Paul Andersen: Fair Game
May 20, 2012
I lost most of my hair by the tender age of 28. Occasionally it plays on my mind, which is as close as it will ever get to being back on my scalp. Never again will I ask the barber, “Just take a little off the top.”
My chief stylist is the guy who has already taken it off the top – permanently. God is my barber, and while I’m not particularly enamored of his coiffeur, who can argue with the divine?
Yet most bald-headed men do argue with the divine. They bridle at baldness and berate the beneficent by vainly altering their natural appearance. Some stoop to tousled toupees or wispy sweep-overs. Others shave their heads for the bullet-headed look, which I have sometimes contemplated.
That’s why I asked my cousin Joan, a master at Photoshop, to give my column photo a makeover with a head shave, a goatee (gratis of Harrison Ford), wraparound shades and a diamond ear stud. The resounding word at home is “Don’t go there!”
Still, I am intrigued by a recent article from The New York Times in which a writer explained that most men shave their heads out of desperation, taking a proactive stance against the male-pattern baldness they seem to fear worse than death.
These chrome domes assume that hairlessness is a curse that can only be resolved with a good old-fashioned scalping. Concluded the writer, “It’s like telling your boss that you quit while knowing you’re about to be fired.”
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I went the opposite direction 40 years ago when I bought a wig. I wasn’t trying to hide my baldness but rather to hide my hair. That was in the early ’70s when my hair was long, luxuriant and down past my shoulders. There was a cost to letting my freak flag fly, however, as the prejudicial social norms of the times made it nearly impossible for me to find a job.
Wearing the wig worked, and I got hired to drive a delivery van, a charade that lasted six weeks. That’s when a buddy of mine happened to see me on my route and nearly choked with guffaws. I preferred joblessness to humiliation, so I showed up at work the next day with my long hair and gladly tendered my resignation.
I owe baldness to my Nordic lineage, and I could see what was coming from the men in my family whose framed portraits fairly gleam with head refractions. Facing an inherited blight, I chastised my parents for their genetic cruelty. My mother actually apologized. My father shook his bald head dismissively. “You’ll get used to it,” he grumbled.
Baldness isn’t without its benefits. Loss of vanity is one: A bald guy can’t primp in front of the mirror without an inescapable sense of irony. I also save on shampoo and conditioner.
But the biggest advantage is my evolutionary edge. Studies reveal that bald-headed men are more advanced organisms than brutish retrogrades plagued with full heads of hair. My bald-headed father, upon seeing a particularly hirsute man, would smugly remark, “One more hair, and he’d be an ape!”
Turnaround was fair play, so when my father was dating my mother, his future father-in-law took them out to a burlesque house where the comedian was as bald as my dad. “Hey, you!” the comedian shouted, pointing at my father. “Let’s you and me put our heads together and make an ass out of ourselves!” The audience – especially my father-in-law – laughed hysterically. My father glowered, his pate turning crimson.
I’ve considered shaving my head, but I’m firmly attached to the halo of hair I have left. Shaving it would be a traitorous act. Fortunately, I married a woman who says that she really likes my bald head, though I’m still trying to decide if her tone is sympathetic or sarcastic.
After 35 years of living with a God-given tonsure, here’s how I have come to look at it: The guy who is bald in front is considered a thinker. The guy who is bald in back is considered sexy. The guy who is bald, both front and back, just thinks he’s sexy. I don’t need to shave my head for that.
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