The Row By Hair-Raiser
Jackie sat blankly staring at the TV. Not taking anything in. Terry was deeply engrossed in this week’s edition of Star Trek. It was Jackie’s time of month and she was feeling grumpy. She needed cheering up.
“I think I might get my hair cut,” Jackie declared as she played with her auburn locks.
“You’ve not got split ends again have you?” Terry enquired. Terry loved Jackie’s long, silky hair and actively discouraged her from having her hair cut anything more often than every eight weeks. It must have been about 8 weeks since her last trim, but Terry hoped he could push the average duration out to twelve weeks and so hopefully she would get her hair down to her waist as he had often dreamed.
“No. I mean, I think I might get it cut short.”
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“You’ve got to be joking. I love your hair long.”
“But I need a change. I’ve had this same style for years.” Jackie pushed her hair up above her head, holding it a big mass in both hands as she talked and then let it fall in a tousled mess around her face and hanging off her shoulders. She hoped the effect would lead to the impression that her hair detracted from her attractiveness. It had the opposite effect.
“Yes! And it looks great. Why on earth would you want to change it?”
“I told you. I need a change. It’s my hair and I’ll do what I like.”
“Doesn’t my opinion count? I love you, surely that must count for something? Please. Don’t cut your hair.”
“I love you too, but I need a change and that’s all there is to it.”
“And I like the way you look now and that’s all there is to that.”
They had reached an impasse and neither knew quite what to do next. In the end Jackie decided a dramatic exit was in order and she gave Terry a telling hard stare and stormed in to the kitchen to tackle some of the ironing that had accumulated over the week. Terry decided to hold camp in front of the television and wait for Jackie to cool down and apologize. When no apology had been forthcoming within the hour, Terry nonchalantly went to the kitchen to get a beer out of the fridge. He gave Jackie a knowing glance with a half smile on his face, fully expecting a conciliatory body language signal that would help restart the conversation on a more mature level. Instead he got the death ray stare that signalled that peace had not yet been found. Indeed they went to bed and got up and off to work the next morning without so much as acknowledging each other’s existence.
Linda had been working with Jackie in the store for almost two years. Originally they got off to a frosty start. Jackie clearly had an aptitude for dealing with customers that made her good in the store and a good assistant to the manager. Linda, on the other hand, had a hard time realizing that the focus of her job wasn’t in maintaining stock, keeping enough change in the till and keeping the displays attractive. She was highly ambitious and wanted to be manageress, no matter what it would take. Linda had been working in the store for three years when the assistant manageress position became available and when she interviewed for the promotion, she was convinced that she had got it. However, the manageress, Kathy, needed someone she could rely on to look after the customers and staff when she wasn’t there. And Linda wasn’t much of a people person, well more accurately, she just wasn’t very good at dealing with conflict. Kathy had been quite tempted to give Linda the promotion but feared she wouldn’t have any customers or even staff left if she went away for any period of time. Kathy ended up advertising the position externally and Jackie was one of the many applicants who came in to interview. Jackie immediately looked right to Kathy for the job, she was bubbly and out going and immediately got everyone at their ease. She had been offered the job the same day she interviewed and started work the very next day.
Linda had been jealous of how Jackie had waltzed in and taken her promotion from her. However, it soon became clear to Linda and Kathy that Jackie’s only interest in the job was to pay the bills and despite her natural talent at letting customers leave the store feeling like a million dollars, and hopefully spending nearly as much, Jackie would not put in a single extra minute to get the job done. As a result, Kathy started treating Jackie and Linda more of a double act. Linda would be involved in all the discussions involving the running of the store and Jackie would be left to resolve all the customer issues and complaints. This worked well for Linda, because other than the pain of unwanted overtime, which nobody even bothered to ask Jackie about anymore, it was obvious to everyone who would become manageress if Kathy ever left.
Linda had dark, shiny hair that had all the properties of Sassoon hair from the commercials and for many years she had it cut in various incarnations of Sassoon’s famous bob style. From shoulder-length with no fringe, to asymmetric, to short ear length with clippered neck and high fringe. She would change the look at least twice a year if not more often, particularly if she was not in a steady relationship. She now sported a short pixie cut. The truth, if truth be told and Linda wasn’t telling anyone, was Linda just loved having her hair cut. The anticipation of the event, the special treatment during the event and all the attention after a drastic change made a major haircut something of great joy for Linda. Linda felt that it was her duty to share these pleasures with her friends. Why they seemed so attached to their hair was a mystery to Linda, but she was often amazed at how a lot of persuasion could turn around a seemingly helpless case.
