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?Tori,? I said urgently to my roommate, ?You just have to help me think of an extra credit project for Doctor Whelan?s Ethics of Global Society class. Come on. You?re a Creative Arts major, and I?m just an old pre-law stick-in-the-mud. I need your creativity, and I need it now. We have to turn in our proposal tomorrow afternoon, and begin the project next week Everything that I?ve come up with is trite and overused.? I clasped my hands in supplication. ?I blew the first test, and the only way I can ace the course is to ace this project. If I don?t ace it, my scholarship is in danger.? I?m bright, but from a poor family, and if I lose my scholarship, I?m out of school.

?Okay, Cami,? she said, moving strands of her curly black hair behind her ear. ?Let?s think. Doc Whelan is an old save-the-world idealist hippie. His slogan is ?Live simply so that others may simply live.? The project has to be some way that you can make the world better. It has to involve consciousness-raising, sacrifice, creativity, and either helping others or conserving natural resources, something to simplify our lives and make them less dependent upon technology, and it has to run through the remaining ten weeks of the semester. What are some of the other students doing?"

?Bob?s driving his car home this week, coming back on the bus, and using his bike to save gas, and giving the gas money to charity. Sue?s doing an internship at a safe house for battered and abused women. Other kids have tied in with pretty much all of the local charities in town. Lynn is raising funds to go on a mission trip to Ecuador over Christmas break. It?s all good stuff, but it?s all been done before. I need something special. Something creative.? I dropped my chin on my fist in frustration. We tossed ideas around for awhile, and nothing gelled. Finally, in frustration I said, ?I think I?ll take a shower and wash my hair while there?s still time this evening to blow dry it. Maybe one of us will get an inspiration in the process.?

?I?ll keep thinking, too,? Tori promised. ?You?re too good a roommate and friend to lose just because of scholarship problems.?

I stepped into the tiny bathroom and disrobed. In front of the mirror, I reached behind me to pull out the bright pink alligator clamp that held my hair back, and shook my blond hair down over my shoulders. Yes, it?s dyed. I?ve kept it blond ever since my Junior year in High School and have heard all the dumb blond jokes, but it works better with my complexion. In another week or two, I?ll have to touch up the roots. I climbed into the shower and enjoyed the feeling of my hair soaking up water, and of the water massaging my body. I opened my bottle of shampoo, held it over my hand, and sputter! Just a few drops came out. ?Damn!? I called out. ?Tori, can I bum some shampoo from you? Mine just died. And I may have to use it for a day or two, because I?m as low on money as I am on shampoo.? My soliloquy was interrupted by a turquoise-nailed hand reaching past the shower curtain, holding her shampoo tube. ?Thanks, Tor. You?re a doll.? I went on to enjoy running the thick lather through my hair.

Although my problem with Doc Whelan?s class hadn?t been solved, I stepped out of the shower in a better mood, and slipped on a pink nightgown. Then I went to work with a brush and blow dryer, working the moisture out of my heavy hair and putting it back into some kind of order. When I emerged, Tori, Victoria Ann Reynolds, was looking at me with a quizzical expression. ?I do have an idea,? she said slowly, ?but I?m almost afraid to tell you. You won?t like it.?

?Tori, I?m desperate. Tell me. Please.?

?Okay. But sit down and hear me out.?

I sat. ?It came to me when you ran out of shampoo. It isn?t something you?d be comfortable with, since you always want to look your best.? What was she getting at? I wondered as she continued. ?It?s creative, symbolic, it would save money, time, and natural resources. And it?s very, very sacrificial. Probably too sacrificial. I wouldn?t even suggest it except that you keep saying how desperate you are.?

I couldn?t help but interrupt. ?Come on, Tor, please tell me. I?m a big girl. I won?t get mad or hurt.?

