Tommy was the only man on the planet that I would have ever let put a scissor near my head. This being said, I knew I could trust him to cut off 17 inches of my hair, and he did.
A very dear friend of mine, Sammy, a World War II Veteran that had the privilege of meeting President Ronald Reagan on several occasions, used to make fun of me when he came to the Diner about my “outdated” ponytail.
He and his wife, Jackie, were always remarking that I should cut my hair, and retire my high school hairdo for a modern-day look. According to Sammy, even his wife, who was in her 80’s, had a more stylish look than I did. They liked to encourage my daughters to help them in persuading me to take the leap and start fresh. This conversation always ended with, “You know it will grow back, right?”
It wasn’t until my mentor passed away that I finally decided it was time to, “Take the plunge!”
I researched where I could donate my hair so that I could ensure it went to the best organization out there and made arrangements to get it sent out once it was cut off. An instruction packet came in the mail with a return envelope enclosed. It was quite clear and easy what I needed to do. Now, I just had to decide on who I trusted enough to actually chop at least 12-inches off my head.
It had been a good long minute since I had really cut my hair. I talked about doing it randomly over the 25-years I carried it, but I usually just ended up with a quick trim in the back and my bangs cut. My husband always asked when I returned from the salon, “Did you get a haircut?”
To which I always responded with, “YES! Doesn’t it look like it?”
To which he always answered, “No, not really.”
If I remember correctly, the last time I did sport short hair was in the 2nd grade, when every young girl in America cut her hair to look like Dorthy Hamill with a D.A style. Sure, hairdressers have tried to get me to allow them to spruce me up, but I was never open to the idea of a total stranger deciding what she thought would make me look best, while clip- clipping away at my hair. I know as a waitress how fussy people can be about us cooking their eggs wrong, could you imagine what I would sound like after putting my glasses back on and seeing all my hair on the floor around me before I looked up and saw my head was bare in the mirror?! Someone would have to bring a straight jacket and a muzzle if they didn’t expect anyone to get hurt.
This time, though, I was on a mission. Who could I possibly ask? I thought about it for days, before it came to me. Tommy aka “Panty cakes.”
Nicknamed this not only because I swear that’s what it always sounded like he said when he ordered pancakes, but also because he was sweet as maple syrup. A retired Florida State Trooper and barber extraordinaire. Tommy was one of the most creative people I had ever met. A man old enough to be my dad, with a lifetime of police officer experiences, I would have expected him to be rough and tough and cynical, but instead, he was the most uplifting, pure-hearted soul I had ever met. He was artistic, beyond my comprehension. Always working on some type of hands-on project. Always something new he had never tried or even considered before, and every new thing he made turned out more spectacular than the one before.
First, it was a portrait painting. He even took a class. He watched Youtube instructional videos and created masterpieces. Then, as he put it, was his obsession with “Littles.” He started building miniatures. Dollhouses, shadow boxes, small towns…It was amazing. Every day for months he would come in with something new he was working on that he was going to add to the construction. He never let me see a project until it was complete, but he teased me with small objects here and there to keep me interested.
One day, Tommy came in bragging about a beautiful gold barber’s scissor kit his niece had just given him for his 70th birthday. It was lovely. I had never seen anything like it. All the gold tools lay in a wooden box lined in blue velvet and were engraved with “World’s Best Hairdresser.”
“WOW!” I accidentally shouted out, as everything in my chaotic head suddenly went silent.
“Hairdresser.” Up until that moment, I had always considered Tommy a barber. You know, a guy that works in a barbershop and does haircuts and shaves on other men.
“Sorry,” I said after taking a brief moment to regather my thoughts. “It’s lovely, and happy birthday, by the way. I can’t believe you’re a day over 60!” I said with a smile, just before I added, “How’d you like to christen those beautiful scissors by finally lightening my load?” I asked with a questioning look on my face and my ponytail in my hand.
And so it was, the next day I met Tommy at his shop to properly cut and ship my hair to a non-profit organization that was going to turn it into FREE wigs for young girls with cancer. Even better, when I donated it, I got to donate it in memory of Sammy, which I believed was the best condolences I could offer my best friend, his wife of 67-years, now widowed, to show my deepest sympathy for her loss. A gesture she greatly understood and appreciated.
Funny end to the story. On my way home from getting my hair cut, I decided to stop by my mother’s house first to see what her reaction was before I shocked the crap out of my husband of over 15-years. I knocked on her front door before walking in like I always did, and at first, she gave me a double-take as if she wasn’t sure who I was entering her house uninvited. (Partly because she was old with slight dementia) So I say my hellos, before I spun around in a slow circle, showing off my new shoulder-length, Betty Boop hairstyle.
After she repeated, “I can’t believe you finally cut it,” at least 20-times, she then slowly shifted to petting and fluffing me.
This lasted another couple of minutes, before she exclaimed, “I can’t believe you finally cut it!”
“Yup,” I giggled as I dumped my tightly braided, freshly cut hair out of the manilla envelope onto her dining room table.
She quickly picked it up and now started repeating, “Oh how pretty,” while looking at it like a puppy would a new chew toy.
“That’s my hair, mom,” I said. “Does it look prettier than when it was on my head?” I asked joking around.
To which she answered, “Oh yes.”
Enough said. I put my braid back in the envelope, kissed my mother goodbye, and turned to leave, but not before she insisted on fluffing my hair one more time before she added, “I hope your husband likes it?”
With that, I went home to find out for sure how my Joey did feel about my new look. I walked in the front door, and my hubby was sitting on the couch watching TV. Unlike my mother, he noticed my hair was different immediately, and couldn’t help but throw out the comment, “You know you look about 12-years old now, right?” kidding around.
To which I replied, “Well I guess I better get used to carrying around my ID.”
When I returned to work the next day, regular customers were also quick to notice my new short and bouncy hair. Sadly, none of them cared that they were touching my clean, freshly styled mane with their bacon or buttered toasted fingers. Hurray for me.
Best comment of all: “Good thing instead of getting your haircut you didn’t get a boob job. With the way, everyone’s been touching your hair, that could have gotten interesting!”
Laugh on. Peace out.
Lisa DeMarco is a waitress at Billy’s Cafe and a columnist for Villages-News.com.