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This is it, are you ready?” I asked Jackie as I held the Oster clippers up in front of her face. She took a deep breath and closed her green eyes, her long, silky straight red locks shining beautifully in the lights of her house, almost as if they were shining in defiance of what was about to happen to them. Her lush, thick bangs completely hiding any skin from her crown down to her eyebrows.

“I’m ready Jessica, for Jennifer.” She replied with a wide, nervous smile. I flicked the clippers on an inch from her forehead, making her jump and causing her eyes to fly open in surprise. Her magnificent, waist length strawberry blond mane fluttered with the movement, then swung beautifully behind her and shimmered even more brightly.

Everyone in the room laughed at her surprise, but unconsciously we all touched our hair at the idea of what was in store for all of us one day in the future. Jackie reached up and smoothed her satiny locks, taking a moment to run her fingers through her hair one last time. Judy twirled a lock of her shoulder length black, curly hair around her finger. Janet reached up and tousled her own spiky, pixie length hair,  which was a very rare baby blonde color that almost bordered on silver. And I reached up slowly to run my own fingers through my thick, silky, butt length golden brown mane, thinking silently of what things would be like for me in exactly one year.

But for now I concentrated on the task at hand as I gently pulled Robin’s magnificent strawberry blond bangs back from her forehead and slowly plunged the clippers into her thick, lovely mane. I heard the clippers slow down audibly as they bit into the lush satin jungle, and then I felt Robin’s hair in my left hand slowly slide away from her head. A tiny two inch by two inch portion of her forehead was now devoid of hair, the rest of her mane still thick and lovely, but this was only the beginning of the end for her beautiful hair.

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The four of us, Jackie, Judy, Janet, and myself had been been friends since junior high to the present day, all of us now twenty-four. There had been five of us originally, our gang rounded out by our other best friend Jennifer, but a little over four years ago she had been diagnosed with cancer. We stuck by her side through her tough fight, which had been especially tough for all of us when she lost her chocolate brown, mid-back length hair. She had loved her hair, and we had all loved playing with it, so seeing it fall out in clumps was the first step of seeing our friend disappear.

A few months later Jennifer passed away, and one day several months after she had passed we had just come back from visiting her gravesite. We were gathered around the table that night taking shots in her honor, alternating turns saying what we missed most about her.

“I have an idea…” Judy said as she slammed down her shotglass, “and I want to know what you guys think.” We could all tell that Judy had been dying to say something for quite a while, but had been trying to build up the courage to do so. “I’ve been thinking of shaving my head to honor Jennifer, this IS her birthday after all.” She reached up and fingered her then shoulder length black curls.

We all looked at her in shock, was she going to shave her head for real? Everyone looked shocked, but just then I felt a well of excitement pool up in my stomach. At the time I had been wearing my golden brown hair in a much shorter chin length bob, and personally I wouldn’t mind taking the leap myself. Something about the idea of rubbing my head devoid of hair sounded like something I would love to do at least once in my life.

“Are you CRAZY?” Jackie nearly screamed, just before I was about to tell her that I’d join in too. “You really want to shave off your beautiful hair? Do you think Jennifer would have ever wanted you to do that?”

“Of course she wouldn’t, but this isn’t about what she would have WANTED, it’s about what I should have DONE. You know we all should have done this when she was losing her hair, but we were too scared and we didn’t! This has been eating at me since she died and now I have to do it.”

“But Judy, Jenny’s gone…” Janet said as she began fiddling with the ends of her own hair reflexively. Although presently days she was known for her ultra short pixie haircut this wasn’t the case back then. In fact, on the night of our pledge she had by far the longest and most gorgeous hair of any of us. Her new short, unruly spikes had replaced what had once been a lush, thick, shining mane of the softest straight silk that had fallen to the bottom of her butt with, ends curling inwards ever so slightly. While Jenny had always taken great care of her hair, it was Janet who had the hair that every girl secretly desired, earning her the nickname “Princess” or even “Repunzel” since she was a freshman in high school.

“I know, but”… Judy began, but Janet wasn’t finished.

 “…and this isn’t going to bring her back. I admire you for doing this, but I’m afraid that all this is going to do is make you miss your hair.” Janet reached up and tucked a silky lock of loose silvery hair behind her ear. My GOD I forgot how amazing her hair had been back then. “You can do whatever you want, I just don’t want you to make a mistake.”

