To be a member By Jim Belala
Carrie has been out of college for three years now, and well on her way to becoming independent. She was a well educated young lady, one who was among the top five per cent in her classes in high school and college. One who would think things out before advancing forward. But, there were a number of things which evaded her through those years of education.
Since junior high school she has wanted to become a member of an anonymous club. It was a women’s club who did things for the community, but had very high standards. All its member were unknown to the community. No one knew who the members were, only that the club existed. In fact, it was because of this that made becoming a member hard. It was not who you knew, as in many other organizations, but who knew you. Somehow they would find you and invite you to fill out a application for membership. There was no set way for someone to be invited. But, it was also known they had no set initiation, it was whatever the membership committee asked you to do.
Carrie had received a number of invitations over the years, but each was turned down. With each invitation she would become more determined to become one of them. To become unknown in the gifts and rewards the club would give out. Knowing she was a part of giving, but not being known for it.
She had come home this day to find another application in her mail. She had no doubts it was another application. Envelope was the same as the others, the writing was the same. Without any hesitation she opened the envelope with a tearing motion. As she opened the envelope she spotted the “welcome”. Quickly she filled out the application, knowing what was needed from past ones. It would be mailed tomorrow on the way to work.
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How long it would take form them to answer, if they did, was not known. In the past she never heard or received anything from them. Only with the passage of time did she become to realize her application was turned down, again and again. For some reason she felt this was the one, she would be accepted. They would not do this year after year, without finally deciding to accept her.
Or, would they!
It was two months later that she received another letter. This was the one she wanted. The wait was over. Her application had been “accepted and passed on to the membership committee for further consideration and approval”. This in some way gave her some relief. Now, all she had to do was wait some more.
It was another three months before she heard from them. This time the letter was send “special delivery”. It was in a large envelope, not in the kind you receive mail. It had not special markings and the return address was a P.O. box like the others.
She stood in her doorway looking at it. Wondering if it contained a letter of acceptance, or even worse one of final rejection. A rejection which would mean no more application for membership.
Putting the envelope under her arm, she opened the door. Walking past the couch she tossed the envelope with the other mail on to it. To be read later when she had thought things over.
With time she sat down to read her mail, leaving the envelope to be opened last.
When she got to it, she hesitated a little. Could she handle the rejection!
Her finger ripped the envelope open. Turning it upside down the letter fell out. As it floated to the floor her eyes closed so as not to see how it landed. When she opened her eyes she saw it was face down, this add more to the anticipation.
With a deep breath she picked up the letter.
April 5th., 19–
This is to let you know your application has been received and forwarded to us, the undersigned member of the membership committee. After reviewing your application we must advise you that you alone will determine if you will become a member.
You have until April 15th., 19– to let us know if you are willing to do your initiation without any question of “what for” and/or “why”. Any letter of any reason will be taken you do not wish to become a member.
If we do not hear from you by this date, you will receive another letter which will tell you of your initiation. You will be given a date and time on which it will take place. Your failure to show up for or to complete the initiation will mean no membership for you. You will not receive any further consideration”.
It was signed with the first names of five women she did not know. These women held in their hand one of the things she wanted. But, what was it they wanted?
She placed the envelope in her dresser drawer under the jewelry box. There it would stay until April 15th. To be put any other place would only cause her to read it over. To wonder if she was willing to except what they wanted.
For the next few days she would not look for the envelope, not think of it or the club.
April 15th. came with the sound of her alarm clock at 7am. She showered, had breakfast, got dressed, put on her make-up, then she slowly opened the drawer with the jewelry box. The envelope was sticking out from under the box. She was tempted to remove it, to read the letter again. Quickly she took what jewelry she wanted and closed the drawer.
All day she would start to think about the letter, wanting to tell someone of it. But, who could she tell!
Would the one she talked to be a member, and this talk causing her to lose the membership.
It was about 4pm, one more hour before going home for the day, when a co-worker came to her with a “special delivery” envelope. It was marked to her personally, not “in care of”. She knew from the absence of a return address it was from the “membership committee”.
She placed it in her purse, where it could not be seen by anyone. Out of the way until she was home alone.
At 5pm she quickly departed for home, not making the stop at the grocery store as planned. She could shop for groceries later, or tomorrow. But tonight she had more important plans.
After having a little dinner she poured herself a glass of red wine. Sitting on the couch she looked the envelope over, trying to see into it. After a few sips of the wine she tore open the envelope. She slowly removed the folded letter and shook it open.
April 15th., 19–
Whereas we have not heard from you, we are taking you wish to proceed with your initiation. As stated before you must show up on the appointed date and complete your initiation to become a member of our club. Failure to do either, and you will no longer be considered for membership.
The attached is your initiation and the instructions to it. They must be followed to the point.
