There comes a time in every man’s life when he finally stares truth in the eye, discards denial, bravely confronts what lies ahead and accepts the hand he’s been dealt. So it is with me.
Not Bruce Willis or Howie Mandel bald, as smooth as a globe, but there’s not much topside. I’d certainly be considered part of the bald family. This didn’t just happen over a few weeks. My forehead hasn’t seen natural shade since some time in the ’80s. This has been a slow but inevitable march to balddom over three decades that I thought I might outlive, but didn’t.
Old dusty yearbooks show evidence, much like an archaeologist discovering dinosaur bones, that in prehistoric days I had a decent thick shock of brown hair. In fact, my high school senior picture looks a bit like Moe from “The Three Stooges” with wire-rimmed glasses and an ill-fitting suit.
Little did I know that was the pinnacle for follicles. Well, maybe it was my freshman year in college when, caught up with the times, I let my hair grow clear to the bottom of my ear. Now, sadly, it only grows on my ear.
As a college senior at the Centaur Apartments in Lubbock – some things are stamped so indelibly in my mind, I never forget the place – I did a double-take one day while glancing in the bathroom mirror. I grabbed my hair with both palms, spread my hair apart for a better look, and my blood ran cold.
The beginning of a receding hairline. Cue the theme from “Jaws.” In the ensuing years, I held out hope, but my expectations were gradually lowered. Maybe the hairline would stop at my ear. No, well, maybe those gray strands are just an anomaly. No, well, maybe there will be enough hair for a little on the forehead. No, well, maybe it will hang tough on top. No.
Now, it’s been, OK, God, I’ve been granted so little in the looks department, and so be it, but would it be too much to ask for a nice skull? No unsightly moguls, no Sea of Tranquility mid-cranium craters, just a smooth, slightly tan scalp for all to see.
I’ve always resisted the get-thick-quick schemes. There was a period when I tried shampooing with some kind of expensive Rogaine-ish liquid, but the smell made me lightheaded and the only growth was by the shower drain, so that went by the wayside.
I was never tempted by the commercials guaranteeing a scalp full of a thick mane. I found them funny, how the “before” picture looked like some predator with a light bulb for a head, and the “after” was the same guy, but with those curly locks, who looked like he just stepped out of the Playboy mansion. But, you know, as it says, “results may vary.”
Ron Popeil’s Ronco GLH Formula System, “The Great Looking Hair In A Can,” was intriguing. But ultimately, lacquering my hair with spray paint seemed a little desperate. As for toupees, look, I’ve made fun of them all my life and I would look like a raging hypocrite if I ever put one of those decaying muskrats on top of my head. It didn’t work for George Costanza, and it wouldn’t work for me.
Toupees are for aging televangelists anyway. Basically, I was going to let nature take its course, and hoped nature wasn’t in any hurry about it. In the meantime, I braced for the inevitable by massaging not my scalp, but rather my receding self-esteem.
I found myself looking more and more at bald celebrities with a critical eye. Paul Shaffer, he’s not gross. Michael Chiklis, Vin Diesel, Patrick Stewart, “Breaking Bad’s” Bryan Cranston, Andre Agassi – nice skulls, good-looking guys. Old-school Telly Savalas and Yul Brynner were leading men.
Then there’s the Chrome Dome gold standard, Bruce Willis, who went from hair to scalp and never lost his status. Not that I was remotely in their league, but hopefully I wouldn’t be, “Look away, I’m hideous,” either.
My day of reckoning was Sept. 23, the Sabbath. I went to get a haircut, and it’s never cut short enough on the sides, where there are actually signs of life. So, at my request, the stylist took the clippers down a couple of notches. When she asked if I wanted the same on the top, I said, “Sure, why not?”
After a few passes, I looked in the mirror and nearly gasped. Bald. This is a bald man. I couldn’t very well ask her to tape any loose hair back on, so I left, bald if not bold. Oh, there’re a few strands on top – God bless ’em – hanging on bravely against the raging tide of time, but my head qualifies as bald.
My wife, trying to find the right words of encouragement, said I looked old. A few days later, KVII sportscaster Lee Baker, who happens to be short, asked if anyone had said I reminded them of James Carville. I don’t think he meant Carville’s left-leaning political commentary, but his clean scalp. No, not yet.
Did I mention Baker is short? But what’s done is done. My skull is out of the closet. I came into this world with only a few strands, and that’s how I’ll leave it. Que Sera, Sera.
by Jon Mark Beilue
Jon Mark Beilue is an award-winning columnist for AGN Media. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (806) 345-3318.