This is the finale of this series (unless I feel inspired to do something else with it), and it’s a bit on the long side because I just really wanted to finish telling the story and get back to my other series. Hope you enjoy!
Pamela could hardly believe what she was hearing from her best friend. Already, Tracey had cut three feet of her overall hair length and then besides that she’d gotten a 360-degree undercut that reduced what seemed like half of the hair left on her head to a half-inch buzz. Tracey, who had never worn her wavy hair shorter than the middle of her back, in all the nearly two decades Pamela had known her—who in fact had gone to a great bit of trouble and expense to keep her hair long and healthy through multiple color changes—now wanted to go shorter?!
But then last night and this morning they had watched first dozens, then hundreds, of female and femme cosplayers from around the world cut or shave off their hair as an act of protest against the toxic masculinity so pervasive in their subculture. The burgeoning movement was known as #notyourcosplayer, and both women had been captivated as they watched prominent members of the community who were known for their long hair run unguarded clippers all over their heads. While Pamela was feeling anxious about joining their ranks, Tracey had unexpectedly taken up a pair of shears and cut a large chunk out of her hair, knowing full well no amount of creative layering would allow her to keep her overall length.
So now here they were at Shear Energy, and Tracey was sitting in their friend Yvonne’s chair, saying that no, transforming from the Scarlet Witch to Leeloo from The Sixth Element wasn’t enough and that it was time to go shorter. And Yvonne, herself a cosplayer who had until the night before sported long sable-colored hair that cascaded well below her hips but was now sporting a super-short, super-blonde buzzed style, actually looked excited to help the client whose long hair she had so lovingly maintained part with even more of it.
And shit, Pamela realized, she was next in the chair. She had committed to going shorter as an act of solidarity with #notyourcosplayer, but was also determined to lose as little of her long brown hair as she could get away with, and certainly not nearly as much as Tracey had already cut, not to mention what was apparently still to go.
In the chair beside her, Tracey was swiping through photos on her phone in deep discussion with Yvonne. “Yes,” she heard Yvonne say, “we can definitely do that one, but working with the undercut you have now the back and sides will be a little shorter. But it will grow out to the length in the photo in a month or so. How do you feel about the color, though? You haven’t been this dark in a while.”
“That’s because I hate the way that dark hair washes out my skin tone,” Tracey replied to the stylist. “But seeing as we’re doing this to try to teach men the lesson that women are not just going to cons to be their sexy little playthings, I think I can put ego aside for a while.”
Pamela chuckled. “This is a new side of you, bestie. I’ve never, in the last twenty years, known you to put ego aside when it came to your hair.”
“Yeah, well, I guess—” she paused, checked something on her phone—”nearly two thousand other women and female-presenting cosplayers have decided #notyourcosplayer is more important than vanity.” She turned back to the stylist. “Let’s do it. Let’s go with this one.”
“Which one?” Pamela asked, partly because she genuinely wanted to know and partly because she knew that the shorter Tracey went, the harder it was going to be for her to argue for preserving some of her own length.
“Katherine Daniels from Alien: Covenant,” Tracey replied matter-of-factly.
“The bowl cut?!” Pamela exclaimed.
“Hey,” said Yvonne, beginning to section what remained of Tracey’s formerly long hair, “Bowl cuts are coming back. Tracey is just getting in on the trend early.”
“Hey Pam,” Tracey teased, “we didn’t all have moms who thought it would be so cute if we got a bowl cut.”
“Please never speak of my sophomore homecoming makeover again,” Pamela replied. “I swear that by talking me into that haircut my mom was actually attempting to keep me a virgin until college.”
“Did it work?” Yvonne asked, dampening the hair she had not pinned to the top of Tracey’s head with a spray bottle.
“Pffft. No!” Tracey laughed. “She made it one more semester.”
Pamela colored slightly. “I think that was in spite of, not because of, the hair. And besides, wasn’t it bad enough to watch me suffer through the style? And the grow-out? You’re sure you want to do this?”
As if on cue—and knowing the stylist’s flair for theatrics, it might have been—Yvonne raised her shears to a spot about an inch above Tracey’s right ear, where she already held a waiting comb, and closed the blades. Four inches of Tracey’s wavy, dyed red hair landed on her shoulder, and the first hint of the undercut Yvonne had already given her was revealed.
