Sarah’s First Haircut By Jim B.
“Miss Sarah Jean Majories,” the Assistant Dean of Students announced. “Miss Majories is our ‘Excellence in Haircutting’ award winner this year. She also finished second in the State finals for haircutting. Miss Majories is a second generation student and graduate of the Benson School of Barber and Beauty. Her mother, Mrs. Doris May Winters Majories graduated in our 1976 summer class. Her father, Mr. Robert Carl Majories is a barber and hairstylist, with his lovely wife, and a past member of the U.S. Hairstyling Team for 1992. Mr. and Mrs. Majories own and operate “Swinging Hair Fashions.”
It was a proud moment for Sarah, as well as her parents. She was seventeen and graduating after only eight months of school. It was in her blood, everyone said when they were told she was following in her parents’ footsteps. She grew up in their salon, even working there during the summer and on weekends during her school years.
As she passed her parents, her father stepped out and gave her a hug and kiss as her mother snapped a photograph of them. He whispered in her ear, “Love of my heart.” He always whispered this when she did what she wanted, and this was something she had wanted since she was nine years old.
Quickly her mother and father changed places. He took a quick picture, then she went off to the stage to receive her diploma and awards.
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When she returned to her seat she wandered off back to the day she knew for sure she wanted to be a hairstylist.
Though she had said so when she was nine, it wasn’t until that summer Saturday morning she knew for sure. She was fourteen at the time. She was in her parents’ shop cleaning up, getting the shop ready, as she had for years. She was tall for her age, looking more nineteen or twenty than fourteen.
She had just finished sweeping and mopping the floor, when the door opened. In walked a woman, in her thirties. Shoulder-length bleached blond hair, badly done at that. She was dressed in a summer’s sleeveless dress and had four-inch high heels that matched the dress very well. Her make-up was top notch and showed her facial features great, especially her deep brown eyes.
“Good,” she said as she walked to Sarah’s mother’s barber chair, “you’re open.” She sat in the chair as Sarah tried to get a word in, but no chance. “I screwed up this dye job I got yesterday,” she said as she pulled at her hair. “My regular stylist went on vacation yesterday, after she finished me. I don’t trust anyone at that salon but her. Kase, that’s my stylist, told me if she was never available and need a trim to come see you or your husband.”
“But…” Sarah tried to say. But the woman just continued.
“Get rid of this mess,” she barked. “I don’t care what you do. Or how you do it. Just get rid of it and quick.”
“But, lady,” Sarah tried, “I am….”
“Please,” she interrupted, “I don’t want to hear any stories. Just do something. Fix this mess. I’ll pay you a hundred bucks for whatever you recommend.”
Sarah tried again, but the woman just repeated, “A hundred and fifty… I don’t care.”
She looked at the clock, it was 8:30am. Her parents wouldn’t be in until 10am. She had always thought of trying her hand a giving a haircut. She spent many hours watching her parents do haircuts. It looked very simple. She even practiced cutting hair in her mind while she slept at night. She dreamed of giving each of her girlfriends haircuts. Now, for this strange stroke of luck, she had her chance.
Sarah took hold of the cape, hanging behind the chair, and tossed it across the woman. Pulled it up and around her neck. As she pumped the handle, to raise the chair, she asked the lady, “What would you like for me to do?”
“Get rid of this mess,” she barked again. “I don’t give a damn what you do… shave it off. Just get rid of it.”
Sarah inspected her hair. There wasn’t that much damage. It looked like someone, with her being top of the list, shampooed it before the dye took. Or maybe something was spilled on her hair. It felt very fine, the color was good… just the right shade for her skin color. Sarah combed through the hair, there was no knotting… no hairs were pulling out as she combed through it.
She wanted to ask again, but she knew the woman would just get mad again.
“Well, I think something short will do fine,” Sarah said. “But how short do you want to go?”
