A friend of ours is going to undergo chemotherapy soon. That's not funny. (She's doing really well, by the way, and handling it like a trooper.) But when Mary mentioned that she was a little apprehensive about losing all her hair, my mother, Sand, decided that she would show her support by shaving her own head also. That has been funny. Really, really funny.
"You're going to shave your head? Really? Completely? Let me do it!"
Yep, I said that. So did Mary's husband. And my husband. And my dad. And the neighbor up the street. And the neighbor down the street. And pretty much everyone else my mother shared her plan with. Apparently the "shave Sand" instinct is strong in folks around these parts.
"Why does everyone want to shave my head?" she grumped to me uneasily last week. "And what's with that feral gleam to their eyes? I wonder how many people would show up if I announced I was going to tar and feather myself."
"You're going to tar and feather yourself?" I perked up. "Really? Completely? Let me do it!"
In the end, however, I was the one who got to shave my mother's head. And I did it because I submitted the winning plan.
"You know, as long as you're going to shave it all off anyway, we might as well leave a strip down the center for last and do a mohawk in the process."
"Oh, come on. When else are you ever going to have the chance to see yourself in a mohawk?" I pointed out. "Plus, we can send pictures of it to Grandma."
She stopped in her tracks and turned to me. "Get your camera and the scissors."
We started cutting hair with the idea that we were in for a few cheap laughs and a possible early inheritance when my grandmother had the heart attack. But the more we cut, the more we fell in love with it. It looked fabulous. When we finally finished styling her hair and showed the rest of the family, though, their reactions weren't quite as favorable.
"Wow, you have an 'Annie Lennox of the Iroquois' kind of look going there," observed my husband. "Or maybe you look like the love child of Susan Powter and Mr. T. I'm still trying to make up my mind."
Frowning, my two year old reached up and grabbed one of her own curls, then sternly told Sand, "No no no no no no!"
"Well, I love it. My head has never felt this cool during the summer. What do you think, Bern?" Mom turned to my father, who was grimacing at me and clenching his fists.
"I..." he forced the grimace into a smile, "think Mary will be very touched that you're such a good friend." As Mom turned away to give a triumphant "hmph!" to my husband, Dad resumed snarling at me and silently pantomimed wringing my neck.
I had never realized cutting hair could be so dangerous. No wonder those presidential barbers charge $200 a clip.
Mom left the hair in a mohawk for a day or two, mostly, I think, because she liked watching my dad twitch every time he looked at her. A few days later, we met again, though, this time to say goodbye to the mohawk and the rest of her hair. When I next saw my Dad again, he looked much more relaxed and was positively fawning over Mom and her ultra-short shearing. I saw the mischievous little smile playing about her lips and realized that there had been a method to her madness. Dad might not have been too thrilled about being seen with "G.I. Jane" before, but as dates go, she was a heck of a lot better than "B.A. Baracus".
I was chatting with my mother and a few other friends on line the other night, when one of our out-of-state buddies asked her how she was enjoying having no hair at all.
"Very convenient when swimming," my mother typed, "but I went out to lunch with Bernie today and noticed that people refuse to look at you when you have no hair. It's like they assume you must have some terrible disease."
"Doesn't Bernie shave his head, too?" Our chat-room friend asked. "They probably thought you two were in some kind of cult."
"Maybe it's for the best they don't say anything, then," my mother typed back. "I pity the fool who talks smack about my hair."
The mohawk is gone, but its spirit lives on.
Comments and hair styling suggestions to firstname.lastname@example.org.
This article first appeared in the Aug 21, 2004 edition of the Manteca (Calif.) Bulletin.