This is the story of Sarah and Farah, 19-year-old college students from the Middle East, who came to this country with long hair, went home for a visit, cut their hair and brought it back to Omaha.
Sarah Alkhashram, from Kuwait, is studying pre-dentistry at Creighton University.
Farah Bu Ali, from Saudi Arabia, is studying civil engineering at the University of Nebraska at Omaha.
Sarah’s long, wavy locks were a sort of trademark, the kind of thing people noticed. But it was getting in the way of being a busy college student. Besides, a trim would not only look cool, she decided, but this summer a short hairdo would BE cool.
So when she returned home for Ramadan, a hairdresser removed nearly all of it. She resolved to bring it back after hearing about Locks of Love, a charity that collects hair for children who lose theirs during medical treatments.
Farah had a similar plan, although her family’s stricter tradition means she wears a hijab, or scarf, and clothing that covers everything but her face and hands. Shaking hands with nonfamily males and showing her head of hair are out, whether she’s in her home country or in Omaha.
She, too, had her hair cut while visiting home, brought it back and planned to donate the severed portion.
The two young women knew each other slightly through mutual friends and were surprised that they had both done the same thing.
So they met recently to talk about their plan, about feeling good while helping youngsters who need their hair, about how theirs seems to grow back quickly anyway.
Farah, especially, wasn’t using her hair for much. When she’s outside, she said, “nobody’s going to see it” because of the scarf. When she’s studying at home, “I wanted to let it down, but it’s too long.”
When they agreed to have a photo taken, Sarah proudly pulled out her hunk of hair, tied at the top where it had been scissored from her head.
Sarah wears western clothes, although she’s a Muslim, too. “It’s different, even though we’re neighbors,” Sarah said. “I grew up differently.”
Farah shyly pulled out her 12-inch locks, and then you realized: For the first time, since she was a little girl, a man outside the family was looking at her hair, even though it was detached.
She allowed a photo but remained uncertain. It’s only a picture of her hair. It’s no longer on her person. But still ...
OK, let’s take two photos, one with only Sarah’s hair and one with both, and you can decide later. Farah agreed.
A day later she called: Is it OK not to show the hair? True, it’s no longer part of her. But she’s just uncertain how she feels about it.
So that’s how it turns out: Two smiling college students who are donating hair for a good cause.
“It’s a personal thing,” Farah said.