Bald In The Family
Life with no hair
You would think, since just about every nuance of human behavior and any manifestation of physical imperfection is
accorded the status of condition or syndrome or disease or impairment--since every variant of human existence is
considered a challenge to successful living--that there would be some kind of 12 step program for people suffering
I'm not too conversant in the language of recovery, but I do have what Berlitz would call native fluency in
FuckMeI'mLosingMyHair-ese, and if there is a higher power, it can eat shit off my balding head. In some ways,
MPB is the cruelest affliction of them all because any attempt to gain sympathy is swiftly met with disapproval and,
worse, charges of vanity. "Go complain about your hair to a paraplegic or an AIDS victim. I'm sure they'll have
sympathy for you." Well, they will if they're bald. But sympathy is not what I'm after; I want a cure.
I've read that more money is spent on finding a cure for baldness than for cancer. Cancer simply gets more press
because it's a more "serious" disease and, the Hair Club for Men notwithstanding (or maybe very much
withstanding), it would appear unseemly to spotlight something so "vain" as hair loss when people are dying. But
when you consider that, for women in particular, the prospect of hair loss through chemo treatments is perhaps as
great a source of anguish as the disease itself, then I say fuck appropriate, divert all scientific research money to a
cure for baldness and get that cure found.
At this juncture I think it's necessary to address the distinction between bald and balding. No distinction! That
suffix is an all-too-thinning veil over the truth, which is that going bald and being bald are the same shade of scarlet.
If anything--if ANYTHING--going bald, that slow death of youth (not just youthful appearance, please don't kid
yourselves), that cruel punishment which proves we are but sinners in the hands of a hairy God--going bald is more
painful than being bald.
Consider the awkwardness a pubescent girl experiences as her body makes the transition to maturity. Not quite
girl, not quite woman; it's a freakish time and fairly quakes with self-consciousness. But for society there is nothing
strange about this at all; no, it's a miraculous period, evidence of glorious nature, evolution or, for some, God. The
end of the struggle is womanhood, young womanhood, over which flies an atom cloud of hormones and about which
countless drooling fools have written, one hand on the pen, the other on their trembling peckers.
Now, take this wonderous transition out of the oven and frost it with dogshit. Now you can taste what it's like to go
bald, because the only relief from the pain and awkwardness of bald-ing is bald. Not an eagerly anticipated or
longingly remembered stage of development, the starting gun for all that is zesty and vibrant in life. No, for us that
stage gets aborted, ripped out of us like just another fetus with X's for eyes. A healthy head of hair has long been
an emblem of all that is powerful, vigorous and sexually appealing in humans. I could stop at Samson, but in the
millions of depictions since his death, have you ever once seen Jesus with a bald spot? He was 33 or so; LOTS of
guys show hair loss by then. Moses? Down to the desert floor, the man had to brush the sand out of his locks at
night. And I don't recall Alexander the Great or Thomas Jefferson wearing any baseball caps.
So when a poor schmuck starts exhibiting the signs of MPB at the tender age of 19, you might as well just boil his
ego in a vat of humiliation and self-consciousness--and serve it up for dinner for the next two decades. More than
hair has been lost. With each strand that sails to the floor or winds up on the pillow in the morning, a little bit of
confidence disappears. Every swipe of the brush takes with it a handful of youthful buoyancy until the act of
actually using a brush becomes, like a deathbed granny shaking her lipstick on, utter folly.
Women have told me that they find bald or balding men no less attractive than guys with great hair. First let me say
that's bullshit, but now let me say that I believe their remarks to be sincere. They're simply fooling themselves;
others, however, are indeed lying through their teeth. I don't deny that once they've fallen for a bald guy, his head
is only important for what's on the inside. But ALL THINGS BEING EQUAL, the guy who uses more shampoo
wins everytime. It factors in. Yes, there are the exceptions. Patrick Stewart is a sex symbol. But Patrick Stewart is
not 30 years old. Michael Jordan (and many other black athletes) looks much better clean than he did with hair.
But Michael Jordan is bald by choice. Choice is everything. And also, he's completely clean; no unsightly landing
pad, no THIN hair, nothing see-through. To be a completely clean young white guy, you have to have the
personality to go with it--hipster or mass murderer--and most white guys don't.
I will mention only briefly the guys who throw a strand or two across their head in the deluded belief that it conceals
their baldness. They are the mentally ill and perhaps the saddest members of our tribe. We may struggle with our
vanity, but these guys are gladiators in a fight they have already lost. I used to get angry with them, but now I see
they deserve pity.
No one who has suffered a significant amount of hair loss can honestly say they have never considered, even for a
moment, wearing hair--be it piece, wig or weave. I have no doubt that at some point in my life I have been fooled by
someone. On the one hand, I want to say good for them. On the other hand, though, I see only a marginal difference
between them and the strand-throwers. Both camps are in the business of deception. But I guess in the latter case,
they're only fooling themselves. In the end, wearing hair is no different from wearing any other prosthesis. Most
people applaud the courage of someone who uses an artificial limb; it signifies a refusal to give up and let outside
forces determine what you can and cannot do. Other prosthetics may be purely cosmetic but have an emotional
resonance that only a horrible illness can produce, like breast or testicular cancer. Hair pieces, however, don't
seem to elicit such feelings of admiration. People see vanity devoid of anything serious that might give it
respectability. If they notice the addition--and 9 times out of 10 they do--then they smirk. If they don't notice it but
learn about it from soneone in the know, they are simultaneously impressed at the quality and slightly
contemptuous of the vanity.
Other methods of hair restoration, like transplants or chemical stimulation of new growth, seem to be less frowned
upon. I don't know why. Perhaps it has something to do with a certain self-reliance: I'll do it with my own damn hair
or fuck it! These are considerably more expensive options and by no means a guarrantee of success--success
being, for me, defined as not bald or balding or looking like something's not quite right.
People with a full head of hair will never understand the brand of suffering experienced by people with hair loss.
Unless, of course, they're fat. And if they're both, they're really fucked. Fat and bald are probably the two words
most commonly--and, yes, effectively--used to identify someone immediately. "You can't miss him: he's fat, losing
his hair..." "...yeah, a blind date. My luck he'll be bald and fat." But among the many things which distinguish the
plague of baldness from that of obesity is the degree of self-awareness. Fat guys see their fat, walk around with it;
it affects their clothes, their energy--it becomes part of their identity. Bald guys, however, only see their affliction
when they look in the mirror. Bald guys don't think of themselves as bald guys. But other people see them that
way, which is always sort of a jolt.
But I'm not one of those people who wishes everyone was bald. Me, I wish everyone had as much hair as they
wanted. You've heard the pun a million times: hair today, gone tomorrow. True, too true. I wonder if I'll see the day
when it isn't.