How I loved long hair! From the moment I began to adore young ladies, I have always indulged a simultaneous affection for their beautiful tresses, both their variety and style. I say ‘adore’ because I fear you will think of such mean, alternative words as ‘lust’ or even nastier ones like ‘fetish’ or ‘obsession’; but fear not when I say my consideration of ladies’ hair was fully above board and modest, and more than a trifle in keeping with the customary regard of the times.
Brunette, auburn, chestnut, ebony, ginger, titian, blonde--there were so many delightful shades to enjoy! Of the many I can truthfully claim to have observed, it was blonde that most unsettled my heart from its otherwise assuredly steady pace. Oh, the swoons that sometimes would come upon me, the fevers that would rage in my mind if my eye glimpsed that most excellent, sun-conferred color; oh the prayers, the kneelings, the obeisances I would pay before the pale, pedestaled bust of Helios in my room for giving mankind that fairest, aurous tincture.
If you think me strange, know that for a learned person like myself, it is no foolish thing to kneel before a pagan god and give thanks. When have you given such thanks for so simple yet elegant a thing as ladies blonde hair? I might risk impropriety to inquire when you, if a lady, have ever been thankful for anything as have I…least of all your hair.
But you must wonder how I have seen so much of ladies hair. You needn't doubt my honesty, for as I have owned to my adoration I shall also tell of my incomparable fortune in circumstance that permitted viewing so much hair. Well, then if you promise not to tell Doctor—I mean Miss—Antonia…I was a millinery assistant in London. Well I need not tell you I came from means to work at Bank&Chaston’s, and though my hair was not so fine I always had an eye for fashion and style. It was these proficiencies that acquired me the entry position of assistant; Miss Grey was so apt at making the hats but so poor at choosing the ribbons, and I had so excellent an eye and taste. “Lydia,” she used to say, “girl you must have pink ribbons for blonde hair.” How she oft missed the mark! It was blue, blue that blonde girls required. As such, I brought in all shades I could find: humble cornflower, noble Prussian, elegant French, mysterious indigo—each shade suited a different blonde. For how could I have done right by my clientele if I lacked the proper implements of magnifying beauty?
Oh but how I have lost the point. You must think I’m dodging confession. Well, I tell you it was my position that afforded the viewing of so much hair. Silly, you must have deduced that by now! And how came I to adore the hair of so many blondes? Why, once my proficiency of matching ribbons with hat and hair was known, so many blondes came to visit. It is no lie that it was said of Lydia Clare that she could increase a blonde girl’s beauty with a single silk ribbon. Of course I increased it with more than just a ribbon—a whole hat for certain! But that was the general report.
When so many blonde girls came shopping, I must say that it set my heart aflutter. For though I have always fostered a delight for all hair, the sheer sight of one and twenty blondes at the window that one morning was almost too much for my sensibilities.
Well…I daresay you’ve heard of Sappho, most likely read her “Hymn to Aphrodite?” Yes? See, there I knew you had! It is a common lie that Aphrodite did not have golden locks. Why, Bouguereau certainly ruined the very virtue of Aphrodite when he painted The Birth of Venus. Her locks are far too ruddy, almost as though she were a horrid ginger. What’s that? Well, I do not revile gingers altogether; as I said, I adore all ladies' hair. And gingers look so wonderful in green, almost as good as I do with my obsidian curls. Anyhow, he ruined Aphrodite altogether, for she was not so red. My, but he did get the length of her hair right.
I’ll tell you a secret: there was a girl who had exactly the features of Bouguereau’s Aphrodite—all, all her features—but her hair was the perfect flaxen gold. And she was not so robust of chin and proud of brow, or detached in manner. I remember the day she came into the shop—she outshone all other blondes, and certainly all other girls in the room. That day I had just been reflecting upon my long-tenured hatred of Bouguereau when she tapped the bell at my desk—a Miss Opal W…I’ll not tell you the last name, but she was of a grand family, perhaps one you know.
Opal. Oh lord Helios, Opal! When I looked into her eyes I saw all the blue of the sky surrounded by Midas’ wealth; yet that wealth not so cold, not so unfeeling. I think I must have grabbed her gloved hand in my rapture. But she was not startled. Or did not show any that I could see.
I tell you I am kind, for all my selfish adoration! I was determined to show her a kindness deserved of by no one else upon the touch of her hand. Oh, I could not give her free apparel, but I gave her all else and my heart, and we shopped and talked so pleasantly together. She was as fond of poetry as I, and we took to reading each other verses from Marlowe, Byron, Shakespeare, and my favorite Sappho, in the little garden gazebo whenever she invited me to her home. Yes, she invited me many a time for we were friends from the start, and I would bring her hats and all sorts of things to try.
But I soon began to revile hats altogether you know. Opal did not look right in them, for she had the longest blonde hair imaginable—well, not imaginable, but at least as long as Bouguereau’s Aphrodite. And it got so horribly compressed and twisted inside those awful hats. I determined that I must see it all down. So I advised Opal that she was too beautiful for hats—and do you know she agreed. Of fine mind was Opal, so perceptive and quick. Do you mark me, we retired to her chamber to let her hair down. No impropriety was it, silly! For she required a place to lay the masses of pins that held all her hair within that horrid hat. Oh, what adoration was mine when she stood before the looking glass and let down her hair. It was so soft, so luminous, and framed her body so well.