“The hell she can! The second she tries to buy clippers I’m tackling her to the ground.” Jackie retorted, but we could all see the traces of humor pulling at the corners of her mouth. Did she secretly want to do this too? At the time Jackie’s hair only fell to her shoulder blades, and she had yet to discover her signature bangs, but she secretly looked like there may indeed be part of her wanting to be rid of her locks.

But when we turned back to Judy she was walking away from us towards the bathroom. We followed her, but as we rounded the corner we all heard a SNAP and a hum. Having never really dealt with clippers I didn’t recognize the sound at first, but when I saw her holding the clippers I let out a gasp and stopped right next to Janet and Jackie.

“I love you guys, but I’m doing this and that’s all there is to it.” Judy began to move the clippers up to her hairline. “Anyone wanna take the plunge with me?”

I wanted to run to her side right then, but I paused. It wasn’t out of fear, I had just always had a little thing for theatrics and in that brief pause the tension in the room could have been cut with a knife. But then, just as I was about to step forward, the unthinkable happened. I heard Janet take a deep breath, then saw a curtain of light golden blond hair move towards Judy.

“Janet NO!” Jackie all but yelled, but it was useless. Janet turned towards her with a shrug.

“Meh, I tried to talk her out of it, but she’s absolutely right. I wanted to do the same thing when Jenny starting losing her hair.” She turned back to Judy with the smallest of tears in one of her eyes. “Judy, if those clippers touch one hair on your head, then all this is coming off.” She said with a steady voice, and she shook her hair out for effect, her thick and heavy silvery blond hair flying softly around her head, then came to a perfect rest behind her as if nothing had happened, how does she do that?

“Janet, don’t try to call my bluff, I’m doing this, get out before you regret it.”

“Before WE regret it.” I said as I stepped next to Janet.

“Oh my God Jessica.” I heard Jackie say faintly behind me, but as Judy, Janet, and I turned to face her she rolled her eyes back, let out a sigh of dejection, and finally walked into our circle. “You guys are SO buying me a wig” we heard her mutter.

So there we were, four attractive girls in their twenties, one with hair even more magnificent than a model in a shampoo commercial, and we were all trying to psych ourselves up to shave our heads. Janet said she want
ed to go first, and since none of us had a valid reason for her not to we conceded. We each took a turn brushing her hair one last time to make sure it looked as good as possible for the big cut.

When she sat down it was Judy who took the clippers and held them up in front of Jessica’s face. “Last chance Janet.” But Janet just closed her eyes and smiled. Judy brought the clippers up to her forehead, then pulled back the hair on Janet’s forehead as she brought the clippers closer to her hairline. Then closer… closer… 1 inch away… then 1 centimeter… then 1 millimeter… and just as the clippers were about to touch the first silky strand of Janet’s hair we all heard Jackie yell “WAIT!”

Judy pulled the clippers back at once and Janet took a deep breath at once, both of them startled, but clearly relieved at the prospect of sparing Janet’s luscious mane, even if it was only for a short time. “Oh my God Jackie you scared the shit out of me! What is it?”

“I have an idea…” she said, and we all gathered around close to hear it.

We sat there for almost an hour, sipping drinks and working out how this crazy idea was going to work. We called it, the “Jenny’s Pledge“, five rules for the original five girls in the group, and it worked like this:

1. Every year on Jenny’s birthday, one of us would shave our head to honor her memory, the person would rotate every year.

2. We would sell the hair and donate the proceeds to the new foundation that had just been created in Jenny’s name.

3. The person who did the actual shaving would be the person getting their head shaved the next year, this would help give them a taste for what was in store one year later.

4. The day of the shave, the next person in line who needed to shave her head would be dubbed “The Follicle Queen”. This special person’s hair would be doted on collectively by all of us until the day of the shave, including regular deep conditions and treatments. We figured this would help the tension of the impending haircut since the lavish shampoos and conditions would be like the special treatment that would be given to the proverbial sacrificial virgin before being thrown into the volcano.

5. In exchange for the special treatment, “The Follicle Queen” would need to start growing out her hair no matter how long their hair is on the day of her crowning. This would ensure that on the day of the donation there would be more hair for the donation.

