I was in the kitchen chopping vegetables when I heard the kitchen door slam, and the familiar “Hi Mom” spurted out by a voice I recognized belonging to my teenage son. However when I looked up, the image before my eyes, it didn’t meet with my expectations. His normal skaters cut, with the sheepdog-like bangs that had all but covered his eyes, were now gone. In its place was nothing but a shaved head full of barely-there stubble! After the instant of shock wore off, I burst into a bout of uncontrolled laughter. My son snatched a carrot from the counter and sat down at the kitchen table and said, “Hey Mom, are you OK?” I composed myself, and sat next to him at the table and replied, “Yes, my dear, I fine. It was just when I saw your new haircut it brought back memories of my old high school days.” He immediately rolled his eyes and said sarcastically, “Not that old story about how you met dad and all.” He bit into the carrot with a disinterested crunch, and turned and looked away from me. “No this is a different one, it happened well before I met your father, when I was at a different school, and only a freshmen.” I replied. The carrot still seemed to draw more attention than I was getting, so I interjected a magic word, saying, “The story is actually about how I got my first car.” The magic word for any male teenager C-A-R. His head turned in my direction instantly, his attention hanging on my every word. I started, “As I go back in my memory it was in the 1970’s when most girls and guys had long hair.” “Oh yeah, the prehistoric times.” quipped my little darling “I bet your car was like the one Fred and Barney drove, did you have a pet dinosaur too?” I reached out and playfully slapped his little bald head, and smiled. He gave me a fake wince and smiled back. I continued.
We moved to this town when I was in sixth grade. It was a small town and because of that there wasn’t a whole lot things to do. I had made friends with a bunch of other kids that lived in my neighborhood or close by. We were a close group of ten, four boys and six girls. Lets see now, there was Tom, he was kind of the leader, Gene, Scott, Brad, and the girls were Cheri (pronounced she-REE), Jill, Judy, Grace, and of course yours truly Denise. We hung out together a lot, and in this small town you always had to amuse yourself since there wasn’t a whole lot else to do. One of our favorite pastimes was to dare each to do odd things. It kind of reached its peak the summer after eight grade graduation. We were hanging out one night at the park near our neighborhood. Tom was leaning up against the fence while puffing on a cigarette that hung from the side of his mouth. “OK, so here’s the deal” Tom said in a slow deliberate manner, while he ran his hand through his own longish black hair, “We all kick in ten bucks for a jackpot, and the first person to get a short haircut wins the pool.” Silence hung in the air like the warm heat of a summer night, no one uttered a word for what seemed to be an eternity. Finally Jill, the girl from across the street, broke the silence with the question that was in all our minds, “How short?”. Tom paused for a second locked in thought while blowing a slow emerging smoke rink from his mouth. He shrugged his shoulders and said, “Well short enough to noticed.” there was a buzz of discussion, and finally all agreed to the bet. Gene collected the money and within a few days the jackpot of one hundred dollars had been raised. After that no one spoke much about the bet, but about two weeks later Cheri showed up with her long black hair cut above her shoulders. Tom eyed her over and said, “Guess you win the bet…….I can notice it!” Gene handed her the envelope with the hundred bucks , and we all congratulated her on her cut and winning. About that time it dawned on me, Cheri just made a hundred dollars and all she had to do was to get her hair cut! Hmm that idea sort of registered with me, and I made a mental note of it.
Soon we were all at High School and adjusting to the new regime. One of the high points of the fall, was the Homecoming Week football game. The school was abuzz with all sorts of stunts in the name of school spirit, and that’s when I happened to remember our bet from the summer. An idea started to form in my head, and that night when I was at home I made a poster. I came to school extra early the next morning and put up the poster on the bulletin board in the main hall. I stepped back to admire my handiwork and read the poster as a final check: — Announcing the Carter High School Freshman Cut-Off – $10 to enter – 1/2 to the Student activities fund and 1/2 to the person who shows up at Saturdays game with the shortest haircut — It was fine, I put a sign up sheet next to the poster and left. That day in school the main topic was the contest. People couldn’t decide whether to cut their hair and enter or not, but as with any contest as the jackpot grew more and more people signed up. Soon the list was huge and it included both boys and girls. The student activities committee took over running the contest since no one knew I had put up the poster. They would print up the jackpot number every day, and by Friday it had reached $1500.
