Do I realize how trivial all of this is? Sure. That still doesn’t change anything. I’d still give my kidney, or maybe a pinky finger, to have a thick head of hair for the rest of my life.
All that said, what’s interesting to me is that deep down, it’s not really about the hair. What I think is really at the root of my insecurity about going bald is my own mortality. It’s a reminder that I’m no longer some young chap; I’m no longer a kid who can run on four hours of sleep, hangovers, and eating late-night Denny's burgers and pancakes. Now, when I wake up after having three beers I feel like Matthew McConaughey at the end of Dallas Buyers Club. These days, I try to take care of my body. I take vitamins, I stretch and exercise, I go to sleep at 11 PM. For God’s sake, I was already ten years old when my mom was my age. And like many of us, I’m left wondering, When did all this happen?
I constantly see headlines in magazines about how sexy women find bald men, or about how celebrities like Bruce Willis have rocked the bald look, and I'm just not buying it. For further reading: 10 Guys Who Look Better Bald However, what I do respect is how some of my favorite guys in show business—like Larry David, Charles Barkey, or Louis CK—don’t seem to give a shit about going bald. It doesn't effect them at all. But when I think about guys like Jude Law, I get super depressed. That poor bastard was the darling of show business for a while, and now he’s balding miserably. He says he doesn’t care, but c’mon, Jude! I can't believe you.
Then I think about some of my favorite people, whether it’s my friends John or William or my great grandfather. They’re all bald. In fact, there are actually a lot of bald guys in my life. So I decided to learn more about how the process of going bald was for them: Did they grapple with it as much as I do now, or did they just accept their fate? What did it feel like to accept that they were going to be bald? Was it a gradual process or struggle, or did they just own it right away?
As a way to get more insight, I interviewed a few good (bald) men that I know. It was interesting, it was funny, and I think it made me even more nervous.
“I finally threw in the towel when I was 32. I needed the help of my wife and Boyz II Men.”
“Growing up all of my uncles on my mom’s side were bald, so the paranoia set in early. It was a struggle to accept since I had always feared losing my hair. I tried to fight the good fight with Rogaine for about 5 years. I finally threw in the towel when I was 32. I needed the help of my wife and Boyz II Men. I let it go for awhile without shaving, but I started becoming too self conscious about it. I realized it would look best to just shave it. Now nobody can pull my hair in Fight Club. I don’t really think my life would be better. My buddy, Adam, likes to remind me that my hair wasn’t that cool to start with. I don’t stress the baldness anymore. It is what it is, and it’s one less decision to make. One unexpected downside to shaving my head is I need a haircut once a week to keep it looking tight, where as before I would only go once a month.” — Justin Gignac
“Being bald is great for filtering out the superficial girls that have a narrow view of what handsome is.”
“It all comes down to confidence. It takes a disciplined and a strong mind to change your emotions in order to project true positive energy and confidence from deep within. That test came for me when I started losing my hair. I was popular, well-liked by women and I thought this would change everything. But one day I just said 'fuck it' and shaved my long hair off. That moment made me stronger rather then weaker. At the moment, the hair loss drugs on the market cause headaches and weight gain, but I’d rather have my 4 pack than hair! *Laughs* I found being bald is great for filtering out the superficial girls that have a narrow view of what handsome is. Some girls even prefer it! The only way to really be happy is to love yourself; I love my friends, my career and I love myself.” — Mario De Armas
“In the end, it doesn’t really matter, the main idea is to work with what you got.”
“I was waiting tables at age 25 and my friend Lynny told me she could see a bit of baldness from ….across the street. Shit. It busted my game up a little. I tried using Rogaine, but not for long. Too chemical-y / fake / dangerous / vain to deal with. Though I have shaved my head, I feel it makes it look like a potato. So I don’t in general. I’m more in the 'If you’re bald, you should keep your hair trimmed tight' mentality. I’ve still got some on top and it serves me OK. If I had a full head of hair, I would grow it out, occasionally. Or style it differently. But the thing is, dunno that I ever had a problem 'getting laid,' or being considered 'desirable,' so being mostly bald hasn’t affected much. I get along just fine. In the end, it doesn’t really matter, the main idea is to work with what you got.” — William Morrisey
“I never considered not shaving. I would look like Ron Howard, which isn’t premium.”
