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Hi, class. My name is Kerri Stevens and I?m a sophomore here at State, and I?m an information systems major. I?m here in Communications 201 because it?s important to talk to people, too, in addition to computers. I guess by the glances I?ve received that a lot of you are wondering why I have my head shaved bald, but you?re not sure that you want to ask me why. So I?ll use my first speech in front of the group to tell you. First of all let me tell you what I?m not. I?m not a racist skinhead, I?m not on drugs, I?m not making a protest or a statement, I?m not on chemotherapy or in solidarity for someone who is, and I?m not raising funds for a good cause. It?s just a little competition between me and my boyfriend.

Will?I won?t tell you his last name?is almost perfect, for me anyway. We?re both into computers and soccer, and play for the junior varsity teams. We like to tease each other, though we?re never mean at it, and we?re really, really competitive and stubborn. I liked to tease him a lot about his hair?his really, really gorgeous hair. It was great hair to begin with, wavy and thick and rich brown, and he was always careful to keep it styled just right. So I kept telling him that he was vain. He would deny it as he worked more mousse into his hair and comb it carefully into shape. And I would keep up teasing him.

Part of the reason that I teased him about his hair and his vanity was that I didn?t like my hair very much at all. It was fine, frizzy, and mousey. Any time I tried to have it styled, it would end up looking rotten. So I?d always brush the tangles out and just tie it into a pony tail. Okay, so I was jealous over Will?s hair. Lots of girls were.

One day we were off campus on our way to lunch when Will said that he had to stop and buy some conditioner, he was almost out. I asked him if he brought it by the barrel or the case lot, and I started singing the golden oldie, ?You?re so vain.? Usually my teasing didn?t bother him, but his face turned dark. He grabbed me by the wrist. ?I?ll show you who is vain and not vain,? he said. He pulled me into a barber shop, the one down there on Center Street. There weren?t any other customers in the shop.

?Will, I?m sorry. I didn?t mean to hurt you, I was just teasing you because I was jealous of your great hair,? I told him. He sat me down beside him in one of those chairs with chrome bodies and red plastic backs and seats. ?You?re not going to do anything drastic, are you?? I asked.

?Hi, I?m Ernie,? said the barber, a short Italian man with straight black hair slicked back. ?Could I help youse?? Will climbed into the chair and told Ernie he wanted it all off. ?How much is all,? Ernie asked. ?A crew cut??

?All of it?down to the scalp,? Will said firmly. I cried out no. He looked at me and said, ?Unless you?re willing to climb into this chair after me, I guess you?ll be the vain one from now on.? Ernie had put a big plastic cloak around Will?s neck and stuffed paper around it to keep the loose hairs out. Ernie said that he?d start on the sides in case Will changed his mind and wanted a crew cut after all. The big electric clippers started buzzing, and the barber began to peel away those soft, beautiful waves. Skin appeared where I?d never seen it before. I felt awful, watching all that beautiful hair slide away onto the floor. Then I got thinking?how many times had I been so frustrated with my hair, that I thought I should just shave it all off. No more tangles, no more frizz. And I was angry at Will and concerned for him for doing such a radical thing. I had to admit, though, he looked different, but he was still cute.

So Will climbed down from the chair, his hair all clippered off. ?So, who?s vain now?? he asked. I just smiled, pulled out my scrunchie so my hair would fall across my shoulders, and climbed into the chair as soon as Ernie had swept it off. I ordered a cut just like Will?s, but said that he should start on top, so there would be no turning back, and that I would like him to turn the chair so I could watch. It was embarrassing, because Ernie asked to see my ID. He didn?t know I was a college student, and didn?t want to get in trouble with angry parents. He asked again if I was sure, Will pleaded with me not to, that he was sorry, but I just smiled and told Ernie to have at it. It?s a wild, wild feeling to have a pair of buzzing electric clippers go up under your bangs and to set them loose, falling across your nose, then to feel the clippers glide along the top of your head. Through the rain of hair drifting down in front of my eyes, I could see the white paths stretch across the top of my head. Ernie paused when he had finished shaving the top down to what he called the occipital ridge. I laughed, because I looked like my uncle Fred if he would grow shoulder-length hair from his fringes. Will laughed too. He had looked so worried, but now he sat back to watch the rest of the show. Ernie went around my head, holding out a handful of hair to start a path for the clippers, from bottom to top. He moved around catching a few wisps here and there. Then he sat the clippers down and turned the chair around, and held a hand mirror in front of me so I could check to make sure that the back of my head was as bald as the front. I was surprised. I really liked it! I liked the shape of my head, hidden all those years under that awful hair.

