Teacher’s Story – Bald and Proud
Marilyn lives and works in small town Canada. As a teacher at the local primary school for thirty years she has a high profile in the community. Five years ago, the very thing every teacher dreads, happened in her grade 6 classroom. One of her students was diagnosed with an aggressive type of leukemia.
The class and local community were stunned. This is what happened to other people, not to them, not in this small city, and not with this child, Samantha, a dare-devil offspring of the local supermarket manager who was also a volunteer hockey coach of both boys’ and girls’ teams.
With medical treatment, Samantha began to have the symptoms and the “look” of the cancer victim. Her hair began to fall out in great clumps and the medications caused her to puff up in a rapid weight-gain effect. She was tired all the time and she was suffering from the indignity of the disease that ravished her 11-year-old body just as she was entering that self conscious age for girls.
One day when Samantha was well enough to be at school, one of her friends approached Marilyn. “Mrs. Page, could we raise money for leukemia research as a class project? We have all discussed it and want to do it.” Marilyn was impressed with her class. They had all learned a great deal about leukemia and its effects and had talked about doing something of this sort. Marilyn asked what sort of event they had in mind. “A shave-off,” said the student. “Everyone in the class will shave their hair off so we all look like Sammy and collect money for it, you know, pledges.”
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Marilyn looked at her class. 32 eleven-year-olds stared back at her with some expectation of a response. Some giggled and squirmed and others just watched her for the answer. She stood for a minute then said, “I will ask the Principal and you must all get signed notes from your parents. I think it is a wonderful idea and it will certainly make Samantha feel less alone.” Samantha sat in her seat a little embarrassed, but definitely enthusiastic about the idea.
Marilyn approached the Principal, Pat Davies, and they decided to have a staff meeting and discuss it. Within a week the school had decided that they would make it an event that anyone could participate in and advertise it around town to collect pledges. The decision to hold it on a Saturday morning in the school auditorium was taken and then the sign-up started. Marilyn’s entire class signed on and so did some children from other classes. They called it the Samantha Solidarity Cancer Shave-Off. The Monday before the event, one of the children asked Marilyn, why, as teacher, she had not put her name down. “Goodness,” she thought, “they want me to do this too?” She discussed it with her husband and two teenage sons that night and decided she would do it if some of the other faculty would too. This was put to the class and they fanned out through the school having other students put pressure on their teachers. By week’s end they had 7 teachers and 63 students signed up. There were pledges from the community amounting to three thousand dollars and the local salons and barbers had volunteered their time and equipment. The local television station and other media were there and as Saturday morning came around, Marilyn felt weak in the knees and almost unwell.
“Just think how Samantha feels every day Marl,” said her husband Richard. “You can do it, and you have the wig you bought. It is only temporary.” With that, the entire family went to the school.
The place was packed with students, faculty, media and locals come for the show. It got underway at 10 o’clock with one of Samantha’s classmates, a young girl with long blond hair, giving a little background speech and a welcoming introduction. As Samantha’s best friend, she would be first and “Please drop the cash or cheques in the tin painted like a barber-pole on the stage.” With that she sat down and the barber fired up a pair of clippers. Caped, she shut her eyes tight and the crowd hushed as the clippers came to her forehead and then cleaned a path down the middle of her head. The girl squeezed her eyes tighter and the barber quickly and efficiently cleared her beautiful blond locks from her head within three minutes. The hair was collected and bagged and the crowd clapped and cheered when she stood up, blushing in her self-consciousness. She approached the microphone and said. “That was easy, now let’s get everyone to line up who is going to participate. Samantha, this one is for you,” and she looked at her friend sitting in the front row and rubbed her hand over her newly shorn skull.
The shaving on the stage went on for an hour or so and Marilyn had found herself riveted in her chair. All the ones ahead of her had been her class and she knew she would be the first adult to be shaved. After all, she was their teacher and it was their idea. She was nervous and embarrassed, but when her name was called out her knees seemed not to want to hold her up. Her husband helped her up and she walked to the stage, her mid-back length wavy brown hair swaying to her gait. She climbed onto the stage and one of the students introduced her to the crowd. “This is our teacher Mrs. Page, she encouraged us, and will now join the rest of the class in baldness. Thank you Mrs. Page.” The crowd loved it and clapped. Marilyn flushed beet red and sat in the chair. There were several other shaves going on around the stage, but she was in the ‘celebrity’ chair, the one used for the ‘important’ people.
The person doing her shave was none other than her regular salon hairdresser. “Are you sure you want to go through with this?” she whispered to Marilyn.
“Yes, just do it” said a very nervous Marilyn.
The clippers roared to life and she heard the whine long before she felt anything. Her head was pushed forward, and in the absence of mirrors she could not watch the action happening to her own head. Richard, however, had the video running throughout the entire shave.