To ensure everything goes are instructed we, the membership committee, will be present at the stated date and time. You will not know us, nor will you see us.
Once you have completed your initiation we will notify you of our meeting place, date, and time. You will be expected to be there to meet the other members.
Again the letter was signed only with first names.
She folded over the letter and begin reading the attached.
“Carrie, to become a member we have no set initiation, the membership committee just pick out something for someone to do. If, they do it, then they are in the club.
“We have decided on something we have thought of having a member-to-be do, but have not followed through with it. But, seeing how many times you applied we have decided to give it to you. This initiation will really tell us if you want to become a member, and if you can be as anonymous as we are.
“This Saturday, April 18th., you will dress yourself in your flowered dress, wearing your usual make-up and jewelry, and the matching five inch high heels you wear when you go on a date.
“At 10am you will walk into the Oakwood Barber shop in the Oakwood Shopping Mall. You wait your turn for the lady barber. When called you will sit in the chair and tell her you want a short crew cut, one like they give men in the military.
“After you have been given the haircut you will walk through the mall shopping for an hour. You will then go to the food court and have lunch. While you are eating we will come to you.”
“A crew cut” Carrie thought to herself as she grabbed her hair. This is something I have to think out more. It would be weeks, months even, before it would be long again. What would everyone say to her? Would they think crazy things of her at work? Would she still have a job?
She had three days to think it over. Three days to decide if becoming a member of this anonymous club was worth this ….., this ….., this “haircut”.
She did not sleep that night, only trying to see how she would look with a “crew cut”, one that the men in the military wore at that. For the next two mornings she would look at herself in the mirror, combing her hair back off her face. How would it feel!
At work she wanted to ask someone, anyone, what they thought of a woman with her hair cut in a crew cut. But, how would they react to the question!
Then, again would this person be a member of the club, or someone who knew a member of the club.
Saturday came fast for her, the alarm telling her it was 8am. Saturday the day she had to make up her mind, “crew cut” or no membership. She did not have to go and it would be over for her, years of wanting shot down in a decision she had little time to think about.
As she sat sipping coffee the thoughts of years pass, years of waiting, years of wanting, and the ones of her with a “crew cut” tumbled around in her mind. Two hours and she would or would not do her initiation.
It was 9:15am, and Carrie had made all her thoughts …..
She had come to all the conclusions she could think of …..
After all these years of wanting to become a member it would only be a small sacrifice of her hair. It was what the club did that would make all the difference and the sacrifice worth while. She would have the rest of the week-end to make up something to tell people who asked about her hair cut. One that would not make them think crazy of her.
She put the cup away and went to her bedroom to get dressed, as instructed.
As she began dressing something else came to her, how did they know she had a flowered dress? How did they know she wore five inch heels when she went out on a date?
Was one of the membership committee someone who knew her!
She quickly pushed these thoughts aside and finished dressing. She had only fifteen minutes to drive to the shopping center and enter the barber shop. As she drove another question came to her, how do they know the barber shop has a woman barber?
As she arrived she noticed the parking lot was not as crowded as she had thought. So, she looked for a parking spot close to the main entrance, near the barber shop. She walked quickly having only five minutes to get to the barber shop. How long would she have to wait!
The shop was only a few shops from the main entrance, but the walk through the mall would be the hardest walk she had ever taken in the mall. People looking at her, staring and wondering if she was a woman or man dressed as one. As she approached the barber shop she looked around to see is if she knew anyone. To see who was around the shop?
The committee was right, there was a woman barber there. Her chair was the first as you entered the shop. By the large window were people would look into the shop as they walked by. People who would somehow see her getting her “crew cut”, or just to stop and stare.
As she entered the shop one of the barbers told her “Take a number, please”.
Twenty-five, her age she thought. As she sat down, waiting her turn, she looked at the lady barber, to see if she knew her. She was tall, 5’9″, with a slender body of a woman who did exercise, with her light brown hair cut in a short brush cut. Her skirt was above the knee and the blouse was matching in a lighter color, she wore five inch heels. Her make-up said she was all woman. She looked at Carrie and smiled.
Carrie tried to look through a magazine, but could not keep her eyes off the lady barber wondering if they knew each other. Carrie tried to remember if she had seen her, or came in contact with her before today.
“25” was called by one of the other barbers. Carrie raised the number, “I am waiting,” she told him pointing to the lady barber. The little sign by her chair said “SANDRA”. The barber called out the next number. Sandra looked up from cutting the man’s hair, “You are next,” she said.
Carrie begin looking outside the shop, trying to see if anyone was standing around looking in the shop. The mall was just coming to life and there were many people stopping and sitting around the plants and tables. Some waiting for someone, others just sitting and reading a paper or magazine. She could not see anyone who was watching what was going on in the barber shop.
Were they out there!
As Sandra accepted payment from her customer, she looked at Carrie, “O.K., your turn”.
