I always manage to get stuck waiting for the train to pass and for the drawbridge to come back down whenever I go over to Sandi's on the weekends. Most motorist cannot find the ability to wait an extra 15 minutes for either, so often they will jump the median and try to find an opening somewhere else. As eager as I was to get there, I waited it out. In the back seat of my Festiva, I had a basket full of all the socks and underwear I went through during my week vacation/trip to Cornerstone two weeks ago plus all the uniform shirts I hadn't washed in the month I'd been wearing them every day. I also had my hair clippers.

When I got them out of the medicine cabinet and opened to check the batteries, one had corroded inside and I feared that it would render them inoperable. I took it as a potential sign that I shouldn't go through with it. But I brought them and some extra batteries anyway. I wasn't giving up that easily.

In my stereo, I was playing a copy of Rage Against the Machine's last album, part of a preparation for the concert in September that I had just purchased tickets to earlier that day. It felt like my life was getting started.

When I got to Sandi's, her car wasn't in the driveway yet, so I carried my laundry basket into her back yard and put the first load in the washer, since I knew the laundry room would be unlocked. She lived in that kind of neighborhood where you could leave things unlocked. Whenever we fetched her son from the various family extensions he stays with while she's at work, I sit in the car and watch Sandi walk up to the house and just walk in, without even knocking. It's a whole different world from mine.

Sandi arrives shortly afterwards and tells me that something went kerklunk under the hood of her car so we had to take mine to fetch the kid and the Chinese food she ordered for us in preparation for the big shave. Since I don't have cable and have yet to see the new Real World series that was filmed here in New Orleans, I begged her to let me sit in front of the TV while she trimmed my hair down to the length where the clippers could do some real damage.

Sandi wanted to try her ability to cut hair short into a certain style before we just shaved it all off, and mine was almost to my shoulders, so she had a bit to work with. At every stage, she took a picture. I'd had my hair so short before that it looked like a boy's, so each stage was not nearly as exciting as the last one. I had a hard time staying in my seat, I was so excited. I was, like all people who willfully do this, terrified that my worst fears would come true. That I would have a bumpy, off-center head, that I would have cowlicks or oddly parted hair, that I would look sickly and diseased, that my eyebrows would be bushy by comparison to my scalp that would now be plainly visible. I also thought that it would, for some reason, make me look fat, or that I would not be able to pull it off, meaning that I didn't have the attitude to back such a severe hair style that in fact, had no style at all.

It was so strange to see New Orleans being filmed the way it was for the Real World, to see places that I went to on a regular basis now being the backdrop for some predetermined TV series. I squealed like a proud mother under the shadow of Sandi's hairdresser's shears, "Look there's Rue De La Course, and Lafitte's Blacksmith Shoppe, and oh, look, now they're at Red Room." Laura, if you don't sit still, I'm going to hurt you. Ok, I'm sorry.

Her son had gotten a Hot Wheels computer for his fifth birthday and ever since then, he had been glued to it every night. Since he has this crush on me, however, he would not leave the living room. Instead, he brought his toys out there and made the haircut process doubly frustrating, what with my hair getting all over the place. Sandi had it in her mouth, I had it all down my shorts and in my sports bra so that it felt like I was going through some mild chemotherapy without the nausea. When it was finally all gone and the clippers about to give out, I was allowed to see it. I grinned back at myself in the mirror over the sofa. It looked good. It actually looked not not bad but good.

In the shower, I couldn't stop grinning as the water fell over me. I changed into some of the now clean clothes from my laundry and stretched out on the couch, rubbing my head like an overexcited boyfriend. On the drive home, it was exhilarating to not have to brush hair out of my face because I had the window down, that unlike most of the city, I did not ever seal myself inside my car with air conditioning but preferred fresher air.

I came home and called one of my friends who would have been the first to see it, if I hadn't passed out with this big grin on my face. I slept better than I had in weeks.

First, some personal history
Sometime around grade 9 (1989) an older guy I hung out with told me, "grow your hair long, you only live once!" As I respected him and looked up to him, I did. At the time I had just gotten out of Air Cadets, and really had no reason to keep my short, respectable haircut. I had always been a nerd and a geek, so while I tried to keep as low profile as possible, I didn't think this could hurt too much. So I told my parents a while later, "I'm going to grow my hair long." They, being good parents and not trying to infringe in my occasional strangeness, didn't object (I don't think they completely approved either, however).

Fast forward a bit...

As anyone who has had long hair knows, the absolute worst part is that ugly transitional stage where your hair isn't long enough to fit in a ponytail (or only slightly better, when you can only fit a few strands through), but it is long enough to flip out at the sides and give you wings (and give all the nerd haters more ammunition to insult you with).

And a bit more...

Sometime before graduating high school my hair was long enough to be in a respectable, though short, ponytail.