Of what impropriety was there? I was as much her maid as the one given her, and she had much need of help undressing as any lady would. Why yes I undressed her, I had to or she would not have become Aphrodite. Did I not tell you that she knew my intentions well, and perceived my image of her in my mind's eye? And Opal was a little proud (as one has right to be when in the possession of such a fine figure), but not so arrogant as to be vexatious or unkind. And it was her kindness to me that caused her desire to undress. Do you know that when I saw her from behind fully unclothed, her hair all down her back like a bronze cataract, I almost did not want her to turn round! But turn round she did, and I kissed her for such loveliness. And when we embraced, I entered heaven, for to touch her endless locks that cascaded off her shoulders!
When we had hugged, she suddenly whispered the most awful thing in my ear. Not so bad, but most assuredly disturbing, for I almost stopped petting her hair. She told me she loved me. I suppose I am well enough to like, but the love of which she spoke was wholly foreign to me. When I balked, she added that I was her dark lady, and that like the Bard she must have me, for she did not desire any man. I wonder, how could she have learned so curious a thing from Sappho?
Her current talk made my interest stall, but I patted her head and said she should turn round and let me kiss her hair, for I had desired to do that much—to imagine it was a gold river from which I must drink, or die. But do you know, she continued talking, gave a whole speech in fact, a speech through which her breast heaved in a most ugly fashion. Before long, she took my hand to her bosom and began relating how she was destined for a most unseemly match, and that this clever coxcomb had threatened her in private. Further, she added that he had struck her, struck her in all manner of places out of sheer delight and cruelty. Indeed, she showed me the healing bruises on her shoulders, back, and buttocks that her long hair—conveniently, purposely long I learned later—hid the marks from everyone, from her lady’s maid to her father. And my! The recent bruise on her throat! That, she said, was obtained when her man struck her for smiling too much two mornings previous. I can tell you the more she went on, I quite desired to give her a bruise myself. But this was only a thought. Please do not think me so wild, for I still liked her, and desired much to play with her hair no matter how many bruises she bore on her back. When I declared as much, she begged me to kiss her and become her lover. The wildness! The audacity! She said she had money, that she could set us up comfortably in the city for a time, where I could pass as her new lady’s maid—I, pass as a lady’s maid? Well, I needn’t tell you that I did not strike her for such a remark, but I did not smile. Then she began talking utter madness: she declared that her father would understand her leaving the family for me, if only I would accompany her to London!
I thought, and still think, Opal was very pretty, her hair positively the gold of the sun. But when she ventured to let tears moisten her cheeks, I flew into a rage. She was so unworthy of the hair the gods had given her to be so weak and unsightly.
She reached out to embrace me once again, and I let her. She pressed me tight, kissing my neck in a most desperate fashion. And the whole while I did not let on to my wrath, but calmly returned her affections while gathering her voluminous hair into my hands. She sank on her knees as if to beg, and I seized the moment. I twisted the hair in my hands into a single, beautiful strand, pulled hard until she screamed, and wrestled her to the floor. There, I wrapped it quickly—you cannot imagine my speed—around her throat and that awful bruise who’s faint purple mark seemed to glare at me.
Do not think me cruel. I only intended to frighten her into sense, for sense she required. I was so apt at ribbons and hats, and it occurred to me as she lay there that it was time her flaxen locks were tied in some proper fashion. But there was no ribbon nearby. The only sensible thing was to fling her hair around her throat and coil it thus. And this hid the tiresome bruise at any rate.
You can imagine my shock when she did not respond to my voice, moreso when her breast ceased to rise and fall. Though only marginally pretty at first sight, her bosom appeared even less fine without motion. However, this was no bother, for in the silence I could finally braid her hair into plaits, for what is a hat, even the finest one, to properly ordered hair? And how long it was, or have I not told you? Its supreme length allowed me room to braid it without removing the loops about her throat. And her beauty only increased as I stepped back to survey my handiwork and saw the golden choker wrapped under her chin. It was the finest ornament she’d ever worn, and made her cheeks flush as though dabbed with her own blood.
But something was wrong with the whole scene. Though I need not tell you how feverish my affections had grown upon seeing the fullness of her plaited hair, yet it was so very plain and required some further measure of embellishment. I knew at once that it lacked the humble grace of flowers. That is another thing Bouguereau missed in his portrait of Venus, however grand a painter he is. A disrobed girl is always in need of flowers otherwise she is not right, and I had a mind to decorate her and put a nice gathering of the Gentianas from the garden between her breasts. I gathered quite a few for I planned to sprinkle some vivid blue petals in Opal’s hair—such loveliness that would be—and returned to her room more a flower girl than a milliner.
I say, I think I have not told you how like she was to Aphrodite. A truer Aphrodite there never was; and you may count my word in the matter as informed. There I was with so many flowers, almost fit to adorn Olympus, and she lay nearby, so naturally pale and unblemished—truly it was a scene like Aphrodite’s marriage to Hephaestus. Indeed, it was a wedding: I the flower girl with my bright Gentianas, she the bride adorned in her milky skin.
There were such dark figures in the doorway when I returned to the room. Opal’s latent scream must have alarmed them. To be sure, she had talked too much. When they spotted me, I told them the flowers were for Opal. One of them began to cry like my prostrate Aphrodite had. That vexed me. I daresay I dropped the flowers and--
No. I did not drop the flowers. Indeed, I insisted on placing them at Opal’s breast—or at least, to cast a few petals in her hair, the shards of the sky upon the Golden Fleece of Colchis. This I did, and how beautiful she looked.
Do you know, those figures removed the beautiful strands of hair from Opal’s neck? They wrecked my work and revealed such an ugly bruise, now grown very large. Upon my word, I cannot say how it got so, having been at first so insignificant a mark.
Written by G.M. Danielson