Carrie got up and walked to the chair, looking again outside the window. She noticed a small group of teenagers hanging around a table talking, they could not be the committee. As she made herself comfortable Sandra wrapped a strip of tissue paper around her neck and pull the cape snug around her neck.
Sandra picked up a hairbrush and begin brushing her hair in the back. Placing her left hand on top of her head and brushing from the part. Brushing from bottom to top to untangle the strands of reddish brown. With each stroke Sandra picked up the ends to brush them out. Carrie’s hair was just below shoulder length. With the last stroke Sandra asked the question, “How do you want it cut?”
Carrie looked over her shoulder to see if anyone was out there. Three other tables had people around them. One had five women, the same number of names on the letters. Could they be the committee.
She looked at Sandra, who had asked her again, “How do you want it cut?”
Like she was instructed Carrie told her, “A crew cut, the kind men in the military get”.
Sandra looked at her, a look that told her she knew what Carrie was going to ask for. Was she a member of the committee!
Sandra picked up her scissors and comb and started combing a section of hair. She placed the scissors three inches from her head and cut the strands, letting them fall in to the cape. Carrie now focused her eyes in the mirror as she watched Sandra cut another section. She combed and cut each section with skill, as if she had done this before. Each section cut three inches from her head. With each cutting Carrie watched her hair disappear from around her head. Short like when she was in high school, when she played volleyball. Every now and then she would look at the table with the women around it, they seemed to be taking notice.
After putting the scissors and comb on the shelf, Carrie notice Sandra taking the clippers off the hook under the shelf. She dusted the head with a small brush, cleaning it then oiling the teeth. She “clicked” the clippers on and off a few time, to work the oil into the teeth. Oiling them to cut better and quicker. She then took a large attachment from the shelf and slid it over the teeth.
Standing next to the chair, Sandra brought the clippers up to the center of her head. “CLICK”, the clippers jumped to life. Slowly she brought the clipper back over her head. The teeth of the clippers were now reducing Carrie’s hair to an inch. They were brought back forward and pushed back over again, and again. The right side was next as the clippers moved upward to the first clippings. Sandra walked to the left side and repeated the movements with the clippers. First, over the top of her head, then up the left side.
After a few quick movements Sandra was standing behind the chair, her left hand on top of Carrie’s head. She lightly pushed her head forward tilting it downward. Her eyes caught sight of the pile of hair in her lap. Hair which a few minutes before adorned her head, only once before having been cut above her neck. She looked out the window, the table of women were still watching.
They must be the committee.
Carrie felt the humming clippers move upward to the top of her head. She felt the hair fall free of her head, but could not see them fall. Another upward movement of the clippers, more hair fell to the floor behind the chair. Four more upward movements and the back of her head was like the rest. Standing up as if she had put her finger in a electric socket.
With the clippers resting, Carrie noticed the look on the ladies at the table. Their look was one of disbelief, disbelief a woman would actually cut her this way. Without questioning “WHY”, this somehow pleased Carrie. If they turned her down she would find them and let it be known who they were. Could they chance this!
She looked at her new haircut, noticing Sandra was also looking at the women at the table. Looking as if she, herself, could not believe what she was doing. Giving a woman a crew cut. Carrie knew she was set up for this, and it had back fired on them. Had they hoped she would not show?
Sandra turned around, “click” the clippers sang. The attachment was smaller. Again Sandra stood on the right side and moved the clippers back over her head. Her hair being reduced to a fourth of an inch. Quicker the passes were, quickly Sandra moved around her head. Like the first clipping Sandra stood behind the chair and clipped the back last. Seven, eight strokes and Carrie’s hair was equal all over.
Carrie looked at the women at the table, they had come around a little. Sitting there watching their instructions being acted upon. Her eyes caught a movement behind her, as Sandra removed the attachment. She walked to the right side, “Like the military” she told Carrie.
She brought the clippers up to the hairline, bare of any attachment. Slowly she pushed the clippers upward. High to the arch of the head at the top. Carrie watched as the short hair disappeared, shorter. Sandra worked her way around her head, tilting her head downward as she clippered up the � back. With the last stroke Sandra took the hair duster from the shelf and begin dusting Carrie’s face and neck.
Carrie brought her hands from under the cape. Slowly she brushed them over her new haircut. The top felt like a short bristled hair brush, and the sides and back like her father’s face in the morning before he shaved. Carrie looked out the window at the committee and gave them a smile and a wink. Could they reject her application, she thought.
“Well, there is your crew cut. Just like the military”, Sandra told her as she dusted the right side of Carrie’s head.
Carrie turned to Sandra, “I have changed my mind”.
Looking at her with a surprised look Sandra replied, “Changed your mind? I am sorry but it is a little too late. Maybe in a few months you can say that”.
“No, I did not mean that”, Carrie told her, “I mean I changed my mind about the length”.