First the woman looked at herself in the large mirror. She turned her head side to side, as she moved her fingers back through her hair. It looked as if she was starting to rethink what she wanted when she came bursting through the door. Sarah combed her hair back over her ears and behind her head.
“Well,” the woman said wondering, “it’s not in that bad of mess.”
Sarah started to undo the cape. But, the woman put her hands back under the cape, telling Sarah, “Short… something short. I think it is still a mess. So, cut it as short as you think will make it look better than it is.”
“Short… well how short is like how long,” Sarah to her. “There are different lengths of short. Short bob, short wedge, short bowl… even short like a boy’s haircut. I think you should give me some idea. And I really don’t think you want your head shaved!”
The woman began to laugh a little. “Shaving my head would be really short. But, I don’t think my boss at work would like that. But it would be nice with this hot weather we’ve been having.”
“So,” Sarah said, “shall we say short for the weather?”
The woman looked at herself again in the mirror. “Yes,” she replied. “It has been very warm and my hair has been sticking to my head a lot. Something short so it won’t stick. Something off the ears… easy to take care of. You know, wash and go.”
Sarah smiled and looked at the clock. It was almost 9am. She reached for the scissors, working it with the skill she had practiced in her dreams and so much to learn.
“How…,” Sarah said, only to be interrupted by the woman.
“Please, just cut and surprise me,” she told Sarah. “My hair is in your hands.”
She reached for the spray bottle and sprayed the woman’s hair, combing through it as she did this. She combed her hair back off her face. “Crewcut,” Sarah thought to herself. “Yes, a crewcut would look good on her,” she commented to herself.
She grabbed the clippers hanging under the shelf, quickly she oiled it and turned it on so the oil could work the teeth. She turned it off, as she looked in the mirror at the woman sitting in the chair. She did not move, she didn’t try to turn around to see what she was doing. Sarah attached the half-inch attachment.
“Are you sure you want me to decide how short your hair cut will be?” Sarah asked to be sure. “I mean, you are giving me a lot of leeway. You don’t know what I may have in mind. Hell, I may just do what you don’t want… and shave your head.”
The woman looked at her standing there with the clippers in her hand. “I trust you,” she said. “Besides I don’t believe you would shave my head even if I told you from the time I walked in!”
She turned her head forward. Sarah flipped the switch on and the clippers came to life. She combed a section of hair back off her face and slid the singing clippers into it. Slowly, and nervously, she moved the clippers up the woman’s head. Slowly her bleached blond shoulder-length hair began to fall into her lap. As she moved the clippers up it left behind half an inch of hair sticking out.
She pushed her ear down and pushed the clippers back into her hair, sending a large section down the back of her shoulders. She pushed the ear forward and slid the clippers up behind it. Slowly she worked around the back then to the left side. With the back and sides clippered Sarah combed her hair forward from the back. She slid the comb in a section at the back, raising it up just high enough to place the clippers under the comb.
She held her breath and the clippers a few seconds to see if the woman would say anything. Sarah looked in the large mirror and saw the woman close her eyes. Sarah took a deep breath, hoping the woman knew what she was about to do.
Slowly she pushed the clippers forward pushing a pile of hair, falling off her head past her closed eyes and into her lap. Sarah brought the clippers back. She combed up another section of hair, sliding the clippers under the comb and again slowly pushed the clippers forward. Another pile of hair fell into her lap.
As Sarah walked around the back of the chair, to the right side, the woman opened her eyes. Her left hand came from under the cape, as she brushed it over the left side of her head. Then, over the clippered top. As Sarah combed another section of hair, the woman closed her eyes again.
Slowly Sarah pushed the clippers forward, another pile of hair fell into her lap. One more pass and she would have the woman’s head clipped to a half inch all over. She quickly pushed the clippers through the last section of hair.
Sarah turned the clippers off and walked to the shelf. She looked in the mirror to see the woman shaking the cape sending all her clipped hair onto the floor and the footrest of the chair. She then brushed her fingers through her clippered hair, back then upward. She shook her head as she shook her fingers through her hair.
