Tuesday, October 11, 2005
I'’m bald. A skinhead. Follicly challenged, like the proverbial billiard ball.
I'm not quite as gung-ho about it as the folks who belong to the organization whose logo is pictured above (it really exists) but I am resigned to it. I used to wear hats all the time to hide it, but now if I wear a hat, I don't do it to kid anybody into thinking I have more hair than I do. I do it because I want to keep the sun off of my head, or because I don'’t feel like combing what hair I have left.
One of the biggest shocks of my life was when I found out that I was bald. I was 25 at the time. I knew that my hairline was slowly receding in front, but that'’s all I knew. So, I was standing in line at a convenience store, waiting to check out, and there was a black-and-white closed-circuit television monitor hanging from the ceiling. On it was an overhead shot, from behind me. Nothing better to do, so I'’m looking at it and thinking, "“Fat guy, black guy, bald guy, nice-looking woman, couple of kids...… Hey, wait a minute… Where am I? Fat guy, black guy... bald guy. Oh, shit! I'’m the bald guy!" I honestly had no idea, until that very moment, that I had a gigantic bald spot on the back of my head. I wanted to die. I'’m better now.
For a while, I considered hair replacements of various sorts: toupees, weaves, Hair Club For Men. One thing that kept me from trying them is the cost. It'’s damned expensive to get a good rug. And it'’s just plain silly to get a cheap one. A cheap rug just lets people know how desperate you are. Do these people think nobody knows? Listen, my bald brother, let me do you a favor and tell you that EVERYBODY KNOWS.
The folks who have really good rugs are the folks you don'’t know about. That'’s why it's a good rug. But the bad ones? You might as well wear a big sign that says I'M VAIN, INSECURE, I PROBABLY HAVE A TINY WEE-WEE, AND I'M SO WORRIED ABOUT IT THAT I'M WILLING TO PUT THIS DEAD BADGER ON MY HEAD.
One time, and one time only, I sent away for a combination shampoo/nutrient/voodoo kit that was supposed to cure baldness. It came with a 60-day money-back guarantee. I figured what the hell -– what if it really works and I don'’t try it? So, it came in the mail about a week later and I started using the shampoo, and rubbing snake oil into my scalp every night, and taking handfuls of pills. I had never heard of vitamin L before, but I was willing to give it a shot. After about three weeks, I started inspecting my scalp very closely for signs of new hair. And I thought that I really might have a bit of new peach fuzz. I was cautiously elated”.
After a few days of seeing this same amount of fuzz, and not really being able to recall if it had been there before I started looking so closely for it, I asked MY WIFE if she noticed anything. Basically, without being unkind, she said that she noticed I was a lot more concerned about being bald than I had ever been before and if this made me feel better, OK, but it didn't matter to her one way or the other if I had a lot of hair. Right answer! I'd like to be able to say that I kissed her and threw the crap in the barrel right then and there, but while I lost my hair, my brains didn't go with it. I sent for my money back, first. Got it, too - after my fourth letter, which explained that I sent copies of my first three letters to the Attorney General's office.
I considered Rogaine, but have you ever read the warnings on the label? It appeared to me that I had a choice between hair with a heart attack or being bald. I took bald, thanks.
The most expensive option for a bald guy, and probably the best one if you really want to have natural-looking hair, is a transplant. I'’ve seen the before and after photos and the results in some cases are stunning. They take hair from some other part of your body and put it on your head. However, I'’ve always wondered: where do they take the hair from? Is it your armpits? Do you have to comb your hair with a deodorant stick? What if they take it from your crotch? Ever since I thought about this, I'’ve been a little wary of getting too close to any guy with a full head of short curly hair.
Some guys just opt to give up and shave their heads completely. These guys have more guts than I do. I've considered it, but what if I end up looking worse than I do now? What then? I'd have to wear a hat I could pull down over my ears. Anyway, I don't think I've seen more than a handful of white guys who look good with a shaved head. Black guys - now they can get away with it. Michael Jordan is sexier bald. Who's the bald white guy that comes to mind immediately? Curly.
Of course, there are those men (and odd women, like Sinead O'Connor) who shave their heads even though they have full heads of hair. Well, OK... but I look at them the same way I would someone who has all of their teeth, but who chooses to black them out. I suppose I should thank them for making baldness more socially acceptable, but if I had a choice, I'd keep the hair.
