Sometimes when I’m feeling sentimental, I flick through my old Facebook photos. I start from the beginning, late 2007, until I stare at the man I am today. They tell a story. A story of friends, fun, beer, achievement – but most plainly it tells a story of a receding hairline.
The story has an air of inevitability. A Greek tragedy of sorts, where our flaw comes to derail the plot-line of our lives as it increasingly affects our experience. It feels like a point of personal decline.
The dubious ‘American Hair Loss Association’ reports that two-thirds of men will experience appreciable hair loss by the time they are 35, and that this will be experienced by a quarter of men by 21. A glance at the pub or footy broadly confirms these statistics.
As you may have guessed from my melodrama, I’m on the wretched side of the ledger. Eggs grow on my family tree. No matter the branch, there is a bald man’s head smiling goofily, seeming to take a sick pleasure in the knowledge that I will soon join their ranks.
Hair loss can be a source of some anxiety, it is a clear and accelerating public sign that our youth is leaving us. Unlike wrinkles, greying or skin imperfection, baldness appears to act without a universal timeline. It is an unfair sign of ageing, it discriminates wantonly.
Every man will have heard women laugh about the time that some bald guy tried to talk to them at a bar, for women we imagine the number of peer conversations of a similar tone is markedly higher. Not all men will go bald, and it appears like women prefer those who dodge the alopecia curse. We feel like we have a vested interest in holding on.
The side-part, the front comb, the toupee, the plug, the ponytail, even the baseball cap are all inventions that wouldn’t have been made without male concern for his head-fur. Heck they even have hair pieces that you can sprinkle onto your head like parmesan cheese in the morning just so Monica at work will smile at you.
Pop culture tells us bald is bad
The bald industry is as lucrative as it is scummy.
It is a product for our wish to be youthful and attractive; baldness threatens these. If your identity is a young man with a dapper handsomeness and your hairline says otherwise, that’s when we get despair.
And where are young men’s role models to pull us out of this rut? Simon Pegg, Matthew McConaughey, Ben Affleck, Al Pacino, Ricky Ponting, Shane Warne and Wayne Rooney (the last two openly – to their credit). All identifiable men, have reinforced the notion that bald is bad by going and getting their hands on the most expensive hair transplants that money can buy. Because we know that bald is bad, this cycle tells us so… That’s why Paul Walker was the hero and Vin Diesel was the villain, at least initially.
If the original casting manager for the first Bond flick had suggested the suave protagonist be portrayed by a bald man he would have been fired on the spot. So too would the casting manager of Seinfeld be given the flick if the neurotic and pitiful George Constanza wasn’t filled by a man with a hairline crisis.
Hair is charming. Bald is creepy.
It’s creepy in the office, creepy in the university quad, creepy on a first date, creepy on the bus, creepy in the library, creepier still in the nightclub.
The solution (if there even is one)
Me, I employ a violent fringe, and try and tell myself that my hairline has just reached a point of maturity and will settle there for good. Every four months I renew that assessment. I worry that if I cut my hair short that will be game over, forever. Others grow beards, pound the gym, search the history books for successful bald men, or wear thick square glasses to jumble the shape of their head, a la Moby.
With Gen Y’s population ranging from teenagers to men in their 30s, baldness is nearing exclusively a Generation Y issue. One that we don’t often talk about for fear of embarrassment and offense, this is odd because it’s so publicly played out, there is no secrecy when it comes to the facts. We should talk about our hair with our peers, for two heads are better than one. We should have a friendly brotherhood of cue-balls. We should laugh about it instead of sulking. We should think about who we can share a photo with instead of thinking how good we look.
It’s all good to embrace it
We worry that if we embrace baldness we will go from young to old in one fell swoop. We worry that the people we like romantically will feel uncomfortable and reassess – my darling girlfriend has expressed her own concerns about ‘our predicament’. We worry that our heads have weird and unsightly shapes. We worry about being naked. Exposed. Alone. Unhappy.
That said, as I get older and it gets worse, I seem to worry less. Funny that.
Maybe I outgrew my hair before my hair outgrew me? Well, almost. Either way, embrace it and don’t let it dictate your life. People like you because of who you are, not just because of some thin material growing out of your scalp.