Sarah changed the attachment to a smaller one. As she turned back to the chair she turned the clippers on, again. The woman slid her hand back under the cape.
She stood behind the chair bringing the clippers over her head, placing it in the middle of her forehead. She looked in the mirror again, the woman closed her eyes. Slowly, then quickly, Sarah moved the clippers back over the woman’s head. Pushing backwards a pile of shorter hair, which fell to the floor behind the chair. Behind it left the woman’s hair a quarter of an inch long.
Sarah looked in the mirror at the woman, her eyes still closed. Quickly she returned the humming clippers to her forehead. Slowly Sarah moved the clippers backwards over the woman’s head sending another pile of hair to the floor behind the chair. This was followed by another pass, then three more on the left side of the center pass. The top of the woman’s head was a quarter of an inch, the back and sides were a half inch.
Sarah walked to the right side of the chair, noticing the woman opening her eyes. Sarah froze, staring at the woman. Their eyes met… Then, the woman closed her eyes again.
Quickly Sarah began clipping the right side of the woman’s head. When she reached the back she placed her left hand on top of the woman’s head and pushed it down. Slowly she moved the clippers upward reducing the back to a quarter of an inch. Slowly Sarah moved to the left side and reduced the half inch to a quarter of an inch. Now the woman’s hair was the same length all over.
Sarah turned and walked to the shelf. She looked up into the mirror to see the woman brushing her fingers over her head. Her head moved back as it moved side to side. Sarah removed the attachment and started to hang the clippers on the hook, under the shelf.
“Are you finished?” the woman asked.
Sarah thought for a minute.
Nervously Sarah slowly said, “No. The back and sides… I was thinking of… maybe going a little shorter. You know, one of those military type crew cuts.”
Sarah stood nervously waiting for the woman to say something. The woman turned her head side to side looking at herself in the large mirror. She pushed her fingertips back over the sides, pushing what hair length there was down. Then, as if she was signaling yes, the woman placed her hands back under the cape.
Sarah brushed the clippers’ head and applied a few drops of oil. She turned the clippers on and let it run for a few seconds. Her heart was beating faster than it had ever. Her hands were shaking, slowly her body began to shake. She grabbed the shelf with her free hand to steady herself. She took a deep breath and turned around to face the chair and the woman sitting in it.
One step forward and she was standing behind the chair. Taking a deep breath… Sarah placed her left hand on top of the woman’s head and pushed it downward. Then, she turned on the clippers.
Slowly she raised the humming clippers up to the hairline… Slowly she pushed it upward reducing the quarter of an inch to a mere eighth of an inch. As she pulled the clippers away, she took a deep breath. Her right hand was not shaking any more. It was as steady as before the woman walked into the shop.
Bravely Sarah continued moving the clippers up the back of the woman’s head. Half an inch of hair became a eighth of an inch of hair. Soon the back of the woman’s head was almost nothing, just a fine fuzz.
There was nothing the woman could do… even if she wanted to. Feeling brave, she thought, Sarah begin buzzing upward behind the woman’s left ear. Two passes… Then, two more behind the right ear.
Sarah was sure if the woman knew how short she had buzzed the back she would start jumping and screaming. But, what could she do? Sarah thought to herself as she stepped to the right side of the chair. After all she said she left her hair in my hands. I tried to tell her… but she didn’t listen.
Sarah placed her left hand on top of the woman’s head and tilted it to the left. “My, that feels nice,” she thought to herself. She started to look at the woman in the mirror… but didn’t.
Instead she placed the humming clippers in front of her ear and a little below the hairline. “This is it,” Sarah said to herself. “If she is going to start anything… it’s going to be now.” Bravely she moved the clippers slowly upward. Reaching the arc of the head she pulled it away. Her eyes looked into the mirror.
The woman’s eyes were still closed.