?Think about your hair for a minute. Have you ever done anything wild or crazy with it? All the pictures I?ve seen of you, your hair has always been pretty conventional. Now with me, crazy creative arts major that I am, you know that I?ve had some goofy styles and colors.? It was true. I had always been conventional in my appearance, and Tori wasn?t afraid to go after the shock value. Although her current hairstyle was fairly conventional, a row of earrings marched up her ears and she had a tiny hoop in her left nostril. ?Anyway, what I?m getting at is this. Think about the time you spent washing and drying your hair. Think of the gallons of water you consumed by staying in the shower longer. Think of the electricity to heat the water and to run the hair dryer. Think of the money you spend on shampoo, hair dye, and haircuts. Think of how not using all that would simplify your life.? Tori pursed her lips, concentrating on her argument.

?I hope that you aren?t suggesting that I go around with dirty hair for a semester,? I laughed. ?That would be spectacular, but disgusting.?

?No,? she said slowly, ?I?m suggesting that you go around with no hair for the semester.?

?What?? I asked, shocked. My stomach tightened, like I was being attacked. But Tori was my best friend. ?Shave my head? That?s completely around the bend. That?s?that?s stupid. That?s?that?s brilliant, actually. It fits all the criteria, and Whelan would love it. But could I do it? Could I stand looking terrible?? I could feel tears welling in my eyes. ?I just don?t know.?

Tori put her hand around my wrist and led me to her computer. ?I went on to the net and hit a few sites under ?charity head shave.? Here are some pictures. Do these women look terrible to you?? I watched as she clicked her mouse a few times. I had to agree. If the women were pretty before their shave, they were pretty afterwards, just in a different way. Unconventional, yes, but not at all ugly. ?Actually,? she admitted, ?there have been times that I?ve wanted to shave this mop off, just to see what I would look like without it, and what it would be like at the different stages of growing back in. It was just never strong enough an impulse for me to act upon. But tell you what. If you do it, I?ll do it, too. We?ll be two bald chicks together.?

?Then we?ll be branded as lesbian for sure, I?d imagine,? I chuckled. We weren?t sleeping together, but our close friendship sometimes made people think that we were.

?I can live with that if you can,? Tori smiled. ?Tell you what. Sleep on it. You?ll have time in the morning to write up your proposal, and I?ll help, if that?s what you want to do. Or maybe you can think of something less drastic.?

I tried to sleep on it, but I kept lying awake, imagining clippers attacking my hairline, chewing through one of my better features. I tried to think of alternatives, other projects, but they were lame and unimaginative. And yet the longer I thought about Tori?s audacious idea, the more at peace with it I became.

We sipped orange juice and munched bagels the next morning. ?Did you come up with any more ideas?? I asked my roommate.

?No, did you??

?I?m afraid not. But somewhere around 3:30 AM, I made my decision. Let?s work on that proposal.?

That afternoon, I nervously bit my lip and smoothed my hair with my hand as the long-haired professor reviewed my proposal. ?Miss Roth,? he said slowly, looking me straight in the eye. ?This is a wonderful suggestion, one of the most creative I?ve seen since I started this project. But you?re taking on a lot. It will threaten your self-image. What can just be a fun haircut, a bit of experimentation to some can be a huge sacrifice, and be very threatening to others. I suspect that you?re in the latter category.? I nodded. He asked, ?Is this something you?d have to okay with your parents??

?I called this morning,? I explained, ?and told mom. She was surprised, but she agreed to it. She said that since I don?t do drugs or smoke or drink too much, she can live with strange haircuts.?

?A wise and tolerant woman,? the professor said. ?My mother has never liked my long hair, and when I was young, kept threatening to put it up in rollers. Very well. I will accept this as your project and wish you the best.? Deep within my heart, I had hoped that he would talk me out of it or refuse to accept it. Now I had to follow through. I was vague and unfocused for the rest of that Friday.

On Sunday evening, Tori came into my room with a box. It contained a large set of electric clippers and accessories, such as plastic guards. She explained, ?Donnie Westerman is on the swim team, and he uses these to keep his head and body shaved during swimming season. He loaned them to me. He offered to do the job for us, and he begged to come watch, but I thanked him, declined, and said we?d rather not have an audience. I did promise that we would both return the clippers when we were done, so he could see the results.?

