My name is Andre. I am, how do you call it, a hair dresser. Mais non, not a hair dresser; I am un artiste de cheveu, a hair artist! I can give you hair you can be proud of. Hair that will turn every head on the block. Rich, silky hair. Radiant hair. (Well, itís easier with some women than others -- even Andre has only so much magique!) But who are my clients? Women who want me to all kinds of awful things to their hair. Thatís who. No one seems to like what she has. Those who have the straight hair want it curly. Those with curly hair want it straightened. Brunettes want to become blondes. Blondes want to be turned into redheads. All the time people are coming to me to burn their hair to a crisp, or cover it with damaging chemicals. All for the sake of vanity. For la fashion a la mode.
But the main torment of my profession is the way people keep wanting me to cut their hair. Shall I let you in on the little secret? I adore women with long hair. I can do all kinds of marvelous things with the long hair. But as soon as a client gets her hair to even a respectable length, she seems to want me to cut it all off. What a pity! All this beautiful hair winding up on the floor of my salon. And what can you do with that except throw it away? It is much better gracing the head of la belle femme, mais non? It is my dream for a woman with very long hair will come to me to help it grow even longer. To me, there is no way a woman can have hair thatís too long. It is my little secret.
Not long ago a lady came to the salon with the most beautiful hair in the world. When I let it down to wash, it came to her knees. It was tres magnifique! At last, I thought, someone I can do something wonderful for. Someone I could help. I was thinking of all the marvelous coiffures I could teach her. Of the creams and conditioners I know about that would make her already silky hair even more lustrous and perfect. And what did she do? She wanted me to chop it all off. Thatís what! All for the sake of a quick change. All that beautiful hair that should just be allowed to grow and grow. What could I do? I have to earn a living, but my heart sank. I tried to talk her out of it and suggested alternatives. But non, she was adamant. She had lived with this all this messy hair long enough and it was time for something new, something tres fashionable. As if the most beautiful long hair in the world wasnít fashionable enough! I turned her over to my assistant, a capable woman with none of my prejudices, and busied myself with something else while the butchering was being done.
And then yesterday it happened. A young woman came to the salon with her hair piled in a massive chignon on top of her head. It was not arranged in a particularly attractive way as far as my discerning eye could see, but there was no denying that there seemed to be a great deal of it. But I have been fooled by the faux hair before. As if reading my thoughts, she said, "Oh, yes, itís all mine. Really. Mother would never let me cut it, and I never have. But I donít know what to do with it anymore. I think I should just get rid of it all. What do you think?"
(What did I think? Letís remain level-headed about this, Andre!) "Well, that all depends," I replied, trying to sound tres casual, not wanting my own views on such matters to become too obvious. "Letís have it down and see what condition it is in."
I placed her in my salon chair and with my practiced fingers began to feel for the pins holding the heavy chignon in place. Her hair was cool to my touch, quite thick, and buttery smooth, but it was only as it began to spill down over her shoulders that I began to realize its truly extraordinary length. I raised the chair to its maximum height, but even so long, rich skeins slithered down behind it and began to slide out across the floor. Everyone in the shop gathered around as my assistant help me gather up the flowing torrent. I began to brush it out, moving slowly backwards step by step until I was practically standing across the room. There I stood holding this rich, shimmering arc of flawless reddish-gold hair that arched like a long, silken rope suspended in mid-air. When my assistant measured it, the total length was nine feet, six inches exactly. Sacre Dieu!
Everyone let out a gasp. Someone said it was rather a shame to think of cutting off such wonderful tresses, particularly since they were of such a beautiful color and texture. "My thought exactly," I said. "Letís see what we can do. What is your name my little Rapunzel? How did you come by all this magnificent hair?" Thus, I came to hear her story, as she sat in my salon chair, covered by the flowing cloak of her fastastique long hair, now falling loose and free around her, covering the very floor in its profusion.
"My name is Nina," she said, "and IĎve always had hair like this, I mean really, really long. The result I guess of just the right genes and certainly because my doting mother was so proud of it. Sheíd always wanted long hair herself, but somehow could never get it to grow. On the other hand, my hair not only grew extra-long, but you can see itís this kind of nice reddish-gold color. When I was a baby, my mother told me my hair was the most beautiful color she had ever seen. She said it reminded her of the angels of Titian, or something. She would never cut it because of its unusual color, but just let it grow and grow. It grew really fast and before long she realized that it might get longer than anyoneís."
(Ninaís bonne mere sounded like une femme after Andre's own heart. I can tell. Why don't I ever get clients like her, eh?)
"By the time I was six," Nina went on, "my hair was getting lots of comments, since it came like to my knees and billowed out in clouds around me. Mother got even prouder of it and now would have never dreamed of cutting it. She started making me wear it up all the time and began to buy all kinds of shampoos, conditioners and things hoping to coax it to get even longer. She brushed it religiously the required hundred strokes every day. By the time I was ten, my hair literally came to my feet when it was unbraided. Mom took this as an encouraging sign and redoubled her efforts to stimulate its growth even more. A couple of years later, I think it was, she entered me in a long-hair contest. There were two first prizes given, one for the kid with the most beautiful braids and another for the girl with the longest hair. I won both easily and got my picture in all the papers as Ďthe girl with the unbelievable golden braids.í By then, my hair was almost seven feet long.
"When I was little I shared Momís pride in my super-long hair. She would get me to show off for friends by telling me to let down my Ďveil,í and I would untie the bows and down would come all this hair, covering me from head to toe. Then I would walk through the room dragging this flood of hair behind me, kind of like a bridal train, you know. But now Iím not so sure. Sure, it IS kind of my trademark, but it is a lot of work now Motherís gone, and it kind of makes me feel self-conscious. Perhaps the timeís come to cut it all off; something really short. Yes, go for it!"
It was at last my turn to speak. "Something tells me you donít want me to cut your hair at all, do you, mon cher? Any of it. But Andre sees you need my help. I, too, love the exceptional long hair and am pleased to be of service." (And here I gave her one of my courteous little bows that the women always seem to like.) "Come, we will wash it, and I will tell you a few of my little secrets." Her hair was so thick and profuse that it called on all of my considerable talents to handle, but after it had been washed and conditioned, and she was standing there with her hair flooding around her in all its radiant glory, it made a spectacular sight trailing out over the floor. You can trust Andre on that. I could have stayed gazing at that heavenly, silky aurora for hours, so rich and full. But then even I had to suggest, "Perhaps it would be practical to have a petit trim, just to tidy it up a bit, eh?"
For once in my life I felt truly happy cutting a womanís hair. Just a nice, little trim, like so. These things are all relative, non? How did I manage it with hair so long? You must use your imagination; it is one of Andreís little secrets I have never been able to use before. Then I arranged her hair in one of my more modest but spectacular coiffures (why do you Americans insist on calling them 'do's'? -- it sounds so declasse), and she seemed satisfied.
But all she said was, "I almost got you to cut it. I almost made a terrible mistake."
Most of les femmes do. I know, níest pas?
So, that is how I came to gain Nina as a client. Her hair
is truly unbelievable, and at last I have a purpose in my business. Let
the others come with their vain hopes of beauty. Nina will be in next week
for an appointment, her hair, almost as long as ever (and we will keep
it that way -- Andre will make sure of that!), now done in one of my graceful
coiffures, one of those styles I have never has a chance to try until now.
Because of her, word has been getting around that Andre knows a thing or
two about the long hair. Ah ha, things are looking up!
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