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Hair Buddy by haircoward
When I was 16 or so, my hair was finally under my control. And so, the first thing I did was grow it out. When it finally reached ponytail length again, something happened that I didn’t quite expect: I kept fantasizing about cutting it off. All of it. Or, having it cut off, I guess. I’ve never really been into self-cuts.
While I daydreamed and fantasized about it almost constantly, I knew I would immediately regret it… and I was way too scared to actually go through with it. I couldn’t imagine even asking for a short cut and was horrified by the thought of the attention it might get… from the stylist, from my family, from friends. Would they tease me? What would the stylist think? How could I even make the words "cut it off" come out of my mouth?
I wished I could find myself in a position where I wouldn’t have the choice. Just like my first long-to-short cut where my mother cut my ponytail off. Something out of the blue, spontaneous, immediate, and completely out of my control. This wasn’t a likely outcome, as after several (kind of embarrassing) arguments with my mother, she finally gave me total control of my hair and its length. If it was to be cut short (or cut at all), I would have to ask for it.
So, to make things interesting, I made this long-shot deal with myself. I would pick a girl in my class who had a similar hair length as mine, and I would secretly make them my "hair buddy". I would copy her hair length anytime she changed her style. The girl I chose had just recently cut her hair from mid-back length to just under shoulder length (which was my current length as well). I figured I wouldn’t have to worry much about her going any shorter, but it would still be fun to "play the game" and put my hair in some sort of "peril".
You might already have a pretty good idea where this story is headed.
For the first few months of the school year, she grew it out (just as I expected she would)… and so, I did too. It was definitely the longest I’d ever worn it, falling to between my shoulder blades. After Christmas break, she’d gotten a decent trim… a couple of inches. And so, that day after school, I did too. And while it was "just a trim", I still found it incredibly exciting. I was still "giving in" to the game, but didn’t lose too much of my length. It became kind of mundane but still fun. I’d all but forgotten what the actual "stakes" were. All I did know was it was always exciting to see her every Monday morning to find out if she’d changed her hair over the weekend.
Then, one day in the Spring, she came to class with her hair in a ponytail. The ponytail itself was separated into dozens of tiny braids. It looked very cute. I had never seen anything quite like it and couldn’t take my eyes off of her. Perhaps I realized that, since we had the same hair length, I could probably wear that same style. There’s no way I could possibly ask anyone to give me a ponytail-full-of-braids, but it was becoming more and more clear that that femme-styles were a huge part of my hair "interests".
That same day… with the braids… I overheard her telling a friend that she was getting her haircut over the weekend and was considering going VERY short. Making a scissor motion with her fingers at the back of her head, she even joked that she’d have them cut the ponytail-of-braids off.
My stomach dropped. I was part terrified… and part excited. I realized I might just be about to fall into this weird "trap" I set for myself.
It was literally all I could think about that entire weekend. I even remember trying to put my ponytail into tiny braids… but, my clumsy fingers couldn’t possibly figure out how.
Then, Monday came…
I was in the hallway by the lockers when all of a sudden I spotted my "hair buddy". She now had an angled bob (almost a bowl cut) that went just to the bottom of her ears. I immediately felt dizzy, realizing that if I was going to make good on this "hair buddy" bet I’d made with myself, It was now time for me to actually go through with it. Or, I suppose I could chicken out. After all, I was the only one who knew about this.
I was so distracted the entire day, almost like I was on autopilot. This was around 20 years ago, and I can still remember exactly how I felt. It really felt like I was in a dream.
After school that afternoon, I took a different bus. Instead of going home, I got off at a strip mall where I knew there was a small salon. Even during my youth, I'd taken to "researching" the local salons. This one was more "mature", catering mostly to older ladies. I didn’t want to risk seeing anybody from school, and figured this would be a "safe" place if I were to actually go through with it. I must have paced outside the shop for a half hour, arguing with myself about whether or not I should actually go through with it. Touching, tugging, and twisting at my ponytail… I was so conflicted. Part of me wanted to run home… the other part wanted to run and dive into the stylist's chair. I’m sure I must have looked insane.