Marilyn felt the clippers bite into hair on the back of her head and run up to the crown. The noise changed from the high pitched whir to a drone as they met her hair. The hairdresser kept her hand on her head and quickly removed all the hair from the nape to the crown and over behind the ears. In essence she was bald in the back but nowhere else. As the hairdresser moved her head to the side and came around the front, Marilyn couldn’t resist running her hand up the back of her neck. She audibly gasped but deep inside there had been an unexpected reaction as soon as the clippers hit her head. There was a tremor of delight that seemed to swell as the haircut went on. She actually liked this feeling and began to enjoy it, to let herself feel what she was feeling, even though she hoped it didn’t show to the audience.
As the clippers ran over the left side of her head and the sheared hair fell away everyone was cheering. She looked into the crowd, found her eldest son and fixed her gaze. He gave her the thumbs-up sign and she managed a smile. She couldn’t see Richard, he was on stage with the video camera getting every last fall of hair.
Finally the only thing left on Marilyn’s head was an untouched patch on the very top. It was drawn up, tied with a ribbon then in two strokes was shaved off. As with all the other long hair, it was gathered and bagged to be sent to an agency that provided real hair wigs to children who have lost their hair. Marilyn ran her had over her bald head and was surprised at how much was left. It felt sandpapery. Richard came and gave her a hand to walk off the stage and hugged her. He too ran his hand over her head and declared her “beautiful inside and out”. Other students and faculty followed and by 5pm there were over 70 bald people on the stage in the auditorium for a group photo.
A month after the shave-off Richard asked Marilyn if she would like to see the tape. She had not watched it at all. What she had seen was the clip on the 6 o’clock news of her and the Principal and a couple of students. They had actually raised over $5000 as money came in from the community after the news story aired. She said she would like to see it, so out it came and they settled back to watch.
Parts of the preliminary shaves of the class were there and Marilyn watched with great interest. Watching their faces and body language. All the class had done well and she had been teaching a very bald class for the last month, but now hair was appearing and things were getting back to normal. They had discussed it, their feelings, their reasons and everyone had come through the experience with a positive attitude and image.
As she watched however, Marilyn was keenly aware that the same sensations that happened during the shave were now happening to her again. She looked at Richard and noticed he was also becoming quite aroused. She asked, “Does this turn you on?” He looked right into her eyes and said, “Incredibly! And you?” “Yes,” she confessed, “who would have thought!” As they watched the shave again from the perspective of the video camera, the both of them realized that this was something that really could be used as a life-style form of togetherness. After the video, Richard reached over and ran his hands through her half inch or so of new growth.
“I have never seen you so beautiful as when you shaved this off” he said as he playfully tugged her hair.
She responded with, “Well I guess it’s time you did something about it then, isn’t it?”
“Really?” exclaimed Richard. He had never thought that she would want to do it again, and it certainly never occurred to him that she would let him do it. That night they told the boys that their mother was going to remain bald for a while and if that bothered them they should speak up now. Both teens thought their mother ‘cool’. With the possible objections out of the way Richard produced a small home style clipper with guards and simply showed Marilyn and said, “Shall we?”
To which she answered, “Whenever you are ready!”
Richard set a chair in the middle of the kitchen floor on a plastic drop sheet and then fastened a plastic cape around Marilyn’s neck. The boys had opted to pursue their own agendas that night so they were alone in the house. Richard plugged in the clippers and turned them on. The amount of vibration startled him, but he was very careful to follow the directions with the guards and the oil. First he put a #3 on and said, “Here we go then.” He started at the back and very slowly moved the clippers up the back of her neck to the top of her head. It made a raggy line and he did this over and over until he felt comfortable with the feel and the amount of pressure to use. The number 3 guard didn’t take off very much as Marilyn had very little so they switched off the clippers and sat with the book. She looked in the mirror at the effect.
“Hmmm,” she said. “That won’t do, take the guards off altogether.”
“Are you sure?” asked Richard. “I don’t want to slice you open.” Marilyn shook her head and said she didn’t think that would happen if they were careful, so that is what they did.
Richard activated the clippers minus the guard and placed them on Marilyn’s temple and moved them slowly back over the ear. Hair rained down leaving a gratifying white path behind it. “Wow, this works,” said Marilyn and they both looked at the result. Slowly Richard went back and made a new path, higher than the first and before long there was no hair on the side of her head. “This is fun,” said Richard, obviously quite aroused. Marilyn was so aroused she had a difficult time sitting still. This was totally new to her, to find out at age 44 that she had a fetish about head shaving She wasn’t sure it was a hair fetish, more an absence-of-hair fetish perhaps.
