Ada’s Autumnal Allure

For Kamaly

Autumn promises change. Autumn’s bright light sunlight set against long deep shadows and brisk mornings tell us that everything undergoes ceaseless change.

For the lover of female baldness, grasping the underlying reality of change offers us promise. Watching leafy forest transpose into bald tracery of trees, reminds us that beneath every flowing head of female hair lies the bald woman of our deepest dreams.

Talking with others I have met through this story board, I have discovered that at least some women also celebrate the sensuousness of the shaved woman. Women who have been rendered bald tell me how savory they find the experience of being rendered bald and being bald. They usually mention a flood of passionate desire after being rendered bald.

This experience is not, I know, for everyone. For the women it is, I share this story. It is for you. Some women have told me that shaving a woman’s head is the worst, meanest, sexist thing a guy could do to a woman. However, honest desire is honest desire. The following story voices honest desire. The story is a bit overwritten because someone asked me to write it this way. I recommend you read it while listening to piano music by Erik Satie. It is just not a P. J. Harvey or Joan Osborn piece.

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I am very much interested in feedback. Was this a positive story? Was it something harmful? I’d like to know what you think.

Ada watches as Jim the Barber brushes out her over the shoulder length black hair parted precisely down the middle – from brow to peak. Ada had read Jim’s stories gleaned from his rich and long experience rendering women completely bald. A beautiful woman with incredible hair awaited to become a beautiful bald woman.

“You have a lot of hair. I thought you would bring a fancy photographer.”

“This is for me, not the public – not yet. My friend thinks I’m encouraging sadistic men and their sick fantasies. What do you think?”

Jim does not answer. He cannot speak. On the counter lay shears, clippers, a horsehair shaving brush, lotions like those used in old barbershops, bar soap, and an antique shaving cup. A stainless steel straight razor lays next to his tools. A long black leather strap hangs from the white enamel barber’s chair with its brand new red leather seat.

“I’ll take you to Camellia Grill later. We’ll do it in style. We’ll take the Saint Charles streetcar. I brought my flats.”

“I thought you’d take the Miata!”

“Nah, I want to savor this day.”

Beneath the simple stripped cotton cape, Ada wears a classic black, sleeveless dress – an elegant dress for a barbershop. Reading the first of Jim’s stories she discovered had startled Ada. What surprised her, she later told me, was her reaction to reading about a pretty woman being rendered completely bald. The story rang true to her own internal sense of herself – a philosopher’s sense of self. She had read American writers on French deconstruction theories. Well, she had. I’m not clever enough to make that up, you know.

Jim’s fine and hearty tale had at once pierced her imagination. It deconstructed her sense of self. However, she had gone directly to the site the first moment she had stumbled across it while browsing the web for a hairdresser in New Orleans.

This morning her bright brown eyes under ebon eyebrows watch from the old red leather barber’s chair as tourists and even a few residents saunter along Royal Street in the Vieux Carré. The chair came from a shop on Maple Street, a shop just across the street from the famous Maple Street Book Store. The owner of the new barbershop on Royal had searched for marble countertops. She had found them in North Carolina – maybe with Mike Chapman’s help. The shop itself looked old. It is not old; it is brand new. Ada owns it.

Long dark shadows and bright sunlight play in counterpoint as human beings move from light to dark to light again. Ada, like “every woman has her own special allure.” She has the small body of the minor ballet dancer she once was in London – was it the Royal Ballet? I cannot remember exactly.

Modeling fees had filled out her income as a minor member of the corps de ballet. Eventually, under contract to a famous line of fragrances, modeling her pretty face let her face the future with economic comfort. Her fragrance line eventually declined to renew her contract. She was in her mid-thirties at the time – the same time that injuries made it wise for her not to dance professionally anymore. She no longer needed money. She had it – at least enough for someone who loved simplicity.

Jim brushes out her sonorous coal-black hair slowly and affectionately. He is about to cut it all away. His stories had earned him the right to take away her hair. He had set her soul on fire with his yarns. Her desire broke slowly like autumn first breaking into summertime. A forest on fire, Ada moved to New Orleans.

Autumn breaks slowly into summer. A bright red leaf on a summer trail strikes its promise against a perfect green woodland. You walk past the leaf into the woodland. Still, the leaf freezes in your awareness as you pass along your trail. An image of a bald woman breaks into your awareness. It freezes into an icon of irresistible hunger and hope – your hunger and hope. So it may be with Ada.