Finally it was Saturday and I spent all day scouting the competitive field. This amounted to visiting the local barber shops and beauty salons to check out how short the other kids were getting their hair cut. As I suspected the other kids were basically getting their long hair cut mostly just below their ears. My friend Jesse, who previously had soft brown curls that hung down to her waist was now sporting a super short style, similar to the one that Mia Farrow got about the time she married Frank Sinatra. As she left the salon I complemented her and said, “Wow Jess, you might just win!” I looked at my watch and realized that I didn’t have that much time to execute my plan so I hurried home. When I arrived home it was just in time for supper. Mom was putting out the food on the table, and I ran in gave a quick “Hi Mom, Hi Dad,” and went and got cleaned up. I sat down and started eating, I thought to myself, “Now is the perfect time to ask permission to enter the contest.” I waited for the perfect opportunity to drop my bomb shell, I didn’t have to wait long, because my father soon provided the cue. “So Denise, what kind of special activities are planned for the big ‘Home Coming Game’ tonight. I answered in a very nonchalant manner, “Well the freshman class is having a big contest, and I entered it.” At which Mom asked in her best ‘June Cleaver’ manner, “Well Denise, what kind of contest is it?” I continued to break it to them in stages and said, “Well a whole bunch of kids kicked in ten dollars, with half the money going to the student activities committee, and half going to the winner of the contest.” My Mom continued her interrogation with, “Well dear, what do you have to do to win this contest?” I retorted with a slight hesitation, “The person who shows up tonight with the shortest haircut wins.” I checked the reaction of both parents. Dad continued to eat the meat loaf not skipping a beat, but Mom on the other hand was stunned, and after what seemed to be an eternity said, in a shocked and disapproving voice, “Oh Denise, you’re not going to cut your beautiful hair are you?” I knew with Dad’s silence I was half way there, so I proceeded to work on Mom, saying, “But Mom, I could win fifteen hundred dollars tonight! You are the one that said I had to earn the money for my first car myself, and you know how hard it is for kids to find work in this town.” Mom tried a new angle and said, “What if you look really funny with this short haircut of yours.” I retorted, “I can deal with my looks, and what the other kids might say, and anyway it’s only hair, it will grow back. Please Mom!” I looked at her with a puppy dog expression, she was balking, but on the edge of caving in, and at that very moment Dad came to my rescue, saying, “If she wants to, I think she should do it. She can grow it back, and winning fifteen hundred dollars would be a great experience for her.” Mom nodded reluctantly, and I jumped up from the table, hugged Dad and then Mom. Thanking them profusely, I ran up stairs to the bathroom, to do the deed.
I went into the bathroom and closed the door behind me. I stood in front of the vanity mirror at the sink, and looked at my long dirty blonde hair. It had taken a while for me to grow it, and I gave my hair a moment of silent requiem, before I started to cut it. I opened the medicine cabinet door and took out the pair of scissors that Mom used to trim her own hair. Looking in the mirror I grabbed a section of hair from the right side and positioned the scissors about two inches from my scalp. I closed my eyes and winced, as I squeezed the shears together. Snap, the first lock of my hair fell to the floor. “That wasn’t so hard.” I thought to myself. After the first cut it was easy, and I proceeded to clip off section after section till all my hair on my head was about two inches long. I paused and looked at my reflection. I looked sort of like Jesse, but my cut was kind of uneven compared to her salon cut. I knew if I was going to win I would have to go much shorter! Grabbing a strand of my two inch long hair between my fingers, and using my fingers as a guide, I cut my hair to about a length of three quarters of an inch. Again and again I clipped, as short sections of dirty blonde hair fell through the air onto the floor. Soon my entire head of hair was reduced to three- quarter-inch fuzz. I looked at myself once more, and barely recognized the girl in the reflection. As I stared at my new ‘Do’, I kind of liked the way it looked on me. This satisfaction soon waned, although I didn’t think any girl would beat me now, I remembered that there were boys in this competition too, lots of them. All I needed was for some young hunk to show up with a crew cut, and I could kiss that fifteen hundred dollars goodbye. I had to go shorter! Half out of desperation and half out of instinct, I brought the scissors right flush to the scalp and squeezed hard. The fuzz between the blades was instantaneously reduced to mere stubble. “No stopping now I thought as I continued to clip my hair right to the scalp. When I was done I had practically nothing left except for a bunch of uneven stubbly patches. I thought that it looked kind of sloppy, and searched for something to clean it up a little. Lucky for me, that Dad never threw out the old hair clippers that he used to use on my older brother Jeff. There in an old cardboard box in the bathroom closet was my answer. As I picked them up my mind went back to when I was a little girl when I would watch Dad buzz Jeff practically bald every summer. I picked up the clippers, plugged them in and turned them on. They seem to run fine, so I brought