After we had worked out the rules we decided that our first Follicle Queen would be Jessica, and as we laughingly set a Halloween costume tiara on her beautiful golden mane we knew that her luscious locks were now living on borrowed time. As for the mission at hand, Judy (having already sentenced all of our hair to death) was more than happy to sit down and finally surrender her hair to the clippers. As she sat in the chair fluffing her hair for its’ impending execution, Janet walked up to her with the white Oster clippers in hand. When asked if she wanted to be the first follicle queen Judy had pointed out that she had purchased the clippers today with every intent on using them by the end of the night, and she wasn’t going to turn back now. Needless to say we just shrugged and crowned Janet as the queen, placing her in the “doomed volcano virgin” role for exactly one year. Jackie was picked for third, and I rounded out the last slot, giving me three years until it was time for my shearing.

Finally Janet turned towards Judy with clippers humming, a noise that I would become very accustomed to over the next few years. “Are you ready Judy?” Janet asked. Judy smiled and closed her eyes, then leaned her head forward in anticipation, her soft, thick, shining curls swinging into her face and bouncing softly with the movement. Almost an hour and a half after setting this thing in motion, Janet placed the clippers at her forehead and slowly pulled them clippers into her thick mass of curls.

As the clippers bit into Judy’s thick curls I heard the clipper’s pitch change audibly as her thick hair caused the blades to almost stop, but then they seemed to pick back up and separate the hair from her head. I watched two things in complete, speechless amazement, the first was seeing Judy’s incredibly thick black mane slowly transform into a white skull with only a hint of stubble in its wake. The second thing I couldn’t stop watching was Janet’s reaction while the clippers cut a swath down the center of Judy’s head.

As the first strip of glossy black curls tumbles around Judy’s shoulders I heard Janet take a deep breath in, and then I saw her close her eyes and lean her head back ever so slightly. Was she actually enjoying this? Did she have any idea what she was going to be losing in a year? The tiara sparkled brightly atop her silky princess-like mane, both accentuating her golden treasure and mocking it. As she finished the first pass she recovered from her momentary escape and tucked a loose strand of hair behind her ear, a habit she did when recovering from distraction (which was usually a guy).

After her recovery she pulled more of Judy’s hair back as she passed the clippers slightly off center this time, removing more of her locks, then repeated the process… again and again, and again until after nearly 10 passes the last long hair on Judy’s head fell softly to the floor. I hazarded a glance at Jackie and noticed that she too was stroking her hair, could this be getting HER excited too? As the last of Judy’s hair was separated from her scalp I looked around the room to take in this moment, the first sacrifice and the three friends who were doomed to lose their hair over the next three years. Judy was reaching up to feel her stubble with a massive grin on her face, and even though s he said something all I could do was look at those who still had hair.

I glanced at Janet first, taking a mental picture of her amazing, silky, shining blonde mane, topped off with a glittery tiara. Two years later on the night of Jackie’s shearing she would be happily sporting her short, spiky hairstyle, her luscious, beautiful long locks a distant memory even though she could have easily grown her hair back out to her shoulders by that point. I looked at Jackie, her long red hair falling to her shoulder blades in a poker straight fall. A year later on the night that Janet surrendered her amazing blonde locks Jackie’s hair would still be the same length in the back, but she will have discovered her beloved thick bangs that would remain with her during the year she grew out her hair for the bet.

As for myself, I had been picked to go last that night because I had the shortest hair at the time, but two years later and I would begin a race to beat Janet’s record for the longest hair on the night of our shave. It was incredible to think how different all our hairstyles had been at the time. Sure, Judy had more or less stayed by her long, curly style, but even she had grown it out after her shave. After losing her locks she told me that she had rediscovered her love for her hair, but whether or not she was going to do it again had yet to be seen.

After her shave however she simply sat in the chair, looking at herself in the mirror as she rubbed her head. We laughed and joined in rubbing, but the rest of that night all I could think of was Janet and her perfect blonde locks. Janet had kept her hair waist length or longer for almost six years now, but the second those clippers had cut into Judy’s hair we all knew that her golden mane was living on borrowed time, and even though Jackie would be the one shaving those luscious locks I knew that I already couldn’t wait to see it.

To be continued…

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