foot of your lovely hair. I can’t….”

“But I want to look more grown up at University. Don’t you see Mum, it’s just a little too long as it is. But it will still be long.” I felt quite resolute. And I think Mum recognised this.

“I suppose it will still be long.” She combed through again and I felt the comb running through my hair and then stopping… quite high up it seemed. “Hmmmm, OK Rebecca. But just a moment.”

I watched Mum rummage through a kitchen drawer and suddenly produce and old pink scrunchie which I hadn’t used for years. I felt her fasten my hair with it, and around the point where I had asked it to be cut. I felt Mum brushing it through below where it was fastened.

It felt much higher than I expected. I began to wonder if this was such a good idea. Why cut so much off? I know it was partly for the reasons I explained… but, deep down, I knew it was also to experience how it would feel.

Mum retrieved the scissors from the kitchen table and simply asked, “Ready?”

I tried to speak. My throat had gone dry. I gave a little cough to clear it. “Yes. Er, yes please Mum.”

With that I felt her pull my hair slightly and felt the scissors begin to tug a little. The cutting noise was a little dull compared with the usual cutting of dry, brittle ends. It was also taking much longer. I could feel her breath on my shoulders as Mum exerted herself to cut through my hair. “Nearly there Rebecca. Three, two, one… done!”

She let out a deep breath and held the blonde ponytail aloft, secured by the pink scrunchie. We both looked at it in surprise for a few seconds. So much hair. Trying to suppress my emotions I forced out, “Thanks Mum – perhaps you could just even up the ends.”

“Er what? Oh yes, of course.” I could tell she felt a little tearful, but didn’t embarrass her by looking – this was an example of her little girl growing up. She handed me the cut-off ponytail and I could feel its cool silkiness in my hand. But resisted the temptation of doing anything more than holding it.

She checked the ends using the comb, snipping off a little more. Again and again as she usually did until satisfied that the line was perfect. “Well Rebecca, all done. It’s MUCH shorter than before. I hope you like it.”

“Thanks Mum, I’m sure I will.” I gave her quick hug and peck on the cheek and dashed upstairs to use the full length mirrors in Mum’s room, still clasping the ponytail.

As I adjusted the mirrors and looked at my reflection I was dumbstruck. Mum had cut it to exactly the length I requested. But it looked SO short. I reached behind and it felt as in good condition as it looked – the ends were so thick. But it was short!

I returned to my own bedroom and shut the door and. although I shed a few tears, my over-riding feeling was of excitement as I ran my fingers through my dramatically shortened hair and I examined the 15 inches of my hair in my hands. I fell asleep with these thoughts filling my mind and surprised by the impact a straightforward haircut could have on me.

So, back in the present, I’m standing by the reception desk feeling slightly self-conscious with my still long hair in Just Cuts while a couple of stylists are working to reduce the already short styles of two women to something shorter still.

After a short time, which felt like hours, one of the stylists walks over to me smiling. “Hi there. Can I help you?”

“Hi. I saw your notice in the window. Free haircuts. By Sandy.”

“Oh you want to be a model. Well Sandy’s next door today so just walk through and ask for her.”

“Right. Thanks.” I see the doorway into another part of the shop and walk through to a completely different environment. The light, airy ambience of the original part of the shop has been replaced by a more functional, crowded, slightly oppressive atmosphere. I notice this section of the shop also has a door onto the street.

There are three chairs – chairs which are different from the comfortable looking seats next door – chrome and leather – more like dentists’ chairs. Only one chair is occupied – a young businessman type – having most of his hair buzzed off with great relish by hairclippers in the capable hands of an attractive woman in her late-20s. “Nonsense, a #1 won’t be too short. Trust me!” she says as she emits a deep laugh. And I watch as a tumble of Hugh Grant type waves slide down the guy’s forehead, replaced by… stubble!

A couple more men are sitting along the opposite wall to the cutting chairs, watching this woman at work, and – it has to be said – looking distinctly uneasy at the prospect of trusting her. I’m assuming this isn’t Sandy – too old to be a trainee surely – I HOPE this isn’t Sandy. And so it proves.

