when i was 19, i shaved my head. it was the only length my hair had never been. so on the night that several of my male friends got their fraternity bids, and got out clippers to shave ridiculous letters into their heads, i decided to embark on a new experience. (you'd think that the whole "letters" thing might have alerted me that this was senseless and strange, but it seemed completely logical at the time. we would all go boldly into a new world together.)
it was october. my head was cold. my parents showed up the next weekend for parents weekend at my very conservative new england college and my mother told me - repeatedly - that i should pierce my ears. and wear tighter shirts. and put on some makeup. (normal attire in those days was a dirty white t-shirt, overalls and chuck taylors. no makeup. and now, no hair.) my dad refused to speak to me.
there aren't many photos. certainly not that my parents took. except for one from that weekend, where i stand next to my brother. i'm bald. he has shoulder-length, cascading hair, touching his shoulders, and curling ever so slightly at the ends. (my parents hated that too.) he most often wore it in a ponytail, but it was down this day. my tall, handsome, viking-like brother.
several years later, a package arrived at my door. i ripped off its paper to find a small, sparkly gold box. inside, there was a black-and-white photo-booth strip of my brother mugging for the camera. he'd cut off his ponytail. and it was there, in the box, still in its red ponytail holder - an offering? a keepsake?
i found the sparkly gold box today. inside, the ponytail is still in its holder. and the photos of my brother - now at least 10 years old - still stare at me like a gift. or a dare... cut yours again too.