Who’d Have Children? by Permer
I realised that Linda was different from most of the women I had come across in my working life very soon after I met her for the first time. She was married with two children in their late teens. Her physical appearance was not striking: late 30s, 5ft 4ins tall, medium build, slim, pleasant but not ‘stunning’ features and straight dark brown hair which came down to her mid back. She was committed to and passionate about her job to the point where some might say she was obsessive, working any extra hours that were needed, taking ownership of problems and frequently finding herself at loggerheads with colleagues in an attempt to find solutions. The only people safe from her fiery temper were ‘her’ customers, for whom nothing was too much trouble, even if the problems they confronted her with were of their own making.
Being her manager I was frequently one of her targets, and although I didn’t totally approve of her methods and manners, I found that I was relaxed enough about her intentions to turn a blind eye to most of her outbursts.
I had always considered my marriage to be ok, and had always kept business relationships separate from my private life, so my reaction to hearing Linda make personally critical comments about me to one of her work mates came as a complete shock. I had been in this job for six weeks and for the first time in my career I felt hurt by criticism from a member of my staff. I was confused by this reaction, but it didn’t take me long to realise that I was starting to have personal feelings for her. My initial reaction was one of anger, as I considered myself to be a professional person who should not have allowed himself to have fallen into this situation. My only recourse was to speak with Linda and explain the position and ask for her help and cooperation in keeping our relationship on a professional business footing.
I patiently waited for an opportunity and confessed what I was feeling; her reaction was completely unexpected. She too had developed personal feelings towards me and was equally confused. We agreed that we would try to put any personal feeling to one side and continue to work together in a professional manner. As with many good intentions, ours didn’t last long, and very soon we regularly were seeing each other outside work.
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Our relationship developed and became very passionate; our meetings took place at strange times and in some unusual places. We did our best to be careful not to be caught out and thought we were being successful, until one fateful weekend.
Linda said she had always worn her hair long and straight, and this mid-back length was the shortest it had been. It was one length with a parting off centre. Grey streaks had started to appear and so she was using a semi-permanent colour to hide them. Two of the other women at work, both about the same age as Linda and both of who had also worn their hair long and straight, had recently had their hair restyled. They had both had their hair layered and permed into very curly styles, which despite the curls still fell below their shoulders. Both Linda and I thought this style looked extremely sexy and decided that she should take the plunge and have hers done the same. The only problem was money. Bringing up two adolescent children was not financially easy, and money was a bit tight. Although it would have been easy for me to pay for her to have it done, it might have aroused her husband’s concern about how they could afford it, and so we would have to wait for the right opportunity. In the meantime at home, Linda started to point out celebrities or people on television with the same curly style and say how much she liked it, and ask the family if they thought it would suit her.
This approach was proving fruitless until one Saturday morning when Debbie, her seventeen-year-old daughter, offered to cut and perm her hair at home. Debbie had trimmed Linda’s hair before but as far as Linda was concerned that was the limit of her experience, and she was not at all confident in letting Debbie loose on her hair. Debbie left the house in a huff and said she was going to her friend Jenny’s house instead. Around two in the afternoon Linda heard the front door open and heard a call from Debbie to say she was home and had brought Jenny with her. The two girls went straight to the kitchen to make coffee, and when Linda finally joined them she was surprised to see Jenny’s previously straight hair, cut and permed in the exact style she herself wanted. Jenny said that she had been considering a change for a while, and that when Debbie had arrived that morning with the perming kit she had bought to do Linda’s hair, the two girls had decided to do it, and this was the result.
Linda was impressed with the results of Jenny’s restyle and the work that ‘Debbie’ had done. After looking at Jenny’s hair, and once again examining her own hair in the mirror, she declared that she would let Debbie restyle her hair like Jenny’s if she was still willing to do it. Debbie did not need a second chance and immediately produced a home perming kit, which she said she had bought on the way back home knowing that once Linda had seen Jenny’s hair that she would want her own done.
At this point it is better if Linda tells the story first hand.
Jenny said she would stay and help, and we decided that the kitchen would be the easiest place to work. Debbie shampooed my hair over the sink, and when she had rinsed it thoroughly she wrapped a towel around my head and sat me on a chair that we had placed next to the table. On the table Jenny had been arranging all the items that Debbie would need; scissors, comb, a bag with very small perming curlers, end papers, a dish with the perming solution and a sponge, neutralising solution, conditioner and a hair dryer. Debbie placed a second towel around my shoulders and then gently towelled my wet hair. She combed through my long hair gently removing any tangles, and finally she said she was ready to start.
My heart was pounding partly with the fear of letting my daughter loose on my hair and partly in anticipation of my new style. Debbie combed and lifted the first lock of hair and I heard the snip of the scissors, there was no way out now. She continued to lift and cut hair all over the top of my head, and it seemed to me that she was cutting my hair much shorter than Jenny’s. Debbie and Jenny assured me that it was ok, and Debbie told me not to be paranoid, but I realised afterwards that she was being very careful not to let any of the cut hair fall into my lap where I could see the length she was chopping off. As she moved to the right side I still felt that she was cutting my hair too short, but she pulled a piece that had been cut to length forward so I could see that it was still quite long. Feeling slightly reassured I let her continue. She repeated her actions on the left side, which only left the back to cut. I still had an uneasy feeling that she was cutting my hair too short, but because of the reassurance from the two girls I put it down to the fact that I had no mirror to watch in and therefore could not judge. In order to prove to me that the final length was not short, Debbie pulled down a piece of hair from the bottom of the back and pressed it against my back below my shoulder blades. The cutting was finished and Jenny very quickly cleaned up the cut hair and put it in the waste bin.
