Fiction, by Ann Garvald
When Tara and I entered my Aunt Cathy’s hairstyling boutique she was busy with a customer, a middle-aged lady, but she looked over and smiled. “Hi guys” she said. “Have a seat and I’ll be ready in about five. It’s the usual split-end trim, is it Andy?”
“No Cathy”, I said, “Something much more than that”.
“Oh oh”, she said, “I knew this would happen eventually. I’m not surprised. Especially as you two are getting married soon. I’ve seen a lot of young fellows grow their hair long – not all quite as long as yours – but the time always comes when they decide to cut it off. Relax and I’ll be with you shortly.” She turned back to her customer and I looked at Tara who squeezed my hand and gave me a big “be brave” smile. We sat down quietly and I thought again about all that had happened to me, my hair, and the ski trip that changed me forever. .
The hair part was easy to understand. A few years back there were lots of young guys with long hair. It all dated back to the ‘fifties and the ‘sixties. First there were the beatniks. Then the Beatles — hard to believe now, but when they burst on the music scene their below-the-ears hairstyle upset a lot of staid, conservative types. Later in that decade the hair revolution really took off with the hippies, the Vietnam war protesters and the whole anti-establishment thing. By the time the ‘seventies came along, and of course Woodstock, if you were a guy that didn’t have at least shoulder-length hair you were in a distinct minority. That carried on to the ‘eighties and into my time. In grade seven I decided that it was time for me too, if only to fit in with my peers. I kept letting it grow, wearing it mostly in a ponytail when I moved onto high school, especially since I signed up for band where having short hair would have been really odd.
But as I sat waiting for Cathy, I asked myself again, for the thousandth time, if I’d done it just to fit in, or if there had been something more. Because the longer my hair got, the more I had liked it. Most guys were happy to keep it around shoulder length or a bit more, but I let it get longer and longer till eventually it was waist-length. My parents didn’t object. I could tell my father wasn’t enthusiastic when it got below my shoulders but he didn’t believe in telling me how to run my life, so he didn’t say too much. Mum was easy-going and didn’t mind at all, except to insist that I take reasonable care of it. Which was how the “split-end” visits to Aunt Cathy had started, ten years before.
The ski trip happened in grade eleven. I’d been on several one-day ski trips with the school in grade ten, and enjoyed them. In February of the following year my parents decided it would be fun for them to take up skiing again, and that the three of us would celebrate their twentieth anniversary with a long-weekend ski trip. We would rent our skis and boots, but Mum went out and bought outfits for us all – everything from ski suits to goggles to thermal underwear to thick woolley socks. And the next Friday we drove up to Hidden Valley, a resort north of Toronto, and checked into a fancy hotel close to the slopes, one room for my parents and one room, further down the corridor, for me. We had lunch in the hotel and agreed that, for this our first day, we’d only ski for an hour or so, later on. So my parents went for a nap and I decided I’d try on my new ski clothes. And with that came my awakening.
I was sitting on the side of the bed wearing a shirt as I pulled on the thermal underwear that Mum had bought. I’d never worn anything like that before, and pulling it up over my legs was a new sensation. But as I pulled the socks over my ankles and over the ends of the bright red long-johns, I found myself looking down at a very shapely pair of legs in what appeared to be red tights. And as I bent forward, my hair, which was loose, spread itself across a very feminine-looking knee. For a few seconds it wasn’t Andy’s long hair that I saw. It was another person’s shiny hair and that other person was definitely not a guy. In a state of wonder I got up, put on a spotlessly white fluffy hotel bathrobe, arranged my hair forward of my shoulders and looked in the full-length mirror. The effect was incredible — and devastating. Why had I taken so long to discover this?
When we went out skiing later, and over the next two days, I was a different person. I not only found the girls attractive, I found them even more attractive then ever before. I now had a new acute fascination for the way they looked, the details of their clothes, how they did their hair, and their mannerisms. All this tinged with envy and a new longing that welled up inside me.
That was about five years ago. About a year later, in our last year of high school, Tara and I became a number. I’d had several girlfriends before and while the ski trip — and many further experiments in dressing — had radically changed my self-assessment it had done nothing to diminish my heterosexuality. At high school Tara had been through three years of a more-than-close relationship with a girl, but that was behind her and our love for each other grew with every year. She went to university, graduating in computer science, while I followed the career I had always dreamed about — I apprenticed as a chef and was now sous-chef at an upscale French restaurant in North Toronto run by a great boss – a gay Italian who never had a moment’s problem with how I wore my hair or how I dressed.
But when Tara and I fixed the wedding date we both agreed it was time to face up to reality and move on. Which is what brought me that day to Aunt Cathy’s salon.
Her lady customer left and I sat down in the chair. “So” said Cathy, “Just how short do you want it?”
“Cathy” I said “I don’t want it short. I want bangs”.
Cathy was speechless for a moment. Then out came a torrent: “Bangs!! You can’t have bangs!! Guys with long hair never have bangs. You’d be back here tomorrow and I’d have no alternative but to cut everything off. Is that what you want? Bangs!! Only girls have bangs. Andy, you’d look like a girl.”
“Cathy, I want you to give me bangs.”
Cathy looked pleadingly across at Tara. Tara, with a look of delight on her face said simply: “Bangs Cathy. We want bangs.” And giggled.
“Cathy” I said, “Look”. And I pulled up one leg of my slacks and showed her a perfectly shaved leg, encased in sheer pantyhose.
Cathy was silent for a long, long time as a look of wonder came over her face. Then she looked at me with a quizzical smile. “Andy, Andy” she said. “I guess Andy will still work — it does for Andie MacDowell and she has glorious hair too. Well, Andy, Andy, Andy — and you Tara — I guess you’re old enough to know what you’re doing. Good luck to you both. My, this is going to be some wedding!”
She brushed out my hair, picked up her scissors, and the rest of my life was under way.