New. “Today is the start of the new you.” My mother’s words are an earworm burrowing into my mind. What’s wrong with the old me?

In the mirror she stares at me, daring me to defy her. My inner voice screams to defend the current me. My mother flashes me a Sale of the Century model smile, and I stay silent. I’m 37 but the child in me is eager to please.

My mother had arrived on my doorstep an hour earlier after I had ignored her last nineteen messages. She had even taken to posting ‘there’s nothing as strong as a bond between a mother and daughter’ style posts on my Facebook timeline.

“I thought you were dead,” she had said.

“I’ve been busy with work.” I was a merger and acquisitions lawyer. I worked long hours but I loved my job. A point lost on my mother.

“If you didn’t work so much, Tom wouldn’t have escaped to the desert.”

I take a deep breath. “I’ve told you, Mum. The break-up was a mutual decision. Tom had a great job opportunity in Dubai.”

“Maybe if you made more of an effort…” Her eyes went to my unwashed hair, pulled into a low ponytail, before landing on my leggings and Ugg boots. “You could get some style tips from your sister.”

I groan, readying myself for the great list of achievements. A muscle under my mother’s eye twitches momentarily, and then the mask is back. “Married and two children, all before the age of 32.”

“There’s still time…” My voice is a strangled whisper. How is it that I can bring CEOs of multi-million dollar companies to their knees, yet this woman can still render me a self-doubting mess?

My mother’s eyes flash in triumph. “I have a present for you.”

The ‘present’ was an appointment with my mother’s hairdresser, Rhonda – a woman whose 80s poofed hair was reminiscent of Spike from Degrassi Junior High.

As Rhonda’s scissors hover, I open my mouth to protest, but my mother is prepared. After all, this was premeditated torture. 

“You do want to do something before it’s too late?”

I give a dutiful nod and in one fell swoop my ponytail is dropping to the floor. In no time Rhonda has transformed me into an eerie mash-up of Hillary Clinton and Sharyn Osbourne. It is my mother’s haircut.

My mother beams at me. “Much better.” She trots off to the counter to make a show of “treating my daughter – she’s had such troubles you know.”

I feel a fury buried deep within me begin to rise. I am watching myself from afar as I reach out for a set of clippers. My hands seem forged in steel as I run the clippers through the side of my hair, leaving a trail of bare scalp. I can see my mother in the mirror flapping like a dying fish, and I keep shaving. “You’re right, Mum. This is the start of the new me.”

Writer’s Note: This story is pure fiction. My mother is amazingly awesome – she told me to say that : )