the vibrating blades up close to the front of my head and started to push them across my scalp. My dirty blonde fuzz started to fall off my head, and drift down in front of my eyes, as I ran the clippers across my head. It was interesting to see my naked scalp appearing in the wake of the cutting machine. Pass after pass as I ran the clippers across my head, until my head was covered by a barely perceptible stubble. I put down the clippers, and looked at my refection in the mirror. I had a nice shaped head, and since my hair was blondish could almost pass for bald. I ran my fingers across my buzzed head, and felt the strange sensation of all those short bristly little hairs. Since I was almost bald already I thought I should do the job right. I reached into the medicine cabinet and grabbed Dad’s electric shaver, I figured he wouldn’t mind. Switching it on I started to run it all around my stubbly scalp. The electric shaver reduced the stubble even further, to something akin to a light sandpaper finish on my hairless dome. I pondered for a moment, and wondered what it would be like to have a really smooth head. It didn’t take me long to notice my safety razor that I had bought to shave my legs. I picked up the razor, and a can of shaving cream and knew this was the answer. The shaving cream was menthol and felt cool as I spread it around my newly sheared head. I took the safety razor, and with a new blade began to scrape off the white foam from my head. After a couple of strokes I felt the shaved spot with my fingers. Hmmm now that was smooth! I quickly and carefully finished the rest of my head. Taking a towel I wiped off any extra lather, and looked at my new hairdo or correctly no-hairdo. My head was smooth and bald, I could not go any shorter than this! I felt my newly shaved head, it felt smooth and kind of sexy, I even kind of thought I looked good with no hair. Of course my next thought was, “Gee I hope it grows back!” I had never done anything like this before, and wondered how long it would take to grow out from ground zero. My scalp felt a little sensitive so I took a bottle of baby oil and rubbed all over my bald head. The oil felt good, as I messaged it in, and it gave my a head a smooth shiny luster. I cleaned up the remnants of my former hair that was laying on the bathroom floor, and when I was done, looked at myself in the mirror one more time and started down the stairs.
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Mom and Dad were in the kitchen doing the dishes. I slowly approached the kitchen, thinking all the while what were they going to say. I had sort of gone a little farther than I originally planned, and wondered how they felt about having a 14 year old daughter that was as bald as a cue ball! I walked into the kitchen and said in a rather nonchalant manner, “Well Mom, Dad, what do you think of my new hair style?” They turned around and both froze in shock. Mom dropped the dish she was holding, and it hit the dish water with a splash. Dad although stunned, quickly regained his composure, smiled and said, “Kind of looks good on you Denise.” Mom sort of mumbled something about me having a nice shaped head, and slipped back into her catatonic trance. Dad then came over and rubbed my head and planted a kiss right on top, and said, “Well good luck, and knock ‘em dead, girl!” I walked to the closet and grabbed a knitted hat and slipped it over my smooth pate, hiding all traces of the fact that I was a little baldy girl.
Leaving the house I made my way to the football field at the school. When I arrived, the grandstands were packed. All the kids that were in the contest met behind the grandstand. Most of my friends, and all the other freshman who had entered the contest, were there. A few of the kids had hats like me, including Jessie. Jessie spots me, and kind of passes me dirty looks, like I had copied her hair style or something. When the announcer in the press box introduced us, we all ran out on the field single file, and formed a semi-circle at the fifty yard line. The stadium lights, illuminated the field with blinding brilliance as we faced the stands. In the center was a microphone and a large paper pad, on an easel. High atop the press box on some scaffolding was Eddy, of the A/V squad, manning the school’s huge carbon arc follow spot. On a cue, the band started playing the school fight song and two figures ran out onto the middle of the field. The first one was Danny Bono, the class clown aka wanna-be standup comic, and the other, Ashley Wilkerson, girl voted most likely to spend her life entering beauty pageants. Danny was dressed in a white barber’s jacket, and Ashly a sequenced gown, accompanied of course by her perpetual smile. The crowd quieted down and Danny walked up to the mike and said, “Welcome Ladies and Gentlemen, Yours truly the one and only Danny the “B” Bono has the pleasure of presenting, for your enjoyment, the Carter High School first ever Freshman Cut-Off! Yes folks the only contest where Less – Is – More. But before we introduce our lucky less-hair or hair-less contestants, it is my immense pleasure to introduce to you my lovely co- hostess, the glamorous Ashley Wilkerson.” There was a hearty round of applause as the perfect platinum blonde Ashley took a bow. Danny continued, “And Ashley’s job tonight is to write down the hair length of each contestant after yours truly, with the aid of this precise and accurate instrument, make the official measurement” Danny then displays to the crowd, a wooden school ruler that he is holding in his hand. Danny then walks up to Ashley with the microphone and says, “Listen Ashley, how