Bending her right ear down Sarah buzzed upward, sending the last of the half inch to an eighth of an inch.
With the clippers still humming she walked around behind the chair.
The woman’s right hand moved from under the cape, Sarah froze, then her fingertips brushed over the right side of her head. Sarah’s eyes looked nervously into the mirror. The woman smiled as she took a deep breath, causing her body to rise.
Sarah stood still for a few seconds. Then, she walked to the left side of the chair. She placed her left hand on top of the woman’s head and tilted it to the right, as the woman placed her right hand back under the cape. Slowly she began buzzing the left side of the woman’s head, half an inch to an eighth of an inch. Three quick passes and she was finished. She turned off the clippers… this time she hung it on the hook under the shelf.
She picked up the soft hairbrush… brushed it over the palm of her left hand, like her dad showed her. This made the brush come to life. She turned and walked to the right side of the chair.
The woman opened her eyes as Sarah began brushing her hair, sending clippings in the air like a halo around her head. Sarah brushed backwards then upwards on the sides. She slowly walked around the chair as she brushed upward behind the woman’s nape and neck. She repeated this on the left side until she was sure there was no little clippings left.
Sarah stood at the shelf after placing the hairbrush back in the case. Her eyes turned to the dispenser. She had seen her parents do it many times, but she never thought of it in her dreams.
She remembered what her mother said, “Always a nice trim shave along the hairline… No matter whether it be a man or woman.” If her mother did any clipping, any… even a little on the nape of a woman, she would undo the cape and let it fall into the lap. Then, she would tuck the white towel in the collar and apply lather over the clipped section. Then, she would take her straight razor and shave the area.
No one objected, not even the elderly women who always got their hair cut short in the back.
Dad on the other hand didn’t think it was necessary to do that to a woman… That is unless she just got a boy’s haircut. Then, they were treated just like the boys and men… lather all along the hairline and shaved just a little edge. “To make the cut stand out,” he would say.
But, she had never played with the straight razor, like she did with the clippers and scissors.
She took another deep breath… and stepped toward the towel cabinet. She removed a towel, turned around and undid the cape, letting it slide down until it rested across the woman at the arms of the chair. She tucked the towel into her collar and spread it out over her shoulders. Then, she stepped to the dispenser and pressed on the switch. A winding sound filled the shop… the woman looked toward the sound, in the large mirror. The lather filled Sarah’s left hand quickly.
With a pile of warm lather Sarah walked to the left side of the chair and began applying a small amount along the hairline. A dab across the sideburn, then up and over the ear. Down and across the bottom of the nape. Upward and over the right ear, finally across the right sideburn.
After rinsing and wiping her hands, she opened the glass cabinet where her mother kept her straight razors. As she turned and walked to the right side of the chair, her mind ran pictures of her mother and father stropping the blade over the leather strap. She took hold of it, opened the razor, then began stropping up and down… up and down. Just a few times to bring the blade to an edge.
She raised the blade to the right sideburn and placed it just a little above the hairline, then a short quick movement. The lather was gone, behind was a small white line where the hair had been. Slowly she began working the edge of the blade upward along the hairline, just removing a small edge, then over and down behind the right ear. Standing behind the chair she made the edging a little higher up the nape, just a half an inch, shaving across to the left side. Slowly she edged up and over the left ear. Then, downward and finally across the bottom of the left sideburn.
With her left hand filled with lather and eighth of an inch hair, she walked to the sink and washed her hand… placing the straight razor back into the glass cabinet.
Taking a smaller towel she wet it under the hot water. She wiped it along the woman’s hairline, wiping away what lather was left behind. She patted dry the same area with the towel she tucked into the woman’s blouse. She slowly removed it and tossed both towels to the floor under the shelf.
Taking the long hair duster she shook some powder onto it. She dusted the back and sides of the woman’s head, then across the top of her head. She stepped to the right side of the chair and pushed the handle forward, lowering the chair. When it came to a stop she dusted across the woman’s face, then taking hold of the cape she pulled it off.