Debbie was now ready to start perming my hair. She took the first curler, which seemed very small, and after combing through and applying perming solution to a section of hair, wound the hair around it. Now I knew my hair was short. Despite everything the girls had said, and despite my convincing myself otherwise, I could tell by how quickly each section of hair was wound onto those very small curlers that my hair was no longer long, and I could only wonder what it would finally look like. I felt trapped by these two teenage girls; totally powerless to stop them doing whatever it was that they were doing. I sat in silence as Debbie continued to put more and more of these tiny curlers into my hair. When the last one was wound in she applied more perming solution over the curlers, and at last she was finished. I didn’t know what to say, I was in shock at the thought of what my hair would look like. Jenny made coffee and while the two girls sat and chatted, I sat drinking my coffee in silence wanting the whole process to be over.
Debbie waited thirty-five minutes before checking to see if the solution was working, and then satisfied, rinsed the perming solution from my hair before applying the neutraliser. She eventually removed the curlers and applied more neutraliser. Both she and Jenny commented on how well the perm seemed to have taken. Debbie finally washed my hair to get rid of all the perming chemicals. She said she would apply a deep conditioner and leave it for a further forty minutes. She applied something that I assumed was conditioner, although I did wonder why she was applying it with a brush, and left it as she said for forty minutes. Once again she rinsed my hair over the sink and finally sat me in the chair to finish my restyle. She towelled my hair to remove most of the water and then tuned on the hairdryer. Using her finger to move the hair around she dried my now short hair. When she was happy that it was dry she produced a long-toothed Afro pick that had been kept out of sight, and combed through the curls. Even though I knew the hair was short I could feel her combing longer hair at the back and I could feel longer pieces against my cheek. After a while both girls stood back and looked at each other with triumphant grins on their faces. I started to put my hands up to feel my head but Debbie grabbed my arms and said that if I wanted to know what it was like I should go and look at myself in the hall mirror.
I slowly walked to the hall, part of me desperate to see what havoc my daughter and her friend had wreaked on my hair, another part of me not wanting to see at all. As I slowly moved in front of the mirror I was shocked to see a stranger looking back at me. She had jet-black hair that was cut short and styled in very tight curls that hugged the shape of her head, at each side was one long strand of curly hair that had been left. As the stranger turned her head I could see that a number of long fine curly strands had also been left at the back of her head. I stood in total shock and silence for what seemed like hours, but was probably only minutes, before the realisation came home that the stranger was me. My hair had been cut short and what was supposed to have been conditioner was obviously black hair dye. Tears welled up in my eyes and I could see Debbie in the mirror, looking scornfully behind me. I turned and only one word came out ‘why’. She had found out about David and I having an affair, and had been waiting for weeks for an opportunity to get her revenge, and this was it. Jenny who had been part of the deception pulled off a long curly brown wig to reveal her untouched, unaltered, long straight brown hair.
What could I do? My mind raced; I couldn’t go out looking like this. Debbie knew how I would react, and that I would be desperate. Suddenly her manner changed, and she appeared to be genuinely concerned about the state I was in, and sorry for what she had done. She suggested trying to contact Wendy, an ex-workmate of mine who had decided last year to make a new start and go to hairdressing college, to see if she could help. While I went to sit down Debbie made the phone call. She had explained to Wendy what had happened and Wendy had said that she could help with both the curls and the colour, and would be round in half an hour. While I waited I couldn’t help but feel the strange tight springy curls and keep looking in the mirror.
Wendy finally arrived and was very kind and did not make any unkind comments, she only said that she could ‘get rid’ of the curls and colour, and that she needed to do it quickly as she was going out later. Once again we went to the kitchen where Wendy wet my hair over the sink. She sat me in the chair again combed through what was left of my hair before applying a pasty substance, which she left on for about thirty-five minutes. She washed the substance out of my hair and sat me down again. She applied a second strongly smelling substance and left it on for a while before washing this off as well. Wendy then roughly dried my hair and said she was almost finished. I was more relaxed now and Wendy suggested sitting back and closing my eyes. It sounded like a good idea and for the first time in several hours I was starting to feel calmer. She combed through my hair once more and then placed something on my forehead, before I had a chance to react there was a loud humming sound and hair was starting to fall past my now wide-open eyes; curly white blonde hair was landing in my lap. Wendy held my head firmly and continued to move what I realised were electric clippers across my head. It was pointless struggling and so I just sat and waited for the outcome. When she had finished Wendy offered me a mirror from her holdall, now the woman with the jet black short tight curls had been replaced by a woman with a bleached blonde crop no more than one eighth of an inch long. Wendy was part of the plot, and in one afternoon I had gone from having long brown hair halfway down my back to being nearly bald with an ultra short bleached blonde crop.
I got a phone call from Linda at about six thirty Saturday evening; she was very upset and appeared to be confused. She was trying to tell me something about her hair and us and Debbie, and that she had to leave before her husband got home from his football trip. She calmed down enough for me to arrange to meet her.
At eight o’clock I waited on the station platform to meet her train. As people started to get off the train I looked for Linda, then I saw her with the hood of her coat pulled tightly over her head. She ran into my arms and burst into tears. I took her to a cottage that I rented, where we used to meet, and then and only then did she remove her hood. I was totally taken aback by the sight that confronted me. I was speechless and just stared at her. This started Linda crying again. I reached out and pulled her towards me and held her; I couldn’t help but run my hand over the soft short blonde hair; this was exciting and I told her so. She calmed down enough to tell me what had happened that afternoon. I told her that as soon as we could we would go and buy her a wig, but explained to her that I would love her regardless of her hair, and that in fact I found the whole episode to be a bit of a turn-on.
Needless to say that day was only the start of our life together, and during the following years we had many hair adventures.