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With the clippers poised at her forehead, Joanne experienced an overwhelming sense of relief. No more pain from representing the human pin cushion. No more wasted hours spent trowelling on then scouring off the thick, garish, bad taste makeup that went with the territory. Cast aside the ripped clothing that was SO last century, and soon gone forever the dyed-black, swirling, impenetrable mass of hair that crowned the county’s last remaining `Goth’. How things change. It seemed such a great idea at the time, being a Goth, (the time being the late 90s): New, daring, different, and more than a bit dirty. For how else was Joanne going to get herself noticed? Now it was just a monumental pain in the behind. Yes, heads did turn. But did anyone appreciate the high-maintenance, time consuming effort that went into her appearance? Not these days. Joanne knew instinctively when the stares had morphed from Bad into Mad into Sad. Visigoths just aren’t frightening anymore; and that was the problem. Even Grannies would comment on how “nice” her hair looked. It was clearly time to regain the moral low ground – it was all coming off.

“Watch out with these, they bite!” warned Sheena about the heavy, chunky Wahls, on loan from her brother. Her friend had sold her own Death Metal image down the river to curly, shoulder-length anonymity. In fact it might be an idea to seek out new friends. “Yes, I am sure, thank you, Sheena!” She was such a wuss. Sheena was asked to kindly leave the room; this was to be the ex-teenager’s exclusive moment. A flicked switch, a loud THUNK and indeed, the machine leapt from her hand. A heavy and substantial low hum filled the air.

The wall mirror guided Joanne as she brought the unguarded clippers to her widow’s peak. A mark of beauty, her mother had once maintained. No more, for the beast with thirty reverberating teeth was ripping right through it as she glided the hungry metal monster from beauty spot to crown in one, crunchingly satisfying movement. What would mom be saying right now, were she here to witness her `little princess’ carving a bleak, deserted path into the middle of those lush tresses? Who cared, mom certainly didn’t anymore. Time for another sweep, parallel to the first one. GNNNRRZZZZHH! The clippers did their work with a slightly grumbling tone, as the hair was twisted this way and that, knotted, and matted with black dye, but they didn’t shirk their job. Two front-to-back sweeps later and Joanne’s scalp was now a gleaming white three-lane freeway, albeit fringed by a huge unruly overgrowth, a problem all to easily solved.

Or was it? From nowhere, suddenly Joanne was assailed by an unexpected and unwelcome doubt. One, she now resembled a circus clown and two, there was no going back from here. Why hadn’t she started at the sides and worked round? She might have gotten away with an undercut. No, Bald was going to be the new Black and no going back now. Joanne dismissed the doubts with a broad flourish that left the right temple completely bare. It was starting to feel cold. Still the buzzers moaned and groaned as they tore mercilessly through the twisted foliage. In the end it didn’t matter how long, short, split or tangled the hair had been, the result was the same; a revealing pale skull dotted with a myriad of nearly invisible, stunted roots. The lower nape was a bit more problematic, as here the dark mass was thickest and longest, and finding the nape required a hand-mirror. Once located, however, Joanne guided the clippers to their longest and most intensely gratifying journey – from neck to crown. GNNNRRZZH! Huge clumps of matted hair fell to her shoulders, breasts and then the floor with even a light thud. Do it again! Three years more growth scythed off in seconds, now blanketing the floor. This was FUN! This WAS fun! Joanne worked round to the left temple and whizzed the whole sideburn off in a trice. No sooner was she was finally getting the hang of it, the process was complete. A few passes to mop up the stray tufts, and Joanne could now be officially described as a shaven-headed 20 year old.

“I’d no idea my head was so small” she found herself saying out loud. And how, kind of `narrow’ her little bald cranium appeared! And was it a trick of the light, or did Joanne herself look like she’d lost a few inches along the way? Uncertainty was creeping up again. Now she felt for all the world as if any poise she ever possessed had somehow been rubbed out. Where there had been something eye-catching, now there lay nothing, and all at once the girl was overcome by a crushing, punishing , diminution. It hadn’t meant to feel like this; a bold, bald change of direction displaced by inadequacy and triviality. Where was that adventurous, pioneering spirit that had informed her teenage years and shouted “I’m me and if you don’t like it, – tough!” Now the hair’s gone, has my nerve gone with it? Each passing second compounded a wretchedness only the young are capable of, and she still had to make her way to her own apartment , out in the cold, bare-headed and shivering. “You look fantastic!” crooned Sheena, dark curls waving merrily as she shook her own head in wonderment. “I look like a concentration camp victim,” retorted Joanne, “and I’m going home.”

This was the point where my world, and Joanne’s, briefly collided, at a road crossing. But I wasn’t watching the traffic. That tiny, trembling girl with the cutest bald pate, so vulnerable and unprotected, had me in raptures. I wanted that head so much, to kiss it, caress it, give it the loving home it palpably ached for… But now she was returning my gaze and I noticed the eyes narrowing slightly. “Well, you’ve stared at me long enough. What you lookin’ at?” they enquired. If my expression could have spoken, it was saying this: “Your dress, and the place you are headed at, tells me you are from the wrong side of town. You are very gaunt, very sallow, with your newly-shaven head no paler than your general complexion. With your background, chances are you suffer from low self_esteem, which is a shame because you will never be able to realise just how genuinely attractive you are to the right person. What makes this all the more tragic, is that you will probably never meet that person. Joanne, (for that is the name I have given her) you have no idea that he is standing here, right next to you.”

Then the eyes narrowed a bit more and her countenance toughened. It was becoming increasingly obvious that I was outstaying my welcome. In a vain attempt to deflect attention, I shifted my gaze to something over her shoulder. But she was too streetwise for that. Her expression took on a glint as hard as granite. It said: “No you weren’t, you creep, you were looking at me. Why on earth would you look at me? I’m a bald, ugly nobody with nothing to live for. Is there something wrong with you?”

Whimsical scenario included, this complete exchange had taken no more than one second.

And now the choices had run out. The lights had changed, the love affair was over. I never saw “Joanne” again.

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