I lifted the cordless clippers from the box and experimentally pushed the switch. I almost dropped them as they vibrated into life, their blades moving faster than the eye could follow. Quickly, I pulled the switch back to the off position. ?Do you want me to go first?? Tori offered.

?No, it?s my project and my grade. You don?t have to cut your hair at all, Tori,? I said.

?Come on now,? she smiled. ?I don?t want you to hog all the fun. But you can go first. Shall we shorten it in stages, or just have at it??

?Let?s don?t prolong the agony,? I said. ?Let me pull my desk chair into the bathroom. It?ll be easier to clean up there.? I did so, stripped to my undergarments, and sat down. Curiosity had overcome my fear, and I had placed the chair facing the bathroom mirror. Tori sat her laptop computer down on the counter and set its digital camera to take pictures automatically.

?Okay,? Tori said, ?Let?s see what these babies can do to bring Cami and Tori the ultimate bad hair day.? Again, the clippers buzzed to life. ?Ready??

?Do it.? I spoke with more confidence than I felt, yet I was intensely curious. What would it feel like? What would it look like to see the shape of my head emerge amidst the falling hair? Again fearful, I worried that my head might be misshapen, that my hair covered a multitude of sins. I didn?t worry long, for Tori lifted up my bangs and I could feel the vibrating stainless steel begin to separate my hair. My hair had been tied back into a ponytail, because in her internet research, Tori had discovered a charitable agency that accepted donations of hair to make wigs for children. This had boosted the value of my proposal, and made me feel better about the whole process, too. My bangs fell across my nose, tickling as they went down. Behind it, my hair slowly peeled back from my scalp as Tori pulled gently back on my pony tail with one hand and moved the shaver forward with the other. After a few inches, she came back to the front and started again. Since the clippers had no guard, only the shortest stubble remained as the hair was separated. With the third and fourth passes on top, I watched with amazement as my hair rolled back like a wig being removed, and my scalp kept revealing itself. I caught myself breathing shallowly and started breathing more deeply so I wouldn?t hyperventilate.

?Fun, huh?? Tori asked, smiling. ?If this doesn?t traumatize you completely, it should make you a lot more adventurous.? The clippers started working their way back from my left temple and up from different spots along the side of my head. Again, the shorter hairs fell to the ground while the longer ones, caught in the ponytail, were pulled back. ?Actually, I think that you?ll look great,? she said, ?probably better than I will.? She laid the clippers down long enough to slip more rubber bands on, to keep the clump of hair?the pelt??together. Then she started working on the right side. The clippers buzzed louder as they neared my ears. I felt a rush of excitement. I wasn?t sure what hormones were being released, but it must be the same ones that bungee jumpers and skydivers are addicted to. ?Cami, can you reach back and hold up on your ponytail? I think it would be better for me to have both hands free back here.? I guided my hand by looking in the mirror as she handed me this hairy object that was being detached from my head. I grinned foolishly as I wiggled it from side to side, watching the hair slide around above my scalp. She started clipping row and row again from the base of my skull, and finally the last hairs were clipped through, and my hand jerked upward, holding my freed hair.

?Oh, my!? I said foolishly, as I swung it around and looked at it, hanging limply from my hand. I set it into my lap and looked carefully at a head that I?d never seen, at least in this way. Even in my baby pictures, I had a lot of hair. My eyes seemed bigger and more expressive, and my ears nicely shaped. The total effect was a bit strange, maybe, but not at all bad. ?You do good work, Tori,? I said. My hand felt the slight roughness of what was left of my hair. ?Hmm. Feels like my legs when they need a shave,? I said.

?We can fix that,? Tori grinned. ?Since we?ve gone this far, let?s shave it with a razor so you can see what it looks like really clean and smooth.? She was reaching for her feminine shaving gel and pink-handled razor. I agreed, and soon, I felt the soothing lotion worked into my scalp.

?Mmm. Feels good,? I said. Erotic, too. I didn?t know my scalp would have so many nerve endings.

