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Sarah’s story:

It’s quarter to twelve when the phone rings. I know it is the sorority again. Picking up the phone, I hear Molly’s voice. "Hi! We’ve got to be there at midnight. She said to wear our pledge dresses." I say OK, and hang up. We’ve been pledging the sorority for 8 weeks now, and we all figure there is probably two weeks left before Hell Night and the final ceremonies. Once or twice a week we get these calls to rush up to the sorority house, usually at midnight, for some activity. We get there and the sisters have usually been drinking, and they have us do some silly activity for an hour or two before we are allowed to leave.

I grab my "pledge dress," and rush towards Molly’s room. The very first week of pledging, we had been told to buy an oversize men’s t-shirt, a plain white undershirt. We had to cut the arms off and sew the holes shut, so we would not be able to use our hands without hiking the "dress" up past our elbows. Each week we have to embroider some "pledge lesson" inside the hem, where nobody can see it. Nobody but the sisters, that is, who check them meticulously each week. It is an incredible amount of work, and I hate doing it. Our instructions were that if we are ever told to wear our pledge dresses, we can wear nothing else, not underwear, not jewelry, not even a barrette or scrunchy in our hair. Our pledge pin is to be in the center of the chest. We are allowed to wear shoes, but we’ve been warned that they would have to be left at the door of the sorority house. The shoes have to be slip-on since, with the dress on, we can’t use our hands without hiking the dress up past our elbows, and since we aren’t allowed underwear…

Also, we’ve all been privately warned that the dresses would not be needed until Hell Night. If we’re told to wear them prior to that, it’s serious trouble.

I’m the last to arrive at Molly’s room. Everyone else has already changed into the pledge dress for the walk to the house. With everyone dressed the same, I notice how all four of the other pledges are really attractive, yet each is very different. I especially notice how everyone has let their hair down, and how everyone’s hair looks against the stark background of the white t-shirts. Molly is the pledge captain, and the most self assured. Molly gets more attention than the rest of us, in part because of her exuberance, but mostly because of her magnificent waist-length red hair. Amy is also a red-head, but while Molly’s hair is perfectly straight, Amy’s is a mass of unruly curls, bouncing just above her shoulders. Liz just recently cut her long dark hair into the "Friends" look, with shaggy layers covering her shoulders. Judy’s thick blonde hair is all one length, just past her breast.

I strip, and pull the "pledge dress" over my head. I leave it gathered around my shoulders, so I can reach behind to pull my hair out from under the collar. While right now I wish I could have pulled it back in a scrunchy, I love how long my hair has finally gotten. I’ve been growing it out for what seems like an eternity, and it’s finally a few inches past my shoulders. It’s constantly moving, and I love the way it feels, the way it smells, everything about it. Anyway, I let the dress fall, and suddenly I can’t move my arms underneath it.

"OK everyone," Molly says, "we’ve got five minutes to make the walk." As we start walking, I am hoping that the campus is empty, because I feel kind of foolish being dressed this way. Everyone is trying to guess why we had to wear the pledge dresses, and we decide that the sisters are just trying to "psych us out." Everyone else seems to gain confidence from the idea, but if that was the sisters’ goal, it was working, at least on me.

One block from the house, we stop talking, and walk in single file, as we always have to do for these events. There’s a lone figure on the porch in front of the darkened house, wearing a hooded robe. Inside, through the open front door, we can see all 30 of the sisters, standing in the unlit entry way, holding candles. We stop and wait at the base of the steps. It’s pretty strange, because of the eerie light of the candles, and because normally the sisters are laughing and whooping it up, instead of just standing there silently.

After a moment of silence, the hooded figure speaks. It’s Debbie, the pledge mistress. "Eyes down, pledges. Stare at your knees while you are blindfolded." We do as we’re told. Then we hear the sisters filing silently out onto the porch, and see the flickering shadows around our feet from the 30 candles.

Some of the sisters come down from the porch, and one places a black hood over my head, completely covering my face. I assume the same is happening to all the others, but I can’t tell. She also takes my shoes. She leads me inside, and then down into the basement. I know from the direction that we’re entering one of the "ritual rooms," but I can’t tell which, and I can’t tell if the other pledges are still with me, or if I am alone with the sisters. On some silent signal, they blow out all the candles, filling the air with the smell of smoking wicks. A moment later, I feel the heat of spotlights, and can sense the light through the hood, even though I’m still completely blinded. At least now I know which room we’re in, and I can imagine the scene. The other four pledges and I are probably arranged in a semi-circle, facing in, with a small "alter" table at the head. Debbie, the pledge-mistress, is standing behind it. Immediately surrounding the pledges are the portable spotlights, with the sisters standing in the shadows behind them, unrecognizable.

