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No Hair November

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As I sat thinking about how to begin this piece, what to say about all the wrong in the world and how to change it, I realized that change must have a starting point; it must begin somewhere. Of course, wanting to save the planet from harmful gases, global warming, and war are all respectable causes, but my way of changing the world has a location closer to home: my head.

It all started with the hair.

Hair. Truly, it’s a funny concept. Whether you have it or you don’t can mean the world to some, and make little difference to others. Appearance isn’t always everything.

When my hometown best friend Aimee called me one late October weeknight with an idea to help our friend Kailyn, I wasn’t sure what to expect. Kailyn had been diagnosed with cancer, Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, at the beginning of her senior year, only a month and a half ago. We all weren’t in as close contact as we would have liked to be – college and time apart tend to separate people – but I knew Aimee’s intentions were nothing but kindhearted.

Aimee’s question was simple. She told me of her secret plans: if one of her friends were ever diagnosed with cancer, she would shave her head. Since learning of Kailyn’s sickness, the idea had been formulating again in her head.

“I mean, is it too crazy? Too extreme? Do you think it’s a good idea?”

It sounded perfect. Aimee was always the type to take risks such as these, to risk her humanity for others. Of course she wanted Kailyn’s approval also, but I told her that my heart was right behind her.

And, naturally, that I would be willing to shave my head as well.

My hair was an essential part of my being up until this point. I had been growing it out since my freshman year of high school, where I had made the mistake of chopping it to my shoulders. It was something that everyone commented on, perhaps envied.

Needless to say, Aimee was shocked.

“I mean, are you sure? Courtney, your hair is so pretty, you’ve been growing it out for so long. You know, me shaving my head is just an excuse to actually make the jump to short hair. Do you really think you want to do this?”

Never in my life had I felt more right about something, like it was the perfect thing to do. I knew that usually I could not be so selfless, and I needed to reach out and make the jump, for once in my life.

And, how awesome would it be to not have to do my hair?

At Aimee’s request, the only other thing we needed to do before grabbing the scissors was to receive Kailyn’s approval. I worried, would she think we were weird? Would she actually want to shave her head herself? I knew that she had begun chemotherapy recently, and would soon lose her hair, but I didn’t know if she had planned to shave it off in one fell swoop.

After my encouraging phone call, Aimee called Kailyn. She was completely in for the idea, and thanked us for our courage in shaving our heads. Our support meant an enormous amount to her, she said, and she didn’t think she could ask for better friends in the world.

The following day, Aimee and I decided to make an event of our head shaving. No Hair November, as we would later decide to call it, would be something more than just the three of us shaving our heads. We wanted the world, or at least Sherman, Texas, to become further aware of the support Kailyn needed.

As girls who love get-togethers will do, we became event planners. No Hair November, a word play on the manly “No Shave November,” would take place on the first of November; we’d be starting a new month with a positive outlook, and no hair. For a location, we decided on the Honey McGee Playhouse, a local theater in Sherman, because it could fit the most people and was owned by Kailyn’s uncle.

While changing the world initially seemed as easy as a snip and a buzz, it took more work than expected. Luckily, our hairdressers had no bookings and were free to help us in our hairless endeavors. Within the first week, Kailyn, Aimee, and my former boss, Pattye Sims, who also wanted to help, had organized a silent auction for the event. Several local bands also volunteered to play a set while people stuck around to shave their heads.

It seemed great to have so many people around, begging to help raise money for Kailyn’s fund, but eventually Aimee and I had to tell some people to back off because of their intense over-involvement. All in all, however, the event was perfectly planned.

The day had come, and I was about to shave my head. Nervous as I was, I had to play it cool. Aimee was a bit shaken up about her loss of hair, so someone needed to be the strong one, showing confidence that life would be fine without hair.

As the hour neared the two o’clock start time, Aimee was running around frantically, trying to figure out how to open the ceremony. But when the event began and she and Kailyn spoke their fragile words of thanks to the crowd, everyone quieted down. Fairyn said a tearful prayer, and Kailyn took her stool seat to be shaved.

I do not believe there was a dry eye in the entire theater. Of course, Kailyn was crying, but to everyone else, her locks being shaved meant even more. She had cancer, she was losing her hair, and this was real. As she cried, so did we; though we could not sympathize with her pain, we could be there for her. Toward the finale of Kailyn’s spectacle, Aimee and I took the stage to hold her hand. Then it was our turn.

I don’t remember having much of any emotion when my hair was tied back into two ponytails, signifying that I could give two locks of love to have two wigs made from my hair.

Never in my life have this many people watched me get a haircut, I thought.

As Aimee cried and I laughed, we both held Kailyn’s hands. This symbolism will forever have a place in my heart, for I now know what the struggle is like. That sunny Sunday, 44 people shaved their heads and at least ten more cut their hair for Locks of Love. We will forever share a bond – and will forever call each other for hair advice.

It’s that simple: a selfless act is what the world needs to see. While I’ve gotten many strange looks from friends here at OU, the ones who have taken the time to ask why I am bald have, in a sense, been witnessed to. As my friend Jaimie said to me, “You give me hope – that people actually do nice things for others. Hope for the future of mankind.”

Needless to say, though I hope people learn from my “heartfelt task,” I cannot consider myself a martyr, a saint, or even a good person. I still make mistakes, and still have dirty thoughts. But I can consider myself one thing, certainly.


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About Courtney Murphy