Tuesday, December 04, 2007
There comes a point in every man's life when he's forced to face his follicular mortality. He wakes up one day, looks in the mirror, and there, staring back at him, is a hairline that's far different from the one he expected to see. Like a lake evaporating slowly over time, it's a gradual, almost imperceptible, alteration. The lush forest that once shaded his noggin has been replaced by an expanding desert of bare skin. Something bald this way comes. And there's not a goddamned thing that can be done about it either. Because, my friends, genetics rules. Unless you happen to be Richard Gere, Moses, or Antonio Banderas, the average man, at some point in his life, will awaken to the sad reality that he is losing his hair. He'll run his hand over his head and where he once felt a swath of thick, soft hair between his fingers, he'll now finger thin, twiny strands of stunted follicles. Patches of fallowness, where nothing will grow again. No amount of water or fertilizer will bring the trees back. Damn you, global warming!!!
Wait, I went too far with that metaphor. Rewind.
I believed I was immune to this experience, that it could never happen to me. Why? Because, unlike many of my less fortunate peers, I survived my 20s and virtually all of my 30s with my hair helmet intact. Accordingly, I'd long felt I was firmly in Richard Gere territory. Or at least that I was parking a trailer in Al Pacino's neighborhood. I ignored my father's rapidly balding head and focused instead on my hirsute uncles on my mother's side. I had it covered. Indeed, from birth, I believed that a full head of hair was my entitlement, my legacy.
MOM TO NEW GIRLFRIEND SHE'S MEETING FOR THE FIRST TIME: Oh, you should have SEEN him! He was SUCH a hairy baby! The nurses couldn't believe it! He had so much hair on his head when he was born that one of the nurses pulled all of it together and made it into a little spike. It looked a little beard! They'd never SEEN such a hairy baby! He was so cute! I think I have a picture of it -- wait, let me go get it!!
MOM AND NEW GIRLFRIEND TOGETHER, UPON VIEWING A PICTURE OF A RED-FACED, SQUINTY-EYED NEWBORN ME WEARING A SOLITARY ALFALFA SPROUT OF HAIR ON MY HEAD: Ha ha ha ha!!!!
I don't bring many women home anymore.
My point is that I came into this world with a great deal of hair, all the hair I needed. It was a promising start, and one that I nurtured throughout my childhood. As a boy, I was so proud of my hair, that I cultivated it and made it a defining feature. I grew it long, in true 70s style. My real purpose in doing so was to cover up my ears, which I always felt were too big. I never wanted to show them, so I forced my mother to let me grow my hair over my elephant flaps. That's why every picture of me from the fourth grade through the eighth grade shows me with this ugly, pseudo-bob. I look like a prepubescent male version of Dorothy Hamill. To this day, I can't stand looking at a picture of me from the ages of 7 through 13. Wonder years my ass! I look friggin' goofy.
In high school, things got better (or worse, depending on your perspective). I acquired a misguided sense of flair and began experimenting with my locks. In my junior year, I discovered the "spike" hairstyle, which was quite popular among my straight-haired brethren. (There's only so much you can do with straight hair.) Nearly simultaneously, I discovered mousse. Mousse and the spiked hairstyle went together like Prego sauce and Prince spaghetti. To get the "lift" I needed, I stole many a mousse canister from Sister J. and used copious amounts of it every morning before school. In the winter, I'd go outside and my spiky wet hair would freeze into little mousse icicles. Couldn't wear a hat or I'd ruin the look. Before school dances, I tended to overdo it with the foamy goodness. After showering and splashing on (a lot of) my noxious cologne of choice -- Drakkar Noir or Paco Rabanne -- I'd run the mousse through my hair to the point where my head came out looking like a medieval flail. For fun, I'd poke down on my hair with a flat hand just to see how sharp I'd gotten my points. If it left a mark, I knew I'd done it right. (p.s. WTF was I thinking??)
