Of course, we certainly tell others it doesn’t matter, but to be perfectly truthful, we’re not all that crazy about the image that stares back from us from the mirror. But, I suppose, the older we get, the less it matters, the “it” being an utterly benign physical condition called baldness.
Now, looking back on my childhood, I suppose there were signs where things above my eyebrows were headed. While the hair was there, it really was rather thin. Additionally, I can remember seeing pictures of the two grandfathers who both died before I could know them and thinking that genetics may not necessarily be in my favor.
But, on I trudged through high school and on to Miami for my collegiate years, still with enough thatch to cover.
However, post-college, in my late 20s, I really began seeing a shower floor drain that was beginning to have more hair down there than I had up there. In my 30s, I even went to the dreaded comb-over for a while but realized this was certainly no more than a temporary solution to a rest-of-my-life condition.
By the time I reached my 40s, the hair game was pretty much over as just a few wisps were doing a really poor job of keeping both sun and rain off my noggin, one strangely surrounded on both sides by what I’ve always called the wings, those mysteriously thick side panels of hair still left on all of us who exhibit the classic male-pattern horseshoe bald look.
Back in my teaching days, I was in an environment where it was impossible for me to rely on what for years has been the bald man’s faux toupee, one of my trusty ball caps. Even minus the ones no longer worthy of civilized company and relegated to mowing duties, I have about 50 and will, no doubt, buy more. What Imelda Marcos was to shoes, I am to hats.
As I went about my classroom duties each day, every time I turned around to write something on the blackboard, a thought flashed in my head as to what that wide expanse of skin must have looked to my teens who almost all sported full heads of hair. Now, I say “almost all” because I had the occasional young man in class who had all the markings of winding up some day like me. While I tried to be nice to all my students, regardless of what grades they earned, I’ll admit, I was always extra nice to the young fellows who one day would be kindred spirits.
Of course, by now, I’m of the age where it doesn’t matter all that much and really have left a lot of those insecurities behind about what I don’t have up top. However, while still in my 40s and 50s, I must admit it was annoying to listen to some of my guys with no shortage of follicles throwing zingers my way, something guys do to guys all the time, yet another characteristic that separates the male tribe from the female tribe who rarely mock a “sister” for any shortcoming.
As guys, we are expected to take the jabs and look for our opportunity to jab back when given the opportunity. So, I’m used to the bald jokes. The trite one-liners do get tedious, as in when I’m bartending a shift and some wise guy says, “Hey, Grinder, turn the bar lights down. I can’t see the TV screen because of the glare off your head.”
Nonetheless, the creative jabs I can respect. One guy who I hadn’t seen in quite some time came up to me at the bar one night and asked if I’d gotten taller. Mystified since I topped out a tick under 5-foot-10 decades ago, I told him no. He shrugged his shoulders and said, “Oh, I thought for sure you had since you’ve grown through your hair.” No, that one, I hadn’t heard!
Ever since Michael Jordon showed all of us baldies a new look by shaving his head, I suppose it’s given all in the hairless club another option, one at this time I’ve eschewed. I won’t rule it out in the future, but my problem with doing that is I would have to yield to an admission of vanity. Besides, I’m really not sure it looks a whole lot better that the “winged” look.
My Lady Jane, with whom I share virtually all my secrets and insecurities, looks at my noggin this way. In her lifetime of studying human nature and human physical appearances, she’s determined when it comes to guys, hair winds up pretty far down the list of what really matters. She’s very big on symmetrical facial features and happens to think things are lining up for me just fine. Only a kind lady would put that kind of spin on that!
So the next time you see me, oh you with hairlines reminiscent of the late ’70s TV character Lucan the Wolf Boy, take the high road and tell me how nicely my eyes line up!
John Grindrod is a regular columnist for The Lima News and Our Generation’s Magazine, a freelance writer and editor and the author of two books. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.