After a lot of internal debate, I mustered up the courage to finally head toward the door. I’d been waiting for THIS day... this very moment... for almost a year at this point. Probably longer, even though I didn’t realize it. If I chickened out, it would make the entire hair-buddy "game" pointless. I still remember reaching for the door handle. Stopping myself from actually going in, but... by this point the stylist had already seen me. I had no choice but to enter.
And so, in I went.
The place was empty, which was a good and bad thing. Good, because I wouldn’t have an audience (even though, as I'd later learn, there is definitely some added excitement when there is one)… bad, because I was immediately seated and caped. I guess I was hoping for a few more minutes to sit there and argue with myself. To perhaps come to a "compromise" with myself, where I could both submit to a cut... and still somehow leave the salon with my ponytail intact.
The stylist was a woman in her 40s… and, naturally, the first thing she did was tell me how beautiful my hair was. The look on her face when she started to realize what I wanted her to do with it… well, it’s one I still think about from time to time.
I recall sitting there... trapped under a dark cape, kind of babbling on a bit about how I wanted it cut… I wasn’t making much sense, I’m sure. I held my ponytail out, kind of pointed to the top of my ear. I was an absolute panicking mess. She eventually got the point of my request, and when she did, she was pretty shocked. I still remember how she gave me a pouty frown and said: "No more pony, then?"
She could tell I was extremely nervous and was incredibly gentle and patient with me. She sweetly told me it would be okay, and asked if my parents were making me cut it short. I kind of nodded, as it was the easiest, and least embarrassing explanation for my making such a drastic change. She then asked how short we were going. One of the photos on the wall was of a woman with a short bowl cut. I couldn’t even make out the words, so I just kind of pointed to it. She nodded.
The first thing she did surprised me. She undid my ponytail… only to brush it all back into a much neater, MUCH tighter one. So tight that it hurt... but, it was a "good" hurt. The pony was probably 8-9 inches. I wished for her to surprise me and braid it. I’d never worn a braid before, and I wanted one SO bad that I could almost taste it. I felt an actual aching for it. I wanted so badly to ASK for a braid, but was way too scared. She unfortunately didn’t braid it.
She took her comb and pushed it, from underneath the pony, right above the rubber band. She had me tilt my head down, while keeping the comb in place. After asking if I was sure… and ready… she popped her clippers on and pushed them right into where she was holding the comb. It was as though I was in the electric chair, and the switch had just been flipped.
It felt like it took 10 minutes for her clippers to gnaw through.
Finally, it was severed. I had been sitting a bit forward in the chair, so my ponytail kind of slid down my back and plopped in the seat behind me. I still remember the soft "hissing" sound it made as it rolled down the back of the nylon cape. I forgot how to breathe, I felt as though I could have passed out. I regretted the whole thing the SECOND I tilted my head down. The stylist reached down between me and the back of the seat to retrieve my newly cut pony and handed it to me. This was my second "pony chop", however it the first time I had the opportunity to actually hold and "play with" my cut ponytail. I almost got lost in it... feeling the contrast between the soft waves on the "length" end, and the sharp blunt buzzed "nub" at the other. Time seemed to freeze. I then caught a glimpse of myself in the mirror... wearing a ragged angled bob, holding my ponytail. It was like something out of a nightmare... that I never wanted to end.
Less than a half hour later, I had a (then stylish) bowl cut… and near a foot long ponytail, which the stylist asked if she could keep. I really wanted it for myself but didn’t want to come across any weirder than I already must have.
This turned out to me nearly as traumatizing as my first actual forced haircut… and it was the last time I’d wear it short for many, many years.
The new cut DID get a lot of attention, which I both loved and hated. My mother laughed when she saw it. I was so devastated and embarrassed. Worst part was, it was all under my control... and, deep down, exactly what I wanted.