Sandra looked at her again, “The length?”
“Yes. I would like it shorter”, Carrie told her.
“SHORTER ….? If I cut it any shorter I would have to shave your head,” Carrie was told.
Carrie looked at her with a smile, then turned her head to look out the window. “Yes”, Carrie said, “shave my head. Make it as smooth as you can get it”. With that Sandra returned to the shelf. She reached under it and removed another clippers, one with a “.000” setting of the head. This would clip Carrie’s hair even shorter than the eighth of an inch the back and sides were now clipped to. But, short enough to be shaved with easily.
Standing behind the chair Sandra looked at Carrie in the large mirror. “Shaved,” Carrie told her as she turned her eyes to the committee. Before bringing the clippers forward Sandra looked the ladies as if to ask “What do I do?” They looked back at her as if to try and find out what was going on.
The clippers came over her head and were slowly brought back over her head. The first pass was down the center of her head, she could not back out. Sandra slowly brought the clippers back to the front and back over her head again. This clipping felt like it took an hour. Sandra was working slowly, because of her disbelief of what she was doing. Carrie sat as if it was nothing, as if she had did this before.
Had it not been for the darkness of her hair, you could not tell from a distance if she was not already shaved. She watched out the side of her eyes at the committee. They were frantically moving about, as if not to understand what was going on. Wondering what to do, what was to happen. Sandra looked at them for some sign, what was she to do. The women did not know what to do. She worked the clippers over and over Carrie’s head until she could not clip any more hair.
Sandra put the clippers to rest under the shelf. With the hair duster she begin dusting small clipping from Carrie’s face. She looked at Carrie, “Are you sure about this?”
Carrie smiled, “Would not have told you, if I was not sure”.
Taking a towel from the pile on the shelf, Sandra shook it open. Holding it with her thumb and first finger she held it dangling above the sink. Warm water was running sending steam floating upward. She let it down slowly into the water. She turned to the ladies and gave them a smile. She took another towel from the shelf and begin tucking it into the collar of Carrie’s dress.
Carrie looked at the action in the mirror, she could not believe she had told Sandra to shave her head, she could not believe Sandra would do it. Her hair clipped close to her scalp, she thought to herself, “What the hell. Give them something to talk about at work. Give them something to think about in the club”.
If they did not let her in, so what. At least she had the last laugh. Beside you only live once.
Sandra was standing by the shelf, her hand around the dispenser. Soft white shaving cream was piling in her left hand. Soon, the creamy cream would be spread over her head. She closed her eyes to think of how it would feel, as she felt the chair being lowered, it came to a quick stop.
Standing behind the chair Sandra began applying the shaving cream. Slowly spreading it over her head, then rubbing it into the short hair. She wiped her hand of the remaining cream and removed the other towel from the sink. After wringing it out she wrapped it around Carrie’s cream covered head. The towel was allowed to cool down, as Sandra filled her hand with more shaving cream. After removing the towel she tossed it to the floor under the shelf. Again she spread the cream over Carrie’s head, this time she did not rub it any.
Sandra borrowed a safety razor from one of the other barbers.
She dipped it in the running water, and begin shaving Carrie’s head. The back was first as her head was tilted downward. Each stroke was short. Carrie could hear the blade cut the shortened strands at the scalp. Each stroke brought a coolness to the cleared area.
A coolness she had felt the first time she shaved her legs. The first time she had shaved her pubic hair to wear that bikini. A coolness worth feeling she thought. Sandra was working slowly around her head. Forward to the front on the right side, then the left side.
Carrie looked at herself in the mirror. She was becoming to enjoy the shaving. It had a pleasant feeling about it, one she could not describe to herself. Her thoughts begin to wonder.
Wonder if she wanted her head shaved before?
Was the crew cut the cause of it?
She could not say, but only knew she was enjoying the shave and knowing it was being done. She looked at the committee, they were calmed down somewhat. They sat watching, looking at each other every now and then. To assure each other that they had not told her to do this. “A crew cut, one like the men get in the military”, the instruction said, not shave your head.
It did not matter anymore to Carrie if she got in the club.
It was the feeling she was having that mattered. How would she get to enjoy this feeling again!
The enjoyment was beyond any she had ever had, except for one. But, now she would have something more to offer to those who gave her the other feeling. A feeling she would also enjoy.
With the last stroke of the razor, Sandra wiped her head clean. She dusted Carrie’s shaven head with sweet powder and removed the towel and cape.
For some reason Carrie knew she would not have to pay for this hair cut.
She told Sandra, “I will see you and your razor again”. As she walked out the shop, to begin her shopping tour through the mall. She waved to the committee and told them “Hi!”. They just looked at her.
It would be a while before she knew of her acceptance. But, for now she was going to enjoy the pleasures of this new hair cut.