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A Hair Story

My mother with my daughter, circa ~ 1998.

My mother with my daughter, circa ~ 1998.

Originally published in Strut Magazine.


My mother was a straitlaced, law-abiding citizen. A dependable, responsible woman who always paid her bills on time and balanced her checkbook to the nano-penny. She was honest and conservative and never met a pair of underpants she couldn’t turn into a dust rag.

But for all her virtuous traits, she did have one obsession that nearly led her to commit a crime: her hair.

Her hair was the subject of much attention, not only her own, but of all her lady friends who always thought it looked perfect. And it did. Except when she looked in the mirror and saw something different: hair that needed fixing by a highly skilled technician.

She had one hairdresser in particular, Steve, who in the early days of their relationship got the hair just right. It was a parted-on-the- side wedge, with perfectly blown-dry strawberry-blond hair that leaned forward, framing her face in a way that brought many compliments and inquiries about the artist who created such a flattering style.

After a couple of years of fabulous haircuts, her relationship with Steve began to lose its luster. She didn’t feel he was paying as much attention to her hair as he did in their honeymoon phase. She’d come home from an appointment and anxiously scrutinize her hair in the bathroom mirror. “I can’t believe he did this. This,” she’d say, pulling strands of hair, “does not match this! It’s uneven! What was he thinking?” Then tears would flow along with running water and Vidal Sassoon shampoo. Before you knew it, she was blow-drying her hair all over again.

One day she spotted an ad for a salon that specialized in “Geometric Cuts;” the supposed inspiration of a high school math course. “That’s the way Steve used to cut my hair.” The picture was seductive. She was dying to look the way she did in the early Steve days and made an appointment, bringing along the ad photo, herself a picture of uncharacteristic optimism, the tulip bud ready to burst.

She showed the picture to the new hairdresser, explaining that Steve used to cut her hair like that, but not anymore. In the beginning, she said, Steve understood her hair – the way it naturally lay – and he worked with it. Carefully. He didn’t rush like a blizzard passing through Wisconsin. But something happened. Maybe he was having personal problems and took it out on her hair. Or maybe he just didn’t care anymore. ‘Cause it just didn’t look the way it used to.

It’s quite possible her new hairdresser didn’t fully comprehend that Mom was really, really picky and when Mom went on to say she wanted it cut exactly like the picture, she meant she wanted it cut exactly like the picture. Because when the new hairdresser finished, her hair did not look exactly like the picture.

How could this happen? She came expecting cupcakes with confetti and sprinkles but felt she was leaving with day-old pastry. Mom tried to cover up her reaction. But her face, all sour pickles and lemon wedges, hardly conveyed gratitude. She thanked him under her breath.

With her dream of the perfect “Geometric Cut” obliterated, she went to the reception desk, checkbook out. When no one rushed over to take her money, she had time to consider false advertising: hair that was no feat of geometry and a hairdresser who didn’t listen.

She ran out of the salon. The hairdresser ran after her.

“You have to pay for your hair!” he yelled.

“I’m not paying for this! You did a terrible job. It looks nothing like the picture!”

“You’re crazy, lady. You’re crazy! If you don’t pay, I’m calling the police!”

The epitome of humiliation, she returned to the shop and, under his strict supervision, wrote a check and left.

Maybe they had dragged her back to the shop like the principal herding the troublemaker into the school office, but that didn’t mean she was rehabilitated. As soon as she got home, she called the bank and put a stop on the check, disregarding the fee. Geometric cut, indeed, she said

Geometry, she’d have paid for. A hairstyle that made her feel like yesterday’s cheese Danish, no way.

What’s your hair-obsessed story? Ever run out of a salon without paying?

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May 10, 2012 - 6:37 pm

ROWriter - That is hysterical! I am trying to picture her running down the street with a bad ‘do!!!

May 10, 2012 - 7:50 pm

Pam Houghton - Thanks, Lynne! I’m glad you enjoyed! πŸ™‚

May 16, 2012 - 8:00 pm

Cindy L - Love this essay … and love what you said about Strut. I wrote for the magazine too, and was SO disappointed when they folded it in exchange for Styleline magazine … Bummer.

May 16, 2012 - 8:10 pm

Pam Houghton - Thanks, Cindy.

May 19, 2012 - 2:36 pm

Leona - Oh, this is a fabulous story! Thanks for sharing!

May 19, 2012 - 2:39 pm

Pam Houghton - Thanks, Leona! πŸ™‚

May 6, 2013 - 2:40 am

Lois Alter Mark - Do NOT mess with a woman’s hair! Love this story, and she was absolutely right!

