On the Unpredictability of Balding

Since moving to New York, I have developed the habit of growing a beard and shaving it off (along with the hair on my head), only to continue the cycle anew. I am not sure how or why this grooming practice began. But I will try to explain my motives. Years ago, I proudly accepted the fact that I was losing my hair, figuring that I would eventually develop the dependable crescent pattern that comes at the end of male pattern baldness. I’d eventually have a hairline that was as badass as Tito Perez‘s.

Alas, this has not happened. Despite my repeat buzzing efforts, a somewhat dependable isthmus, roughly around one and a half inches in length, remains at the top of my skull. Sure, the circumference of the fleshy ellipse (commonly referred to among men as the “bald spot”) has gradually increased. But I had figured it would have run its course by now. Factor in the onset of a few gray hairs that have cropped up in my beard and the sides of my head, and what has occurred instead is minor confusion.

This wasn’t really an issue for me until I realized that the protagonist in my book, who is three years older than me and something of a parallel version of me had I made more mistakes, was experiencing the same dilemma. When I began work on the book, the not-quite-bald, not-quite-hairy condition came about as a silly metaphor. The character cannot accept that he is someone who needs to move on and make decisions in life, while likewise remaining true to his nature. But I had more hair when I began writing the book and had anticipated that my hair would be more or less gone if the book was ever published. What I had not anticipated was that some of the hair would stay.

Now I’m not going to go to the trouble of offering visual representations of my bald spot. Jonathan Ames has already made certain illustrative innovations, and I’ll let him have his glory. But I think his exercise does represent how all men within this balding stage are attempting to find a fixed bearing that is (a) not particularly fixed and (b) subject to the whims of our chromosomes. Nevertheless, if some scientist were to invent a device that could tell me the precise chronological age in which I would lose all of my hair, I don’t think I would take him up on the offer. There is a certain comfort and pleasure to this unpredictability. And I have attempted to respond to this by creating additional unpredictable methods with the shaving exercise, which has the added incentive of throwing people off. Because they don’t know if I will be bald, have hair on my head, or have a beard. And this is sometimes very good at infiltrating certain social situations in which I would prefer to observe the action and talk to complete strangers.

But I do wonder if I am in slight denial about the fact that I have not entirely lost my hair. And I am chronicling this here, in all candor, to reach out to other men who are in the same predicament. Some men foolishly cling to what’s left of their hair and even rely on combovers. I vowed long ago that I would not. But perhaps I am equally guilty with the shaving exercise.

I don’t think this is a question of vanity. It’s more about wanting to move on when my genetics refuse to. It seems absurd to bald so much, only to stop at a certain point. It seems further absurd to develop hair in unusual places when you are losing hair in seemingly vital areas. But then we evolved from monkeys. So a little bit of absurdity was always in the cards.

Perhaps what’s needed are more role models who defy the easy way out. Jason Statham is currently in this predicament, and does not really disguise his balding. So perhaps he’s our man. But I’ve lost respect for those actors and public figures who cling to hairpieces when they have perfectly respectable balding patterns. To a large degree, they are cowards. They want to pretend that they’re not balding, when, in fact, balding is often one of the most intriguing things that can happen to a man.


  1. Judging from how often you mention your baldness, you don’t seem to have accepted anything. When you have truly come to terms with it you will stop talking about it.

  2. Tony: By your utterly ridiculous measure, my failure to bring up certain subjects on this website that I continue to hold strong and often quite violent opinions about means that I have accepted them. I assure you that the human brain isn’t nearly so idiotically dichotomous.

  3. I seem to be in the same boat (see here: http://www.robinsoncurley.com/site/epage/59201_661.htm), and have chosen to compensate for the hair I lose on my pate by adding hair to my face. Taken to its extreme, I suppose this philosophy might lead to a fearsome Tom Noonan situation (see 1:18 of the trailer for Michael Mann’s extraordinary film, Heat: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iqU1ae5XFfY). But I have no intention of letting things go that far. My unified theory of hirsuteness is this: there’s a certain amount of hair that that belongs on one’s head–call it a critical mass–and it can be apportioned flexibly when baldness sets in.

  4. “I assure you that the human brain isn’t nearly so idiotically dichotomous.”

    No, but yours is. Not to mention that you’re way too full of rage to have a blog. Learn to control your anger a little bit. You act like a bratty little girl. Someone says something you don’t like and you call them names. Grow up. The first step towards being an adult is to stop caring what anyone thinks about your hair. No one cares about your hair but you. That you value your hair so much tells me that maybe you put to much stock in how you look. Are you an aspiring actor, too? Did you audition for the Real World or something? You want to be a part of the popular discourse? I don’t think you’re ready. You don’t seem to understand what it would mean.

  5. Tony: It is not that I don’t like your answer. It is that your comment amounts to an incorrect and utterly idiotic interpretation of this post, and I suggest you stop now before you further embarrass yourself. You purport to know precisely how my brain and my worldview works and you incorrectly divined that this particular post represented a dichotomy. That you choose to cling to the “author’s intentions” rule of reading comprehension says a considerable amount about how much of a reading neophyte you are. Which is not to suggest that beginners, on the whole, are worthless (far from it; most are great; only asshats like you don’t know how to employ the toilet paper), but only to state that, in considering your comments, I’ve listened to more compelling worldviews from 19-year-old college dropouts who are reading Faulkner for the first time.

    The post is clearly a comical take on what we expect and how life constantly throws the unexpected at us — in this case, a hairline that won’t quite recede. One can indeed accept the unexpected, and be perfectly comfortable with the unexpected. You clearly aren’t.

    If you can’t ken any of this, and you insist on reading underlying messages that reflect YOUR tendentious worldview, then I suggest you stop reading my site and go somewhere else. I write whatever the fuck I feel like here, and the readers and I have a lot of fun. If you’re such a sour surdomute who can’t hear the music, then get the fuck out or start a blog of your own and write about the coal you’re likely to get in your stocking.

  6. You should stop hanging around 19 year olds. You’re starting to sound like one.

    I hope you get a hat for Christmas. One you really, really like.

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