After several minutes of eerie silence, Debbie speaks up. "For the first time in nearly nine years, the sisterhood doubts the sincerity of the pledge class. Not all of you have had the proper attitudes. We therefore call on you to make an offering to prove your intentions. If any of you choose not to make the offering, all of you will be dismissed from the class. If you agree to the offering, kneel before the sisterhood." I start to kneel, and it sounds like the others are also kneeling down. The tile floor is hard on my bare knees.

"Good," Debbie continues, "the pledge captain will now be brought forward to receive the offerings." There’s some movement, and it sounds like somebody is being brought to the center of the circle. Debbie is barking orders: "Remove the hood. Eyes forward for your instructions. The length of the offering is not to exceed this much. Each pledge’s offering is to continue until this much remains. Do not dirty the pledge dress or the floor with the offering. Place it there, then when you are finished, the pledge will bring it here, for acceptance by the sisterhood. Do you understand?" I can’t tell what she is talking about, but I hear Molly answer: "Yes, ma’am." It’s kind of reassuring to hear Molly’s voice, even though the instructions sound pretty strange.

"Bring the first pledge!" There’s some movement, and the sound of another pledge being brought to join Molly in the center. "Kneel! Remove the hood!" Debbie is shouting the commands. "Begin the offering." There is a loud gasp, which sounds like it might be Amy. "SILENCE!" Debbie screams, which kind of scares me. "There will be no sound from the pledges!" A moment passes. There is a sound like scissors cutting, but I’m not really sure. The silence between the cutting sounds is deafening. After what seems like maybe five or ten minutes of the cutting sounds, Debbie speaks up again. "Bring forward the offering!" I hear movement. "Replace the hood!" "Return the pledge!" "Bring the second pledge!"

I’m trying to imagine what is going on, when I realize they are probably cutting up the pledge dresses. I’m completely bummed, and I think about all the hours I had put into the embroidery. I know that they are going to make us do them over, and with very little time before hell night.

The exact same thing happens with the second pledge. When they call for the third, I feel people on either side of me pull me to my feet and lead me to the center. "Kneel!" I kneel down again. "Remove the hood!" The hood is pulled off my head, and I blink a couple of times in the bright glare from the lights, trying to get my bearings. Molly is standing in front of me. Her pledge dress is hiked up to her elbows, exposing her completely. My eyes are at her bellybutton, but I can’t help noticing her exposed crotch as well. She has a pair of scissors in her hand. She must be the one who removed the hood. Whichever sisters had helped me up and led me to the center had melted into the crowd again. I notice that all three of the other pledges are kneeling nearby, but their pledge dresses are intact. What was that cutting sound? There is an oversized bowl on a small table next to me, right next to my hood. In front, I see Debbie in the hooded gown. In front of her is a table, with five white handkerchiefs in a row. The first two are covered in a pile of something, but in the confusion, I can’t tell what.

Molly’s story:

All these pledging activities are kind of funny. I know how "serious" it is all supposed to be, and for a few of the diehards it is, but most of the sisters find it all kind of silly, and I picked up on the cynicism pretty quick. These late night activities are actually fun most of the time, once you get over the embarrassment of the things they ask us pledges to do. As we approach the house tonight, it’s different. Everyone seems awfully serious. They blindfold us and take us down to one of the ritual rooms. Debbie is babbling about some kind of offering, and then, as the pledge captain, I have to come forward to participate. They take the hood off, and there is a small table with a bowl and a pair of barber’s scissors. Debbie comes over to me, picks up the scissors, and places them in my hair near my left ear. At first I panic, thinking she is going to cut my hair, but then she pulls the scissors away and starts giving me instructions. She holds her thumb and forefinger about 4" apart, and says that is the length of the offering. I don’t want a haircut, but it’s just a couple inches, and with hair to my waist, most people won’t even notice. I feel bad for the girls with shorter styles. Debbie then tells me that I have to keep making the offering until (her thumb and forefinger are now about an inch apart) "this much is left." It is beginning to dawn on me that she wants it ALL cut off, just in shorter clumps, probably to prolong the experience. My mind is racing now, I have to get out of this. I figure since I’m the captain, and I’m doing the cutting, maybe I’m exempt. They really can’t expect me to cut my hair that short. It’ll be tough enough on the girls with shorter styles. There are more instructions: I’m supposed to catch all the hair and put it in the bowl, without dropping any on the pledge dresses or the floor. When I’m done, each pledge has to bring the bowl with her hair forward and dump it on a white handkerchief on the "alter."