Slowly she pushed the chair so it turned to face the mirror behind it. The woman brushed her fingers over her new haircut. Sarah grabbed the large hand mirror and walked behind the chair. She raised it and moved it from side to side so the woman could see the back, as she moved her fingertips over it.
Sarah looked at the woman… looking for questions. The woman said nothing, she just smiled as she brushed her finger over her haircut.
“Well,” Sarah asked. “I hope I didn’t cut it too short for you?”
The woman turned to face Sarah. “Yes, it is shorter than I would have asked for… but I did tell you do cut it as short as you thought was best. And, you did fix that mess I had when I walked in.”
Sarah turned the chair around and when she stopped it the woman stepped out of the chair. She walked to the waiting chair where she had placed her purse. Turning back to Sarah she pulled out her money. She reached her right hand out to Sarah. “One hundred and fifty… just as I said.”
Sarah started to say no but the woman pushed the money in her hand.
“When I say something… I mean it,” the woman said as she turned to walk out the shop.
Sarah stood looking at the handful of money she had in her hands. What was she going to tell her parents if they found out? She looked up at the woman as she opened the door.
The woman turned her head toward Sarah, “Tell your mother Alice said ‘hi’.” With that she walked out the shop.
Sarah never saw the woman again, nor did she tell her parents. They said nothing to her, so she felt the woman, whoever she was, never spoke to, nor saw, her parents.
The cheering of everyone brought her back to graduation. Everyone was standing up hugging and kissing each other. Slowly they began to break up to find their family. Sarah found her parents.
They were talking to someone. She could not see who it was because her parents were facing the person, or persons. Maybe it was one of her instructors.
As she reached them her father turned towards her and held out his arms. “My girl,” he said as she stepped into her arms. He hugged her and gave her a kiss on the forehead.
“Sarah,” she heard her mother say. “I wanted you to meet Alice. We went to school together. She went into accounting and I went into hair and your father.”
Sarah’s heart almost stopped. Her body being to warm with fear.
It was the same woman who walked into the shop that Saturday morning. The woman who let her cut her hair like she wanted to… “just fix this mess,” is all Sarah could hear in her mind.
Alice reached out her hand. “I see you finished at the top of your class. That is great.”
Sarah stood silent as they talked. Her heart jumped every time Alice asked her something.
After an hour things started thin out. People were leaving, giving each other another hug and kiss, wishing the best to each other. Some would see each other again, some would be working in the same salon. But for Sarah she was not sure. Her parents had offered to buy another chair if she wanted to come work with them. Then, there were the offers from two of the top salons in the city. She would take a week or so to think things over, then make a decision.
“Sarah,” her mother called to her, as she waved her over to them. Sarah gave her best friend, and study pal, Amanda, one last hug and kiss. “You let me know what you dicide,” Amanda told her as she walked away with her husband and child. Sarah nodded her head, and said, “Got you.”
She walked over to her parents, and Alice who was still with them.
“Sarah,” her mother said. “Alice has something to ask you.”
Her heart dropped into her stomach. She felt herself turn pale.
“Sarah,” Alice started saying as she handed her something, “I would like you to let me know what you decide to do about where you will work. A little over four years ago I had my hair cut really short… I am told it was a military crew cut… and your mother tells me you do a mean one. As you can see I have let my hair grow out, but would like to go back to that military crew cut.
“And I would like to be a regular customer of yours.”
Sarah took her card. On the back was a short message.
“Glad to see you have followed in your parents’ footsteps. I know you will be a great barber and that I will not be let down on how you cut my hair. After all it is because of you that I like the military crew cut. Alice.”
Sarah smiled and said she would let her know.
They said their goodbyes and left.
Sarah started her career with her parents. And the first day she started her first customer was Alice. And, true to her words Alice asked for a military crew cut. She returns to get her hair cut every three weeks and is never let down on the outcome.