"Don't cry, Mama, it will grow back in no time," Elderly Girl says, holding her ever-tinier old mother in her arms. God, that woman's tears can rip you to shreds. Elderly Girl does not enjoy having to be maternal. It gets in the way of her lust for drama.
As most of you are are aware, Elderly Girl had perhaps the most beautiful and celebrated hair on Earth. Even so, the urge to liberate herself from it has stalked her for decades. It was a complex impulse -- Elderly Girl's favorite kind. Now that she has succumbed, she has been Born Again. Her radiance is positively blinding.
(As one might have predicted, she has been asked to be the model for the new Chemo Barbie. She refused, of course. There are plenty of beautiful women who really do have cancer! Give them a break, you Mattel fools!)
It took a long time to get to the point of shaving her head. For her entire, interminable life, Elderly Girl's hair had enhanced her power -- not that it needed enhancing. It seemed to cascade straight out of the most intelligent part of her brain in a dazzling profusion of highly communicative curls and color. It was marvelous, it was mesmerizing, the number of hues that were in there, from auburn to red to blonde.
REVELING RIPPLES OF RADIANCE
It appeared that her glittery waves were constantly in motion, undulating gracefully, like those fluttery plants at the bottom of the sea. If she angled her head properly toward the sun, she could blind irritating people with the sheen of her bounteous tresses. It was a rare and effective device, and it provided a moment of comic relief to innocent bystanders.
When she was striding through the city, putting on a show with her muscled arms and flat tummy, kissable lips and creamy skin, she often paused to allow people to use her shiny hair as a mirror, if they were on their way to a job interview or assignation or whatever.
This was her volunteer work, her way of "giving back" to the community, which we are all constantly being pestered to do. God! What do they mean by "giving back"? What has the community ever given to Elderly Girl? She has worked her heart-shaped behind off for everything she has, including her heart-shaped behind. It started out looking like a piece of carry-on luggage, so you can imagine what she's been through to give this darling little Valentine of beauty to the world.
THE SILVER SLIPS IN, FOLLOWED BY APPLAUSE
As the decades have flowed by, stomped by, screamed by -- depending on global affairs and Elderly Girl's hormonal situation -- her regal mane has welcomed the addition of silver to its color scheme. This has been a spectacular experience.
"Hate that gray? Wash it away!"
Remember those obnoxious commercials? They surely fulfilled their mission. "Because you're worth it." Please! How can all of you fall for this crap?? Elderly Girl's silvery effluence has done nothing but glaze her golden beauty with a whole new dimension of sparkly richness.
Silver and gold tresses -- how enriching can hair become??
When everyone asks, "How do you get your hair that color?" she replies simply: "I let it do what it wants, just like I let my whole self do what it wants. It's called freedom!"
Come on, girls, can't you see how fake that dye looks? And don't you know it's pure poison? And don't you resent being manipulated by male industrial tycoons, who shame you into "needing" all that "natural-looking color" for your hair, and all that gunk for your face, and all those "sanitary" products for when you don't feel quite "fresh" enough??
AN IMPULSE THAT PULSED FOR ABOUT 30 YEARS
But we have gotten way off course here.
Elderly Girl has shaved her head. It was an exercise, an experiment. It was a surrender, and yet it required courage rather than submission. It was an impulse, but not really, because she's been pondering the whole thing for ages. Not exactly spur of the moment!
It all began, we believe, with cancer. Maybe this is a terrible thing to say, but Elderly Girl was drawn to the chemo aesthetic. As she marched around in her combat boots, olive-drab khakis and tank top -- her long, lioness hair billowing in the breeze -- she felt like the most fabulous creature on Earth.
Then one day, probably way back in the '80s, she was virtually brought to her knees by her first-ever sighting of a boldly bald cancer patient. Had everyone been wearing wigs before, or what? Surely this wasn't the first case of cancer in town, but it was the first survivor to declare, "This is me, and that's that."
Don't you feel the urge to hold and protect her, to wrap her in a quilt and make her tea?