I realize that I’m going to have to hike up my pledge dress, and everyone is going to be looking at me. It’s kind of sexy, almost a strip tease, as I hike the dress up to my elbows, then reach for the scissors.

The first pledge they bring up is Amy. She has gorgeous red curls, almost to her shoulders. They kneel her down next to me, and Debbie tells me to remove her hood. When she sees me reaching for her hair with the scissors she gasps loudly, and Debbie starts yelling at her. I try to give her a sympathetic look, but her eyes are welling with tears as I take a clump of hair near her ear and slice it off. I place the cut hair in the bowl and cut some more. Since I am being so careful not to let any hair fall, it is going pretty slowly. Amy settled down pretty quick, and I’m starting to get into this. It is a pretty sensual experience, cutting her hair. It’s thick and soft, and feels really good in my hands as I cut it off. It is also kind of a power trip- I know she doesn’t want it cut off, and I’m cutting anyway. I don’t have a choice either, I guess, but it is still pretty intoxicating. The bowl is filling up with her curls, and pretty soon her hair is so short that you can’t even tell that it’s curly. When I’m finished, Debbie makes her stand up, hike her dress up to free her hands, and carry the bowl to the little alter. She dumps all her hair onto the handkerchief, then brings the bowl back and kneels so that I can cover her head with the hood. Two of the sisters come to lead her back to her spot on the circle.

Liz is next. She recently cut her hair in a shoulder length layered style, after always having had long hair. We had talked after her haircut, and she said she had really enjoyed it. She said it was exciting to give up the control, and watch her hair fall around her, so I wondered what her reaction to this would be. I removed the hood, and she looks at me. When she sees what is going on, she smiles and winks, then kind of shakes her hair around as if to say "Go for it!" I started cutting away, taking 4" clumps as I was instructed. Her hair is perfectly straight, so it feels very different from Amy’s. She is definitely into it, so I am really beginning to enjoy this. It actually goes too quickly, and when she goes up to pour the cut hair onto the alter, she is almost strutting, with a definite attitude about her.

I replace her hood, and the sisters put her back in her spot on the circle. They bring Sarah up next. She is going to hate this. Her thick, dark hair is maybe four inches past her shoulders, and she has been growing it out for almost two years. She’s told me a bunch of times how jealous she is of my long hair, and how much she is into growing hers long. She kneels, and I take the hood off.

Sarah’s story:

"Begin the offering!" Debbie commands. Molly gives me a very apologetic look, and reaches for my left ear with her empty hand. She grabs a handful of my hair, and then reaches towards it with the scissors. My stomach turns as I suddenly realize what is happening. She cuts a 4 inch clump of my hair off, right next to my ear, making a terrible sound. My beautiful hair! She carefully places the severed lock in the bowl. I now know what it is that she cannot "dirty" the floor or the pledge dress with.

I look up, and realize what is up on the alter. Amy’s and Liz’s hair. I look at the piles, squinting a bit from the spotlights. They both have, or had, shorter hair styles than me, and the piles of hair are incredible. SNIP! Another clump of my hair comes off in Molly’s hand, and joins the first lock in the bowl. My eyes are welling up. Luckily, there isn’t a mirror to see what she’s doing. SNIP! Another lock of hair. I can already feel how much shorter it is on that side now, and I see my hair piling up in the bowl. SNIP! God, how I hate that sound. Why did she have to start right near my ear? SNIP! I feel her working her way back along the side of my head. SNIP! I see the growing pile of hair in the bowl. It is all from just one side, and she isn’t even finished with that. SNIP! The tears are running down my cheek now. She hasn’t even looked at me since she started cutting. SNIP! I look up, and all the sisters are there, hiding in the shadows. They’re WATCHING this, like some kind of spectator sport! SNIP! I close my eyes, I’m not sure I can take this anymore. I imagine what Amy and Liz are thinking right now. SNIP! If I had known all that time that their hair was being cut off… SNIP! Molly is behind me now. My hair is longest and thickest in the back. I remember how excited I was when it had finally grown long enough to feel it against my back. SNIP! In spite of Molly cutting pretty carefully, there are still bits of hair falling into my collar, making me itch. Of course, with the pledge dress on, I can’t do anything about it. SNIP! She comes around to my right side, and grabs the hair by my ear. I wince, knowing how close the sound will be in my ear. SNIP!