Tracey shrugged slightly as the stylist moved her comb, readying for the next cut. “Guess it’s too late now!”
Pamela watched as Yvonne continued to cut straight all the way around her friend’s head, creating a perfectly level weight line that would dictate the shape and length of the rest of the cut. This layer of hair fell only slightly longer than Tracey’s new bangs, the buzzed back and sides of Tracey’s head now fully revealed. Pamela observed her friend’s bowl cut would be even shorter than her own regrettable high school haircut had been.
Yvonne let another layer down, dampened it, and began again, leaving this layer a fraction of an inch longer than the previous one so that if Tracey ever wanted to blow dry it straight rather than letting it air dry, the hair would naturally curl under. More four-inch locks—a length that last week would have represented merely a healthy trim for Tracey but now amounted to a drastic change—fell from the stylist’s comb and shears.
There was only one layer left. Yvonne loosened, then dampened, the last vestiges of Tracey’s length before proceeding with her final, methodical cuts horizontally around Tracey’s head. The final four inches of hair fell to the floor and Tracey’s cape and Pamela realized for the first time that with this haircut, the cartilage piercing Tracey had gotten on her 18th birthday but managed to hide behind her hair for six whole weeks was now revealed to all the world and would be for some time. Pamela raised a hand to her own ear, which bore a similar piercing she had gotten the same day as Tracey. Would it, too, be revealed before she left the salon? The thought filled her with dread and also…something else. Was that excitement?
Yvonne put her shears and comb down and squirted some styling mousse into her hands, scrunching Tracey’s hair to revive her natural waves—which, without the weight of her long hair, were beginning to look more like genuine curls—then began to blow-dry the new style, which seemed to take only seconds. That done, she picked her clippers back up, removing the guard. “Let’s just clean up your neck and then it’s Pamela’s turn!” Yvonne put one hand on top of Tracey’s head and gently pushed her chin toward her chest, careful not to flatten the curls. Then, with a pop and a hum, the clippers were back on and Yvonne expertly tidied Tracey’s neckline, buzzing away any errant hairs that fell outside of the shape she was creating.
Finally, Yvonne clicked the machine off and allowed Tracey to raise her head and see the finished product. “Oh!” she exclaimed. “I actually kind of like this! I’m sure I’ll like it less when we dye it, but still, it’s much cuter than I was expecting. You don’t…” she paused. “You don’t think it’s too cute, do you?”
“No!” Pamela exclaimed, fearful that any overthinking could result in her friend walking out of the salon as bald as the cosplayers whose livestreams they had watched the night before. “I think this is perfect.”
“Okay then,” Yvonne said. “Pamela, you’re up.”
“No,” Yvonne and Tracey said simultaneously.
“But what’s wrong with cosplaying as Lois Lane?” Pamela asked, looking at her phone screen, which currently displayed a photo of Terri Hatcher from the first season of Lois and Clark—brown lob perfectly smooth and deeply parted.
“At the end of the day, Lois Lane is the girlfriend,” Tracey patiently explained to her friend.
“She is a very serious journalist! And she’s trained in martial arts! And she’s Superwoman!” Pamela rebutted.
“Okay sure, but do you think any of the men at con think of her as anything but Superman’s girlfriend?” Tracey asked.
Pamela knew she was right. And besides, she didn’t see much reason to defend her initial choice. She bore no particular affinity for Lois Lane; she just thought this was a haircut she’d be able to live with.
“What else have you got?” Yvonne asked.
“Oh, um…nothing, really.”
“I see. Are you sure you really want to get a haircut today?”
“I told Tracey I’d do something.”
“That is not an answer.”
Pamela paused, looking a her newly short-haired friends. “I want to support #notyourcosplayer,” she sighed. “I really do. It’s just…”
“You’re afraid,” Yvonne stated flatly.
“No. Yes.” God, why were stylists always so insightful?
“Okay, but you do realize this isn’t all about you, right?”
And brutally honest, too. Ouch.
“This is about showing that women and femmes don’t have to be pretty to occupy these spaces. That they can be strong and powerful without having to also adhere to beauty norms. That being ‘attractive’ in the traditional, male-gazey way is irrelevant. So…”
“So if you’re going to support the cause,” Tracey continued, “It can’t be through playing a character most people just think of as the girlfriend. And frankly, it can’t be through a lob, either.”