Ada is a person. Her mind envelops a universe we name her self. Her image is an icon that sells products to other women. Her image is an icon of dreamy experiences, of longings, of wishes. Her image foreshadows a dream suddenly made aware to the beholder. Ada herself remains a mystery – the mystery of the other person. Baldness in a woman appeals to us because it emphasized the ambiguous otherness of gender.

The end of the contract gave Ada control over her image again. No longer must she get approval for any change in her hairstyle or gain in weight. Being under contract enriched her life. Being no longer under contract frees her – at least a bit. None of us is ever even more than a bit free.

Ada gazes the scene outside the window of the little barbershop. Perhaps, autumn breaks unevenly into her awareness. A morning comes to you crisply, full of assurance of burnished Prussian afternoons. Yet, the afternoon of the same day keeps up summer’s torridity. However, you recall the morning and its clear promise of ceaseless change.

Clouds cut in just as Jim picks up his shears. Long shadows disappear into diffused light. Outside the window people outline less dramatic icons of themselves, but the richness of their colors enriches the general tone of the street. One state of affairs displaces another. Jim holds out a long strand of the loveliest hair he has ever touched. Almost up against this pretty woman’s face, he places the stainless steel shears over about three inches of hair and presses thumb and fingers together. Two feet of hair fall apart from Ada’s head.

Ada savors the moment. Her heart pounds more than she had anticipated. Jim’s hand touches the sheared place – just at the left of her forehead. Rushes of sensations block out the din of the boisterous riverboat calliopes, not far away.

Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop (it is really a bar) on Bourbon Street lies across the street from an art and music magnet school on Saint Philip, a school where Ada often volunteers. In the darkness of late afternoon one Friday after school, Ada first met Jim the Barber there.

Ada remembers lying on her back with a lover’s body touching her body – her hair splayed across the bed. The long lock will go to a little girl or a young woman or an old woman somewhere – to someone who wants hair and desires it.

That Friday afternoon she first met Jim the Barber, Ada drank cognac. She drinks cognac in small amounts to allow prolonged enjoyment over over-consumption of alcohol. She whistled it through her mouth while drawing air through the sides of her mouth. She tasted the cognac – was it Bertrand et Fils VSOP – on the back of her tongue where the sensitive taste buds lie. A small woman, she drinks only a bit, never getting drunk and rarely even high. Savoring the flavor is the real high.

Ada and Jim had talked about American football. Her old lover wrote about the game. Ada took pleasure in watching it the way she took pleasure from cognac – in small dosages. This season she follows surprising Texas Christian University. She even thinks tiny Protestant TCU can successfully take on mighty Roman Catholic Notre Dame. She endures as a species of romantic, I suppose.

“While you cut off my hair, I want you to discuss football with me, the way you would with a guy,” she had mentioned.

Now Jim fights to recall anything he can about local football. Tulane, who cares? LSU, pompous and dead. Southern, great tradition, splendid coach, bad year. The Saints? Jim forfeited that bitter-sweet pleasure after – well, you know, not as far back as gracious Dick Nolan. Mora was a class act, you know. Once we had real hope. But who even knows who coaches the Saints now? Jim cannot recall anything about local football. He’ll let Ada bring it up.

Ada does not bring it up. Ada seems not to care. Already, spontaneity replaces her imaginary plans. What neurotransmitters come into play when a pretty woman enjoys losing her hair? Tell me.

Even now she looks as if she falls into a something not quite a dreamlike state but something close to a meditative state. Her pretty dark eyes watch – almost as she were not watching herself but the icon she has been turn into the person behind the image as Jim the Barber takes another long strand of raven black hair and snips it away.

He smells the scent of summer blossoms as he pulls the long strand away. Ada had adorned her ravishing hair with little orange blossoms yesterday – shortly after she had given herself a last loving shampoo. Barbershops have distinctive odors. Old-fashioned ones smelled of talc, soap, and popular lotions.

In New Orleans, this shop has a fresh, modern smell but none of the reeking of permanent wave chemicals that make modern salons less appealing than old-fashioned barbershops. Ada loves barbershop aromas, not the harsh smell of beauty salons.

Another three inches of raven locks fall. The contrast with her long remaining long locks promises the transformation into untamed bald woman. Scraps of her locks fall across her exquisite face, over the cape, and to the floor.

Ada touches her lips with the edge of her tongue. “Jim, what did you think of the Presidential debate Tuesday night?” A tiny sliver of hair touches her tongue and she removes it with her finger. Ada submits Jim’s shears. And the Barber submits to her desire to be rendered hairless.

“Bush did fine.”

