On Natural and Unnatural Hair Loss
By that I mean that I’m not obsessed with my looks. I don’t think that there was ever a time in my life when I was considered “hot” and, at 46, I don’t think I’m likely to start turning heads now.
If I allow myself any vanity, it is in the fact that I have nice hair. My hair is thick and soft and shows no signs of receding. I’m going to have this hair long after any other attractive feature I possess has ceased to be an asset.
I remember a time when I was about twenty. My brother had decided he wanted a mohawk. I came home one night and my mom was sitting with him in the living room. He was wearing a hat.
She was wearing an expression of quiet disapproval.
His expression was one of gleeful triumph.
The conversation went something like this:
“Hello, what’s going on?” I said because it would have taken someone completely oblivious to miss the implication that something awkward was, in fact, going on.
“Your brother…” my mom began and then stopped. My brother can grin in a way that is extremely unsettling. It is the grin of someone who is prepared to do something entirely unpleasant (but non-harmful) at any moment.
That was the way he was grinning as my mom tried to answer my simple question.
“Oh…” she finally said, “just show him.”
David whipped the hat off his head to reveal a completely bald pate. He’d even shaved the stubble.
“I shaved my head!” he cried.
“It feels awesome! Here!”
This is when he charged across the room and began to rub his bald head against my bare skin so I could share in the experience of his baldness. It felt pretty weird.
“Isn’t that weird?” he asked.
The whole situation was weird.
As I said, he wanted a mohawk. A friend was enlisted to help but the friend made an error that was, apparently, unfixable. The only viable solution was to cut it all off.
Mom did not approve.
It took him about two days to decide he didn’t like the way it looked and he spent the next several weeks wearing a bandana.
His hair grew back, of course. When it did, his formerly wild and slightly wavy hair, turned into a mop of tight curls that cold not be tamed but did have the annoying side effect of making him even more adorable than he’d already been.
I might be remembering details of this incident wrong but the part about my brother becoming more adorable is definitely true. Also the part where he rubbed his bald head on my arm.
Flash forward twenty years. I decided that I wanted to do Dr. Manhattan as a Halloween costume and that meant I’d need to be bald.
My hair grows really fast so I figured that it would just be a few weeks until I no longer looked like a Marine who never in his life had been able to do a single pull up. I might as well just shave it all off.
Fortunately (for her), my mom had long since passed the point of giving a damn about her children making stupid hair choices.
Yet, I should have been concerned with reactions from other arenas.
When pictures of my bald head appeared on line, I was asked the usual questions. What did you do to yourself? Why? Why didn’t you just wear a bald cap? Do you know you look really bad without hair?
1) I shaved off my hair. That should be pretty obvious.
2) I was doing a Dr. Manhattan costume.
3) Because a bald cap costs money and shaving my head was free
4) Yes. I’ve been getting that a lot
You see, when someone is losing their hair and shaves the rest of it off, nobody cares if you looked better with hair. It is no longer relevant. The hair is going. You might as well embrace the inevitable. You sure as hell look better than someone with a comb over.
When you aren’t going to lose your hair any time soon, all anyone can think of to tell you is how weird you look without hair. As if that is a revelation.
My wife also made it clear that bald was not a good look for me. She showed absolutely no interest in having me rub my bald head against any exposed skin. I’d shown no interest in that experience with my brother either but he, apparently, is a lot faster than I am.
The most unexpected reaction, however, came from my youngest son. He was about five. He isn’t very good with surprises so my wife had told him that daddy was going to be hairless for a little while. Apparently, he was not the least bit supportive.
Upon viewing his bald father, his reaction was…um….extreme. He burst into tears and ran from the room sobbing uncontrollably.
I was smart enough to realize that any attempts to rub my head against him would not go well.
Flashing forward to this weekend, I agreed to allow my head to be shaved as part of a fundraising challenge. I did this because having caused my child trauma once, I knew that shaving my head was something I absolutely did not want to do.
Of course, the fundraising challenge was met and my hair is now in a dumpster. I remain reasonably confident that the hair will grow back.
My son, now much more mature, registered only quiet disapproval.
And he still won’t let me rub my head against him. I guess that’s something only brothers get to do.