IT'S NEITHER HAIR NOR THERE
Elderly Girl felt envious. That's not very nice.
It's also way out of character: Elderly Girl's role is to be envied.
But she was a little bit jealous of the simple bravery and heart-wrenching honesty of that head.
Suddenly, her own hair seemed like a show-offy affectation. It seemed like a shrill demand for attention. It seemed like a calculated diversion from the complex, not-always-endearing reality of who she was.
She felt guilty that she had such an abundance of hair. Worse yet, she felt upstaged! This she has never tolerated, and she's not about to start now.
That bald head looked like Truth to Elderly Girl. And truthiness has always been her thing.
LOSING YOUR LOCKS IS THE KEY TO SOMETHING BIG
There was something else as well. That bald head made Elderly Girl feel compassion. It made her want to put her arms around the bony shoulders of the Righteously Bald Girl and protect her. It gave the pale young lady an aura of virtue, which she probably didn't even deserve, but there it was. Elderly Girl felt like a gussied-up tramp in the presence of that simple, unashamed nudity.
Was it really that easy -- that you could shave your head and people would enfold you in good will? Elderly Girl had always comported herself such that sympathy would be the last thing on anyone's mind. If she were headed in your direction, you would either back off and give her plenty of leeway, or you'd get out your switchblade.
WILL THEY LOVE ME TENDER?
But maybe it would be interesting to play the victim, the afflicted, the vulnerable. Maybe, just for sport, she should see what it's like to be regarded with misty-eyed affection, instead of with awe and fear. Maybe, as Otis Redding had told her long ago, she should "try a little tenderness."
Elderly Girl did not slink home in distress and immediately get out the clippers. She is one of the great intellects of our time, and she does not leap into anything without exploring its implications and scrutinizing her motivations. She hauled out the Great Books and began studying this matter from a philosophical perspective.
Her fans pleaded with her not to part with her crowning glory. They reminded her that she might find herself suddenly quite bereft of glamour, even a bit homely.
Her fiance, Ralph Nader, and her adopted son, the adorable pop star Bruno Mars, were more understanding. They vowed to stand behind her, no matter what she did.
KICK THE BUCKET, MAKE A WISH
They are such dears, which was lucky for her, because being bald seemed to have become one of those things she simply had to experience. You know how people have begun compiling those stupidly named "bucket lists" of things they want to do before they die? Jump out of a plane, for example, or kill a six-point buck?
There are those who would like to finish just one marathon, or write a novel (good luck with that -- everyone else is way ahead of you). And so many, of course, dream of traveling to Paris or Rome (really, it's much nicer to just stay put and watch it on PBS).
There are those who are determined to get through all three volumes of Proust's "A la recherche du temps perdu," which is an even bigger waste of time than reading this blog, and others who pray for just one ecstatic tango in the arms of a man who knows what he is doing. That we can endorse. It's life-changing. You'll walk away (if you can still walk) feeling as if you've had both a boob job and a butt lift, and that sensation seems to persist indefinitely.
If Elderly Girl were black, she wouldn't hesitate. They look good any how, any way.
THE BRASH OVERACHIEVER IS DOGGED BY DOUBTS
Elderly Girl has never considered making one of these to-do lists. She has always simply achieved everything achievable (she mastered the Goldberg Variations in one afternoon, and even Bach said that was impossible), and she has done whatever she wanted to do, right now.
But the idea of shaving her head seemed more daunting than getting a degree in theoretical physics, just for the hell of it, which she will be awarded in the spring of 2012. She went for a black belt at the same time, and you would be amazed at how complementary they are, especially if you are also earning masters-level certification from the Culinary Institute of America. This is called holism, dear reader. A mini course in Cubist art rounds things out, paradoxically. Things all flow together in the most striking ways.
Except for the head-shaving thing. Elderly Girl hadn't been afraid to swim with sharks, or to give a speech advocating class warfare at a convention of investment bankers at the Waldorf Astoria; she had even declined to be flanked by a security detail, despite the urging of the event's planners (she really should have respected their expertise -- wow, that was a close call).
