“You’re gonna cut your fist section in the back, straight across, at the top of her shoulders and that’ll be your guide. After that you’re gonna drop a ¼” section over your guide, cut that and then so on until you reach the apex of her head.” My Learning Leader Kaleb yells at me over all the noise on The Floor.
“When you’re finished with that, and I’m finished fixing all your mistakes, we’ll move to the next part of the cut, comprende?”
“Ok.” I say in a dazed stupor, feeling like a deer caught in the headlights of an oncoming semi, that semi being my first haircut ever on another human being.
“Are you sure you’re pickin’ up what I’m puttin’ down?” he asks with a scowl. “Because you look more confused than an armless guy watching porn.”
“You sure you’re sure.” he says while sectioning and clipping up my client’s hair who was a 10yr old girl named Madison.
“Fine stands for F’d up, insecure, neurot-“
“I know what it stands for!” I yell at Jimbo who’s trying to heckle me from the next station over where she’s waiting on Kaleb to get her started with her own client.
“I’m good.” I say, turning back to Kaleb.
“Ok, because the last thing I wanna do is come back here in 5 minutes to help you because you’re ‘stuck’ or ‘forgot something’ or ‘retarded’.”
It was Saturday, the first day I and the rest of my class were official Adaptives, having been moved from the confines of the Core Room out into the gen-pop of The Floor and the differences couldn’t have been more striking.
While the Core Room was comparable to a nursery of newborns peacefully sleeping, The Floor was comparable to a nursery of newborns being hacked apart by a buzz saw.
It was loud, chaotic and fast-paced with blow dryers roaring, clients yelling and staff and students running around like an active shooter was on the loose.
In addition to that The Floor also had multiple Learning Leaders on it instead of one centralized leader like in Core.
This was because The Floor housed 50 stations, making it impossible for one person to oversee 50 different services happening simultaneously.
So the stations were divided into 5 rows with 10 stations to a row, each row having its own Learning Leader.
The Leader for the row my class was on was a guy named Kaleb, a 20-something malcontent who looked like Gerard Way circa 2004 if Way had bad posture, wore black hipster glasses and sported a child molester’s mustache.
Kaleb was cranky, ill-behaved and had more snark than a squad of high school cheerleaders…he also happened to be the school’s most talented cutter.
Having been trained at Sassoon and then studying for a year in London under the world’s most prestigious stylists, Kaleb was a god when it came to cutting hair and he knew it. This is why the only thing that surpassed his talent was his ego, and his utter disdain for all mankind.
But since Kaleb knew cutting inside and out the school not only gave him a pass for his acute sense of assholery but also put him in charge of preparing and overseeing each group of new Adaptives for their maiden voyage out on The Floor.
This meant I and the rest of my class had been stuck in a room with him for the past 4 days watching cutting videos and practicing on our doll heads in preparation for that voyage under his sneering and scornful tutelage.
This also explains why he was the Learning Leader assigned to our row—so he could continue to supervise and terrorize us which only added fuel to my already burning fire of fear and distress in regard to giving my first haircut.
Because even though I’d spent the past week watching videos and practicing on a doll head I still felt unprepared and insecure, like I wasn’t really sure what it was that I was supposed to be doing.
Plus, there was a HUGE difference between cutting hair on a doll head and cutting hair on a person and that difference was this:
Doll heads don’t have opinions.
And people aren’t afraid to express those opinions when it comes to getting a shitty haircut by way of vicious verbal abuse.
And while I didn’t think my 10yr old client Madison was capable of lashing me with her tongue that still didn’t do anything to lessen all the stress eating away at me as if I’d been thrown into a Cartel container full of flesh-dissolving acid.
Because what I wanted more than anything was for my first haircut to be a positive experience.
Problem was, I had zero experience and that put a nail-biting fear in me that Madison’s haircut would end up looking like one big pile of dog shit and that I would end up looking like one big fucking idiot.
Plus, if all that wasn’t enough to keep me twisted up in ten-thousand ways, I’d also decided to stop drinking so I could start this next chapter of school stone-cold-sober.
Charlie had warned me about the dangers of my substance abuse and that if I didn’t get a grip on it then it would get a grip on me, dragging me down to a place that I wouldn’t be able to get up from.