The low point for Hair and I was when I experimented with a rat tail. For the uninitiated, a rat tail is created in this way: 1. Grow a mullet for three months, short on top, and really long in the back. 2. Get a haircut on month three, and cut the back short again. 3. Leave one long strand of hair (i.e. the tail) in the middle of the back of your head. That's the rat tail. Oh, but we're not done. The piece de resistance is to have a loved one, in my case, my girlfriend, BRAID the rat tail, so I'd have this pussy-ass clip of hair flip-flopping to and fro every time I turned my head. When I was bored, I'd play this game with myself where I'd whip my head around real fast to see if it was long enough to hit me in the face. Retard. Hey, if you're going to stink yourself up with Drakkar Noir, you may as well go all in on the cheese factor and get yourself a rat tail.
Fortunately, I outgrew that disturbing scene. Through college and law school, Hair and I settled into some really good years. Oh sure, we kept experimenting. We did a version of the "male wedge" that was popular in the 90s, really long on top and short on the back and the sides. One law school friend confessed that before he got to know me, he called me "Greico" behind my back, after the C-list actor Richard Greico, who had a similar hairstyle.
And for about six months in 1995, from the end of law school through the bar exam, I even grew a pony tail. Awwwwww yeeeeah. It was a short one; by then I'd acquired enough sense not to foray into Lorenzo Lamas territory. I remember right after the bar exam, Shamrock, my friend Scott, and I went on a short vacation to Northern Ireland. Our mission was to get ripped good and hard before we started on the Trail of Tears that is a law career. One night, we were out at this dance club in Bangor, which is near Belfast, where we'd gotten plastered with some of our Irish friends. We're on our way out and stumbling home when this snarky Irish lassie comes up to me and says: "Hey! Doanch-ya-know pony tails are for hor-sez??" That's how Irish women flirt, with snappy barbs. I was so surprised by her quip, and too drunk to think of a witty comeback, that I just stood there with my mouth open, like the very horse she'd accused me of resembling.
All the styles, all the while, Hair and I had a secret agreement: Just get me to 40, baby. Get me to 40, Hair, and you can do whatever you want after that. Recede, fall out, I don't care. By that time, I'll be married with kids, and I won't give a fuck. That was our deal. I believed that forty good years of Hair would be way more than I needed, more than any man should fairly expect. Not that I'd turn away a few more years, if they were to come my way, of course, but forty years was fair. I required no more.
About a year ago, I was on a business trip somewhere, it may have been to Boston, or possibly Arizona. Come to think of it, I may have been on vacation. I don't remember. I was staying at a nice hotel though, and one morning, while I was shaving in front of one of those fancy bathroom mirrors that stick out from the wall -- the kind that make every pore on your face look as big as a lunar crater -- I happened to catch a blurry look at the back of my head reflecting off another mirror on the bathroom door. I turned the small mirror to the normal side and did a closer inspection (I don't see the back of my head too often. Never, in fact, unless I'm staying at a hotel.) "Awww shit, that's not good." What once appeared as a small white dot in the middle of my cranium had grown much larger without warning. Now it was noticeable. "What the ffffuck? When the fuck did this happen?"
It was then that I realized that I was getting older, and less, not more, Hair would be keeping my head company going forward. I wish I could say I took this sad realization like a man, but the truth is, I didn't handle it too well.
My first reaction was one of denial. "Awww, it must have been the mirror angle. Or the lighting in here. That's it. The stupid lamp was right over my head, I mean, c'mon!"
When I realized it wasn't the lighting, but hairy reality smacking me in the face like an overlong rat tail, I panicked. "This can't be happening. This canNOT be happening. I'm not fucking married yet!" I held onto the bathroom basin and panted, short of breath. The room began to spin.
Immediately, I wanted to renegotiate my deal with Hair. "C'mon, man! I just need a another decade. Can't you stick it out a little longer? Can't you, please do it for me?"