“So are you going to do it?” Linda asked innocently when the two girls took their morning break together in the coffee room.
“Do what? Jackie replied equally innocently. She knew full well. Linda had come into the shop two weeks before with her monthly styles magazine with the style for Jackie. It looked real nice, but so short. Linda had kept the magazine in the staff room and at every opportune moment and a few in between had sort to persuade Jackie that now was the right time for a change.
“You know, get your hair cut.”
“Oh, that.” Jackie did the best she could of the feigned disinterest, but Linda wasn’t going to be put off without a flat refusal. Well, probably several flat refusals.
“No, Terry had a freak out. I better not. We’ve not been getting on so well just recently.” Jackie couldn’t believe she just said that. She’d not even told her mum that bit of news and she’d hardly admitted that to herself either.
“Well what did he say?”
“You know. He said he loved me. He liked how my hair looks and he doesn’t want me to change it.”
“It’s your hair. You do what you like.”
“But I don’t want to make things worse. Maybe we should just forget it until we’re getting on better and then we can talk it through.”
“Look girl. That man is taking advantage of you. You need to give him a wake-up call that if he’s not looking after you, someone else will. You cut your hair and you let him know you’re your own woman. You do that or he’s going to treat you like a doormat.”
“I love him. I don’t want to upset him.”
“Of course you love him, but you’ve got to look after yourself.” Linda picked up the magazine which was already folded open at the page with the hairstyle that Linda had been promoting. “Look how great this is going to look on you. And that dumb husband of yours is going to see a new you and he won’t be able keep his hands off of you and he won’t be taking you for granted anymore.”
“Oh, I don’t know.”
“Look, we said we were going to do it today because we’ve actually got the same lunch hour. Why don’t I make the appointment and we can go and see how you feel. If when you’re in the chair you don’t feel like it, you can just go and get a trim or something. And if you feel you want to make the change, I’ll be there to hold your hand. What do you say?”
“It’s been some time since my last trim.”
“Well it’s decided then.” Linda sensed victory was hers. “My god. Is that the time? You better go down and tell Kathy I’m coming. I’ll call my hairdresser for you before you change your mind.”
Jackie wasn’t sure she wanted the conversation to end there. But she could always get a trim and just maybe, Terry did need to learn a lesson. She nodded agreement to Linda and went through to the store floor. Linda lost no time getting to the phone.
“Hi. I’d like an appointment with Max for 1:30”
“This is Max, which one of my ladies is this?”
“Oh great! It’s Linda. I’ve got another special for you.”
“Wow. I’ll leave an hour. What’s the name of the brave lady?”
It was lunchtime and Jackie and Linda walked down the street arm in arm. They were giggling like a couple of schoolgirls and Jackie could not understand how Linda had managed to persuade Kathy to give them both an hour and a half for lunch. They went through the large glass door of the hairdressers. Jackie had passed this place many times but it looked far too trendy and far too expensive for anywhere she would go for her infrequent trims. And what kind of name was “Choppers” for somewhere to tend to Jackie’s long locks?
A slim, short man rushed to the door to welcome the girls.
“Oh hello Linda darling. It’s so nice to see you and it’s only been two weeks.”
“Hi Max.” Linda and Max exchanged air kisses on the cheeks. This was even more trendy than Jackie feared. She took a closer look at Max. He looked like he was in his mid-thirties, but his clothes, hairstyle and manner suggested he was trying for a late teens kind of a look. Jackie decided a trim was all she was going to trust from Max.
“And you must be the brave Jackie,” Max enthused, turning his attention to Jackie.
“Not so brave,” Jackie insisted. Max ignored the reply.
“Well let’s go over to the chair and see what we have.”
A cape was swung around Jackie’s neck and she was swept along to a nearby chair before she knew what was happening. Max had got a brush and had started pulling it slowly and firmly through Jackie’s thick, long, silky hair. At last she began to relax with the mesmerizing effect of the brush. She was sitting in a comfortable chair with padded armrests, staring at a large mirror surrounded by small light bulbs. The mirror was fixed to a workstation that looked like a dressing table, although the Formica top looked kind of cheap in what was otherwise a fairly expensive-looking salon. In the mirror, Jackie could just make out the reception desk where the receptionist was reading a book on what appeared, judging how deeply engrossed the receptionist was in the book, to have been a quiet day. In the mirror, Jackie could see two hairdressing stations behind her: one had a woman having her hair highlighted, the other was empty. To Jackie’s right was the only other customer in the salon, who was having the tiniest amount of hair trimmed from her collar-length, layered hairstyle.