So I decided moving forward that I’d refrain from diluting myself with alcohol despite how challenging it might be at times…this exact moment being one of those times.
And as Kaleb went on instructing me about Madison’s haircut all I could do was think about needing a drink to smooth out all the jagged edges of anxiety that were piercing me from the inside out and muzzle all the voices of panic and self-doubt that were screaming like banshees in between my ears.
“So go ahead and start.” Kaleb says, snapping me back to reality.
“Ok.” I tell him as he hobbles over to Jimbo’s station, leaving me alone with my inescapable dread and Madison’s long, one-length hair that she wants cut at her shoulders with layers.
“How’s it goin’?” I say as I nervously comb through her mousy-brown locks, trying to prepare myself to cut them.
“What was your name?” she asks in a sweet, squeaky voice.
“Do you know what the fuck you’re doing?”
“What!?” I ask, taken aback by her use of a word that’s normally reserved for teens and beyond.
“I said, do you know what the fuck you’re doing?”
“Uh yeah.” I say with a scoff, knowing full well that I don’t know what it is I’m doing.
“You’re not gonna make me look like some ratched ass, dick-sucking street whore are you?”
“Uhhhh…” was all I could say while being showered with all the free-flowing filth from this girl’s gutter-mouth.
“Because I am an actress and I can’t go on auditions with shitty fucking hair.”
Oh fuck me in the neck.
Of all the people I could’ve gotten I end up with a 10yr old with turrets who’s ALSO an actress.
As if my nerves weren’t frayed enough already this kid has just grounded them down into a fine powder.
Because I knew if I so much as cut one hair on her head the wrong way then this little foul-mouth monstrosity would slice me apart limb from limp using words as her weapon.
So much for thinking she lacked the ability to lacerate me with her tongue.
“Look, nothing bad is gonna happen to your hair, ok?”
“I promise. And do your parents know you’ve got a mouth dirtier than Nicki Minaj?”
“They say that’s ok because it allows me to express myself freely and that’s what makes a great actor.”
“How supportive.” I tell her as I position myself behind the chair, take a deep breath, hope for the best
…cut my very first section ever.
I take a step back and look at it.
The guideline is sitting at the top of her shoulders where Kaleb said it should be.
“Not bad.” I say to myself.
I drop another ¼” section and then cut that over the previous section and again, it looks good, good enough to make me think that maybe I was over thinking this whole thing and that maybe all my dread, self-doubt and anxiety were for nothing.
A sense of calm comes over me and I start to feel like maybe my first haircut will turn out to be a positive experience after all.
“I just finished shooting The Muppets movie.” she brags as I drop another section and comb through it.
“Really.” I say with zero interest.
“Yeah, the director said I’m a natural.”
“Natural what?” I ask as I begin cutting the next section with growing confidence.
“Actor, duh.” She says, jolting her head up and back in an effort to face me while I’m still cutting her hair, causing me to lop off WAY MORE than I was supposed to at a severely JACKED-UP ANGLE.
“He said I’m the classiest lady he’s ever worked with.” she says as I stare in disbelief at the fucked-up section of hair that’s dangling from her head.
“What’s wrong?” she asks, reading the expression on my face.
“Nothing.” I tell her, having no idea how to handle a mistake like this because it was never covered in any of the videos I’d watched this week.
“Are you sure?” she says, turning to look at herself in the mirror.
“Positive.” I tell her as I spin the chair around so she’s facing the wall instead of the mirror.
“What the hell’d you do that for?”
“I just wanted to see how pretty your face looks with your hair’s new length.”
“Oh.” she says, perking up like she’s ready for a close-up. “How do I look?”
“Spectacular.” I tell her. “So much so that I wanna show Kaleb.”
“Rad.” she says, throwing devil horns in the air when in all actuality they belong on her head.
“Stay right here and don’t move a muscle because you look perfect, ok?”
“No problem, I can hold a pose for-fucking-ever.”
“Great.” I say as I run down the row where Kaleb is helping Bree, the waif-thin blonde girl from our class who had a death wish with Dusti last week.