?How about this?? she asked. ?Tell me if it?s scraping too much. There was a slight friction as the blade made tracks through the foam, a slight pull, but it didn?t hurt.

?I can?t believe that I?m sitting here, getting my head shaved, and that I kind of like it!? I exclaimed. She carefully traced around my ears. Finally, she rinsed off the remaining tracks of suds, then felt carefully for rough spots. More foam, more shaving, a final rinse, and a really sexy bald woman was grinning back at me from the mirror. Tori?s reflection in the mirror was above and behind mine. She surprised me by gently leaning over and kissing the top of my head. I bowed my head and lifted my eyes to see the burgundy imprint of her lip coloring on my smooth scalp.

?Smoother than my ex-boyfriend?s cheeks,? she said. Tori made sure that the digicam had taken our picture together. Then she rubbed lotion on my head. ?Now, bald girl, it?s your turn to play ultimate hairdresser. I hope that you have as much fun as I did. Since my hair isn?t long enough for Locks of Love, you don?t need to start with the clippers. These scissors are nice and sharp, and we have all night.? As I arose, she sat. It looked strange to see my hair sitting on the counter, opposite the sink from her computer, looking like a wig that had been tossed down.

?Now, madam, what can we do for you today?? I asked, mimicking a formal tone.

?A hairstyle like yours would be quite interesting, I think,? she said. I gathered a longish lock of hair, divided it into three, and braided it, slipping a tiny ribbon around it. Then I clipped at its base with scissors, and fastened it off at the end with a barrette. ?A souvenir,? I said. ?Would you like some more?? I went ahead and braided another one for me. ?Now, I was thinking something a little short on the sides.? I brushed the hair up from the crown of her head and used various hair clips to hold the sections up. Then I picked up the clippers and mowed a strip just in front of her ear up to the part line on her occipital ridge. A number three guard on the clipper left a short but not shaved path. Carefully, I worked my way around her head, letting the hair slide down over my hand and down her body to the bathroom floor. That part completed, I unclipped the top and combed it down over the sides as far as it would reach. Then I went around with scissors, clipping it at the part line to make a hair mushroom. ?Perhaps we should perm the top into tiny ringlets, then we could dye it green for the broccoli look,? I said.

?Who says pre-law students aren?t creative,? she giggled. ?I think we should go shorter on top, myself.? I took off the guard and the clippers sent hair showering all around, shaving the top of her head. Then she watched with astonishment as I set down the clippers and spread shaving cream around the top of her head. Carefully, I glided the razor through the cream. ?There. Now you look like your dad,? I said. She put her hands up and screamed in Home Alone fashion. A few minutes with the clippers, then a razor on the sides, and we were the Baldsie Twins.

We made quite a trail of commotion as we walked into the men?s section of the dorm with our newly shined scalps. Donnie met us and admired the work. ?That is so cool,? he said. You?re my soul sisters now. Can I marry both of you??

?No,? Tori said. ?We?re going to marry each other.?

We had someone take a picture of the three of us, and went back to the room. There, we tried some things we?d never tried before. It?s funny how a shared haircut can bring to the surface a lot of feelings that we hadn?t really explored before.

We did save a lot of water and electricity over the next ten weeks. We did raise consciousness. We did collect money normally spent on hair care and gave it to Lynn to take medical supplies to Ecuador. We bore our share of really stupid jokes, crude remarks, disgusted and pitying looks. And, oh yes, I got the A that I so desperately needed so I could finish my degree and go on to law school.

That was then. This is now. Others notice admiringly how I keep my hair in a professional style to enhance my image as an attorney. I work in environmental law, trying to help the world create a sustainable environment, carrying on the work of Doc Whelan. Even so, I present myself as a conservatively dressed and groomed professional woman. As much as possible, though, I still try to live a simplified lifestyle. My colleagues are a bit bemused that my life partner is Tori, an artist, bald except for her pink bangs. They would be even bemused to see me when I arrive home to our loft, take off my very expensive wig, and then see Tori plant a very tender kiss atop my still-shaved head.

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