Tuesday, September 15, 2009

The Haircut

So this is the story I submitted tonight for a writing contest...mostly for fun and to get myself writing. Leave me some comments/advice/feedback!

Story Title: The Haircut

I lay in bed a little longer than usual this morning, practicing the breathing techniques that Dr. Bolin told me not to neglect anymore. My stress levels can get out of control faster than I can my sedan can get me to yoga class. But this morning I was more excited than stressed. I had been looking forward to this day all week. Getting my hair cut was my favorite way to pamper myself, something I rarely had time to do. I piled the kids in the car, dropped them off at their respective schools and headed off to “Glow,” my salon of choice.

What made this trip so special was that I was thinking about getting layers, something I rarely dared myself to do. I never did anything drastic to my wavy auburn hair because my husband loved it long. But my monotonous routine was tempting me to pull it all out, and the headline from the checkout aisle magazine had plastered itself in my head since I saw it two weeks ago. “Freshen up! Chop it, layer it, lighten it! The cheapest face lift around.” Oh that is exactly what I needed today, a breath of fresh air in my life of endless activities. Nothing too drastic but I could use some layers above my chin in the front. I thought about how I would precisely describe the look I wanted to Cindi.

As I pulled into the parking lot at Glow, I noticed that the license plate of my hairdresser “Chop 82” was no longer on the usual jeep. It was now being sported by a white 2009 BMW. “Are you serious? My 27-year-old hairdresser is driving my dream car? Unreal.” I silently vowed not to hold it against her. Maybe her husband was doing really well in his new construction business, or maybe she had a rich relative, or…I put on a smile as the door swung open and my adorable hairdresser, trendy locks and all, welcomed me into what was to be an hour of relaxation.


“Hello, Janie! How are you?” I said, trying to appear genuinely happy to see one of my favorite clients.

“Oh I’m hanging in there, as usual. It always smells so good in here! It’s good to see you, honey. How are you?”

I wish I knew. Deflect the question. “Oh, same.” I gave what was probably a very lame looking smile. I felt like I was in a daze as I led Janie and her long red braid through the Friday morning bustle at the city’s best salon (no bias here) to my chair in the back room. Despite my mental battle against the images, I couldn’t shake the frightening picture of my bald mother from my head. I did it to her. I shaved the last few sections of weak hair from her pale head. Stage three...recovery is possible...not likely...breast cancer. The words grabbed my throat and constricted it.

“Are you okay, honey?” Dang it. Janie could sense my distraction, my disconnect. This wasn’t like me, but yesterday was the worst I’ve seen her. She has lost most of her hair, like the doctor said she would. I’ve never seen her look so awful. Mom’s hair had always been a mass of gorgeous, chestnut waves. She loved the way I cut her layers.

“Oh, yeah. I’ll be fine.” Another forced smile. “Actually, things are just getting really busy at home for Keith and I’m just a little overwhelmed,” I kind of lied. Why is it so hard to open my heart to others?

“Overwhelmed? Are you kidding? That’s so natural! It’s okay. You can tell me about it.” She was so great at listening. Usually I was the one getting an earful from my clients, but today I didn’t feel much like talking.

“Thanks, Janie. That’s sweet of you.” I hesitated, “I really will be fine.” So same old trim today?”

“Well, …” her voice trailed on as I fumbled through my cabinet for my scissors and combs. I wasn’t exactly a morning person and had hardly beat Janie to the salon that morning. I thought I heard her say something about layers.

“Did you say layers, Janie? I’m sorry. I’m just not on top of things this morning.” I genuinely smiled as I pictured the framed image of mom from dad’s dresser-top. Her layers were framing her face so perfectly.


“Yes, lots above…uhh…” I gestured to my chin, and then went on to describe the magazine article that I had seen and asked her if she thought that would look fresh on me. She looked a little distant for a moment, but then her enthusiasm was overwhelming!

“Oh really, Janie? That is so wonderful! I think you would look gorgeous.” Her smile was contagious, and I relaxed a little bit. Cindi snapped the cape around my neck and walked me over to the sinks. As she shampooed and conditioned my hair, I felt the weight of it in the sink. I felt myself shedding tension as she massaged my scalp; I took a deep breath and closed my eyes. It was the best feeling I’ve had in awhile.