A young woman, in her late teens, is standing beside the older woman watching each movement of the clippers as if to learn how to repeat it herself. As she watches, a small smile forms at the corner of her mouth as she listens to the other woman’s chat and watches the hair being shaved off the poor guy’s head.

All eyes turn towards me, and the older woman says, “Hello, may we help you?” I felt distinctly uneasy here. I had seen written on the window, even in reflected writing that this side of the salon was ‘Just Cuts for Men’ – an old fashioned barbers. Having come from the back of the shop everyone was between me and the door – my instinct was to just walk out, but five pairs of eyes seem to block my escape and force me to answer.

“Er, well. Yes. They said next door that I could find Sandy here. But I can see you’re busy. So….”

“Nonsense. I’m Jackie and I have these young men to attend to.” She smiled as she held up the still running clippers and stares at each of her prospective clients in turn. They return her gaze with the wide-eyed look of rabbits in a cars headlamp! “But Sandy here is our trainee and will be pleased to assist you I’m sure.”

Sandy steps out of the shadow of her mentor. “Hi. Of course I will,” she says with a cheeky grin. “Here, take a seat.” I expect to return to the ladies’ salon next door but Sandy has put a hand gently on my arm and leads me to the large barber chair by the window.

It’s surprisingly comfortable. I relax into its contours, but feel slightly uneasy as people pass by the street just a few feet away.

As I take in my reflection perched on this slightly overlarge chair a black cape billows in front of my face and Sandy reaches under my hair and ties it securely at my nape. She tosses a black rubber mat around my shoulders, trapping my hair and with its weight feeling as though it is trapping me. Sandy flicks out my hair from under the mat and begins to brush it through.

“Right, we’re all set babe. So how short are we going then? Like his?” Sandy indicates the guy in the next chair – his hair virtually shaved all over now, but left a little longer at the front hairline and encouraged to stand up – and Jackie is now tackling the hair at his nape with a much smaller set of clippers and now appears to be laying it bare.

Sandy puts down the brush and picks up the larger set of clippers. And turns them on.

The feelings of my youth when my friends returned from the hairdressers. The feelings recalled by Mum cutting off so much of my hair a few months ago. These feelings were returning as I contemplated this girl, about my own age, apparently keen to reduce the rest of my hair to stubble. This is not what I expected! Are hairdressers normally this pushy?

“Er. what? No! Just half an inch will be fine.” Phew, the clippers are turned off. She removes a plastic comb-like attachment and replaces it with another.

“OK then, just a number 4.” The clippers go on again. “Half an inch all over. A nice crewcut.” And she moves them towards my forehead.

“No, no please.” I feel extremely nervous and vulnerable. My breath quickens and I suddenly feel much warmer. Scared? Embarrassed?

“You don’t want it all your hair chopped off? Why not? It will be much more comfortable.” My palms, under the cape, feel clammy. I feel all eyes in the salon are on me. I feel that all the people in the street are looking at me. Waiting.

Why not? Because I don’t! “No just want a trim. Not a crewcut. Half an inch. Just off the ends please. I saw the sign. In the window. Next door. Free haircuts. From you. Please?” I bumble on in short staccato sentences which is all I can muster as my breath has quickened so much.

“Oh, I see.” The clippers go off and are replaced on the counter. Sandy face carries a look of grave disappointment and I almost feel guilty about not allowing her continue… and there is small part of me, buried deep, wondering just how it would have felt for Sandy to have buzzed me…

And then bursts out laughing. “Sorry babe, I was just teasing.”

Jackie smiles too. “Sandy behave yourself,” she says admonishingly but without much threat in her voice. “Look, I’m sorry about that. Sandy is fun to have around but she does get carried away sometimes. What’s your name by the way?”

“It’s Becky.” I join in the laughter. More in relief than anything else. “Er, that’s OK. Yes, a good joke,” I add with little enthusiasm.

“Well Becky, Sandy will now attend to you properly. Won’t you Sandy?”

“Yes Jackie, of course,” she giggles. She retrieves the brush and begins to slowly run it through my hair. My breathing slowly returns to normal.

I look in the mirror and really see Sandy for the first time. As I say, she’s about my age and dressed simply in a very short denim skirt teamed with a tightly-fitted white, skimpy top. Her ears are laden with several piercings, and a small gold stud adorns the side of her nose. Her fingernails are painted a striking deep blue.

