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“Are you serious?” A high pitched giggle bubbled up from my friend Regina’s throat. It trickled to a noisy exhale at the sight of my smiling but slightly strained expression. “Kyna?”

Giving a half-hearted grin, I replied slowly, “Nah, I mean—yeah. I think I’m gonna shave my head.” I paused. “I mean, it’s for charity, though.” My companion’s face scrunched up.

“But,” Regina hesitated, trying to find the right words, then failing, “You’ll look horrible with no hair! You can’t!”

Her well-meaning words slapped me hard in the face. I felt the back of my eyes burning at Regina’s obvious disapproval. I bit the inside of my cheek, trying hard not to make a face. I was angry and kind of sad, but not entirely at my cohort. Obviously, no one wants to hear the people they trust and look to for approval deprecate their ideas, but I knew that Regina’s words were just the first thoughts of anyone influenced by public beliefs. Anyone can plainly see why people are so disgruntled by and reject foreign ideas. If you just glance at a middle school lunchroom with a slight understanding of the social groups, you can see the not-so-fine line separating everyone. It’s not easy for anyone to let an aberration sneak into their cookie cutter world.
Steeling my gaze and forcing the angry squeal out of my voice, I grunted a minimal response. Making up a particularly lackluster excuse, even to my own ears, I turned on my heel, flush with disappointment.

Three months later, I was sitting in a fairly hairy chair; waist-length locks bleached and dyed breast-cancer pink. My friends were either planted beside me, flaming strands and all, or cheering in front of me, camera phones pointed towards the barbers behind us. Attempting a humble approach, I avoided bathing in their attention. Instead, I looked proudly at what our fantastic volunteers had managed to do to transform the A&P parking lot. A massive white canopy shielded the audience and I from the sight of growing clouds. Past the clumps of shaven, dyed, or bushy-haired heads, there were several little booths with activities and celebrities and gloriously greasy food.
Finally complete with my informal survey, I snapped back to attention at a slight tug of my hair. I froze, a perfect mannequin, and barely inhaled through my nose. I could feel the clean snip of my hairdresser’s shears as they hacked off half of my chemical-burnt mane.

I didn’t turn, but I heard the harsh buzzing of an electric razor, just short of my auricles. My entire body seemed to vibrate with the blade, or it might’ve just been the exhilaration of the venue. The growls reached a crescendo and made my heart skip a beat. I flinched away from the monster that wanted to steal my uniformity. Recovering from a moment of human instinct, I slowly straightened my spine and leaned back in my chair. I hadn’t realized I’d moved.
As my barber skillfully shaved my scalp, I felt my skin raise and tingle. The crowed seemed to slow, like a wind-up toy at the end of its short life. I didn’t breathe—I couldn’t. I felt clumps of hair fall onto my shielded lap, crushing my bouncing legs.
“Smile!” Startled, I refocused my eyes, unaware of my surroundings. Holding a camera up to her face, a woman knelt in front of me, smiling wildly. Realizing her intentions, I stretched my lips tight across my teeth. I stood, the damp May air chilling my bare scalp. I shivered, rubbing my naked scalp with my clammy fingertips. Stranded in a sea of severed tresses, I swiveled, almost tripping on over my own fuzzy, suede sneakers. Recovering quickly, I faced the altruistic beautician and politely shook her manicured hand. I hastily exited from the makeshift stage, applause ringing in my ears. I had a bounce in my step with the weight of three pounds of hair gone from my shoulders.

I was lightheaded, high off of nothing but the pleasure of living. This feeling was freeing, I felt reprieved from the expectations of society. I was strange; I was different, but I never felt like I belonged more than now. Interrupting my epiphany, a pair of skinny arms compacted my bones in a tight embrace. I twisted my neck and grinned at my attacker.

Lily responded with her own beaming expression and gushed, “You look amazing.” Untangling from my other half, I loosened my smile into a humble mien. I thanked Lily, my words rushing together. Out of the corner of my eye, I spotted my mom across the tent, motioning me towards her. With a quick promise to call, I departed from my consort.

I weaved through the crowd, acknowledging each compliment I received with a gracious nod and twitch of the lips. I finally appeared next to my mother, and was enveloped in another organ-squishing hug. My simper stretched and I hugged my mum back, her benign warmth spreading through my limbs.

“Ahem,” an impatient grumble interrupted my matriarchal bonding and we begrudgingly separated. Lily stood with her arms crossed, a silly expression on her face. My face mimicked hers, and I instantly forgave my friend for her intrusion. I glanced back at my mom and she bobbed her head encouragingly. Linking our arms together, Lily and I skipped off, prepared to enjoy the festivities for the shavees and other guests.

A myriad of moments consisting of fried confections and asinine games and cheap toys passed by. Four hours of frivolous merriment passed by in what seemed like a blink of an eye. After a mess of cheery goodbyes and thanks, my family and I eventually piled into our less-than-gargantuan Prius. With the leather squeaking as I leaned back, I let out a content sigh. My mom drove slowly, the pitter-patter of rain gently drumming against our headliner. Pressing my moist forehead against the window, I absentmindedly rubbed the crown of my skull.

My mind drifted to the reactions of my peers on Monday. I had a little more than half a day to ready myself for the comments and critiques my classmates would unequivocally share. Honesty isn’t always the best policy. But, I then realized, did I really care? Do the tiny, shallow opinions of people I seldom talk to truly matter? No; I digested the fact—their beliefs have no effect on my life. My eyes widened with this new but old discovery.

The car pulled into our driveway, and I made to get out. As my soggy shoes touched the asphalt and I exited the vehicle, my spine straightened and head extended. With my latest revelation, I felt a certain pride, a feeling of omnipotence. That’s why I walked so smoothly. That’s why I glided into homeroom, not paying mind to any blatant stares or whispered wisecracks. That’s why when I look in the mirror, I don’t see a bald atrocity—I see me. My reflection is really just light, an imitated illustration. At the end of the day, your body is really just skin and bones. The only things that will matter when your flesh is all gone is who you were and what you did. So honestly, who cares?





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