May 6, 2013 - 2:41 am - Oh, that’s too funny! Especially considering how law-abiding she sounds in all other respects. But hey, sometimes a girl’s gotta do what a girl’s gotta do. Take a stand. Let ’em know who’s boss. πŸ™‚

May 6, 2013 - 12:35 pm

Karen D. Austin - Oh, that’s funny–especially the detail about her stopping the check! I am assuming they didn’t arrest her for nonpayment. She’s not wearing an orange jumpsuit in the photo.

May 6, 2013 - 1:00 pm

Pam Houghton - Thanks, Lois! You are right, do not mess with our hair.

May 6, 2013 - 1:01 pm

Pam Houghton - Thanks! Right on, a girl’s gotta do what a girl’s gotta do.

May 6, 2013 - 1:01 pm

Pam Houghton - Yup, she was not arrested. Thankfully. πŸ™‚

May 6, 2013 - 2:59 pm

Barbara Younger - This is a story of stories. I have a daughter, Laura, who has had TWO hair trials for her wedding and still isn’t happy. This will be Laura some day.

May 6, 2013 - 3:12 pm

fadedginger - I loved this! I can relate, too. I’m not hair obsessed, but I have cried over a request for “cut three inches” turning into seven inches…..and then chastised myself for paying instead of walking out like your mom did.

May 6, 2013 - 3:38 pm

Pam Houghton - Oh, dear. Poor Laura. πŸ™‚

May 6, 2013 - 3:39 pm

Pam Houghton - I try not to be hair-obsessed. It’s a challenge.

May 6, 2013 - 9:14 pm

fitnessfox - As my girlfriend Kathy always says – as long as you have good hair and nice shoes, the stuff in between doesn’t matter. See, mothers know. At least yours did LOL. Great post!

May 6, 2013 - 10:41 pm

Pam Houghton - Thanks! My mother used to say something similar: hair can make or break your day. But I guess that shouldn’t be a surprise!

May 6, 2013 - 11:22 pm

Bonnie Dingus - Good for your mom! She didn’t get what she asked for! What a great story!

May 6, 2013 - 11:37 pm

Pam Houghton - When pushed to the brink, she wasn’t exactly a pushover! Thanks, Bonnie!

May 7, 2013 - 6:57 pm

javaj240 - This is hysterical. Absolutely hysterical. I loved the “lemon wedges” line… I conjured the image immediately — and I don’t even know your mother. LOL!

May 7, 2013 - 7:01 pm

Pam Houghton - Thank-you. I don’t think my mom thought it was hysterical but in retrospect my siblings and I thought it was pretty funny.

May 8, 2013 - 4:12 am

danneromero - i once wanted a short cut, with curls…. i got a weird mess… yikes! i cried for weeks…. πŸ™

May 8, 2013 - 12:59 pm

Pam Houghton - That happened to me my senior year of high school. Wrong time of life. I was so upset that first night, I slept with my mom.

May 8, 2013 - 7:03 pm

D. A. Wolf - This story is delightful! (And I frequently don’t like what hairdressers do, so most of the time I cut my own hair. Yes, I’ve lived to regret it. Then again, the price is right!)

May 8, 2013 - 7:53 pm

Pam Houghton - You are brave. I would never cut my own hair. Thanks for the comment!

May 8, 2013 - 8:27 pm

Barbara Torris - Oh my gosh…you mother did what I have always wanted to do. Hair cut stories are a dime a dozen but none of us had the nerve leave. Have you ever noticed that the grocery clerk will ask you if the amount you have bought is OK with you? I am always a little amazed. What if it wasn’t? Would they let me take the groceries anyway?

Thank you. This is great!


May 8, 2013 - 8:34 pm

Pam Houghton - Great point about the grocery clerk! Ha! Funny. Thanks for your comment, Barb!

May 8, 2013 - 9:33 pm

The Mid Life Guru - Yay for your mom. A great example of standing up for her hair principles!!!

May 8, 2013 - 9:49 pm

Pam Houghton - She would appreciate that. Thank-you!

October 10, 2017 - 9:47 pm

Scotland travel tips, Part 1 - Pam Houghton - […] We experienced rain, clouds, sun, warmth and chill, sometimes all in the same day. So it’s kind of like living in Michigan. T-shirt under a fleece under a rainproof hooded jacket worked for me. I also carried a long-sleeved knock-off Under Armour shirt in my purse to layer as needed and an umbrella to protect my hair from the elements when it rained. (And if you know my family history, you know how important it isΒ to protect the hair.) […]

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