There isn't much that guys won't talk about. Men are more than happy to hold forth with tales of all the sex they've ever had, are having, and plan to have in the future. Men are also more than happy to go into graphic detail about any broken bones, sores, STDs, or other maladies that have afflicted them. Contrary to popular belief, most men will talk freely about their emotions, even if some of them need a few beers first.
But the one thing that men never talk to other men about is going bald.
Luck plays a big role in life, but nowhere so obviously as on the top of your head. Some of your friends are already bald. Some of your friends will keep their hair long after it has aged into a proud grey mane. I always knew that someday Father Time would come for my hairline. My dad has managed to hang onto some hair well into his 60s, but with each passing year, the "W" of male pattern baldness creeps toward the ever-widening bald spot on top of his head. Both of my grandfathers died as they came into this world— without a hair on their heads. At least my family pattern of male-pattern took any guess work out of my fate. At least I knew I was screwed from the beginning.
It took a while for the thinning to start. I was lucky enough to get through those vain, desperate years of my early 20s with a full head of hair, but a couple years later, time's cold hand started plucking hairs from my head. I'm not sure what day exactly I started losing hair. There are some guys out there who lose their hair instantly, like an invisible band-aid descended upon them and was immediately ripped from their dome.
For most of us, our hair goes at a painfully slow pace. Sometimes weeks or months pass without any regression in the battle, but just when you think the horrors have come to an end, you wake up and see that your follicles have ceded more ground. You always know who's going to win this fight, you just don't know how long the war will rage.
Anyone who has experienced the agonizing process of balding remembers that first terrible moment when they discovered extra hair in the drain.
You lean down and inspect the drain, hoping that the hairs are of the leg or pubic variety. But no, the hair is too long, too straight, too fair. A lot goes through your mind as you stand there staring into the drain, and for the first time, the drain stares back at you. You examine your discovery with a CSI-like intensity. You spend hours in front of the mirror running your hands through your hair, pulling it back, checking and double checking just how bad the damage might be. You go through all twelve stages of grief during that one extra long shower. After some time—for some, it takes hours; others, days —you pull yourself together, slink out of the bathroom, and ask yourself what you're going to do next.
No matter how stable a relationship you have when you start losing your hair, no matter how much tail you've been pulling down thanks to your shimmering locks, when you first watch your hairline recede, you can't help but wonder if anyone will find you desirable ever again. After spiraling into the depths of despair at the possibility of a new celibate life, every man flirts with the possibility of shaving it all off. I've got what they call "strong features" (a big nose), so if I was going to take a razor to my head, I was going to have to suddenly develop bulging muscles to compensate. As soon as I walked out of the bathroom on that fateful day, I started hatching plans to attain the body of a Vin Diesel or Jason Statham.
Since I've always had more of a Jason Schwartzman "build," I knew this was going to be difficult, but what choice did I have? If pop culture has taught us anything, it surely has been the lesson that if you're going bald, you have to have veins popping out of your neck or no one is going to fuck you ever again, or something.
My dreams of becoming the next Expendable quickly dissipated when I took into account my actual build, my time, my dedication, my schedule, my patience, my ambitions, and a number of other factors. I immediately realized that the only thing keeping me from being a bald body builder was every single aspect of my personality and circumstances. It was back to the drawing board.
I considered wearing a hat. I've never been a hat guy. And even hat guys don't wear hats as much as a bald guy. Nobody is that big of a Baltimore Orioles fan. Other hats, the cowboy hats, the fedoras, the bowler derbies, were simply out of the question. It is painfully evident when a man is wearing a hat solely to cover up his lack of hair. No, I wasn't going to take the coward's route with a hat. I wasn't going to go down like that.
Next, I started to think that maybe my
barber stylist could save me. Up to this point, my dialog with my stylist had been limited to, "Whatever you think will look good." Now I had a new directive to add to the conversation. "Whatever you think will look good, and if it didn't look like I was balding, that'd be great."
Sadly, a hair dresser can only do so much. A man with a receding hairline already has limited hair options. When I was in high school and through part of college I cultivated a regrettable emo swoop. The world needed to know that I was into Saves the Day, and how else were they going to get that vital info if not from my long hair carefully swept to one side? It's been many years since I had that haircut, but if I tried it today, well, just ask Gordon Ramsey how that would go.
So far, hair dressers have managed to minimize the visible damage. For me, they tend to do this thing that isn't quite a comb-over, nor is it quite slicked back, nor is it exactly pushed up. The strategy seems to be gel it and slightly dishevel what's left. The hope here is that ladies don't notice exactly where your hairline begins or ends. My hair dresser and I both know this is a temporary fix, but, it is better than nothing. If you can't win, at least camouflage your losses and delay the inevitable.
This fix, like any hairline triage, is temporary. I have resigned myself to my fate. You can't hide it under a hat. You can't distract from your head with brand new bulging muscles. You can't trick onlookers into believing they're looking at a full head of hair. Any miracle elixir is just going to trim your bank account along with your hairline. There is no way to change the fact that every day you will have fewer follicles than you did the day before. The only choice you have, then, is to change the way you think . But, I have some good news for you: it gets worse.
As I edge into my late 20s, I've learned a valuable lesson: everything gets worse with age. I could have taken note of this when I was younger, but I was too busy eating all the carbs I wanted, drinking Yuengling like it was water, and never gaining any weight to care. Yes, my hairline is receding, but there are so many things that could be going so much worse. While women tend to compete in a gender-wide gym triathalon of pilates, yoga, and spin classes well into middle age, many men give up.
I'm losing my hair, but I am watching men my age gain weight, binge-watch reality television, and develop conservative ideologies: all way less appealing things in terms of the dating pool than hair loss. Women look at men in their late 20s and beyond, and where there was once bright-eyed potential, there are now men who can't wait to tell them how it's their boss's fault or their ex's fault or the government's fault. Men who used to talk about the projects they would start and the trips they would take and dreams they would fulfill now start talking about how if they can keep their head above water for one more quarter, assistant associate senior general manager will be within reach. As the first round of high school and post-collegiate marriages end, the dating pool of decent human males who are competent in life gets even narrower, and the only requirement is that you be able to get through three sentences without yelling. Gentlemen, I'm here to tell you that because it gets worse overall, it gets so much better for you as long as you can maintain a sense of decency.
It won't be long after you start losing your hair that you realize it isn't that big a deal. Yes, if you pull the hereditary short straw and start thinning in your early 20s, you'll feel like your life has all but ended. But trust me, it doesn't pay to stress out in front of the mirror, you young balding masses. That hair loss will seem major at first; it will feel life changing. But with each passing year, as your hairline creeps further and further back, your hairline will also creep further and further down your list of problems, and your potential mates' list of dating deal breakers.
In the mean time, try to get your hairdresser to do that disheveled thing, and invest in some decent hair product.
The thinning, balding, and receding can reach out to Brenden for love and support at @muddycreekU.