Pamela sighed. Yvonne and Tracey were both right. “Okay, so what should I do?”
“You already know what I think you should do,” Tracey answered.
“What? What do you think she should do?” Yvonne asked.
“Furiosa,” Tracey replied.
Pamela’s second, more emphatic “No!” and Yvonne’s enthusiastic “Yes!” came on the same beat.
“Oh my god, it would look so good!” Yvonne continued.
“Okay so what are you willing to do?”
“I don’t know. I don’t really want to do anything. I like my hair.”
“More than you like not being touched by creepy men or showing solidarity with your fellow cosplayers and two of your closest friends?” Tracey asked.
“I know. I know. That’s why I’m going to do…something.”
“Just not Lois Lane.”
Pamela sighed loudly. “I know. But I didn’t come here with a plan B.”
Yvonne was looking at her phone. “Well then it’s lucky that I have a whole folder of photos on my phone of hairstyles that would be good for cosplay. You’re not the only two cosplayers I see, you know.” She rubbed the extremely short blonde hair on the side of her head. “This really does feel kind of nice. But if you’re not ready for Furiosa, how about Liz Sherman?”
The stylist nodded. “I’m thinking specifically like in Hellboy 2, as played by Selma Blair.” Yvonne handed Pamela her phone, which displayed a photo of Selma Blair sporting an asymmetrical bob with short, heavy bangs. One side of the cut curled ever so slightly under her chin; the other side reached her earlobe.
Pamela felt a knot forming in her stomach. The cut was certainly longer than what either Yvonne or Tracey were now sporting, but it would also mean chopping off more than two feet of hair and exposing her neck to the world for the first time since that high school bowl cut grew out enough to graze her collar—and exposing her cartilage piercing for the first time ever. Still, this seemed like a reasonable sacrifice, and besides, Liz’s struggle to control her pyrokinetic powers made her truly terrifying, something Pamela hoped would make the next man who tried to touch her without her consent think twice. She took a deep breath. “Okay. Yeah. Let’s go with that.”
“You’re going to look like such a bad ass! Tracey exclaimed, as Yvonne draped Pamela with a cape.
As if afraid Pamela would change her mind, Yvonne raised her shears to Pamela’s hair almost before the cape had finished settling and closed them about an inch below her chin. Pamela gasped at herself in the mirror as the stylist held a two-foot bundle of hair, more than an inch in diameter, aloft over her head. “I wasn’t ready yet!”
“You were never going to be ready,” Yvonne said.
“She’s right, Pam,” Tracey said from the next chair over, making eye contact with her friend in the mirror. She was rubbing the back of her head again, smiling slightly. “Just be glad it wasn’t me with the scissors.”
“I just figured there’d be some conversation, maybe you’d brush my hair out…”
“And then you’d have the chance to back out?” Yvonne asked.
Pamela smiled sheepishly. “I thought maybe I’d have a better idea if I had a little more time?”
“Relax,” the stylist instructed, giving her friend’s shoulder a slight squeeze. “You’re going to look great. I’d stake my career on it. Now, are we keeping this?” Pamela noticed Yvonne was still holding the hair she had cut in her hand.
“Can we donate it?”
“Absolutely. Virgin hair as long and as thick as yours? You’re going to make some sick kid very happy.” Yvonne set the length of hair down on her counter and bound it quickly with a hair elastic, then turned back to Pamela. “Can I keep going?”
Pamela nodded and Yvonne returned behind her, this time with several hair elastics rather than her shears, explaining that it would be easier than trying to tie it all up after she cut it. Before long, Pamela sported six long ponytails secured just below where Yvonne had made her first cut.
“Oooh! Can I cut one of those off?” Tracey asked, hopping up as Yvonne finished.
“You literally just told me to be glad it wasn’t you with the scissors,” Pamela said.
“What if Yvonne tells me exactly what to do?”
The stylist laughed. “Didn’t get enough cutting with your own hair last night, Trace?”
“Just trying to be an active participant in my bestie’s transformation.”
“How do I know you aren’t accidentally going to cut higher than Yvonne says?” Pamela asked.
Tracey looked wounded, but Pamela knew it was an act. “Decades of friendship and you don’t trust me?”