MS. ELDERLY GRAPPLES WITH INCONGRUITY
Shaving her head seemed to require a kind of courage and confidence that she had never before needed to summon. There's a very messed up symbolism that goes along with it, and it really doesn't readily apply to Elderly Girl.
There's the religious dimension -- the rejection of vanity and individualism by various orders of monks and nuns who shave their heads. How and why would Elderly Girl want to do that? Vanity and individualism are her fuel!
Let's just ignore the skinheads, if we can, and take note of the various musical and sexual subcultures that embrace the shaved head. It is quite an eclectic jumble. Who might one be mistaken for?
Heads have been shaved throughout history as a form of punishment. Those in concentration camps are often shorn, and for our own heroic military men, it's a rite of passage.
So there's really nothing in the history of baldness that resonates with Elderly Girl.
Well, there is one thing, but it's embarrassing. Oh god, do we really have to get into this?
OKAY, NOW WE'RE GETTING SOMEWHERE
Long before elderliness descended upon Elderly Girl, she fell hopelessly in love with a bald man. She didn't tell anyone, because she was afraid Ralph Nader would hear about it and be hurt.
That bald man was the fearless NYPD detective Theo Kojak: the manliest, cockiest, most effortlessly competent guy ever to walk the face of TV. Oh ladies, he was smooth, thrilling, yummy -- he made her swoon, he made her sick with longing. Elderly Girl was so young, so alone in the Big City. She had not yet become the formidable Amazon she was destined to be. How she yearned for a courageous, streetwise protector who would take care of her and comfort her and do everything a Big Daddy is supposed to do.
Kojak was "the man." Lord have mercy, Elderly Girl wanted him so much, the pain doubled her over. Every Sunday night, she watched him on television. Then she went to bed and had the same dream each time: She was sitting in his lap in her flannel jammies, all cuddled up, with his arms around her. She put her cheek against his bald head. She wanted to kiss it, but that might send the wrong signal and screw everything up. She was so safe, that nothing -- nothing! -- could hurt her. His voice, his heat, invaded her. She was totally at peace. It was a rapture she had never known. Please god -- don't wake me up! I don't care if I get fired, I don't care about anything but this indestructible, delectable bald man.
THE ECSTATIC LAP-SITTING DREAMS PERSIST
She became a connoisseur of bald heads. Oh, the lap-sitting dreams she had as a young lady! Issac Hayes was such a dear: He sang every song in his "Hot Buttered Soul" album to her as she snuggled against his chest. The one called "One Woman" always made her cry -- he sang it with such a sense of betrayal and loneliness -- and she inevitably awakened with a tear-soaked pillow.
She even succumbed to the bony loins of baldie-pie Dick Cheney a few times, when he was secretary of defense. Oh Mr. Secretary, Richard, Dick, Dickie! Your head is so hot, and your lips are so cruel!
Her boyfriend said, "I bet you wouldn't be dreaming about him if he were a car salesman."
Wow -- that put a stop to the Cheney dreams. Pop goes the weasel (and we do mean weasel)! Her boyfriend was so right! And then, for whatever reason, he shaved his head. Pure coincidence, of course.
(Here we must pause to make clear that we love and respect car salesmen as much as anyone! Our point was that Dick Cheney has no appeal, in any job, unless he wields "shock and awe" power.)
HEADS WILL ROCK, HAIR WILL ROLL
After all these years, though, she felt compelled to shave her own head, despite some unfortunate role models:
(Like Britney Spears, that crazy fool! Wasn't the underpants scandal enough?)
It is not like Elderly Girl to dilly-dally, to be torn by conflicting emotions, to agonize for YEARS, ladies, over this one piddling thing.
What finally made up her mind was being absolutely disgusted with herself for not having made up her mind.
She approached the mirror like an undercover agent, prepared to receive her "Mission Impossible" dossier.
She said, "I love you no matter what," and grasped the scissors, and began hacking away.
