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I'm Free by A Recruit


I am sitting here in front of the keyboard in a mixed state of shock and
elation. Every time I run my hand over my head (every few seconds, it
seems) there is the jolt of not finding my mop of blond hair, but rather a
perfectly smooth scalp, clean and polished, without a trace of hair or even
of stubble. The mirror on the stand, which I have cocked so I can see my
reflection in it, shows a bald stranger, not at all bad looking but hardly
recognizable as being me. Having just written this, I looked again and am
startled once more, watching the bald guy feeling his hairless head. No
hairline shows, no shadow at all, since the severed hairs lying below the
surface are so blond. Just a change in the color, the scalp where the hair
had been being lighter than the forehead and cheeks.

The sensation of touching is almost impossible to describe--the combination
of being totally wrong and totally wonderful. It is hard to believe that
mere skin can be so smooth. The hand has its expectations-the heavy locks
on the forehead, the slightly curly fringe covering the ears and resting on
my collar, the long strands that reach from the parting across the top and
nearly down to the opposite ear, the hair that runs through my fingers as I
lift it away from the back of my head. Expectations based on a lifetime of
experience. I still imagine those sensations as I touch my head, which
makes the contrast of the nothingness that I actually find more startling.

I know that my hair will grow again and that stubble will replace the
smoothness in a few short hours. But now I have to soak up the experience,
because I realize that the thrill of this first time will never be equalled.
But how did I come to this point? Coming here to college has made an
enormous difference in my life. I am so thankful that the local university
had the wisdom to reject my application, and that my second choice did not.

More to the point, I am thankful that my second choice was 640 miles from
home. Coming here I have felt a relief from the steely domination of
home--a domination that I had never realized was so strong until I was away
from it. Home was Mother, and looking back, I begin to realize how
carefully she controlled my existence. My father departed the scene before
I can remember, so Mother and I were the family. From the earliest days she
controlled what I was, what I wore and how I looked. I begin to understand
that somehow my hair was a symbol of her control. A symbol to her, mostly,
and now, I see, to me as well. From my pictures, I see that my hair was
never cut until I started school. I have a memory of being taken to her
hairdresser and having my shoulder length tresses trimmed. She cried and so
did I, because she did, I expect.

Throughout the elementary school years my hair was long - longer than my
classmates - and I recall her combing and brushing it just before I went to
school and as soon as I came home.By middle school I rebelled a trifle and
the length was trimmed back a bit, always at her salon. In high school I
migrated naturally to a little group of outcasts-computer nerds, actually.
I remember deliberately roughing up my carefully combed coiffeur on the way
to school and combing it out a bit on the way home. My pictures from this
period, which Mother always oversaw the posing of, are of a young man with
a spectacular shock of gently wavy hair, impeccably styled and carefully
highlighted with the photographer's lights. "Pretty" is the only word for
it.

Mother was devastated when it became apparent that I would not be living at
home through college. I really didn't care that much. It is important that
you understand that I never really knew the degree of her control of my
life until I got away from it here at school. She calls every week,
sometimes twice and sends little Care packages. But gradually I have
learned to ignore her little hints and suggestions and have grown to
cherish making my own decisions. Oh, my hair? Still long and uncut since
mid-summer, since the salon is a long, long way off.

It all came to a head (literally) today when I got the package. The
package had the usual cookies and stuff plus a new comb and a can of hair
spray. And a note that she hoped I was taking care of my appearance, and
the address of a salon that she had got from a cousin of a friend, and the
suggestion that it was time I had my hair "done", so I would look nice when
I came home for break. All 18 years of obedience welled up in me, and I
almost shouted "NO!, NO!, NO! and I knew that I had to make a final break
for my freedom. Go to that salon and I was doomed! Use that comb and
hairspray and I was doomed! I threw the package and the note across the
room and stared at myself in the mirror. Almost without thinking I grabbed
the scissors from my desk, placed them at my forelock and squeezed the
handles. They cut a bit and jammed. I yanked them open and tried again and
again until the lock fell free, leaving a patch of blond bristles. Now I
had done it!! I felt of the stubbly patch. It was all different lengths,
because of the hacking with the scissors, but none of it longer than maybe
an inch. I took the scissors and trimmed down the longer bits to even it
out a bit.

What was I doing?? Push my hair over to hide the damage! There! No,
dammit!! I took the scissors and hacked away, widening the patch to twice
its width. Now I have to do something. But these scissors just won't cut
it. I remembered that Jim, one of my suite mates, had some clippers and
stuff, so I walked over to his room. He was in class, but I could see the
box sitting on the closet shelf. He wouldn't mind my borrowing them. I took
them back to my room and opened the box. There were the red clippers and
some plastic comb attachments. The clippers had a little lever that seemed
to adjust the closness of the cut and the plastic things were of different
lengths. I held them up to my scalped spot, trying to see which one was the
same length as my hacking had left. Finally I snapped on the 1/2" one and
plugged in the clippers. They came to life suddenly--the switch had been
left on-and I nearly dropped them. Gingerly I pushed them over the remains
of my forelock. Nothing much happened, so I pushed the lever to the closer
setting. A few bits of hair fell off this time and I bravely pushed them an
inch farther back. I lifted off the severed hunk of long hair and inspected
my handiwork. The scissored patches were still noticibly shorter. I took
off the plastic guide and considered my options. Looking in the mirror, I
got a glimpse of mother's package lying on the bed where it had landed. In
a moment, I dropped the bare clippers onto my scalp and pushed them back
through the stubble. That had done it!! I laid my towel on the floor, sat
down on my chair and leaned over. I put the buzzing clippers back on my
shorn forelock and slowly and steadily pushed them back all the way up the
middle of my head. The long hunks of blond hair rained down onto the towel
as I made pass after pass over the top of my head. And then the sides
followed the top. And then the clippers walked up the back of my head, all
the way to the crown, adding to the incredibly huge pile of hair on the
towel. I ran the clippers over and over my head, in a sort of frenzy until
I realized that nothing else was happening. I switched them off and stood
up to look in the mirror. My God!! What had I done?

With my blond hair I looked really bald, especially with the overhead room
light. I looked and felt of my sandpapery head and started to laugh! It
felt wonderful!! I was free!! Free of my hair and free of Mother's control!
And maybe I wouldn't even go home for break, though I realized it would
break her heart not to see me and it would break her heart to see
me--either way I didn't care!

But there was still stubble, and that had to go. This was going to be a
clean break with my past--totally clean. I got my shaving stuff and headed
to the bathroom. Finally, after practically wearing off all the skin, I
decided that my head was as bald as it could possibly be. I went back to my
room and bundled up my comb and brush, mother's package, the hairspray, and
my hair, all of it, and walked them out to the trash. The cold air felt
unaccustomedly weird on my shaven scalp. I walked back in, in a mixture of
shock and elation, looking at my reflection in every window and mirror that
I passed. It was over! I was free! I could let my hair grow again, my way,
if I wanted.

As I sit here, I wonder what I will do next. I am becoming more and more
used to this wonderful smooth head, so I think I had better lay in a fresh
supply of razor blades. I want this change to be permanent, so I will stay
bald for a while, at least until I go home. And now I have to write Mother
my weekly letter--what shall I tell her?




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