“Fine. But only if you cut exactly where Yvonne says.”
Tracey squealed, clapped her hands, and quickly crossed to Pamela’s chair. Yvonne handed her the shears and held one of Pamela’s ponytails taut. “There. Right there,” she instructed. Pamela heard, but could not see, the sound of the blades closing, crunching through her hair. She felt the tension from Yvonne’s firm grip begin to ease as less and less of that ponytail was attached to her head. Soon, the whole thing was loose in her best friend’s hand.
Tracey landed a playful kiss on the top of Pamela’s head, put the ponytail down on Yvonne’s counter, handed the shears back to Yvonne, and returned to her seat.
“Happy?” Pamela asked.
Yvonne unexpectedly handed her shears to Pamela. “You should cut one, too.”
“What? Me? Why?”
“I cut off my ponytail myself. Tracey chopped a huge chunk out of her hair. Most of the people joining #notyourcosplayer made at least the initial cut themselves. It seems like an essential component.”
“I don’t know how.”
“You know how to use scissors.”
“Yes, but I don’t know how to cut hair.”
“That doesn’t matter. I’ll be fixing it up after we get the length off.” Yvonne lifted the first ponytail on Pamela’s left side and held it in front of her. “Just look in the mirror and cut right above the elastic.”
Pamela did as instructed, raising the shears to her hair and placing them just above the band. But as she began to close the blades and heard the initial schink! while they sliced through her hair, she squeezed her eyes shut and kept them that way. Soon, she felt the ponytail come loose in her hand. She kept her eyes closed. She felt a slight thrill course through her body as the cut hair tickled her jaw.
Her…jaw? No, the hair Yvonne and Tracey had cut had fallen below her chin! Pamela’s eyes flew open. The hair she had cut was almost two inches shorter than the hair her friends had cut. She gasped.
“Well, I guess we know which side is going to be she shorter one,” Yvonne laughed. “It’ll be the opposite of how Selma Blair wore it, but it’s going to be fine. I promise.” She eased the shears out of her stunned friend’s hand. “I’ll just finish up here, shall I?”
Pamela nodded slightly as Tracey tried to contain her laughter at the look on her friend’s face. Yvonne stepped back behind Pamela and placed her shears above the elastic in the next ponytail over on Pamela’s left and quickly sliced through the hair, then made similarly quick work of the three remaining ponytails.
All of that length Pamela had so carefully maintained since she started growing her hair long again was now sitting on Yvonne’s counter, still thick and shiny but no longer attached to her head. She looked at herself in the mirror. She was now sporting a rough bob, significantly shorter on her left than on her right but not evenly sloped like the photo she’d been shown. The cut looked terrible but she had to admit that she didn’t mind the view of her exposed neck. She just wished she’d kept her eyes open when it was her turn with the shears.
As if reading her mind, Yvonne said: “Don’t worry, it won’t look so choppy when I’m done.” She took a step back as if to plan her next move. “Do you mind if we skip the shampoo? Your hair is already so clean.”
Pamela shrugged. “You’re in charge.”
“Great.” Yvonne sectioned the top half of Pamela’s hair and clipped it to the top of her head, then doused everything that was still hanging down with a spray bottle. Starting on Pamela’s right, she proceeded to comb a length of hair down and snip everything that fell below the comb. At first, very little hair fell, but as she moved around Tracey’s head and angled the cut higher, longer pieces of hair began to land on Pamela’s shoulders. And then as Yvonne came around to Pamela’s left, the cut locks became shorter again as that side was already quite a bit shorter than the right had been.
Yvonne let more hair fall from the top section she had pinned out of the way and followed the same steps, dousing the hair, then working with her shears and her comb all the way around Pamela’s head. Pamela could see that, even wet, the ends of her hair were beginning to curl under slightly, an effect that was only accentuated as Yvonne began on her third layer. Pamela noted with relief and even a bit of appreciation that the cut was accentuating her high cheekbones and slightly pointed chin. The final layer came down and Yvonne went to work on it, once again dousing the hair and then carving a precise angle from Pamela’s chin, on her right, up to her left earlobe. The steeply angled asymmetrical bob was now complete—or so she thought—until Yvonne began to create a triangular section of Pamela’s hair, pulling it over her face instructing her to close her eyes as she re-wetted the section.