Half way through the shave she and Richard looked at each other and using those well worn signals that long-time married people have, they retired to the bedroom for a while. Upon arising and looking at her half shaved head Marilyn wondered if she shouldn’t perhaps leave some hair on top. Only one side was shorn. Perhaps a little patch like Grace Jones on top would look alright. She mentioned this to Richard and as she sat in the chair she knew that this was probably going to be the first of many such shavings. He carefully shaved off the rest of her hair, leaving a patch at the front that extended to the top of the head. It was about 3 inches square like a little mat placed on the very top of her head.
The one thing that they had not done before was wet shave Marilyn. That had not been part of the shaving for charity event. Only the zero guard clipper shave. Marilyn rubbed her hand over the shaved area and said she wanted Richard to clean it up. He got his shaving cream and a new disposable razor from the cupboard and carefully lathered his wife. He then, oh-so-carefully, scraped all the stubble off leaving only reddened skin from the friction. It felt smooth and made the demarcation of the top patch really clear.
The top patch was still the original half inch that had grown since the charity shave. That lasted about a week. By the end of the week, the stubble was growing back and they decided to shave it again. Marilyn asked Richard to take the top patch down to a quarter inch, so he put on the appropriate guard and mowed it over her top hair. He then re-shaved the rest of her head.
All this time Richard had not had anyone mention to him about doing his own hair. Marilyn got up, looked at the results loving it, and then asked him to sit down. Richard always wore his hair in a conventional style that he had worn since college.
“What are you going to do?” he asked.
“I would like to see you in a tiny, tiny buzz,” said Marilyn. She then turned on the clippers and put in the number one guard and ran them all over his head. It was a little haphazard, so he told her to just concentrate on straight lines. The hair flew everywhere. It even affixed itself to Marilyn’s still damp and denuded scalp. Within 10 minutes she had shaved Richard into an eighth-inch buzz. Next she used the soap and razor to clean off the hairline a razor width all round. The boys came home just as she was finishing, took one look at their parents and burst out laughing. Not because they thought they looked silly, but because the two of them had gone and had buzz-cuts as a surprise gesture.
All that year and into the following year Marilyn kept her head shaved. The children grew used to it and so did the other teachers. It wasn’t something she hid, and Samantha, who was in remission and into Junior High would wave and smile when she saw her on the street. However, the day came when a letter arrived from the Board of Education. It was a note telling her to appear in front of them on a specific date for a review of her contract. She looked at Richard and then back at the letter. She had an exemplary record as a teacher and didn’t know what this was all about. Apparently someone had made a protest against her.
Marilyn went to her Principal and showed him the letter. “Marilyn?” he said. “A parent has complained to the board about your hair, or rather your lack of it. They claim it disturbs their child who is having nightmares. You understand we don’t mind. We know why you did it. I don’t understand why you stayed bald, but that is your business, but I want you to know that I will back you all the way.” Marilyn stood there stunned. She couldn’t believe what she was hearing. She taught her class that week with an air of preoccupation only broaching the subject with her family and the other staff.
The night of the hearing the entire family and the school principal came with her. She had been sporting a well-groomed crew for the last month, but in an act of defiance she had Richard strip her head bare so that she was a bald as a billiard ball. She then put on her skirt and sweater, high heels and make-up and headed with her husband and boys and principal to the hearing. The first of many.
The hearing convened and there was great discussion about the rights of people to wear their hair as they deemed fit. The parents who had laid the complaint were hostile to Marilyn’s look and were also new to the district. They did not know about the charity event and when told looked a little sheepish. However, they and the board pointed out that had been some time ago and Marilyn still had no hair on her head. At this point Marilyn interjected and asked the parents that if she were someone who suffered from alopecia would they demand she wear hair? They looked extremely uncomfortable and simply pointed out that Marilyn didn’t have alopecia and so it wasn’t an issue.
The board reprimanded Marilyn but had no power to make her grow her hair or even wear a wig, though they suggested in class it might be a good idea. Angry and challenged, Marilyn left the meeting determined to fight for her rights. She contacted the union and the fight began.
That was five years ago. Marilyn is still bald, still shaving, and best of all, still teaching. The Board was unable, under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, to enforce her into ‘growing hair or covering her bald head’. To do so would have had repercussions for all bald people, especially men. Think about it guys.
All we ask is the same hair-rights as you. We want to be able to be bald, to shave our heads, to play with our hair in ways that pleases us without being stared at or having comments made. Without the assumption being made that we are all dykes, or morally loose or weird. We just love shaving and being shaved. Just because we shave doesn’t mean we are into bondage or other feminine demeaning actions. It doesn’t mean we want to be dominated or assaulted. We just choose to be bald, it is that simple. Marilyn forced one group to sit up and say that this was how things should be. What a woman! God Bless you Marilyn.
Bald and Proud