“I don’t know what else to say.” he tells her as I run up. “I can explain it to you but I can’t understand it for you.”
“Yeah, well you don’t have to keep calling me a shitbrick while doing it! Who do you think you are?”
“I’m the guy that doesn’t get paid enough to put up with people like you and if you have a problem with my language-“
“It’s very inappropriate language, young man.” her elderly client says, interrupting his spiel.
“Look…” he says to the both of them. “You may not agree with my teaching style, but…” he trails off as he notices me standing there.
“But what?!” Bree asks.
“Did you forget something because you’re retarded?” he asks me, completely ignoring Bree.
“BUT WHAT???” she yells.
“Worse.” I tell him.
“That sounds way sexier than this.” he says, grabbing me and heading towards my station, abandoning Bree and her client.
“Kaleb! You can’t just leave me!!!” she cries.
“I can and I did.”
“What about my client!?”
“What about her? It’s a $12 haircut for a reason.”
As we get to my station Kaleb sees Madison’s hair and his eyes bulge wide enough to fill up the frame of his glasses.
“WOW.” he says. “How did-“
“She turned her head while I was cutting her…” I whisper to him. “And she has no idea.”
“Don’t I look pretty?” she asks him as he gawks at the damage.
“He meant to say awfully pretty.” I tell her with a fake smile.
“But I wanna make you look prettier.” he says, motioning for me to hand him my comb and sheers.
“Kaleb! I need your help!” Jimbo screams at him.
“You need shock therapy.” he tells her as he combs Madison’s hair and gets ready to cut it. “Ok, kido…” he tells her. “Change of plans, we’re gonna cut your hair shorter.”
“THE HELL WE ARE YOU FUDGE-PACKING ANAL TROLL!!!” she screams, thrashing around in the chair like the girl from The Exorcist in an attempt to stay out of his reach.
“Whoa, what cradle of filth did you crawl out of?” he says, jumping back in awe.
“One where my hair isn’t short! I’m an actress and if my hair is too short then I won’t be in any more movies so if you think you’re gonna cut off more than I asked for then you can go fuck yourself inside out!”
“Oh, dude, I forgot to mention that she’s an actress” I tell him with air quotes as he stands there rubbing his chin, trying to figure out how best to deal with Rosemary’s Baby*.
“Here’s the thing…” he says after a few minutes of contemplation.
“We can keep your hair long but that’s gonna make you look really fat and you and I both know fat girls don’t get parts for movies.”
This catches her attention and dials her down.
“So if you wanna keep it the way it is instead of going shorter that’s fine, just know you’re gonna look fat and end up sitting on your couch instead of being in the movies.”
I stand there shocked that he just fat shamed a little girl in an attempt to gain her compliance.
Granted, she was a diabolical little girl but a little girl nonetheless who would now, no doubt, suffer a lifetime of eating disorders and body dysmorphia as a result of Kaleb’s reprehensible strategy.
Still, as reprehensible as his strategy was…
“I don’t wanna look fat, go shorter.”
He bends down and recuts her hair to a new length making everything look crisp, clean and a lot shorter.
“I need you NOW!!!!” Jimbo yells at him.
“Hold your horses.” he says, finishing up on Madison. “Better yet, let ‘em go so they can trample you.”
“You’re kinda funny.” Madison tells him, realizing that he’s just as awful to people as she is.
“I’m not kidding, Kaleb, NOW!!!” Jimbo shouts.
“No, I need you now!” Bree hollers at him.
“The hell you do!” Jimbo fires back.
“Go to hell, Jimbo!” Bree screams.
“GIRL, I AM HELL!!!” Jimbo roars.
Kaleb finishes with Madison, stands upright and then takes in the chaos igniting around him.
“I should’ve followed my uncle’s advice and been in waste management.” he laments, handing me my comb and sheers.
“Get over here!” Jimbo barks at him.
“Seriously, if Sons of Anarchy wasn’t on tonight I’d just go home and shoot myself in the face…get me when you’re finished with the back.” he says, trudging over to Jimbo and still leaving Bree high-n-dry.
I stand there combing Madison’s hair over and over again in an attempt to keep from having to cut it.