“So what are we going to do?” Max asked, hardly able to keep the excitement out of his voice as he brushed the long auburn hair.
“She wants to have this cut,” Linda stated, thrusting the ever-present magazine in front of Max.
Max took the magazine from Linda and studied the picture in detail.
“Oh yes! This is going to look so good.”
“I’ve been having second thoughts,” Jackie declared, trying to remind the people sealing her fate that she still had an input.
Still holding the magazine in one hand, Max gathered Jackie’s hair in a ponytail in the other hand and lifted it above her head. The ponytail was two inches thick and was heavy.
“Look at that hairline and those ears,” Max declared. “This head was made for short hair. Second thoughts indeed! But we should go shorter at the neck than the magazine picture to emphasize its length and slimness.” Max stroked the side of Jackie’s neck to accentuate his comments, as if she didn’t know the attributes of her own neck. But still, Jackie couldn’t help thinking how long and slim it looked with her hair held out of the way. Max dropped the ponytail and it slid down Jackie’s neck and softly swung for a few moments.
“Well, it’s just my husband likes my hair long,” Jackie said flatly, regaining her purpose.
“They all say they do, but just wait until he sees you with this.” As he was talking, Max put down the magazine and picked up a comb. He put the comb on the crown and made a parting straight to just behind Jackie’s left ear.
“You know, one of my ladies,” Max continued, pulling the hair on the left side of the head into a small ponytail and starting to twist it. “She had hair down to her waist and had been having it trimmed twice a year for six years.” Max had finished the twisting and had secured the hair above the ear with a large metal clip. He started the same procedure on the other side of her head. “She hated all the work that hair took but she kept it because her husband liked it.” Max had finished pinning the second ponytail over her right ear and had put a parting down the middle of the remaining section of hair that ran from the crown of her head straight down her back, four inches past the shoulders. Holding the right half of the remaining section of hair in his hands, he made another parting, but this one parallel with her shoulder running from the centre parting to halfway up the ears. He started twisting this piece and left the lower piece to fall again, swinging slowly past Jackie’s shoulders.
“Go on,” Linda insisted as Max temporarily lost his train of thought.
“Yes. So one day she just said, ‘cut it.'” Max finished twisting the hair and fixed that section on top of her crown with another clip. He started on the last piece. “We cut over three feet of hair that day and do you know what her husband said?” Max finished fixing the last piece on top of Jackie’s head with another clip. “Well he loved it. Apparently it really put the spice back into their relationship and she told me it was some of the best sex that they had ever had.” Max put his hands on Jackie’s shoulders, so that they were both staring at each other in the mirror. Jackie broke the gaze and stared at her head. She looked like a mutant hedgehog with four big mounds of hair fixed around her head, and then a long swathe of hair falling down her neck from ear level. This wasn’t going to be so bad. She’d had her hair fixed like this when she’d been for a trim.
“But my husband, I think he’d be really upset.” Max turned away and walked to another station. Jackie stared back at herself in the mirror. Linda walked over to Jackie, but didn’t know what to say. Jackie stared back.
“Linda. You know if it were just me, I would. But I think Terry will really be upset.”
Max came back holding something that Jackie didn’t quite recognize. Then she sat bolt upright as she did recognize the article as something from her childhood. Hair clippers. Something that was reserved for her brother and his visit to the barbers when they were kids and the obligatory crewcut at the start of the summer holidays. Jackie’s eyes grew twice as wide as Max plugged the clippers in to the socket below the mirror and then swiftly attached a plastic guard. Jackie physically jumped in her chair as Max turned the clippers on and they buzzed into life.
“So are we going to do it?” Max shouted, barely audible above the roar of the clippers, dangerously close to Jackie’s head.
“Just do it!” Linda shouted with considerable enthusiasm.
Before Jackie could regain her composure, Max had put his left hand on the top of her head, pressed down hard forcing her chin into chest and then pushed the clippers in one sweep halfway up her head. Immediately Max flicked the switch off and let go of Jackie’s head. Jackie immediately got her head up right and tried to see what the damage was, turning her head from side to side. She was in a state of shock and couldn’t believe what had just happened, had just happened.
“Here, let me help,” Max declared and he took Jackie’s hand from under the cape and put it on the back of her head.