The Ponytail Years
I've had my hair long since then. Every couple of years I'd go and get a trim, just to get rid of split ends and to take a bit of weight off of the top. Other than that, nothing other than a wash in the shower in the morning and tying it up for the day is done to it. I sport the contemporary style of a computer programmer, long hair and a goatee, dressed in blue jeans, hiking boots, and a vendor-ware t-shirt with a long sleeve shirt overtop. The other programmers I work with dress the same way, and have the same hair and goatee style.

(We figure this represents a stage in one's programming career)

We refer to ourselves as the "long hairs", and note that we can be almost intimidating when we all wear our leather jackets. We're the long hair club, and no one is going to break that.

Until Now...

Two Days Ago
Delmar came down and told me he had a job interview the next day, and as it was with a vice president, he didn't think that they appreciate long hairs as much as a standard herder or programmers would. As our other friend, Brian had been talking on his blog about getting his head shaved (amid protests and wonderings from the rest of the long hairs), he was hoping to find him to get it done together. Well, Del was looking for a "respectable" cut, not a shave, but when you're getting rid of that much hair, you may as well do it all at once.

Brian wasn't around, but I went with him, camera in hand to document the whole thing.

In the end, he didn't look all that bad. Respectable even. That night I made up a list of pros and cons of getting my hair cut or shaved in my weblog. Though it was unintentional, the lists were even at 10 each. I also found a picture of myself and did a bit of (intentionally bad) photo-editing in the GIMP to see what I'd look with no hair.

The reason that Brian had come up with this crazy idea was, well, something different. A side effect was that he was going to donate his hair to Locks of Love, an organization that makes wigs for children with cancer. A worthy cause to be sure. In his attempts to convince me to join him in this expedition, he reasoned that while there is a danger of looking like a dork afterwards, I look like a dork now, so there's no change. I couldn't argue with that logic. Besides, if anyone did insult me or make fun of me about it, telling them that I did it to donate to a wigs-for-kids-with-cancer organization would be a good retort (this fact would almost certainly be a great in with the ladies). The fact that once Brian left the long hair club it would only be me left would be a factor as well. Del had short hair for his interview, Darren had moved back to Edmonton, and that left just me and Brian....

I guess in the end I wanted a change as well, and as I didn't need to find a girlfriend anymore, why the hell not?

The Big Event
Armed with a girlfriend with a camera, and courage, we went out. Choosing a place called "Eutopia" in Abbotsford (it had the reputation to be expensive but good, and giving great head massages), we headed down. The first reaction of the ladies at the front was Noooooooooooo! when we told them what we wanted to do. After explaining about Locks of Love and the donation, they were ok with it. We obtained two barber chairs right next to each other, had our glasses removed, and then it began.

The barber made a bunch of small ponytails all over my head to maximize the length of hair they got. Then, after asking me "are you ready?" one last time, she began cutting. She cut the ponytails off first, trying to get as much as possible (without hitting the skin of course). After that, more chopping, then shaving. All the time she and her partner working on Brian were having a grand old time, laughing and joking. Other people in the shop were pointed towards us so that they could watch the event, and at least a couple of the other ladies that worked there came over to take pictures.

I stood fast in my resolve not to look or touch until it was over. I don't see all that well without glasses, so that was easy. In my eyes, Brian went from a blob with a dark hair blob to a blob without the hair blob. They went down on us with the number 1 trimmer, as any shorter would irritate the skin. After they were done with the razor we got a head massage from heaven. The sensation was.... "different" to be sure.

Only when they were done did I replace my spectacles and look. My first thought was "Oh fuck where the hell is all my hair?" and my second was "actually, that's not all that bad." Examination by hand resulted in a soft prickly feeling that was kinda cool. To be honest, the last time I had this little hair was the day I was born.

Routines will have to change. My hands still want to flip my long hair back when I put on a shirt, or squeeze the water out just before grabbing a towel after a shower, but these will come in time. Instead of being cold like I thought they'd be, my head is actually quite hot, almost like I'm radiating off an afro of heat. Walking under air vents or sticking my head out of the window in the car results in more cool and interesting sensations.

So this is day one. I spent a fair amount of time last night touching my head and feeling the bumps and grain of my hair. The fact that I have longer hair on my arms or chest than on my head is still a shock, and, given the right clothing, I'd fit right into some sort of gang with the no-hair-but-goatee look. I don't know if I'll shave it down to nothing (my SO seems to like the feel of my head right now), or let it grow or keep it clipped. I still haven't seen anyone I know other than the people I got it done with, so I don't know what reaction I'll get from my parents, in-laws or friends. I figure when asked "why?" I can always respond with something like:

  • "Lice"
  • "I've decided to join a monastery"
  • "what do you mean my hair is gone... hey... what the hell?"
  • "I'm trying to grow a clone of myself"

Whatever happens, it'll be interesting. Who knows, in a couple of years I might be a long hair again? Time will tell...

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