In a diner in Northport, thumbing through The Crimson White, the University of Alabama newspaper, while enjoying my breakfast of biscuits smothered in sawmill gravy, an ad caught my attention.
I read it aloud to my sister: Will pay $300 to girls to shave their heads.
My sister kept chewing her sausage, unfazed. "So," she flatly said. Living in a college town numbs her to the nuances of absurdity.
"Well, why do you think someone wants to pay me to shave my head?" I asked.
My sister laughed. "No one wants to pay you," she quipped. "Someone wants to pay cute, young, co-eds who need a few bucks to make it to the end of the semester."
I ignored her intimation about my age and finances. "I think it will take a little more than that. I don't see any girl doing it for $300."
Without giving my sibling a chance to point out any other reasons why I'm not qualified to have my head shaved, I dialed the number at the bottom of the ad and left a voicemail message for whatever deranged fetishist held a pair of fantasy clippers on the other end. Then I tore out the ad and placed it in my purse.
A short while later my cell phone rang. "Hello?"
A male voice inquired if I had called him earlier about the head shaving ad.
"Yes, I did. Why exactly do you want to pay women to shave their heads?" I asked, getting right to the root of the matter. My sister looked at me and rolled her eyes. I put my finger over the receiver and whispered to her, "Be quiet. This is research for a column."
The voice on the other end replied, "I'm working up an advertising pitch. It's a one time deal [Obviously!]. I need women to let me take pictures of them before, during, and after shaving their heads."
"I don't know if I can do it for only $300; especially since it won't really mean any publicity for me."
Sounding a little desperate, he inquired, "How much do you need?"
"At least $500, maybe seven," I shot back.
"I've got some girls who say they're willing to do it for three," he retorted. But then he asked me a series of questions about my age, hair color, length, thickness, texture and so forth. My sister mouthed at me, "He's a pervert."
As for myself, I mulled over the words of my friend Charlotte: "Baldness increases a man's self-confidence. A bald man faces the daily social obstacle of overcoming the uncomfortable sensation of everyone staring at his head. A bald man, out of necessity, possesses poise under pressure."
If baldness can do that for a man, what could it do for a woman like me, I wondered? The mystery voice inside my cell phone interrupted my reverie. "Listen," he said, "let me talk to the other girls and think on it. I'll get back to you if I can use you."
I disappointedly pressed the red END button. I'd had a string of disappointments and rejections, and now it seems, I had to cope with the fact that I'm not even competent enough to have my head shaved. My sister looked at me and said, "You're a lunatic. Did you ask him what you have to wear, if anything, while he shaves your head?"
Self-assuredly, I report that I have forgiven my sister for her lack of vision, and that, as you can see, the guy called back. Confidence came at a higher price than I expected.