But the most striking thing about her is her hair. A dark, shiny black with a deep plum colour enhancing the shine in subtle but striking tones. And the cut? Well, when I first saw her standing next to Jackie I noted she wore a bob – around chin length, and cut to look sort of full and spiky. And so it is… on one side. But the other side is short, very short indeed – in fact, almost shaved high over the ear and continuing at that length on her neck, finally gradually increasing in length and blending with spiky layers of the bobbed side. It is immaculate – I find myself almost mesmerised by its perfection and quite oblivious of anything else.

“Becky! Excuse me.” I’m brought out of my strange contemplation.

“Sorry. I….”

“I said, so you just wanna a trim do you?”

“Er, yes. That’ll be great please.”

“Well normally for modelling haircuts with me, Jackie will decide on the style to help me with my training. That’s why they’re free.” I begin to feel a little worried once more. “When I’m working in here, strictly speaking, I should be giving you a man’s haircut. We have several women clients who prefer that look and we’re happy to oblige.” I gulp visibly. “But I think Jackie can trust me to do a trim.” She looks over at her and is met with a brief smile and a nod as she completes her own client’s barbering by whisking away the cape.

“So just half an inch or so. You do have lovely hair Becky – it hardly needs trimming at all. You keep it in great condition.”

“Thanks. I really like yours too,” I blurt out, slightly too loudly perhaps as everyone looks around. Nerves!

“Do you? A bit shorter than yours!” I watch as she runs her hand up the back of head and through the longer, chunkier side. “In fact mine was longer than yours when I started work here but Jackie likes her stylists to have short hair – and she does so enjoy using the clippers as you’ve already seen.” A near-shaved head is leaving through the door and Jackie has already caped her next victim, running her hands through his overgrown, collar-length style and discussing the merits of taking it in very close… with clippers. He doesn’t appear to answer but Jackie already has her clippers in her hand and switched on.

“Yes she does seem to. Just as well I’ve got you to trim my hair for me then.”

“Probably, but I do have me moments.” We both laugh as Sandy takes a comb and scissors and I watch her begin to trim the ends.

At that moment I see James on the pavement outside. He is looking back, with a puzzled expression on his face. It appears he is looking next door and perhaps is surprised I’m no longer there. It’s only been a few minutes and I told him to return in half an hour. I begin to feel a little angry.

Then his head turns and he sees me just a few feet away. What a sight I must appear to him. Sitting in a barber’s chair, caped and with a crop-haired barber with scissors in her hand about to start work on me.

And next to me Jackie is taking her client to the land of near-hairlessness with firm swipes of the clippers.

He appears to take in the scene and mouths ‘No!’ through the glass. Jackie, Sandy and the two remaining clients stare back at him clearly wondering what’s going on. He looks from side to side, spies the door and comes running in.

“No Becky you can’t.” I’m feeling rather embarrassed as all eyes turn towards me, but this feeling is overwhelmed by the anger.

“What do you mean, can’t!” My anger was fuelled by my self-righteous indignation. “I said I was having a trim and told you to come back in half an hour.”

“But… but… in here. It’s….”

“It’s none of your business actually James. Now could you leave. You’re making a fool of yourself… and embarrassing everyone.” Including me.

He looks a but sheepish now. “Sorry I thought… well because you were in here… that you would, well you know….” He nods towards Jackie’s half clipped client.

“OK James, well I want you to go now. Not say another word. Or else we’re finished. Do you promise me?” I’m not sure if I’ve ever felt so angry.

He nods.

“Thank you.” I watch him start to leave. “But I should say I have decided to have it cut shorter.” I find it difficult to swallow as I try to articulate the words. “Just like Sandy’s”

“What!” both James and Sandy exclaim.

“James, remember what you promised.”

“I, er… but, er… oh Becky,” and I watched him almost run out.

I let out a deep breath of relief.

“You’re not serious are you Becky?”

I was when I said it. I felt deep feelings rise up inside me at the thought – I know it wasn’t just the anger. I look at Sandy’s reflection in the mirror – perfect hair, but so very short – I feel her impish grin is almost willing me on. “Well, er, what do you think Sandy?”