“Oh thank God,” Jackie declared. She had meant the declaration to be just to herself, but she had spoken it out loud out of relief. Her fingers found the familiar long locks and started to twiddle them out of habit.
“No, over a bit.” Max retook Jackie’s fingers and placed them in the two inch wide swathe of hair that had been reduced to 1/4″ stubble.
“Oh my God,” Jackie declared so loudly that everyone in the salon turned around. Max and Linda were beside themselves, broadly smiling and highly animated. Max put the clippers down, bent down to the floor and picked up the 10″ lock of hair that had succumbed to the will of the clippers. He held it high like a trophy, to the delight of Linda and the rest of the salon. There was a small round of applause from her fellow customers and the receptionist who now wished that she hadn’t been so deeply engrossed in her book.
“Look at it shine,” Linda declared. “You could make a silk shirt out of that.”
“Silk sheets, darling. Silk sheets,” Max offered and brushed the lock against Linda’s cheek so she could feel just how soft it was.
Jackie stared at herself blankly in the mirror. Shock and horror had given way to despair. A tear welled up in her eye and slowly it started the descent down her cheek.
“Oh look,” Linda said to Max, turning towards Jackie. Max handed the severed hair to Linda and picked up the clippers and flicked the switch.
“You’re going to love it when it’s done darling. Love it.” With that he roughly pushed her head down and started clippering the second swathe.
Terry had had a terrible day in the office. He wasn’t sure if everyone had been just trying his patience, or whether he was just out of sorts following his row with Jackie. The traffic was moving quickly and without a hold-up he could expect to be home in half an hour.
“By god, I’m not going to apologise,” he shouted out loud and then recovered his composure and returned to his thoughts. “She knows I find her hair sexy. Why would she want to cut it?”
“Because she’s trying to get your attention, you stupid sod.” Terry’s conscience had a way of stating itself. “Do you love her or what?” God how he loved her. Terry needed to apologise. He picked up the cell phone and called home.
She’d answered the phone, but there was silence.
“Look, things got out of hand. I’m really sorry. Please forgive me.”
“I can understand you being mad at me. I didn’t mean to lay the law down about your hair, it’s just well, it’s such a turn on for me.”
“You’re not making this any easier. Can’t we compromise? How about you cut a few inches of the length and when we’re both comfortable with it, you can cut some more. Then if we change our mind you haven’t got so much to grow back. And if you don’t change your mind, well I can get acclimatized.”
“Terry, we need to talk.”
“You’re right. God, you scared me. We can work this out.”
“How long before you get home?”
“About another 30 minutes.”
“Let’s talk then.”
“Love you,” Terry offered, but Jackie had already hung up.
Terry had inflated the remaining journey time so that he could stop off at a petrol station for flowers. He rarely bought flowers, only for emergency use and this was an emergency.
Terry parked the car and flew open the door with the largest bunch of flowers that the petrol station had pre-wrapped. Jackie was not in the living room. He rushed through to the Kitchen. Still no sight of Jackie. Perhaps she’d popped round to the neighbours.
“Jackie. Where are you?”
“Upstairs,” came the reply. Terry bounded up the stairs taking several steps in each stride. He pushed open the bedroom door and held out the flowers. He stopped dead in his tracks as he was greeted by Jackie’s two, exposed ears.
“Are they for me?” Jackie asked sweetly. Terry couldn’t reply. He stood dumbstruck.
“Well, do you like it?” Jackie asked with a weak smile on her face and doing a twirl as she had done many times when she was showing Terry a new dress.
Terry couldn’t believe what he was seeing. Where before there had been long auburn hair, cascading in one length past her shoulders, she now had closely cropped sides and neck. The longest hair was on top, which was perhaps four or so inches long, with a side parting swept back, leaving a soft, wispy fringe. At last Terry mustered some words.
“What the bloody hell have you done?”
Jackie’s weak smile quickly disappeared and Terry noticed that her eyes were already bright red.
“I know. I got carried away. I was angry and then I didn’t mean to get this done, everything just seemed to happen so quickly. Before I knew it the hair was on the floor and the was nothing I could do.”
“Nothing you could do? What you could have done was tried to work it out with me rather than just doing your own thing.”
“I know. Things just got carried away. It’s OK when you get used to it and if you don’t like it, well I can always grow it back.”
“Grow it back? For Christ sake, it’ll take you five years to grow it back. So this is what it has come to? Eight years of marriage and we have a disagreement and we resolve it by you doing what you want and me having to lump it? Is that it?”
