A hairdresser called my mother's face 'too fat' for a short haircut

Tracey Folly

*This is a work of nonfiction based on actual events I experienced firsthand; used with permission.

When you’re fat, everyone has an opinion.

My mother recently reminded me about the time she went to the beauty salon to have her hair cut.

She wanted it cut short to make it easier to take care of. My mother has always had very thick, wiry hair that is prone to tangles and snarls, and she was very busy taking care of her husband and raising two children. She didn’t have time to tear knots out of her hair every morning.

That’s why she visited the beauty salon on a Saturday morning several decades ago and requested a shorter hairstyle. It was a style she had seen in a fashion magazine, and it looked effortless; it was exactly what she needed.

“No,” her hairdresser said upon hearing what my mother wanted. “Your face is too fat for that hairstyle.”

“What?” my mother asked. She couldn’t believe what she had just heard.

“Your face,” the hairdresser said, “is too round for that hairstyle. You're too fat for short hair.”

My mother felt crushed. It was bad enough that the hairdresser wouldn’t give her the hairstyle she wanted, but did the hairdresser have to insult her, too?

In the meantime, I was an easily excitable third-grader waiting patiently for my mother at my grandmother’s house. I always enjoyed visiting with my grandmother, but I also enjoyed it when my mother came to pick me up and we could go home together. Our home was just a block away, and I couldn’t wait to get there.

When my mother knocked on the door, I raced to answer it. I threw open the door, took one look at my mother’s fresh new hairstyle, and burst into tears.

It was too short.

I didn’t care or even notice whether my mother’s face was too fat for short hair. In my eyes, her face was perfect. It was her hair I found problematic. I was a creature of habit, which means I opposed change with my entire little heart, and my mother’s new shorter hair was the epitome of change.

She didn’t even look like my mother.

I had never seen my mother’s hair that short, and to this day, I can remember exactly how it looked when I swung open the door to my grandmother’s first-floor apartment. She was wearing her favorite beige trench coat, and it belted tightly around a waist that was far from fat.

To this day, I don’t know what my mother’s hairdresser was talking about. What I know is that I cried because I didn’t like the short hairstyle she finally agreed to give to my mother, and then my mother cried because I was crying. Then she cried because the hairdresser called her fat, and then we took the short drive home a block away and had lunch.

After lunch, everything always looks better. So it was with my mother’s new shorter hairstyle. She never looked more beautiful than she did on that day, except every day since then.

The hairstyle does not make the woman. It is the woman who makes the hairstyle, and my mother looks beautiful in any hairstyle she wears no matter the length.

These days, the only person who cuts my mother’s hair is me. I’m not a hairdresser, not even close, but I know what she likes. She likes to have her hair cut by someone who does what she wants without judgment.

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