“Around 21 I noticed a receding hairline. It stressed me out. I grew up with sisters and hair was important for style. I tried using products such as Rogaine. It was a joke, so I began shaving my head at the same age. I never considered not shaving. I would look like Ron Howard, which isn’t premium. I do think my life would be different if I had a full head of hair. I could vary my look up more, and change my hair to suit my mood. However, people identify me as being bald. It's my look now. Some women really like it and I style my look around it. And it's super easy to shower and get ready fast. I am content with it. But sometimes I still miss a full head of hair. Maybe someday I'll grow it in.” — John Fulbrook
“I’m more anxious about sprouting old man back hair.”
“I’m actually bald by choice. I’ve been shaving my head for about 15 years. I’m always biking, running, skating, for 2 or 3 hours a day, and having hair would be too hot and uncomfortable for me to deal with. It’s too much maintenance, and fuck hair product. While I’m middle-aged, I still haven’t noticed any sign of a retreat. I have more gray every year, but no retreat. If it happens, I think I’ll be pretty chill about it. As long as I’m confident in myself, baldness should be trivial. I’m more anxious about sprouting old man back hair. Bald dudes kinda give me shit for shaving it. But it’s all in good fun, I think?.” — Jason Nuttall
So, how do I feel now that I shaved my hair off? Well, I’ve been kinda depressed. I feel very unattractive. I'm completely self-conscious about it. The whole thing is just making me get all existential about my inevitable death. It's making me question a lot of things surrounding my identity and my ego. I just don't feel like “me.” I feel like a hack. I feel like a has-been. I feel old and washed up. I feel like I've crossed the threshold of my prime. I feel like I don't know who this person is in the mirror. I feel...stupid for saying all this, but it's the truth. I looked at my naked head in the mirror for 5 minutes the night we shaved it. I didn't like it one bit. I looked at my face, my eyes, my nose and my ears. It's amazing how hair changes our entire appearance. I saw my biological dad in my reflection again. With his thinning hair, I saw him. I saw his life and his home and his decisions. I saw myself in 10, 20, 30 years.
On top of it all, I thought Jessie was going to quit the project recently. She was crying to me about how much Step 5 was hurting and how she doesn’t want to go on. I felt so bad. I felt like everything I said was bad advice. I can’t possibly know what it means to have gone through the things she’s gone through, to bring all that back up in the forefront of your life ten years later. All I can do is try to be the best friend I can to her, but even that doesn’t seem to be working in my eyes. We got into a little fight and didn’t talk for a couple days. It’s ironic that we’re doing this project about kindness and empathy, and sometimes we can be so unkind to each other. I know we’re putting ourselves through difficult and unnatural obstacles.
This project is just beating me down. I think it’s making me lose hair on top of my hair loss! It’s like, how much fear and awkwardness and uncomfortableness can we throw at ourselves? And while I’m learning a ton about myself (my fears, habits, courage, fucked-up-ness), it is also slowly killing me. Everything just feels so damn heavy right now! I’m trying not to hide my depression either. I’m attempting to fully experience this feeling. The other day my friend asked me if I was happy. I just said no. And I still haven't shaved...
A few months later though, my normal head of hair grew back and yes, I shaved my sad excuse for a beard. And while I'm glad I did this baldness experiment, I'm still unsure about what I'll actually do if (and when) I do continue losing what hair I have left — unless my beard can miraculously become un-patchy, which would be cool. Hopefully, when that day comes, I can learn to love myself the way I am just like all of my bald friends have. It can't be that bad, right?
We'd love for you to participate in this 12-step journey with us. We often judge people by hiding behind our own insecurities. Step six is all about facing those insecurities head on. Comment below or tag #12kindsofkindness on social media and let us know your stories. We'd love to hear them!
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