These days I see it on shopfronts, laptop monitors, elevators, high-end refrigerators with glossy finishing, my phone’s screen when I go too long without tapping, those sunglasses that look like welding helmets and come attached to chiseled faces with dense manes, and almost any surface that allows for reflection. It doesn’t matter how well-defined features are displayed in any of these surfaces, for the one that ails me is not one I have but one I lack; like all that is once taken as a given and for granted, it’s in their absence that we see them in overcompensating clarity. I must be too young to be experiencing these apparitions considering how unannounced their premonitory symptoms came and went, taking years of hard-won confidence with them, and are what force me to risk whatever dignity is left in my head to regain what they’ve come to supplant.
My receding hairline shines in uttermost glory under the zenith lighting of my bathroom, clearly a staple of contemporary architecture’s sense of humor. From where I stand, I can almost catch sight of the curving horizon in the back of my head. I once read that if you scale down Planet Earth to the size of a fist, its surface, in all of its apparent ruggedness would be smoother than a cue ball. So, as I trace my fingers over my scalp, I picture a protruding Kilimanjaro behind my ear, the expansive Himalayas running across my forehead, and the meticulous cone of a Mount Fuji crowning the top. As I do, shines upon me the idea of these geographic features being the dawn of a dormant vitality roused by the demise of my hair and the warmth of the light bathing the roundness of my cranium, which raises the age-old question -how do I bald gracefully?
The problem with hair-loss is that even when we see the signs, we tend to look the other way.
I wasn’t always like this, of course, but the signs were there all along. Losing your hair, like getting over an ex, is something that fades at its own pace, undeterred. We expect to wake up one day and realize we’ve moved on, that the person in question and the strain of their existence on ours is finally gone, but in reality, they seamlessly recede into distant memories that we summon with less frequency. The problem with hair-loss is that even when we see the signs, we tend to look the other way. In the beginning, we simply ignore individual strands lying on the shower and if you’re blonde it could be even harder to notice. It isn’t until they become the dark mass that clogs the drain that we sense something irreversible might be happening. When we move on to the stage where we find ourselves scuffing them off our collars every other hour, and then finally picking them out of our mouths, the deed is done. But hope clenches in the soul with such determination that the day our balding spot is finally announced, we can only sigh and hold on to reminiscences of the wind sweeping our curls. Even more so with going bald, when the spell is broken, no magic potion can bring the loved one back. I think you’d have better chances of getting back a former lover by gently massaging Argan oil, ginseng and turmeric on his or her head every night than reversing hair loss.
My hair is what men’s grooming sites call “Fine Hair”, which now I know means lacking volume and density, but for a long time considered a different kind of “fine” from all the compliments it got. Someone describing your hair as “so silky and soft” conveys the same euphemistic labeling as expressing admiration for a man’s 4x4 pick-up truck; he ought to know they’re talking about his penis. Having fine hair means following rules, treatments, products, cuts, and fades. You’ve got to try them all. Except for the full-shave (I’m saving that one for last) I’ve had buzz cuts, crew cuts, low fades, high fades, Pompadours, and combovers. I’ve tried home-made concoctions, eighty-dollar medical-grade shampoos, and laser light therapy. There’s plenty to go around when it comes to disguising your melting ice caps, and it’s clear that a lot of resources go into fighting it. Perhaps if we started referring to the world’s issues in terms of beauty and self-care, people would pay attention to them. Billions of dollars would flood environmental conservancies at the sight of the news headline “The North Pole is balding”. But after years of fruitless attempts at sowing my scalp, I’m ready to let go. It’s not my intention to make an apology of baldness or cajoling anyone into settling for the half-eaten doughnut cut. All I want is to convince myself that maybe there’s a better way. I want to be able to make a case for diving head-first into the inevitability of aging without a swimming cap and still come out with my dignity and my vanity unscathed.
Whatever happens, however tragic or unexpected my death is, when it comes, I’ll be lowered into my casket looking like a freshly baked brioche.
But how do I let go? For one, when children foresee their future selves as firemen, astronauts, surgeons, or civil rights lawyers, they simply enlarge their heads along with their boyish hairdos and insert them into a uniformed body, which results in the mental image of a grown man looking like a bobblehead toy. Never they consider that even if their wishes are granted, their bobblehead toys are probably going to look more like an eighteen-wheeler’s gear stick, evenly greased and polished by years of shifting. Clear then, how difficult the task of letting go of such adored expectations can be. But it’s also in the unavoidable nature of the problem where the solution lies. It is said that it’s impossible to know how you’re going to die. Except I do. Whatever happens, however tragic or unexpected my death is, when it comes, I’ll be lowered into my casket looking like a freshly baked brioche. This realization gives me an advantage unavailable to most, a sort of power by knowledge. In the end, it’s not a matter of obfuscating my vain proclivities, but of repurposing them in areas where they can thrive. “Power is the great aphrodisiac”, a man with an iconic hairline once stated, and I’m not one to disavow Mr. Kissinger’s almost centennial wisdom.
Like the heavenly Head above ours, the shift of focus may work in mysterious ways and the sources where one could harness this power vary. However, most seem to involve balancing out a skinned head with a similarly distracting visual cue. Many men have followed the path of muscular compensation to great results, crowding “sexiest men alive” lists every year to a percentage other minority groups should envy. These men usually opt to alter their audience’s line of vision by transforming themselves into vessels of defined muscle mass that can pop buttons from their shirts and passersby alike. As honorable as this attempt is, and as much I take care of my physique, I lack the gene pool, fortitude or discipline to sculpt a body able to completely override a barren scalp. Facial hair has its benefits too. The subtlety of its diversion is something that deserves acknowledgment. Takes only a slight volumetric increase a few degrees south of the pole for all to focus on the advancement of one’s reforestation efforts and ignore other pressing issues. The one great flaw of this plan is how strongly conditioned it is by the existence of a proper beard. A man who lets a peach fuzz grow could be harmed in ways he never imagined. Should his sorry excuse for a mustache get caught by the eye of a lens, and that’s a stain no amount of muscle can remove. Worth noting is also the importance of having enough dexterity and commitment to keep one’s beard under constant maintenance. I don’t care what conservationists say, there can be too much of anything.
To age on one’s account and die in one’s virtue is enough to aspire to.
That leaves us one last option I’d like to offer for consideration and the one I’m beginning to put in motion. As much as it may appear the path of least resistance, I’m seduced by the idea of weathering it out. To reach out for used up platitudes about confidence and self-esteem and embrace them with enough conviction to compensate my baldness with boldness. As I stare the flashes of light that sneak through the haze of hair into my scalp, I ease the comb from my head and rid myself of its peremptory force. To age on one’s account and die in one’s virtue is enough to aspire to. If it takes forsaking cynicism for dull mantras like #BaldAndProud and admitting that confidence truly is key, so be it.
Let that spot shine as bright as the light refracting on it. The world might never notice, but the eyes that stop you in your tracks at the sight of your reflection will never again remind you it is showing. By all means, let it show! Your naked skull is as much a medal of manly service as it is a sign of aging, of waging an honorable battle against destiny before coming to terms with it. When your options, patience, and hair grow thin, don’t fight them, fill them with whatever magic is inside you and brazenly adopt a style you’ve not only inherited but won. Go Bold.