Funny thing is, I hated my hair when I was a kid. It was bright orange and I was teased continually because of it. And I couldn't get away with anything, because among a crowd of kids running away, they could always identify the one with the orange hair. However, when I became a musician, and grew it out long, I finally found a use for it. Long, bright orange hair had a freak value of sorts, especially useful in heavy metal. So, I really got into my hair. I had it styled, and used three different conditioners, and a hot comb, and all that. I got to enjoy it for about a year. Almost as soon as I began liking my hair, it started falling out. Hey, thanks, God!
Most guys like me have male pattern baldness. It'’s just something that you inherit a tendency towards. Who you inherit it from is the subject of much conjecture. For years, it was taken for granted that male baldness came from the maternal grandfather'’s line. More recently, studies have indicated that it'’s probably a combination of factors, some hereditary and others environmental. That seems to make a lot more sense. My father was bald, but he had two brothers with full heads of hair. If the gene came from their grandfather, wouldn'’t they all have been bald? My grandmother was a little thin on top, though. I also have a cousin -– a woman -– who has some thin spots. Her mother'’s father -– my grandfather -– had pretty much a full head of hair until the day he died. Of course, my other grandfather, on my mother'’s side, was very bald. But my male cousins on that side of the family all have plenty of hair. So, what does this prove? It proves that you have tremendous reading skills if you'’ve been able to follow my family tree through this entire paragraph.
There are myths about bald guys. One concerns testosterone. Bald guys are supposed to produce more testosterone or something like that. Well, I have a very healthy sex drive, so that fits the pattern, but I don'’t go into rages or anything, except when I haul off and punch a wall every couple of weeks. Another myth is that bald guys are sexually well endowed. Not true. I have thirteen inches and five testicles, just like every other guy.
The only thing about being bald which I still sometimes have a hard time with is the jokes. I can take a joke, especially if it's from someone I like and it's something clever. I'll make jokes about being bald, myself. And I've certainly laughed at the Mel Cooleys of the world. What I've never understood, however, is plain cruelness.
It has never been in my nature to make fun of something that's part of a person's genetics. That is, if someone has a physical feature that they might not be proud of, I don'’t automatically consider it a source of humor. I'’m not going to go for a cheap laugh at the expense of someone's feelings. For instance, I'’ve never made jokes about flat-chested women. It seems to me that to make jokes about something like that is just not worth the hurt you might cause. I'’d ask men who do such things to consider how they'’d feel if they had a tiny dick and had that fact out front for everyone to see. And then folks made jokes about it, too. Not very happy, I'd guess.
However, when it comes to baldness, I guess it'’s just engrained in our culture to automatically see it as a funny thing. And I'’m not going to get all snippy about it and say it isn'’t ever funny. Sometimes it's hilarious; it depends upon the circumstances. But sometimes it'’s just painful.
I had been going to broadcasting school for about two months, and I wore a hat in class every day. I was much more self-conscious then. While in the middle of a crowd of my fellow students, a female classmate snatched my hat off of my head, and said, "I knew it! I knew you were hiding something!"” Obviously, I lived to tell about it, but I wonder how that woman would have felt if she had some part of her body that she wasn't comfortable with and then someone came up to her, pulled off some clothing, pointed, and tried to get other folks to laugh about it? To her credit as a human being, she sincerely apologized when she saw my discomfort, but it made me even more self-conscious and embarrassed for weeks afterward. Now I wasn't only uncomfortable being bald, I was uncomfortable wearing a hat, too. Now everyone knew I wasn't wearing it just to be stylish (it was a nice black greek fisherman's cap.) I decided the best thing to do was get rid of the hat and face up to it, so she probably did me a favor in the long run, but still...
Enough whining, but I'll ask a favor of you, if you don't mind. The next time you see a bald guy, if you're a woman and you want to make him feel all sexy and special? Kiss him on top of his bald head. That's one thing we have over hairy guys. It's kind of sensual to get a smooch up there. MY WIFE does it every so often when I'm not expecting it. Every time she does it, it makes me realize all over again how deeply I love her, and being bald doesn't bother me even one tiny little bit.