Finally she is finished. I’m told to stand, and to pick up the bowl. I start to hike my dress up, feeling very exposed. I pick up the bowl. I can’t help but notice how much hair there is piled in the bowl. The tears start to well up again. I walk forward, and pour out my hair into a pile on the handkerchief. I desperately want to reach up and feel what’s left of my hair, but I can’t. I’m blindfolded again, and led back to my spot on the circle.

I hear the whole process starting up again with Judy. I am imagining her thick blonde hair, and the approaching scissors. I wonder what it must be like to be doing the cutting. I sort of wish I could be doing it instead of Molly. I wonder how it would feel to hold the hair in my hand, take the scissors and sink it into the soft locks. Part of it is curiosity, but part of it is anger as well. I can’t believe Molly did that to me! She knows how I felt about my hair, and she did it anyway. What about her hair? They HAVE to cut hers too! I couldn’t stand it if she was able to keep all that long hair while the rest of us…

I realize that Judy is finished. She is returned to the circle, and Debbie tells Molly to kneel. I’m pretty angry at her now, and I can’t wait to hear the scissors crunch through her hair. We are told to stand and remove our hoods. For the first time, I see the other girls. Everyone has a short, rough haircut. Still, it’s a good looking group, and a careful stylist can make it look like we all got matching "on-the-edge" short ‘dos. Molly is kneeling in the middle, and I notice that her hair has been loosely tied back with a ribbon about halfway down the length. Debbie is standing in front of her with a pair of scissors.

Molly’s story:

After I finished Judy’s hair, I was told to kneel in the center, where I had cut everyone else’s hair. A lump formed in my throat… I didn’t think they would really cut MY hair. One of the sisters came up behind me and tied my hair back loosely. I saw Debbie smiling, and I knew that she wasn’t going to cut it. I began to relax, as the other girls were told to remove their hoods. It was pretty cool to see them all with matching, and radically short, cuts. I hadn’t done the neatest job in the world, given the circumstances, but they all still looked good. Liz and Judy seemed pretty relaxed. They both acted like they enjoyed having their hair cut short. Amy still looked ready to cry, and Sarah seemed pretty angry.

Debbie picked up the scissors and played with them as she began to speak, looking right into my eyes. "Since Molly is the pledge captain, her offering will be a bit different." I KNEW she wouldn’t cut my hair! "We would like her to re-think the pledge lessons embroidered in the hem of her pledge dress." She grabbed it at the collar, and began to cut it off of me. I could live with that. It would be a lot of work to re-do it, but at least I can keep my hair. She finished and neatly folded the cut up dress, placing it on the last handkerchief on the alter. "Of course, we’ll expect Molly to replace the dress." She put the scissors down. "And I’m sure the rest of the pledge class will understand why, as pledge captain, her hair needs to be a bit different." YES!! I bit my lip to keep from smiling too broadly, since it was so unfair to the other girls, but I was completely relieved. Then, suddenly somebody yanked on my hair. I almost fell over backwards. They pulled down on the loose ponytail and held it down, so I was staring straight up in the air. One of the sisters was standing behind me, holding me tightly by my hair. Another came up and stared into my eyes with an evil grin, then showed me the electric clippers in her hand. She clicked them on and they made a horrible buzzing noise. I saw them approach my forehead, then felt the vibration against my scalp. In the wake of the path, I felt the pressure of the tight hold on my hair melt away.

Sarah’s story:

I saw one of the sister’s jerk back on Molly’s loose ponytail, almost knocking her over. She held it down so that Molly was staring straight up at ceiling. Then I saw another sister with the clippers. She pushed them into Molly’s hair. Behind the clippers, there was nothing but stubble. In about one minute, she was finished, and the sister holding the ponytail held it up in the air. It was 3 feet long. Molly’s head was covered in nothing but stubble. There wasn’t anything a stylist could do about THAT. It was almost enough to make me feel sorry for her, until I looked at the other pledges and remembered how short she had cut my hair. I smiled at her stubbly head, and her naked body.

Debbie told us to leave, and the sisters stood and watched as we walked out. We got outside the house, put on our shoes, and we walked very close together, with Molly in the middle, trying to hide the fact that she was naked as well as bald.

Debbie’s story:

The pledges had left, and my hands were shaking as one of the sister’s handed me a drink. I was very protective of my girls in the pledge class, and the evening had kind of overwhelmed me. For years, we had pulled this stunt, and every time, the pledge captain had passed the test, by refusing to participate, and the "offering" had been cancelled due to her courage in standing up to the sisterhood. Until tonight I wouldn’t have believed that one of my pledges would really do that to her classmates…

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