“He showed up. I wonder if he can rise to the challenges to be President.”

“Nah, he’s fine.” Jim feels at ease. “Chaney will flatten that old radical Leiberman tonight.”

“Ah, he’s another frat rat himself. But his wife wrote a good book about women on the Wyoming frontier.”

And so they chat, attractive young woman and hardy old Marine, as the former marine slowly transforms hair into hairlessness beauty.

Snip, snip, snip, say stories on the story board that had haunted Ada’s fantasy life. Snip, snip, snip, sounded the shears as Jim methodically removes almost sixteen inches of hair with each clip. Jim moves the chair. Stray bits of hair fall over her face, on the striped cotton cape, and the floor. He brushes away wisps of hair.

Ada sees herself out of the side of her gaze. Meanwhile, people walk pass on Royal. The sky turns a deep Prussian blue. Long dark shadows move at a leisurely pace as the sun traces its way over New Orleans. No one passing by on Royal Street seems to notice what is happening.

As the light outside changes, so do the shades of Ada’s leftover hair. A slight model’s smile traces her lips. She asks Jim to remove the cape. Her bare shoulders furnish a place for her hair to caress her on its way to the pile cumulating for the younger or older woman who would wear it. Ada had bought herself a short wig to wear about town. She likes the contrast of hair and no hair, however.

Slowly, Jim reveals the side of Ada’s head. Slowly, he cuts in progression through the noble mane until finally only jagged remnants ran from her left forehead all the way to her left back. Ada falls silent. Jim still babbles a bit about the debate as if he or she really cared during this burning minute.

Ada remembers her lover Thor long ago in London and in Paris. She had been too busy to interrupt her career until she had felt the thrill of a baby in her womb. Expectation, excitement, and anxiety flowed from her then.

Then, there had been the miscarriage and the unexpected operation. But that was then and, for you, it is another story.

Jim almost gently queries, “Ready for the clippers?”

Ada bites her lip. Her hair – her gorgeous hair lies on the marble counter awaiting another woman’s head. She smiles and nods her permission.

The whine of clippers deafens the small shop. Jim traces from the forehead right down the edge of the part that runs from hairline to top. Only a number one guard covers the Wahl clippers. The guard helps prevent nicks. He runs the clippers all the way from the crown to the nape. Tiny bits – shards really – of hair had fallen from the first over her brow. They cling to tiny beads of sweat that suddenly formed with first passage of clippers. A shard about half an inch long clings to her chest. Others fall into her model’s cleavage.

Jim puts the clippers aside for a moment. He takes up a whisp brush and brushes this beautiful woman’s brow and chest. Then he picks up the clippers and clicks them on. Ada’s nostrils flare. The aureole of each breast widens. Even her toes curl a tad.

Jim the Barber applies the roaring clippers again. This time he begins at the impressionable nape and runs the clipper to the crown and then forward. He takes his time as bits of hair cover shoulders, brow, even lips, and then chest.

Shearing happens slowly. Clipping happens quickly. Each process induces a strange and individual feeling tone. Clipping is loud, shaving is quiet.

Jim repeats the process. As the loud whining clipper runs across her head, slowing turning gray-white, Ada falls into reverie with the first pass, into ecstasy with the second, and into rapture with the third. A cloud drifts by and blocks the bright light. Allure takes many forms, she muses.

During breaks, while talking about shrimp remoulade and oysters Rockefeller at Galatoire’s, Ada and her barber act as if nothing unusual is taking place. Ada likes Oysters Bienville better than Oysters Rockefeller. Still, best of all, she loves oysters on the half-shell, the best food in the world, though in Louisiana, at least, you may get contaminated ones.

On a trip to Paris, she had first enjoyed Louisiana oysters, flown in from New Orleans via Atlanta. Louisiana oysters have the best flavor of oysters anywhere. You can verify that yourself. Hair continues to fall. Skin appears to sunlight beaming into the shop at an odd angle. Surface and subsurface move in counterpoint.

The grayish-white of freshly shorn scalp looks raw against the elegance of the hair remaining on the other side of Ada’s head. Blood flows to special places. Warmth and the illusion of security dominate Ada’s attention and maybe that of Jim the Barber.

Ada studies her gray-white flesh with its forest of black nubs. She bites the corner of her lip. She purses them. She holds her teeth together and opens her lips wide. She closes her mouth.

“I feel – so raw – so strange. I feel almost hideous,” she confesses – to her surprise. Ada rarely shares her feelings with someone she does not know well.