Right, Pamela thought through closed eyes. Bangs. She hadn’t had bangs in five years, and after they grew out she swore never again—they took too long to reach the same length as the rest of her hair. In fact, it was only at her last hair cut, a few months ago, that Yvonne was able to get Pamela’s hair all to one length again. But she supposed at this length it would only be a matter of months before they blended into her hair.
Yvonne placed her comb into the yet-to-be-bangs and held it against Pamela’s forehead, then made short snips upward starting in the center of the section and moving out first to the right and then the left. Once she was finished, she stepped back. “You can open your eyes now.”
Pamela looked at her reflection. Her new bangs, cut nearly an inch above her eyebrows and angling slightly downward at the sides to better blend into the rest of her hair, clung, wet, to her forehead. She frowned.
“Don’t worry,” Yvonne said. “They’ll look better when they’re dry.” She grabbed her blowdryer and a round brush and proceeded to dry Pamela’s hair completely. Within minutes, she was sporting an exact mirror-image of the haircut Yvonne had shown her. “Okay” she said, turning off the dryer. “I’m still going to have to clean up your neck a bit but tell me what you think.”
Before Pamela had the opportunity to react, she heard Tracey murmur an “uh oh.”
“What?” Pam and Yvonne asked simultaneously. Tracey held up her phone. Leanna, another cosplayer they knew—one who lived in their area, so they were at all the same cons together—had just posted to Instagram using #notyourcosplayer. She had been cosplaying as Jessica Jones for several years now, her thick, dark hair falling just below her shoulder blades in long layers. But now…she was sporting a slightly shorter version of the haircut Pamela had just received.
“Dammit!” Pamela shouted.
“So what?” Yvonne asked. “There can be two Liz Shermans at con. You couldn’t have been the only Wonder Woman at con.”
“There were a lot of Wonder Womans. Quite a few Scarlet Witches, too. But Liz Granger isn’t a popular enough character that a ton of people would be cosplaying her. And now I’m going to look like I stole Leeana’s idea. Only less brave because her hair is even shorter.”
“That’s a good point, actually. If someone showed up as Foxfire, I’d definitely think they were copying me,” Yvonne asked. “So what do you want to do?”
“I know what you should do,” Tracey piped up. “Fur—”
“Trace, no,” Pamela interrupted her. “I am not going full Furiosa.”
“Hold on,” Yvonne said. “Before you totally nix that idea…” she began to spray Pamela’s just-dried hair again, combing it tightly back. She kept her comb in Pamela’s bangs to hold them in place, then turned Pamela’s chair so she could see more of the left, shorter side of her hair. “I know you know what you look like, or looked like, with a ponytail. But you still had so much hair that it was probably hard to imagine what you could possibly look at with super short hair. Take a look at your neck, your jawline, your cheekbones. You’ve got great ears and without all that hair you walked in with earlier I can tell you that the shape of your head is good. Furiosa’s head isn’t totally shaved, and with your hair as dark as it is, a number two or three buzz would look basically like what you’re seeing now.”
Pamela studied herself in the mirror, gently turning her head and trying to picture it. “I don’t know, Yvonne. How am I going to explain it at work?”
“Say you donated your hair. It’s not a lie. Besides, tons of women wear their hair that short or even shorter.”
“What about dating?”
“You’d be surprised,” Yvonne smiled, looking toward the reception area where her husband, the stylist responsible for her radical new look, stood, beaming at her. “Some guys seem to prefer it. Plenty of women, too.”
“I just don’t…”
“I’ll do it if you do it!” Tracey exclaimed.
“I’ll buzz all my hair off if you do.”
“We can’t both be Furiosa.”
“No, but I can stay in the Alien universe and be Ripley in Alien 3. And if I’m not mistaken, her hair is even shorter than Furiosa’s. So you’ll get to gloat about having longer hair than me.”
Pamela stared at her friend. Her friend who only yesterday had thick, wavy hair cascading down to her hips. Her friend who had spent hundreds of hours and thousands of dollars to maintain her length. Her friend with whom she spent hours last night watching women buzz their hair off. Her friend whom she had actually prevented from buzzing her own hair off last night. Her friend who was now sporting a curly bowl cut and was willing to go even shorter so her best friend of twenty years wouldn’t feel alone. Or was it that her friend, whom she had prevented from buzzing her hair off last night, truly wanted to do this but was afraid to do it without her? Either way. It was happening.