Immediately, she flashed back to a scene from "The King of Marvin Gardens," a 1970s Jack Nicholson flick. In it, a middle-aged former beauty queen played by Ellen Burstyn finally decides to give up the exhausting, demeaning, hopeless fight to remain attractive. It's become a losing battle anyway, as her stepdaughter's beauty constantly reminds her. She stands at the mirror just as Elderly Girl is doing right now, and she cuts her hair off in a way that is both anguished and triumphant. It is a very poignant surrender to a life of dowdy inconsequentiality.
TAKE IT ALL OFF! THE SAINTLY STRIPPER
"That's sure as hell not what I'm doing!" Elderly Girl reminds herself.
The first few wisps on the floor were a bit stomach-churning, but she got out some gigantic sewing shears and tremblingly sliced off one big handful of hair after another.
Already, she was feeling a golden Joan of Arc thing coming on. Ironically, her baldness would become her hairshirt. The deliberately self-injuring hairshirt was essential to the achievement of a prized "cleansing and lightness" in early Catholicism. Ask anyone. Or Wikipedia.
Grace did seem imminent.
Then, out came the sassy red clippers she had bought for this occasion (20 years ago), and in a moment of blinding magic, in an instant of transcendence in which she felt as if she were being swooshed heavenward by The Rapture, the deed was done, and she was new.
A SUICIDE, FOLLOWED BY A REBIRTH -- AS USUAL
In an act of reckless haira-kiri she had plunged in the razor and spilled her curls, like pearly bowel segments, onto the floor. It was a kind of suicide, because it killed a treasured aspect of her persona.
Zip, zip, zip, and she had been Born Again: fragile and innocent-looking again, wide-eyed and wondrous again. How sweet a feeling, this liberating light-headedness!
The brash and combative elements in her had been swept away with her locks, and now she was a startled, bony birdling, exquisite in that half-clumsy flamingo way, long-necked and endearingly tentative. Hovering brightly atop her neck was this new planet, or maybe a periscope from the ancient deeps.
Her ears looked as bashful as baby toes; never had she felt so clean. Surely humankind would gaze upon her with hushed awe. She was a magical creature, like ET.
(But quite a bit more luscious.)
Her eyes looked like they were two places at once: here and Paradise.
A DEFORESTATION THAT OPENS UP THE MIND
That old run-of-the-mill narcissism had been replaced by the vanity of the starkly, inadvertently beautiful, the vanity of the martyr.
"Going bald -- it's like becoming handicapped,'' Elderly Girl tried to explain to her sobbing mother. "After a few moments of horror and doubt, you begin to discover strengths you never dreamed you had. You compensate, accommodate, reformulate (your neurons or something like that do a little musical-chairs thing) and like a tree that has lost a major limb, you begin branching out in new directions, with new luxuriance and juicier fruit.''
"Preposterous but intriguing,'' her mother had said, reluctantly, through her tears.
"I've joined the hallowed ranks of the hacked-off, the blown-apart, the struck down, the inconsolably penitent, the wretchedly ascetic, the paralyzingly phobic, the desperately poor, the so-called insane, the seemingly damned. Les miserables! We are bathed in light from who knows where!" Elderly Girl gushed.
Enlisting in the ranks of the poor and the damned.
AN UNSHACKLED MAIDEN GALLOPS INTO THE FUTURE
She felt more like a maiden than she ever had with hair. She was a semi-Godiva kind of maiden -- clothed, but nude on top -- who would canter through life to prove something or learn something, the specifics of which would surely manifest themselves before long.
She soared with a nothing-to-lose feeling, so defenseless that she was moved to be braver than ever. In her, nakedness and modesty were in perfect union; humility and exhibitionism were gently blended and served raw. Going bald was a surrender that had turned out to be a victory, a reward that looked like a punishment.
When Delilah cut off Samson's hair, it made him weak. But when Elderly Girl cut off her own hair, it made her stronger than ever. This she has deemed "The Delilah Paradox."
In Scientology, people spend many years and thousands of dollars to become "clear" -- freed from repression and compulsion, fully in charge of their minds and emotions. Elderly Girl took about ten minutes to accomplish the same thing.