about you and I going out tonight after the game?” Ashley quickly responds in an annoyed manner, while primping her own perfectly coifed long platinum locks, “Sure Danny the same day that I shave my head bald!” the crowd laughs and Danny says, “See folks the girl’s nuts about me! OK folks, without further delay let’s start the judging!” Danny walks up to the first contestant a pretty redhead named Cindy Roberts. Danny looks over her hair, which reaches down to her mid-back, with a puzzled look, and says, “Cindy, do you know what kind of contest this is?” Cindy replies in an bubbly manner, “Well yes Danny, it’s a hair cutting contest, and Babs my hair dresser cut a whole 2″ off this afternoon!” Danny replies, “And you really believe you have a chance of winning?” Cindy shakes her head yes. Danny holds up the ruler and says, “Well we are sorry Cindy but your hair is over the legal limit, and I am going to have to disqualify you.” Cindy frowns as Danny continues, “But since you have been such a good contestant we will give you a consolation prize.” He reaches into his pocket and pulls out a slip of paper and hands it to Cindy, and says, “Here you go Cindy, a coupon for a free head shave at Mel’s Barbershop!” Cindy looks totally puzzled as Danny moves on to the next contestant. “Ah-ha, If it isn’t Zippy the Hippy” exclaimed Danny in his sarcastic manner, as he approached the next guy on line who was sporting a niece clean corporate cut. “Well folks what do you think? this guy had hair down past his shoulders yesterday.” Danny quipped, “Now put him in a blue suit and he’d be workin for IBM” Danny measured the hair length and shouted the number to Ashley, who recorded it on the large pad. Danny flashes the guy the peace sign and says, “Peace and love Bro.” Danny continues down the line going from contestant to contestant, brandishing his own annoying sense of humor. He has now already gone through most of the kids except for three, me, Jessie, and a guy named Steve. Steve had got a pretty short cut, a Marine style high and tight. Danny walks up to him and shouts, “Ten-shunn, chest out, stomach in soldier!” Steve snaps to the order, and Danny puts the ruler to the top of his head and announces, “One quarter of an inch! Well soldier I think you might be our winner. All that’s left are two lovely ladies with hats on, but I don’t think either of them has the guts to have buzzed their heads closer than you!” Danny walks over to Jessie and asks, “Well little girl do you think you can beat our Private Jar-Head ?” Jessie sheepishly removes her hat, displaying her own short cut. “Not bad for a lady, but it can’t beat our recruit over here.” Finally Danny approaches me, “Our last contestant folks, and another one with a mystery hair cut. This is the last chance to see if this little lady could beat our big Marine.” Danny grabbed the end of my cap and starts to lift it off. As the cap slides of my smooth bald head Danny’s eyes start to get bigger and bigger. For the first time since he was born, Danny B. is speechless. As he lifts the cap off he recovers his composure, and uses his hand to shield his eyes. He reaches into his pocket and grabs some sunglasses and puts them on. The crowd is stunned to see me with my head balder than a cue-ball. Danny says, “Sorry my dear, but the glare was getting too much!” That remark breaks the ice, as the crowd starts to applaud. “Well folks I think we have a winner here for sure! But first we have to administer the famous Danny B. white glove test.” He takes out a white glove and puts it on. He then rubs his gloved hand over the top of my scalp, and it just sails across with no trace of resistance. “She is defiantly smooth folks, no hair on this noggin! Ashley my dear will you please record a measurement of ZERO.” Ashley comes over carrying a large cardboard replica of the $1500 check. Danny takes the check and hands it to me saying, “Well Denise on behalf of the Carter High School student body, I now proclaim you the winner of the Freshman Cut-Off, congratulations! Let’s have a big round of applause for Denise, folks, it took a lot of guts for her to TAKE-IT-ALL-OFF!” There was an immediate barrage of flash bulbs as the photographers from both the school and town paper snapped my picture holding the check. We were quickly ushered off the field to a round of solid applause from the audience. When we got behind the bleachers Jesse came up to me, rubbed my bald head, gave me a hug, and said, “Wow Denise, you’re incredible, I didn’t think you could be so daring. You won fair and square, you deserve it!” All the kids were congratulating me, and finally Tom comes up and says, “It was you who started this, huh!” He then bent down and planted a kiss on my lips, I blushed a little. It felt good though, he had never kissed me before.
After the game I returned home. Dad was pretty proud that I had won, and even Mom was being a little more accepting. At school the following Monday, I got basically complimentary remarks from most of the kids, but of course there were a few wise guys who called me ‘Kojak’s Sister’ or ‘Kelly Savalas’. As the days followed I kept checking my scalp for growth, and since my hair grew slowly, at times I got a little worried, but soon I had a nice crop of stubble. After a while that turned into a crewcut, and eventually a pixie. I liked the pixie and kept it for a few years. Besides the nice short hair worked best with my new car, which was a convertible!
My son who was quite uncharacteristically quiet the whole time as I narrated the story finally spoke and said, “Gee Mom, maybe you should let Dad shave your head, and he’ll buy you a new car!”