Pamela nodded and felt her heart catch in her throat as she did. “Okay,” she said. “Okay. Fine.”
“Really?!” Tracey exclaimed. She hopped out of her chair and ran to throw her arms around her friend’s neck.
“You’re not going to bail on me while Yvonne is shaving my head, right?”
“No way. You know I wanted to do this last night. I just didn’t want to do it without you.”
“I hate to interrupt you, ladies,” Yvonne said, “but Steven’s first client will be here in 15 minutes and he’s going to need his station back. And then my next client is coming in just after that. So if we’re doing this, I’m going to ask Steven to take care of you, Tracey, since Pamela is already caped in my chair.” Tracey planted another kiss on top of Pamela’s head and ran back to the other chair while Yvonne beckoned for Steven and explained the situation to him.
Steven nodded, smiling, looking perhaps too excited about what was about to transpire, but then he had just that morning established his preferences for extremely short styles as he transformed his wife from the long, dark-ponytailed Spider-Girl to the closely cropped and bleached blonde Foxfire. Sure, it was Yvonne who had chopped her ponytail off, but Steven didn’t have to suggest such a short style and everyone knew it. “Okay!” he exclaimed as Yvonne finished her debrief. “It’s going to be a number-one buzz for Ripley and a number-three for Furiosa. Sound good?”
Pamela’s heart was still in her throat as she nodded. Tracey enthusiastically, perhaps a touch too loudly, said: “Sounds great!”
Steven went to his station and quickly caped Tracey, then checked to make sure his clippers were oiled and clicked his number-one guard into place. Yvonne swapped the number four she’d used on Tracey’s undercut for the number two she would be using on Pamela’s whole head. Then, the two stylists turned their clients to face each other. “This way you can be absolutely sure nobody has backed out,” Yvonne said, as she and her husband both turned their clippers on simultaneously. “Also, this way you won’t see anything until we’re done. Ready?”
Tracey answered for both of them. “We’re ready!”
Without another word, Steven placed his clippers in the center of Tracey’s hairline and Yvonne placed her clippers in the center of Pamela’s hairline and both stylists eased the buzzing machines backward, toward the crowns of their clients’ heads. Pamela watched short ringlets fall from her friend’s head onto her shoulders. Tracey watched as three- and six- inch lengths of dark hair were separated first from Pamela’s bangs and then the top of her head, mostly falling down into her lap. The stylists picked up their clippers and started their next pass, mirroring each other so that as Steven moved to Tracey’s left, Yvonne moved to Pamela’s right. They pulled their machines back again as more curls fell from the top of Tracey’s head and thick, straight brown hair came from Pamela’s. The stylists continued.
Tracey had not expected, but had sort of hoped, to be shaving her head today. Not technically shaving, she reminded herself, but practically. She had been completely enthralled by the women she saw shaving their heads or having them shaved the night before. She had always loved her long hair so much, she’d never once thought about cutting it short before that night, but almost immediately after watching that first #notyourcosplayer livestream it was the only thing she could think about. If this was a movement she was to be part of, she wanted to be all in. She had picked up Pamela’s shears the night before and made that first cut as if compelled to do so. In truth, if Pamela had had clippers in her apartment, Tracey probably would have used them instead.
After staying up most of the night following the #notyourcosplayer hashtag make its way around the globe, though, Tracey realized one thing: she didn’t want to do this without her best friend. The two of them had started going to cons while they were still teenagers, and since then had always talked through and worked on their costumes together. Cosplay had become such an important part of her life, and lord knew she’d changed her hair color enough times over the years for different characters she was playing. But whatever color it was, her long hair had been a constant, sort of a security blanket. She wanted her friend’s support. And more than that, she wanted this to be something they did together, just like so many other things in their lives since they first met.
When Pamela refused to even entertain the idea of shaving her head in the morning, Tracey still resolved to go shorter. Not that she had a choice, with that huge chunk of hair missing. But she wouldn’t go all the way yet. She wasn’t ready to do that on her own. What she wasn’t expecting was for Yvonne to look so fucking good in her new bleached and buzzed style. Or for Yvonne to suggest an undercut to make Tracey’s hair fall more like Leeloo’s.
