My Dad first noticed. He dusted his fingers over my crown and chuckled ‘Ooooooooh it has begun.’ I didn’t take the bait though. I had always had a thick head of hair and my father, Baldilocks, was constantly running his hands through it enviously.
It wasn’t until the first week of university, only just turned 18, that I realised he wasn’t bluffing. As I was leaving the gym changing rooms I glanced at myself in the mirror, and there, under the lights, a front corner of my head sparkled back at me. I stopped in my tracks and pawed at the anomalous twinkle, expecting a splodge of cream or freshers glitter to fall away in my hand, but nothing gave. As I approached my reflection curiously – and my reflection approached me curiously – I made a mortifying discovery. What I was witnessing, for the first of many times, was a freshly exposed sweaty segment of my scalp.
As the terms rolled by, I struggled to come to terms with my moulting.
The all too familiar sight of a hairy pillow in the morning could send me flying through the first four stages of grief:
Denial – ‘No! Why, no?! This cannot be… How are my flatmates planting these hairs every night and where the fuck are they getting them from?!’
Anger – ‘WHY THE FUCK ARE YOU ALL FALLING OUT OF MY HEAD?! YOU BELONG ON MY HEAD WHERE YOU HAVE BEEN THE LAST 18 YEARS! STAAAAAAAY!’ (whilst beating and hurling pillow).
Bargaining – ‘Ok. Ok. It’s fine. I still have plenty of hair, if you guys wanna leave, that’s fine. As long as you lot up there stay and give me something to work with, that’s fine. I will be like Alexander Armstrong or Jude Law forever. That’s cool.’
Depression – relocate pillow from corner of room and cry/wank into it.
But the final stage, acceptance, was not forthcoming. That came much further down the line. Before acceptance comes war.
Baldilocks and Regaine
Baldilocks’ paternal instincts negated the hairy-headed name-calling of my teens and he forked out 100 quid on Regaine in an attempt to prevent me from following in his footsteps. I would carefully rub it into the growing glistening sections of my head as instructed, but as I did so hairs would rub away and stick to my fingers like dough.
After graduating, I emigrated to Australia and still certainly had enough hair to justify keeping. The discovery of dry shampoo with a hint of colour delayed the inevitable, effectively acting as spray on hair. I was the hiding hound that doesn’t want to be sent to bed. The desperate tennis player using his last challenge. The drooping reality TV star on their fifth face lift.
I was determined not to overdo it though. It is never easy to take a beloved pet to the vet to be destroyed, but you don’t want it to lose its dignity either, scrawny and arthritic, pissing itself – the comb-over of pets. However, the thought of being bald terrified me. I have always had a massive head and silly ears and I feared that without the thin veil of hair that remained I would be rendered hideous.
Five years on from that fateful day in the university gym, just turned 23, I took the plunge. I was working as a courier on the Sunshine Coast at the time and had become accustomed to rubbing sun-cream into my bald spot. I wore a cap most of the time but would whip it off intermittently to mop sweat from my brow. On many an elevator, having just delivered a parcel, I would do just that. Staring at my reflection – as it stared back at me- and sighing as my hair matted and weaved in sparse strands; stuck on level 4, depression.
Acceptance came at a red light. I was leaning out of the window, cap off, making the most of the sea breeze. I caught my reflection in the wing mirror – that bastard again – and an otherwise pleasant moment was ruined. I looked like a little kid (with a massive head and silly ears) who had just had a balloon rubbed through his hair. I tilted my chin towards my chest and fingered through this barren land, grumbling to myself, before a voice from above interjected, ‘Yeeeeeeeeeah, you’re bald mate.’ I looked up beside me to see a bus driver smiling down at me.
‘It’s not fair though! I’m only 23?!’ I replied despairingly.
‘Life’s a bitch maaate. Seeya round!’ and with that, he gave me a nod and a wink and pulled away with his hand raised in a sympathetic wave.
That was it. No more. In that moment I realised enough was enough, this pet needed to go to the vet… I then realised there was an angry queue of cars behind me and the lights had been green for a while.
I was nervous as I handed my girlfriend the clippers, I think she was too. This wasn’t an ordinary haircut, I couldn’t just try a new style in a few months if I didn’t like it. This was forever. Like marriage or castration. Before she pulled the trigger I made her promise me that no matter what happened, she would make sex to me at least one more time. She obliged and it begun, the beginning of forever more.
We started tentatively, with a number four or something, but my head was left so much darker around the sides, the contrast was like a dagger in my heart and I hastily demanded a number one all over.
In the aftermath my girlfriend showered praise on me:
‘You look hunky!’
‘Who’s a big manly man?!’
I was paraded around the hostel stunning all in my path, and within about twenty minutes, I had embraced my new identity.
I adopted the same approach I have all my life to great effect. The no-secrets, better out than in method, which these days probably masquerades under some new-age super empowering hashtag like #OwnYourYou or some bullshit. It basically entails being yourself whilst not taking yourself too seriously.
At High School I had a friend called Luke, who at some point became mockingly known as Potato. The nickname was a fad and was about to pass when he sent a very serious mass text message informing us that the name wasn’t funny and he wanted us all to stop using it immediately. From then on the name stuck.
I, by contrast, probably go too far the other way, often divulging embarrassing personal anecdotes and factoids that could never otherwise be revealed out of a pure lack of shame. However, you rarely get mocked for being comfortable with something, you get mocked for your insecurities, and this applies to baldness.
I was praised early doors by a surfer dude for ‘rockin it’, unlike another tenant who had been bald for years and practically slept in his cap. One time, whilst playing rugby, his hat was knocked off and all of us were shocked by the site of his dome as he sheepishly scrabbled to pick it up. I have numerous friends like him on Facebook who are only ever photographed in a hat, whether they’re in a car, restaurant or the ocean.
These young men are stagnating in denial, and until they reach acceptance they won’t be described by onlookers as suiting, owning or rockin’ it.
Free Haircuts and no Greys..
‘It’ is not something to be ashamed of; there are many perks. No more paying for haircuts, remembering your ID is a thing of the past, plus people generally afford you more respect which allows easier access to the bar. Indeed, in many professions you don’t have a voice until your hair is either grey or gone. Plus, by balding so prematurely, you will seem to age well by comparison to your mates as the years roll by; they will be worrying about the odd grey in their forties while you left all that stress behind a long time ago.
About a year after braving it and shaving it, I proudly converted a balding colleague into a bald colleague. His hair was hardly there but his wife was scared and stopping him reaching acceptance. The next day he came in a new man, and as we admired and stroked each other a passing colleague shouted ‘hey look a couple of eggs!’ As he did so, a veteran baldy stopped him in his tracks and said, ‘hey bro, you can’t grow grass on a busy road.’
Don’t get me wrong, it’s not perfect being bald. When I exercise on sunny days I have to put suncream on the top of my head and Vaseline in my eyebrows to prevent the cream from streaming down and stinging them. It’s more upkeep too; I used to get a cut every few months and now I shave every week. Also I’ve had to grow a beard, as my girlfriend realised once my hair went that she found my actual face itself unattractive, which is a shame. But make no mistake, it is better to be bald than balding, and in hindsight I wish I had liberated myself sooner.
I hope when the time is right, you will face your fears and accept your destiny.