After months of controversy, the new hair tax was approved. The Hamster Lovers’ Guild was said to be the driving force behind the reform. The Guild had always found it objectionable that the tax levied on mammals was the same for a hamster as for a German shepherd. They proposed that the tax be recalculated in accordance with an animal’s surface area. The tax agency accepted this compromise, but then chose to avoid the term “surface area,” which might have been construed as discrimination against the obese. A person who speaks of the size of a body’s surface is lacking in political sensibility. Thus the term “furred surface” was coined. This expression was chosen to indicate that the law applied not to human beings but only to other mammals. The lawmakers, however, overlooked the fact that objects of other sorts could be furry as well. Genetic engineering had made it possible for the surfaces of desks, chairs, or beds to be covered with hair. The upwardly mobile quickly developed new tastes in furniture. At last, even those most pressed for time could have something to cuddle and stroke that did not require excessive care or attention. The reform of the tax law clearly put aficionados of this new hairy furniture at a disadvantage, as the new rules required that any hairy surface be taxed. But they were not the only ones to see their taxes rise. One day a group of tax agents announced that according to the new law, women would be required to pay tax on their legs if they had hair on them. A handful of retired officials even began to carry out random checks at beaches. Female college students saved money by shaving their arms and legs to avoid the tax. But they left the hair on their heads alone, for head hair had been declared tax-exempt. Most male students shaved their bodies as well. Men were subjected to inspections less frequently than women, but they didn’t want to take any chances. University studies were risky enough; in all other ways they wished to play it safe. One saw only the most successful businessmen and politicians and their wives lying on the beach as hairy as bears. A hirsute body became a status symbol. Poverty, on the other hand, was naked, smooth, and soft. It became fashionable among industry leaders to have their wristwatches, pocket calculators, and ATM cards sprout hair in their own natural color. The hormone treatments needed to maintain these accessories were pricey, but their cost could be written off as a tax deduction.
By arrangement with the author. Translation copyright 2005 by Susan Bernofsky. All rights reserved.