And she certainly wasn’t expecting how good those clippers would feel, running up the back and sides of her head. The vibrating machine sent pulsations all the way downward and she had felt a little wet spot beginning to pool in her underwear. She considered telling Yvonne just to keep going right then and there, but she caught a glimpse of Pamela’s face in the mirror and stopped herself. As much as she had been anxious about shaving her head if her best friend wasn’t going to do it, too, she could see in that moment how anxious Pamela was about losing any hair at all. She was worried that if Yvonne buzzed her then that Pamela would just walk out of the salon. So she kept her mouth shut when Yvonne shut off the clippers and went to work on the rest of her hair. And then, when she saw the cut and decided it wasn’t quite bad-ass enough for #notyourcosplayer, she resisted the temptation to ask Yvonne to shave it all off then and went with a style where her buzzed hair would at least be exposed. It wasn’t all the way but it certainly showed her commitment.
But now, here she was, having clippers run all over her head, reducing even the previously buzzed section down to a faint stubble. She could feel Steven’s strong hands practically against her scalp as he directed her head this way and that, never turning the clippers off as he made pass after pass across the top and sides of her head. Short curls rained down onto her lap, followed by tiny tufts of hair as Steven approached what had just been Tracey’s undercut. The pool in her underwear continued to spread, and when Steven guided her chin toward her chest to have full access to her nape and began running his clippers upward from her neck to her occipital bone, she gripped the arms of the chair tightly.
Pamela couldn’t believe she was doing this. Sure, she had—very, very briefly—thought about it the night before. But she had almost immediately dissuaded herself from that notion. She loved her hair, and besides, how many women and femmes were really going to sign up to part with their own?
As it turned out, a lot of them. Pamela could hardly believe it the next morning when Tracey walked her through her “gallery.” So many cosplayers—many of them people Pamela knew or at least had followed for some time on social media—had parted with most or all of their hair. More surprising still was that all of them looked so good.
Still, Pamela remembered that terrible bowl cut she’d gotten the day before her sophomore year homecoming dance. She had planned to get a bob, but her mother and the stylist decided, without consulting her, that rather than cutting her hair just below her chin, it should be cut above her ears. She hated it and almost backed out of going to the dance but finally, with Tracey’s help, figured out how to strategically place some butterfly clips so her hair didn’t look too ridiculous with her dress. Pamela’s mother had insisted she keep her hair in that style through the end of the semester, telling her that she looked so cute and anyway she was the one paying for the haircuts so shouldn’t she have a say, but as soon as Pamela got a job tutoring in the evenings she told her mother she would be paying for her own haircuts from that point forward and began to grow her hair out. By prom, her hair had grown to the bob she had originally wanted. Her date—yes, the boy she wound up losing her virginity to, though not that night—seemed to quite appreciate having unfettered access to her neck, but Pamela decided she didn’t love the bob either and resolved to let her hair grow long. And she had worn it long ever since.
But half an hour ago most of that length was severed and she wound up with that asymmetrical style that if she were a “short hair person” she might have really liked but at least she could admit it flattered her, only someone else in her community was sporting more or less the same style and so the new cut had to go before she’d even had a chance to get used to it. And somehow now Yvonne was running a humming pair of clippers over the top and sides of her head?
Even when Pamela had the bowl cut, she’d never had clippers used on her hair. A little neck tidying, sure, but even the shorter part of the haircut had been executed with scissors. So she had no idea, as the clippers made their first pass across the top of her head, leaving what she imagined was pure devastation in their wake, how pleasant that devastation would feel. How, she wondered, could something that was quite literally stripping her of what she considered to be her best asset feel so…good?
Pamela felt herself do an involuntary kegel. Was she…was she aroused by this? By her good friend shaving her head? Well, even if she was, she had no doubt that once she saw herself in the mirror, any erotic thoughts would be suppressed for some time. Yvonne gently guided Pamela’s head from side to side, and Pamela could feel the warmth of her hand through what was left of her hair. Had she ever felt someone’s body heat through her hair before? Almost certainly, but not like this.