?Uh, that?s fine, Ernie,? I said, ?But the stubble is a little heaver than I thought. Is there some way you could get it a little shorter? Shorter than his, I mean??

Ernie laughed. ?You?ve come to the right shop, Miss. One old-fashioned barbershop shave coming up!? The next thing you know he pulled out a hot, wet towel and wrapped it around my head like a turban. It felt all steamy, but Ernie explained it was to make the hair stand up so he could shave it closer with lather and razor. Will just shook his head and laughed. After a few minutes, Ernie took the towel off and I felt warm lather spreading across my scalp. He explained that he usually used it to trim men?s necks after their haircuts, and that he usually used safety razors. ?But for you, Miss Kerri? (I had told him my name), I have something special.? He opened an old wooden display case and pulled out a long blade with a handle at one end. ?They call this a cutthroat razor. It belonged to my father, and it stays very, very sharp. But don?t worry. I won?t nick you.? And he began scraping away the cream, following the same route he did before. He shook off globs of cream filled with tiny black hair stubble from his razor, taking long, gentle but firm strokes. When all the lather was off, he rubbed green lotion from a bottle. ?A masculine smell, I?m afraid, but it?ll sooth your scalp so it won?t be chapped. It gives it a little shine, too.? He told us about upkeep, how to keep it trimmed by ourselves, but invited us back whenever we wanted to come.

Will and I stood side by side, looking into the mirror like we were posing for a picture, the sides of our bald, slick, shiny heads touching, and we were grinning like fools. I felt sorry we didn?t have a camera. Then he looked at me and asked, ?I wonder how long it will take it to grow out, for us each to look like a normal human being??

?So neither of us can be vain about our hair now, can we?? I asked back. ?But will you still like me, looking like this?? He assured me that although he was shocked at first, my new dramatic look was sexy and exciting to him. It made me look less like a girl and more like a self-confident woman. I?m sorry. I couldn?t help myself. I kissed him on the spot.

I grabbed his hands and looked up. ?Will, I loved your hair, I really did, and I still love you without your hair. I won?t call you vain ever again. And I don?t care if you start growing it all back right now, or keep it glistening and smooth. But let me tell you this. I got my haircut after you did, and I won?t start growing mine back until after you start growing yours?whether it?s a day, a week, a month, whatever.?

It?s been whatever. He?s still bald, and so am I. It?s been over three months now. Sometimes it?s frustrating when you see critical looks in some people?s eyes or hear their caustic, judgmental remarks. But I like the way I look, and I love the way that Will looks at me. Someday, maybe, it?ll stop being fun and we?ll give in and go back to being normal, but not for awhile. And even if I do stop shaving it, my hair is going to stay short?really short. I stopped at Ernie?s again this morning to get my head nice and smooth for this presentation. Will teases me that I?ll have to make an appointment with Ernie on my wedding morning to get it looking good like this for when I walk down the aisle, after we graduate. And he teases me that I?ll be the only bald lady driving a minivan to pick up the kids from soccer practice. He thinks that I?ll give it up before he does, if he just waits long enough. But I won?t. I?m stubborn. And I may not start growing my hair back right away even after he does. I?ve gotten kind of vain about the way I look. Thank you.

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