I BELIEVE I CAN FLY. I BELIEVE I CAN TOUCH THE SKY
Ladies, can you imagine what it's like to relinquish your hair? To have it all gone, just like that? You feel that you could fly away. Actually, you kind of feel that you are flying while remaining on the ground. You sense that you have a halo.
Elderly Girl's doll-like, dream-girl self floats along in a floral vapor.
Sometimes, she sees -- in her peripheral vision -- butterflies and bluebirds circling her scalp, as if they are utterly delighted.
But when she looks up, they aren't there. All she sees is some old man in the sky -- oh my heck, could it be Heavenly Father? -- giving her a thumbs-up. Right back at you, lordie pie!
The effect on Elderly Girl's posture is magical. Surely her hair wasn't heavy enough to make her slump, but now that it's gone, she is taller. Her spine has never been so straight. Her head has never been held so high. It is exhilarating. Sometimes, she can't resist taking her head in her arms and holding it like it was her baby. She loves it. It is so nice to meet it, especially after all these years.
LOVE THE SKIN YOU'RE IN
Feel the freedom -- my god! Take your shower and jump right out -- you're ready to go. If the wind wants to blow, let it! Your head will not get mussed and tangled. Bad hair days: bye, bye you little bastards!
You have bestowed upon yourself a new erogenous zone, but it's not about sex -- it's about sensuality. It's almost as if your shining head were a new organ. Your pillowcase is so dear -- so soft and cool. All of nature seems to be making gentle love to your scalp, and the way people look at you makes you feel like the Mona Lisa: a classic masterpiece of understated and unintended beauty.
You realize that until now, you have never really experienced nakedness! It is sad that Elderly Girl has waited so long to be TOTALLY NUDE. It changes who you are. You become a radiant work of performance art.
LEAVING 'DOWN UNDER' TO THE AUSTRALIANS
Well, not totally nude. It has recently come to Elderly Girl's attention that there is some legislation or whatever that now requires that you shave "down there." When did this happen? Was it while Elderly Girl was climbing Mount Kilimanjaro? Or covering the Bosnian War Crimes Tribunal for the London Telegraph? Didn't you guys get together and protest? How can you let the porn-addled Men Who Rule just whip you into submission?
Elderly Girl has always ignored the rules, and she will flout this one with particular relish. We're keeping the pubes, dudes. Deal with it. In fact, we'll put some chia seeds down there, and see just how big and bushy we can make it.
Needless to say, Elderly Girl has remained at the top of Tweet Trending Topics ever since she shaved her head. While the comments, the ones that are comprehensible at least, are largely positive, Elderly Girl can't stand to read them. Are you young people as stupid and lame as you appear to be, or is that just an affectation? It's like you're all a bunch of "Jackass" and "Beavis and Butthead" people. Elderly Girl really does believe that playing dumb is just an unfortunate fad, and that deep down, you are sensitive and sensible fellow beings.
TOOT BEFORE YOU TWEET - MAYBE YOU'LL SEEM SMARTER
Just for the hell of it, why not tweet something perceptive and thought-provoking about Elderly Girl, instead of all that stuff about covering her head in Cool Whip and licking it off. Yuck, people! Keep your saliva (and your tongues) to yourself, please.
In any case, the baldness is ending. Now begins the intriguing process of regrowth. Think of all the incarnations Miss Elderly will experience before she returns to her former self. She welcomes each one, with the exception of the "pixie" stage. She is no pixie, and nothing about her has an ounce of pixie in it, so she will be wearing a hat during that phase.
By the time Elderly Girl's hair reaches its former long and lavishly wavy beauty, perhaps the gold will have disappeared entirely, and silver will reign.
AND OPRAH AIN'T NEVER WRONG, SISTER
It will then pose an even more pointed challenge to you ladies with your "Autumn Chestnut" hair and your "Tawny Sand" and your "Honey Champagne" hair. Perhaps Elderly Girl will inspire millions of women to examine their life choices in a whole new way.
And that, as Oprah regularly reminds her, is what Elderly Girl was put on this Earth to do.