After seeing just how easy things can go south I’m terrified to go on for fear of another calamity.
Only fifteen minutes into my first haircut and I’m already suffering from PTSD.
“Are you gonna cut my hair or watch it grow?” she asks.
“I just wanna be careful.”
“Can’t you be careful any faster? My ass is starting to go numb.”
I finally muster the courage to continue with the cut and an hour later I’m finished, feeling like I just passed a kidney stone. But beings I still have the front, sides and layers left that means more stones are on their way.
“I’ll be back.” I tell her as I go looking for Kaleb so he can show me how to do the next part of the cut.
“Jesus Christ!” she yells. “You know, I’d like to get outta here before I’m old enough to get an abortion!”
I turn around and look at her with complete astonishment and amazement, thinking this is exactly the type of thing that happens when parents allow their 10yr old child actor to express themselves freely without oversight or guidance:
They end up screaming about abortions in public.
“What?” she asks shamelessly.
I shake my head at her and hunt for Kaleb, finding him at Bode’s station checking Bode’s cut on a middle aged woman who has bleach-blonde hair and is wearing an outfit that belongs in a 1987 Whitesnake video.
“Hey, Stuke, how’s it going?” Bode asks all excited.
“It’s still going.” I say exhausted. “What’d you do to your client?”
“She wanted choppy rocker layers!”
“Looks good.” Kaleb tells him. “Go ahead and blow dry her.”
“Ok! And when I’m finished can I use a towel and some spray wax to tease her hair up like Nikki Sixx?”
“Uhhhh…sure?” Kaleb says with total indifference.
“Awesome, man, thanks! It’s gonna look so good! I can’t wait for you to see it!”
“Umm, ok.” Kaleb mutters as he walks me back to my station. “I’ve never seen someone so excited about layers before, what a wiener.”
“What’s that supposed to mean?”
“I don’t know. How’s the back of your girl’s head look?”
“It looks short, how else should it look?”
“Is it even?”
“Yeah. I don’t know. I guess…maybe. Who knows?”
“You don’t sound very sure.”
“I’m not sure about anything right now other than the fact that I hate doing this cut, hate my client and hate my fucking life.”
“Welcome to the club.” he says.
“What club is that?”
“Club kill yourself. Grab a seat and plan on staying awhile…like your entire career.”
“Has anyone ever died from sitting in a chair for so fucking long?” Madison moans.
“No but you can be the first.” Kaleb tells her as he inspects the cut.
“How’s it look?” I ask.
“Not bad if this were a hair school for the blind.” he says, grabbing my comb and sheers to fix my mistakes.
“Since you’ve been at this cut for an eternity I’m gonna go ahead and do the front and sides and then I’ll show you how to do the layers. Cool?”
“Cool.” I say emotionally drained, standing back and watching him with a sense of relief and regret.
Relief because this is one less barefooted step I have to take over searing hot coals and regret because I obviously suck so bad at this that someone else has to intervene.
A minute later when he’s finished cutting her hair with the precision of a surgeon he goes over how to do the layers.
“Your elevation and hand positioning are key.” he says, taking a section of hair and holding it up at a specific angle and cutting it to be my guide. “If they don’t remain consistent your layers will be trash, ok?”
“Alright.” I tell him.
“You’re going to have a traveling guide so take pie-shaped sections and work your way around the head in a circle.”
“Wait, wait, wait…” Madison pipes up. “Can you just finish it all? Because this ass-clown is cutting years off my life with how long it’s taking him to do my hair.”
“No.” Kaleb says sternly.
“Why not? I’m the client.”
“No you’re not.”
“Yes I am.”
“No, Stuke is the client, he’s the one paying thousands of dollars to learn how to cut hair. You’re just a talking doll head that needs its mouth washed out with Clorox.”
“That was rude, you ball-bag.” she says crossing her arms.
“So?” Kaleb says shuffling off as she gives him the finger.
“Just hurry the hell up.” She growls at me as I comb up a section of her hair, hold it at its designated angle against the guide Kaleb put in and then carefully cut.
I continue to repeat that same action, slowly working my way around her head to ensure there’s no more mishaps. And while this strategy is good for the cut, it’s downright horrible for Madison and her lack of patience, civility and decency.
