15: A Hair-Raising Experience

15: A Hair-Raising Experience

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Just for Preteens

A Hair-Raising Experience

The hair is the richest ornament of women.

~Martin Luther

When Dad died of a heart attack, we moved to another town where I’d be attending a new middle school. Still feeling the loss from Daddy’s death and overwhelmingly nervous about making new friends, I was eager to make a good impression. Mom took me on a shopping spree, purchasing the latest fashions.

I begged to get my hair cut and styled before the first day of class. Seated in the stylist’s chair, I kept my eyes squeezed shut in hopeful anticipation of it turning out just like the picture I’d clipped from a teen magazine.

“All finished,” the hair stylist exclaimed proudly.

I opened my eyes, staring in horror at the reflection looking back at me. My hair didn’t look like the photo in the magazine at all. I’d never worn a style so short in my entire life. I looked like my little brother!

That night it took an entire box of tissues to wipe away the tears and heartache. What was I going to do? I just couldn’t attend school the following week looking like a boy. I fell asleep enveloped in one of Daddy’s soft flannel shirts.

Inspiration dawned like the morning sun when I woke up.

I’d remembered seeing an old wig in one of Mom’s dresser drawers. It was a long shoulder length extension, the same shade of chestnut brown as my own hair. I spent the morning locked in my bedroom pinning the fake head of hair into place.

“Not bad...” I smiled, turning my head from side to side for inspection. Granted, my bangs were a little different shade of brown, but at least the short haircut was hidden from view.

I hunted Mom down, eager to see her reaction.

She tactfully remained silent, biting her lower lip. Finally, she spoke.

“There’s nothing as beautiful as your own hair, sweetie. But it’s your decision.”

The following weeks were nerve-wracking as I juggled school-work, making new friendships and dealing with the loss of a father. I wore the extension every time I left the house. I didn’t think anyone had really noticed my fake hair, but I didn’t speak to many people yet either.

One evening as I sat in front of the vanity mirror in my room, I noticed a little bare spot on the top of my head where I’d been pinning the hair into place. I heard Mom’s voice behind me.

“You better give your scalp a break from that wig, sweetie.”

“It’s okay, Mom. My hair’s still way too short.”

Mom slowly shook her head, placing a neatly folded stack of clean laundry on the bed.

“Suit yourself, but the real you is far more beautiful,” she smiled, giving me a reassuring hug.

The following day I was seated in history class. The teacher’s voice droned on and on in the front of the room. I could hear a group of kids whispering behind me. A paper airplane whizzed by. Someone kicked the back of my chair. The next thing I knew, the tall boy seated behind me reached out, yanking the extension from my head. The room filled with laughter.

Clutching the wig, I slowly made my way out of the classroom. As I passed the teacher’s desk, I knew I’d never forget the look of compassion on his face as long as I lived. He remained silent, sadly shaking his head in the direction of the class.

I spent the entire class period in the restroom feeling alone and humiliated.

That night I sat encircled in Mom’s loving arms in the center of her quilt-covered bed, as I shared the day’s humiliating experience with heart-wrenching sobs. We prayed together and Mom shared a few embarrassing memories of her own. As I wiped another tear away, Mom grew thoughtful.

“Don’t you think it’s time to let go of this silly wig?” she asked, lifting the extension into the air.

I had to admit, I was pretty sick of the sorry looking thing. It was starting to resemble a woodchuck anyway.

Suddenly Mom reached into the drawer of her bedside table for a pair of scissors. Before I knew what was happening, she snipped the shoulder-length fall into pieces.

Next she wrapped her arms around me, anticipating more heart-wrenching sobs to come.

I took one look at the bits and pieces of fake hair scattered over the bed and experienced an overwhelming sense of relief and freedom. Freedom from grief, freedom from insecurity, freedom from worrying about what the following days would bring.

Sudden laughter rose to my throat as I tossed a strand of fake hair into the air. Soon, we were both laughing so hard the entire bed shook.

“What’s so funny?” my brother asked from the doorway.

“You could say we’ve just had a hair-raising experience,” I cried.

“Women,” he mumbled shaking his head and disappearing once more.

The following day I wore my favorite outfit... including my favorite head of hair.

“I like your haircut,” a new friend complimented over lunch. I couldn’t help smiling at my reflection in the window beside us.

I had to admit, it did look kind of great.

~Mary Z. Smith

More stories from our partners