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.
© 2008, Edward Champion. All rights reserved.