“You look fantastic,” Jim tries to reassure her. She needs no solace. Her bold feelings fire her.

“Oh, I know – it’s just a strange and intense new feeling.” Ada tries to hide how excited she feels, even though her head looks coarse – unfinished – ugly by her common standards. Ada finds herself pressing her legs together a bit more intimately than usual.

Shaving happens slowly. Shaving seems either something to promote indulgence or a final ten miles of a marathon race. Shaving seems the most tactile part of being rendered bald. Shaving leaves you hairless – most vulnerable, most free, or both, depending on your attitude. Ada feels embarrassed – she feels exposed before this somewhat crude man. His hand on her head feels too intimate, too close, too exciting.

“Shave me, shave me now!” Ada surprises herself with the insistence in her plea.

Jim the old Marine professionally stirs hot water with the horsehair shaving brush, traces the brush over shaving soap, and slowly froths a foam that he spreads by hand over the pretty woman’s half-mowed scalp. Chills trace up and down the pretty woman’s spine. Her eyes almost lose focus. Ada surrenders to the flood of palpable sensations the way one surrenders to a climax when it draws near.

As Jim strops the razor against the black leather strap, Ada – calm now – makes model’s faces to the mirror.

Deftly, the old Marine scraps – dexterously is the only way one wants a straight razor maneuvered over one’s face or head – the nubs from Ada’s ravished hair.

Shaving even half her head takes the Barber almost twenty minutes – twenty minutes in which Ada and Jim remain absolutely silent – without any more make-believe about doing something customary. The quiet scrape of razor to skin fills the calm of early autumn. A few people passing by turn and recognize this remarkable event.

Outside someone muses whether the pretty woman will wear a nose ring or an eyebrow ring, or a ring on the side of her lip. Meanwhile, Jim wonders whether he ought to have bleached the nubs before shaving. Too late now!

Virgin scalp, now a glossy gray, contrasts with the august coal-black locks growing on the other side of Ada’s head and those sister locks lying on a marble counter – some part of her and some detached, no longer her.

Is this abuse – even self-abuse? Is this twisted passion? Is this self-humiliation? Is it that or something more? Jim whisks away wisps of hair again from brow, cheeks, lips, shoulders, and upper chest. Ada almost sighs. Without warning, she places her hand below for a moment and disappears into herself as Jim gazes at her tenderly.

All this time, a mid-afternoon storm floods the air and Royal Street with dark gray rain. Bright lights in the barbershop hold off darkness. Jim and Ada stop. They drink orange juice – Jim’s laced with something more. Ada keeps running her hand over her newly shorn head. Does she regret doing this? Has she hurt herself? What kind of creep would do this to a pretty woman, even a woman who desires it?

“Sorry about that,” Ada says.

“No bother, Cher.”

Jim rubs aloe over her raw scalp – secretly mixed by Ada with a bit of papaya extract – just to keep the feeling a bit longer. Her head begins to shine.

Sunlight quickly flows back into the little shop with it closed sign pointed toward the public. The luminous aqua-blue grays of the returning light reflect in the graceful luminosity of Ada’s freshly shaved head. Moonlight in daylight is seems.

“Jim, I’m keeping the rest of my hair – for a while anyway.” Ada had enjoyed one thrill. She knows that she would enjoy others. It is autumn – a transitional time between full summer and full winter.

“The wig won’t work that way.”

“I’m not using it. I’ll get another – longer one – for school – if I must. Let’s get lunch.”

Tenderly, Jim brushes out the luminous remnant of bright black hair until it glows with magisterial elegance. Ada finds the contrast of feeling her smooth though still somewhat sensitive skin of her bald head and feeling the softness of her head still covered by her mane, all in the same moment, pleasing, sensual, and carnal.

The trip by classic streetcar down Saint Charles Avenue to the Camellia Grill just past Carrolton Avenue, you may imagine for yourself. I cannot do all the work of imagining this story. I will, however, say that sunlight plays on the bald and on the remnant hair in glorious counterpoint. All the children riding from high schools along the way toward home like the look. Ada’s model’s semi-smile grows into a real smile during that five-mile trip.

At the Camellia Grill, the elegant waiter greets Jim and Ada, “The usual, Ada?”

“Not today, Larry, not today,” she grins. “Jim, let’s ditch the eyebrows.”

Ada orders the “cannibal,” raw hamburger with spices held together with egg yolk on rye toast – risky maybe – but tasty if you love New Orleans as much as half-bald Ada does.

Allure has many faces. God, how her nut-brown eyes shine! Ada at once wears two of them.

 

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