I think Cindi went through two towels to dry my long hair before she twisted it up on top of my head and led me back to her comfy styling station. She clicked through her ipod and selected a feel-good, girly mix before she swirled my chair around for me to face the flower mural on the opposite wall. Cindi, liked to cut, color, and style her clients’ hair without them facing her vanity. She felt that it gave her a creative license and I more than trusted her consistent skills. She started humming harmony aloud to a Colbie Callet song I didn’t know.


Snip. I started chopping away. Janie’s hair really needed this, and I was thrilled. The image of a young girl who had lost her hair from chemotherapy opening a pink box with a beautiful wavy red wig inside almost brought tears to my eyes. My mind darted back to my bald mom. Snip. Shoulder length would be all it took for Janie since her hair was already so far down her back. Snip snip. I carefully caught the pieces of the wet hair in my left hand and placed them on my small counter.

I thought Janie was enjoying the “Girls just want to have fun” mix by tapping her foot quickly, but I sensed some apprehension. I snipped the final clean cut before I was going to start the layering and styling, when she blurted out “um, Cindi, how much are you cutting? It just feels like quite a bit.”

“Well, the Locks of Love foundation requires 11 inches, Janie. You knew that right?”

“Oh my God.” Janie wiggled her hand out of the black drape and reached for her hair.

“Oh Gosh, Janie?” My face had turned bright red. What happened? Had she changed her mind and I hadn’t even heard her tell me? She looked over her shoulder into the mirror and saw her gorgeous hair laying dead on my vanity. The look on her face let me know that my mind’s vacation over the past 15 minutes had cost me more than I even realized.

Janie started running her fingers through her hair and sobbing. I just stood there, tears rolling down my bony cheeks. We were two emotional women, crying for so many different reasons.


A hundred emotions charged through my body. Anger, fear, happiness, confusion, relief, curiosity. I finally composed myself.

“Um, what happened Cindi?” I stared into the confused eyes of my broken hairdresser, and she just stared back at me while her tears fell harder.

“I thought you said you wanted to donate your hair to locks of love,” she said through her tears.

She was crying for some other reason than my haircut, I could tell from my twelve years of mothering experience. What had I said that would have made her think that I wanted to donate my beautiful red hair? I tried to remember the exact word choices I had chosen so carefully just minutes earlier. “Oh my God. I said that I wanted lots above my chin. Referring to some new layers.” Cindi cupped her face in her hands and cried again.

I forced myself, with all the courage a mother can muster in a situation of high stress and emotion, to calm down about my botched hair. I thought of my husband and what his reaction would be. In those few moments, I gulped a few well-practiced deep breaths.

“Honey, why don’t you tell me what is wrong?” At that point, she spilled everything. Her mother’s battle with breast cancer. Her aunt she had lost just weeks earlier to the deadly disease. She told me about the car accident, and the SUV that her aunt had given her in the will. I cried much harder than I should have that morning at Glow. And I cried again when she described the pain in shaving the last of her mother’s hair. I cried not only because of her painful situation and my gross inability to see past myself earlier, but because I, too, had lost a dear friend to cancer just months earlier.

And to top it all off, we cried a different kind of tears as Cindy told me about her project. Cindi’s eyes sparkled through her runny makeup as she explained her plan to donate enough hair from her clients to make 10 wigs for the Locks of Love foundation. My heart, which had grown much faster in those few moments than the Grinch’s on Christmas morning, would be big enough to compensate for my loss of hair that Spring morning.

I took a deep breath. “All right, little lady. Let’s do this thing right, then.”

“I think you look gorgeous. You look 10 years younger,” Cindi said timidly. “What do you think?”

“I love it.”

Needless to say, I walked out of “Glow” a new woman.


michelle mann said...

it was really touching.. i teared up a little at the end..

sonya said...

You are so amazing!! I am in awe of your talent, and so proud of the way do it. i am a brave person, yet I have never went after my dreams, and you are so young and not afraid... You are truly amazing! I love you!!!

Lindsey said...

Wow, Liv!! This is so good!!! :)

Joe and Amy said...

Great Job!! I want to read more!! So creative and so real! I really loved it! You are off to such a great start! Let us know how the contest goes!
ps- not sure if you've heard, there is gonna be a little flammer in March!