When I was a young man I once stood in front of the hall mirror and pushed back my hair to reveal my hairline. ‘Well,’ I said to myself proudly, ‘You never have to worry about going bald.’ So thick was my hair that, growing up, the only instruction my Gran would ever give the barber was to thin it out. He would use those weirdly serrated scissors and attack it with the midnight abandon one might reserve for the neighbour’s Leylandii. When he was done it would look more or less the same, as if it were regenerating faster than he could cut. My Gran would sigh. ‘Do it again’ she would say, unlike Baldie Dawson I had hair to burn.
Baldie Dawson, whose first name is lost to history, was thin on top at fifteen and had the full horseshoe at seventeen, an ancient looking teenager in an ancillary flat cap, how ever long I lived I was never going to suffer his fate. This certainty went on well into my twenties, my hair was less cut and more carved, sculpted from a solid, as if the unisex hairdresser was trying to release the hairstyle within. I never thought about hair loss, not even when I started to notice clumps of hair gathering in the shower drain, this was simply natural selection, slow, old hairs being pushed out by faster, younger ones. I was twenty six when someone first mentioned it. ‘You’re losing your hair at the front.’ Said Penny casually, not hearing the existential pile up going on in my head. Screech, crash, screech, crash, screech crash, tinkle, tinkle.
I already knew of course, I was simply in denial, pulling the hair down over my forehead in an increasingly obvious superman curl, but now this son of Krypton was going the same way as ordinary men. This was not like being told you have some terminal disease, that you have days to live, this was much worse, this was shallow, vain, this was the realisation that you were like Baldie Dawson after all, subject to the same rules and no matter how impressed you were with yourself you would spend the majority of your life looking like a mangy cat. Dying young and leaving a good looking corpse were well and truly off the table.
Losing my hair became an obsession, and I am not proud to say this, that lasted ten years. I was always aware of it, undermined by it, eroded and lessened by it. Once it was drawn to my attention it accelerated, went apace, my hairs seemed to be allergic to my head, dropping like Christmas tree needles. Instead of instructing the barber (less judgemental than a hairdresser) to thin it out I now requested that he thicken it up, as if that were a thing, making something out of nothing, here’s a fiver turn it into a twenty would you? My hair ran away with me, widows peak, twin peak, no peak. I visited charlatans, massaged my scalp with unctions, considered plugs, I brushed it forward, brushed it over but never brushed it off.
Then one day, after almost a decade of agonising self indulgence, my long suffering wife caught me looking at a photo of the back of my head, one where my flesh coloured hair was very apparent. ‘Why don’t you just get rid of it?’ She said, as if it were the easiest thing in the world. Would amputating a leg be easy? Cutting off a hand? ‘My hair is a part of me.’ I told her. ‘A dead part,’ she said. ‘Shave it off, you’ll feel better.’ So I did.
Standing before the bathroom mirror with a fresh razor in my traitor’s hand felt like I was giving up my ragtag resistance comrades to join the slick oppressor and the new order. No really, I was that much of a dick. Minutes later it was all over and as I ran my hand over my smooth pate I remembered standing in front of the hall mirror as a much younger man and I could almost feel phantom hair beneath my palm. This should have been a cause of regret but instead I felt liberated, renewed. I had imagined that I would look much older, or weirder, that my face would appear as if drawn on the side of a pink balloon, that my head would become a penis with ears, but no, I looked, better, much. Younger, not new born baby younger, but not like a man who had lost his hair, I looked like a man who chose to shave his head. It didn’t hurt that I was blessed with a good skull, it was not the shape of a loaf of bread or, as in the case of a dear friend, a child’s drawing of an anvil, after years of deplorable self-pity it seemed being bald suited me. I was not alone in this realisation.
Until quite recently baldness has always been seen as a joke, a blight, a sufferance, something only black men could carry off, black bald men were cool, white bald men were slapheads. Increasingly though men of lighter shades have been embracing their inner baldie and their recent preponderance has slowly led to a begrudging acceptance. The planet bald is though, a place of contradiction, with its amusing albedo, unstable surface and potentially dangerous atmosphere. In films white bald men are rarely seen as lovable, baldies are baddies, they are heavies, hoods and henchmen. They cannot be the star unless fisticuffs are involved and can never be a romantic lead without wearing a hairy hat. Only with age has Bruce Willis become ensconced with his bonce, before that he wore a series of increasingly implausible wigs so as not to startle the object of his affection. Of course now that he is officially bald he can only play murderers, psychopaths and suspect uncles in cable knit cardies.
This seems a little unfair, baldness is quite normal and has nothing to do with a proclivity for violence, skinheads shave their heads but so do Buddhists, Jason Statham is bald but so is William Hague. There is no need to be scared, baldies are people too, often nice people, only with goatees. We are reconciled, I like being bald, my children have only known me bald, to them I am constant, nothing shows your age more than hair. I have barely changed in fifteen years and despite the occasional well meaning intervention (such as the unknown drunk lady in my local who pulled a raw steak from her handbag and offered to rub it on my head) I don’t need to be cured. I don’t want newfangled treatments or replacement technology, Jean-Luc Picard was the captain of the USS Enterprise, in the future, and he was still bald, clearly science isn’t the answer to hair loss, baldness is.