“Yeah, let’s go for it Becky.” And without further ado Sandy grabs a large clip, carefully separates my crown hair from a parting a couple of inches above the ears, twirls it around and clips it into place. On the right side she separates a large bundle of hair and clips that out of the way too. She brushes through all the loose hair with long, vigorous strokes.

I haven’t said anything in response to her ‘Let’s go for it’. I should be saying no. My silence is clearly being taken for a yes. She puts down the brush and picks up the clippers once more.

“So Number 4 to start with and then we’ll take it down like mine later.” Number 4? Half an inch! I hear the clippers turn on. I watch in the mirror as Sandy lifts my long hair at the back and offers it to the approaching clippers. “OK babe, time to say ta-ra to all of this.”

My eyes widen visibly in the mirror as they watch the clippers disappear behind my head. Ta-ra.

The sounds of the clippers changes as I feel them touch my neck. An uneven roar seems to fill my mind as I the I feel the teeth of clippers begin to bite into my hair. So this is it. The well controlled deep emotions are beginning to bubble up inside me like a cauldron of sensations. I close my eyes and see the faces from my past, friends first with long hair and then with shorter styles, and begin to realise this perhaps is what I longed for all these years. Not a second discussion – but to know how it really feels.

“Aaahhh!” I exclaimed without thinking as the clippers finish their first pass up the back of my head and I feel a few of the severed ends tumbling and tickling my nape.

“Sorry did I hurt you?” Sandy asks with genuine concern. I slowly open my eyes and smile, shaking my head. “Ah, I understand,” and she winks at me as she eases the clippers up into my locks once more. A few more times and the mass she holds in her hand is severed and she drops it onto my lap. And she lifts the next.

As she continues I look at the mound of hair in my lap. So long – over two feet perhaps – and heavy through the cape too. To think that all this and much more is weighing down my head. But not for long as the next clump rains down into my lap.

As she works her way around to the front I begin to see the effectiveness of the clippers. My once long, blonde, silky hair is being reduced to a shiny fuzz – which, true to her word, is no more than half an inch long. More falls and suddenly the clippers roar closely in my ear and the hair above it has gone as the clippers zoom past my eyes. All the long hair on that side has now gone. The clippers are silenced.

Sandy loosens the long hair on the other side and combs it down. The contrast is amazing. But not for long as she places a comb level with chin and snips off the all hair below which slides to the floor. I watch as she unravels the hair piled on the crown. She holds it straight and chops off the last of my long hair six inches from the scalp. She combs it to the longer side and begins layering and appearing to blend it in with the clipped lengths at the back.

She combs down a section to cover my eyes. I’ve never had a fringe – but I have now as the scissors slide in to my hair high on my forehead and cut. I watch the hair sliding down my face in the mirror, leaving an oh-so-short fringe. She now uses different scissors and chops in to the bobbed hair and I can see the textured, spiky shape forming on that side.

“OK Becky we’re nearly there. But clipper time again first.” She picks them up and removes the guard. Easing my head forward she slides the cool metal of the unguarded clippers along my nape. They meet little resistance. Again and again I feel them working their way around my head but until they pass over my ear once more I can’t imagine how short they’re cutting. But now I can see – very short! Perhaps it is because of my blonde hair but – unlike Sandy’s dark stubble – my hair appears to be shaved to the scalp. Wow, and it looks so precise and amazing.

Sandy continues to cut – layering, trimming, graduating – and finally pronounces herself satisfied. “Well babe, that’s as good as it gets,” and she holds up a mirror so I can see the back. Not that I needed it – I knew it would be identical to Sandy’s and it was except my whole neck looks shaved… and quite sensational.

“It’s wonderful Sandy. Thank you so much.”

“My pleasure. Thanks for being such a great model.”

She whisks away the cape and the remnants of my long hair fall to the floor.

“I’ll definitely be back Sandy. Thanks again. Bye.”

Both Sandy and Jackie smile as I leave.

I see James sitting rather morosely on one of the nearby seats. I walk towards him and he looks up but stares right past me for his girl with the silken locks. He doesn’t even recognise me.

But I’m conscious of other eyes admiring my brave new style. And so I walk on by.


I hope you have enjoyed reading this story. If you have any comments then please e-mail me at [email protected]


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