Um, no. Hair was tired. He'd given me his best years. He felt unappreciated. Taken for granted. He was ready to join AARP and start collecting social security. Sorry dude.
Then came anger. "WHY ME??!! WHY ME? I'M NOT FUCKING MARRIED YET, GODDAMNIT!!"
Then I spiraled into delusion. I bargained with the scalp gods. "Maybe if I just get some sun on me and tan it, it'll be fine. Maybe if I massage my scalp every 30 seconds it will stimulate the follicles, get the blood flow going and give my starving hairs a jump start. Yeah, that's it! I'll combine that with some of that yogic positive mental imagery. That'll work!" This silliness was followed by fleeting thoughts of trying that black shellack shit they sell on that infomercial. Spray paint for bald spots. "Maybe!" I hit bottom and stared into the abyss.
Then came depression. "Aw fuck it. I'm not dating anymore. Why bother? It's fucking over. I'm never getting laid again. Women like hair, there's no getting around it." I'd see long-haired male models in GQ magazine, their lustrous blonde locks cascading through the fingers of some painfully hot, half-naked female counterpart, and I'd start vomit gagging involuntarily, like Glen Close in Fatal Attraction, when she looks in the window of Michael Douglas' beautiful suburban house, sees him enjoying a happy moment with his family, and then powerpukes into the azaleas.
Then, finally, came acceptance.
"It's going to be okay. It's not the end of the world. I've still got some left. And hair or no hair, women will still like me. I'm funny, I'm smart, I make decent money, I run fast, I dress okay, I usually smell pretty good, and I run fast. Wait, I said that already."
Besides, I can still grow hair in OTHER places (ass, armpits, nose, chest, face, ears), so it's not like I've completely lost the power. I just need to harness it. Channel it to where it needs to go. And hey, maybe I'm looking at it all wrong. Maybe all this is really a positive. Maybe a bald head represents EVOLUTION, not regression. Think about it. How many aliens do you see with hair? We're talking about a more evolved, more intelligent, more sophisticated species. Do they have hair? Fuck no! Buddha? Bald. The sensei on the old 70s show Kung Fu? Bald. Jean-Luc Picard? Bald. I'll bet even Jesus Christ thought about shaving his head at least once. So maybe I need to see this on a more macro level. Maybe I'm evolving into a higher level of existence. Yeeeahhh, I like the sound of that!
Since reaching acceptance, I've paid much more attention to how bad-ass men with shaved heads can look. Jason Statham for one.
He gets chicks. Hot ones, even. Of course, he has the body, attitude, and money to go with the shaved cranial, so if I want to follow his lead, I'd probably need to hit the gym more. And maybe get some pec, calf, and ab implants. Then there's Bruce Willis. Oh, and that dude from XXX. What's his name? Oh yeah, Vin Diesel. I can change my name to T. Diesel. Or T. Hybrid. Or T. Rex! There we go. Even Luke Wilson looked okay at the end of The Royal Tennenbaums.
Yeah, they're all celebrities, I know. But celebrity is just another word for someone with stunning good looks and lots of money, so I've got nothing to worry about. And there are so many perks to having no hair on your head. Just think how much I'll save on shampoo and pomade! No more expensive haircuts! And I can finally wear all those hats I've been dying to try: fedoras, derbies, bowlers, porkpies! So, so many perks.
Now, the only question is, how long do I wait to do the big shave? I'm still grokking a decent amount of hair on my head, so I have some time left. After I laid that guilt trip on him, Hair came around and told me he'd postpone his retirement by a couple of years. If I want, I can probably make it to 41 or 42 without doing the shock shave. Maybe even 43. But I'm not a patient guy. If Hair's a lame duck, why should I wait? I'd prefer to just do it and get it over with.
Then again, it's pretty cold outside right now. Plus, I haven't had a bare scalp since the nurses bearded me 39 years ago. What if I have a conehead? Or what if there's a strange-ass bump on there that I've never seen? Then what?
Shit. What aisle is that Rogaine in again?