So, there's Graham, aged seventeen, and, yup, that's what twenty years can do to a guy. I wouldn't want to go back — that is a yellow tie I'm wearing, after all — but I sometimes miss those heady days. I say this in spite of the fact that, being quite bald now, I can claim to know something that those who have hair can only suspect: that being bald saves a lot of time and money. In my teens, my hair was far more important to me than my brain; I indulged the former at the expense of the latter. Hours that might have been spent in the cultivation of my intellect — with who knows what long-term benefits — were reallocated to hair-care related concerns, with no long-term benefits whatsoever. By my mid-twenties, when I began to lose my hair in earnest, I developed a habit of running my fingers through it, stroking it, as one would a beloved old pet on its last legs. Now all that remains is a fuzz one-eighth of an inch deep, not unlike three day's accumulation of stubble. In general, I don't shave on weekends and by Monday morning my face and head take on a rather symmetrical appearance — imagine a dirty ostrich egg and you've got the picture.
Probably the most unfortunate thing about baldness is that one becomes the object of all manner of unimaginative and unfunny jibes. "I'd take a group photo, but the flash will bounce off Graham's head! Ha! Ha! Ha!" (Whew - never heard that one before.) "Who is your barber, Graham? Sweeney Todd?" (Hoo-boy. Stop. Please. You're killing me.) I wouldn't mind so much if somebody came up with something new, an authentic baldness zinger, but the bald are themselves the ones most prepared to mock their own condition. We actually have a secret stash of bald jokes — really good ones — but we don't share them with outsiders.
I did, for a time, seek out cures, or at least methods of arresting the loss. The phrase "hair loss" brings up 17,300,000 hits on Google, compared to, say, 13,600,000 for "Sarah Palin" as of this writing (curiously, the Boolean search "Sarah Palin" AND "hair loss" brings up 13,400 hits, as in: "When McCain selected Sarah Palin as his running mate, my hair loss became the least of my worries"); glancing down the list, I find that most of the links are related to various miracle cures — and in some cases rather grisly forms of surgery — that promise to restore hair to one's head. But three things have persuaded me of the nonsense of any effort to retard or roll back my baldness. The first is the recognition that the minor social stigma attached to baldness is, like almost all prejudices, the fault of the person holding it; second, while I'm no advocate of slovenliness in personal appearance — I've read too many accounts of POWs who fell apart both physically and emotionally once they stopped caring about their appearance to do that — I realize that my baldness is the consequence of the unfolding of a harmless genetic program that was imprinted in my DNA at the moment of my conception. In short, to fight this would be to acknowledge that there's something wrong with me, which, in this one instance, at least, there is not. And the third and most salient reason is the fact that my late mother's baldness was the consequence of a battle with cancer and three or four courses of chemotherapy. She wore her bald head like a badge of honour and defiance, and since then my own baldness has seemed a piffling concern by comparison.
Still, I admit to flashes of irritation now and again. Not long ago, visiting the ROM, I noticed that their mummy still retained a considerable mane, some thousands of years after his departure, and for a moment I caught myself thinking, "how fair is that?" But, then, I considered this fellow creature, denied, in all probability, the afterlife he anticipated, dug up and stuck, without his consent, under glass, in a far-off region of the world, to be gawked at by museum patrons and their sticky-fingered children. I decided to allow him his hair without complaint. "Time himself is bald and therefore to the world's end will have bald followers," Shakespeare wrote in The Comedy of Errors. Well, not always. And maybe Time hasn’t heard of the Hair Club for Men, either.