“Well I tell you I’m not going to lump it. You do your thing, I’ll do mine.” Terry marched to his wardrobe and pulled out his sports bag. He started packing some clothes. Jackie started to panic.
“Terry. Stop. You said you loved me. You said we could work this out.”
“That’s before I knew you’d butchered you hair. My god woman. You look like a bloody marine. Your hair’s shorter than mine.”
“Terry I love you. Don’t leave.”
Terry stopped and stared at her. Jackie was weeping freely and all Terry could do was give her a sarcastic look which he hoped conveyed the message, you love me, oh sure!
“Terry. We can’t do this.”
“I’ll tell you what. Give me a call when your hair grows back.” With that Terry stormed down the stairs, out the front door and drove off with a squeal of the tires.
Terry had a lousy night. Fortunately he had not driven far before he remembered the motel just down the A12 from his house. He checked in and paid the horrendous “rack rate” that is reserved for victims that just turn up rather than ringing ahead. Still, Terry was in no mood to argue. His room was just a little bigger than the single bed in it which was very hard and left Terry with a bad back when he got up in the morning. Not that he’d slept much that night. Why had Jackie done this to him? He’d tried to remember Jackie with the long soft locks that he’d only touched the night before, but any time he thought of her, he just visualized the close cropped version that had greeted him that night.
No matter how hard he tried though, he still couldn’t believe that he had ended his marriage and left heartbroken his best friend and lover over a haircut. The longer he thought, the more he rationalized that relationships were built on trust and mutual respect for the other person’s opinion. And boy had she blown that one. And anyway, god was that hair sexy and how could he make love to that woman without her slowly swaying her hair over his body.
Terry parked his car at the office and made his way to the entrance where the rest of the employees were already filing past to start their day of drudgery. Then Terry saw Jackie waiting by the door. Terry’s fight or flight responses kicked in and they decided flight was the best strategy on a majority vote. Terry turned to head back to the parking lot where he could sit in his car until Jackie got bored and drove home.
“Terry!” Jackie called out and chased after him as he tried to walk away quickly without the indignity of running. Terry turned to face Jackie.
“I don’t want to do this here,” Terry declared.
“Well I’m not letting you out of my sight until we fix this.”
“Oh yes. Like you’d get past our security guards.”
“Do you want to see me try?”
Terry had to admit this wasn’t an option he wanted. A colleague, Clive Dunn had been going through a painful divorce and on a number of occasions Clive had got the call from the security gate that his ex was at the gate creating merry hell unless Clive made an appearance.
“Well, let’s go to the caf�.” They walked in silence across the road to the small parade of shops. The second shop was a caf� affectionately known locally as the greasy spoon due to their traditional fare of a full fried English breakfast, at any time of the day.
Terry got two coffees and found a corner table as far as he could from any of the other patrons.
“Terry. I screwed up and I’m sorry. I love you and you love me. That’s all that matters.”
“You upset me. You decided what you wanted to do, regardless of my feelings and you did it. What kind of relationship is that?”
“About the same as when you wanted to go to the FA Cup final with your brother and I’d arranged for us to visit my mother. You went to the final and I went to my mother’s.”
“That’s not the same. You got your way and I got mine. We were both happy. This time only you are happy.”
“Terry. You have to know I’m not happy. I cried after the first cut. I cried non-stop as soon as I got home and I haven’t stopped crying since you’ve left. Trust me. I am not happy. If I could put back the clock I would. But I can’t. I screwed up. I’d like to promise I won’t screw up again, but I probably will. One thing I can promise. I won’t have another haircut unless it’s OK with you. I love you. I want to spend the rest of my life with you.”
“But your lovely hair.”
“It still is lovely. Don’t you think I look kind of sexy?”
Terry looked at his wife. He still saw the woman he fell in love with all those years before.
“Well, I’d go so far as cute. But it used to be so soft.”
Jackie reached across and picked Terry’s hand and placed onto the back of her head. It was still soft. It felt more like velvet than silk, but it still felt good. He brushed his hand up Jackie’s hair the wrong way and as he got to the longer hair on top, the velvet feeling turned once more to silk.
“OK.” Terry dropped his voice to a whisper. “But what about when we make love. There’s no way you can drape that over my chest and waft it around.”
“Is that all?” Jackie exclaimed. “Look what I got.”
Jackie dug into her hand bag and pulled out a long, silky ponytail. Ten inches, long, two inches in diameter and very heavy. Terry leant across the table and with a small tear in the corner of an eye kissed Jackie passionately on the lips.