Yvonne, seemingly satisfied that she had taken every last hair on the top and sides of Pamela’s head down to half an inch in length, directed Pamela to tilt her head down. She had a sudden flash of how much she had enjoyed that high school boyfriend’s fingers and lips on her nape, and as the clippers were placed in that exact spot and drawn upward, she felt as if she might explode.
Tracey and Pamela both looked at each other, smiling slyly. They each had a hunch about what the other was feeling in that moment. Then their eyes traveled upward to the tops of each other’s heads. Tracey’s hair, her natural light brown since the red-dyed hair had all been clippered away, was so short now that it almost looked to Pamela as if nothing were on Tracey’s head but a shadow. Not a single hint of Tracey’s natural waves remained. Pamela’s hair, dark and thick, almost looked—as Yvonne had promised—as if it had been sleeked back into a ponytail, except for the little hints of scalp showing through her shorn locks. Steven and Yvonne were just tidying their clients’ necklines, each saying something to the friends about how they might want to get some clippers for home but of course they could always come back to the salon for a touchup, especially if either of them decided they wanted to taper or fade their buzzcuts later. Tracey and Pamela, still processing their surprising physical reactions to being shaved and also nervous and eager to see their new looks barely heard them.
At last, on the count of three, Steven and Yvonne spun their chairs to face the mirror. Tracey let out a little squeak. “My head is so tiny!”
“You have a perfectly normal sized head,” Steven said. “It just looks small because of the cape. Here.” He removed the cape with a flourish, sending the last remnants of Tracey’s hair to the floor.
“Oh!” Tracey said. She turned her head from side to side, running her hands up the side of her face and onto the stubble that covered her head. “I look so tough and bad-ass! But also…kind of pretty?”
Beside her, Pamela had been gaping silently into the mirror, unsure of how to react. A thick, dark pelt covered her head where only a few hours ago more than three feet of hair had hung. Her eyes looked so big, her cheekbones so high, her jaw so defined. Somehow, she thought, her lips even looked a little fuller. Tentatively, she bought one hand to her head, then the other. “It’s so soft!” she exclaimed. “I wasn’t expecting that!”
“Yes, but what do you think?” Yvonne asked.
“That I can’t wait to terrorize some men as Furiosa.”
The two friends paid and headed to Tracey’s car.
“Can I ask you something, Trace?” Pamela asked, opening the passenger door.
“When Seven was buzzing your head, did you sort of feel like you could…”
“Oh yeah. You?”
The two friends were silent for a few moments as Tracey pulled out of the parking lot. Then Pamela looked at Tracey and grinned. “So where do you think we can find these single guys who prefer women with super-short hair?”
Tracey smiled back. “I don’t know, but I suspect it won’t be amongst the cosplaying community.”
It was the day of the first cosplay event since #notyourcosplayer began. Tracey sported a dirty tank top and cargo pants. She had smudged some brown eyeshadow across her face to look like dirt and ash. And her head was freshly buzzed with the clippers she had bought the day before. She was amazed at how quickly her hair had grown since she had it all buzzed off the week before. Part of her was pleased to know her hair would grow back. Part of her couldn’t wait to buzz it off again.
Pamela was wearing a tight shirt and a series of belts that almost looked like a corset, with cargo pants not too dissimilar to Tracey’s. For Furiosa’s missing forearm, she had created a complicated mechanical-looking apparatus out of cable wraps and blacked out her arm from the elbow down. Black face paint was smudged from her eyebrows up to her freshly-buzzed hairline. She, too, had bought a set of clippers and while she hadn’t noticed nearly as much growth as Tracey, she wanted her Furiosa debut to be impeccable.
The plan was for all of the #notyourcosplayer participants and their allies to meet down the street from the convention center where their event was being held, so they could enter together. This was a smaller, regional event, but still, nearly 200 people had turned up, most of them with short hair and many of them bald or nearly so.
They made quite a scene as they marched into the convention center, bursting into the main event space and walking directly toward the stage. The organizers had to know this was coming—it hadn’t really been a secret—but the fear in their eyes as that many incredibly fierce-looking women and femmes moved in lockstep toward the stage was a beautiful sight.
It was Tracey who had been chosen to take the mic first. “Hello, everyone. We, the supporters of #notyourcosplayer, have a few things we’d like to get off our chests. And it’s about time you listen.”