Once upon a time, I had plenty of hair.
One of the biggest laughs I have ever provoked came from a group of men assembled for a weekend retreat. As a means to level the societal playing field and eliminate prejudices from interfering with honest conversation, we were forbidden to discuss our occupations. The idea was that we would be less likely to unconsciously ascribe wisdom to successful professionals and to casually dismiss the opinions of common laborers. At the end of the event, however, were were at last permitted to reveal what we did for a living. It was an entertaining and revelatory exercise that included more than a few surprises. One by one, we announced our positions within the marketplace, giving our mutual regard an entirely new dimension.
When it came around to me, I discerned that the group was listening to me intently. Due to my various responsibilities and actions throughout the weekend, I had become known to many of my new friends as something akin to a comic relief. I think they were utterly baffled as to what role I might play as a productive member of society. Sensing their attentiveness, I could not resist playing one more joke. I lowered my voice into a register of deep sincerity and scanned their eyes.
“I am the president…,” I began, and in that instant before I continued, I saw their countenances change as they registered surprise and admiration. I almost felt sorry for what I was about to say, but I plowed onward anyway. In a measured tone, I added “…of the Hair Club for Men.” The room exploded. It was the ultimate payoff of the many lighthearted bald jokes that had been slung my way that weekend.
The psychology of that big laugh is too complex to be fully dissected, but it has something to do with our society’s complicated attitudes toward baldness. So much emotion and energy is invested into it that it is one of the basic staples of comedy. Baldness is funny, attempting to conceal one’s baldness is funnier, and the humiliation of being revealed as one who has unsuccessfully tried to hide his baldness is funniest. I’m not sure why, but there it is.
Personally, I have sported a hair deficiency for so long that I cannot remember the last time I owned a comb. After all, a comb is an impractical accessory when your hair is incapable of being out of place. The very sensation of grooming one’s hair is a distant memory for me, like trying to envision walking through the halls of my high school, or what it felt like to weigh 160 pounds. I seem to recall the scrape of pointed, plastic teeth pulling wayward hairs from either side of my part, and I vaguely remember the feeling of thick tresses resisting the pull of my comb. I also have some recollection of using an electronic device called a hair dryer, which was necessary because hair, in quantity, retains water. But it is all a bit foggy to me now.
The world of hair care has been foreign to me for many years. I see men my age and older with full heads of hair, and their abundant locks are a curiosity to me. The many hair products aimed at them are as strange to me as any item from the women’s health and beauty aisles. What was it like, I try to remember, to devote daily time and energy into making one’s hair presentable? I can only speculate.
What little hair I have today requires almost no maintenance at all. It really doesn’t matter whether I apply quality shampoo and conditioner or simply scrub my follicles using the cheapest cake of industrial hand soap; the results are pretty much the same. As for drying, I can remove all dampness from my hair quicker than I can dry my hands. My daily hair care routine is simply thus: step out of shower, run bath towel over head, and voila!
Haircuts, once administered regularly by a professional barber, are now a simple and inexpensive affair. With no tonsorial training, and armed only with a pair of unshielded clippers, my patient wife can restore neat order to my pate in less than ten minutes. And when your standard hairdo is a buzz cut, it doesn’t require much more ambition to simply shave it all off, an option that I have occasionally chosen, and one that I can easily accomplish myself.
About the only drawback to being bald is exposure to the sun. It would be nice to simply walk out the door without the fear of establishing a melanoma colony on my scalp. Instead, I must vigilantly remember to have a hat at my disposal whenever outdoors, unless I take the trouble to lather my head with sunscreen. Outside of that small inconvenience, my baldness actually makes my life less complicated than it otherwise would be.
For example, I need never think twice about arriving at an important appointment with unruly hair. No, I can drive to my destination with all of the windows down at 70 miles per hour, and I will still arrive fresh as a daisy. Heck, I could stop at an amusement park along the way and take a few spins on its tallest roller coaster, and no one would be the wiser.
And should I oversleep and simply have to bolt out the door as soon as humanly possible, you would be amazed at how a handful of water and a rub of the towel achieves much the same effect as actually washing my hair. That, my friends, is simplicity in an age of complications.
Meanwhile, as the world admires the well-coiffed man while snubbing his bald brothers, I look with pity upon the lowest class of males, those whose insecurities and vanity drive them to support the hair restoration industry. Whether it’s the secret society of toupee wearers or those who attempt to fertilize their scalps with creams, lotions, or transplants, it seems to me like these poor guys are looking a gift horse in the mouth. Nature made your life less complicated, and you’re doing everything you can to make your existence even more complex than it was before!
Take it from me, gentlemen. Keeping your hair isn’t as wonderful as everyone makes it out to be. And remember, I’m not only the president…I’m also a member!