“You know what?” she says as I hold up another section, making sure it’s even with my guide.
“I need a tampon.”
“What the – WHY?” I say, dropping both my section and my guide in reaction to her outlandish comment.
“Because you’ve kept me here for so long that I just hit puberty and started my period.”
I stand there wondering where the batteries are to this thing so I can take them out so it’ll stop talking.
“Hopefully I’ll be done before you hit menopause.” I say, combing through her hair in an attempt to find my guide.
“I watched a nature show yesterday where two sloths were mating and I thought they were slow but you take the fucking cake, Stuke.”
As I continue digging through her hair, both worn-out and frustrated, I realize I’ve got exactly three fucks left to give before I go bat-shit ballistic on this ball-breaking kid.
“Well maybe if you kept your shitty comments to yourself I could get this done faster.” I snap back.
“Did you just cuss at me, Mr. Masturbator?”
“Have you not been hearing the raw sewage spewing from your mouth all day?”
“I can say whatever I want because it’s for my acting, you’re the one that’s supposed to be professional. But you’re right about me being here all day so why don’t you shut your dick holster and wrap things up huh?”
I’d wanted to start this next stage of school by being a more responsible and grounded student, kicking it all off with an awesome haircut on my very first client and allowing that experience to be the benchmark for the rest of my time at Paul Mitchell.
But this little half-pint hellion and all her heckling, hollering and harassing had ripped those aspirations to shreds.
She’d done her best to sink her fangs into me and claw at my patience like they were an emotional scratching post, mincing them down until I’d gotten to the point of having zero fucks left to give.
And now that I was fresh out of fucks I didn’t care about my ambitions to be a better student moving forward.
I didn’t care about wanting my first haircut to be a positive experience.
And I didn’t care about Madison and her god-damn acting career.
All I cared about was indulging in some sort of justifiable destruction and since I couldn’t put a drink in my hand then the sheers that were already in them would have to do.
At first I’d been tied-up in knots that my haircut on Madison would end up looking like one big pile of dog shit and that I would end up looking like an idiot.
But beings that she’d gone out of her way to make me feel like an idiot I figured I owed it to her to make her hair look like one big pile of dog shit.
So with a mouthful of gritted teeth and hands full of rage I begin yanking up large swaths of her hair and chopping away at it with fierce and unapologetic reckless abandon.
And as that sweet release of anxiety, worry and pent up hostility came rushing out through every angry cut that I made I found myself not caring about how awful the consequences of my actions would look on Madison because after all,
It’s a $12 haircut for a reason…
*Rosemary’s Baby is the 1968 psychological horror film about Rosemary, a newlywed housewife whose struggling actor husband betrays her by allowing their Satan-worshiping neighbors to drug her so Beelzebub can rape and impregnate her.
In exchange for his pimping services the husband is awarded fame and fortune while Rosemary is awarded the responsibility of raising the Anti-Christ.
The film stars Mia Farrow as Rosemary who rocks an iconic pixie cut given to her by Vidal Sassoon at the cost of $5,000.00 (37k by today’s standards).
And while Farrow’s haircut became a global trend-setting look that’s still timeless to this day, that didn’t keep her real-life husband Frank Sinatra from getting his panties up in a wad about the extremely short length of his wife’s hair.
In addition to Sinatra hating Farrow’s hair he also demanded that she drop out of the movie to become a homemaker after ¾ of it had been filmed. When Farrow refused Sinatra filed for divorce and had the papers delivered to the movie’s set.
Funny how manly men can look like giant, cry-baby pussies with the passage of time, huh?
And speaking of pussies…
The critically-acclaimed film was directed by Roman Polanski who less than a decade later would take a page right out of his movie’s script and drug, rape and sodomize a 13yr old girl while she was under the influence of a controlled substance.
After being found guilty of these crimes Polanski fled to France where they don’t look down on that type of thing (Cuties anyone?) and since then has vigilantly avoided visiting any countries that are likely to extradite him back to the U.S. where he would most certainly be imprisoned, and given the criminal’s code of conduct on the inside, would be treated just as horribly as he treated that 13yr old years earlier.