Big Hairy Deal

It isn't this bad (yet)


There are some common sensations one doesn't forget because of the uncommon circumstances that surround them. These includes the first feeling of friction on your heel when your leg has been in a leg cast for two months, the taste of food when you have gone without for two days, the eventual cessation of toothache pain and the startling feeling of the first raindrop which hits your bald spot without emotion or regard to the internal downstream issues (pun intended) which it causes.

A drop of rain, formed through some standard scientific process, falls from the sky surrounded by millions of similar drops. The distance, unknown by most, is significant and as the drop continues downward, it gains speed thanks to its cruel friend, gravity. Being small and pushed by the wind, the drop drifts to its left and drifts to its right but stays moderately close to a straight line from the forming cloud. As it continues to speed up incrementally, it is exactly 75 inches from the Earth's surface when it comes into contact with the rather unobstructed crown of one's head. What made this raindrop different from all the others which fell on its target over the decades, was its ability to dodge hair follicles and land with a noticeable splat on the head. However, it wasn't because the drop had some innate ability to avoid obstacles but rather the cruel combination of rain and general sparseness of the hair which combines for this lesson in personal physics. When it occurs, one would wish to pull some theory off the top of my, I mean one's, head which references the Fibonacci series or some law of large numbers that shows why this situation is a cruel reality but the combination of novelty, gravity and resigned circumstances made one only feel slightly naked and a bit numb.

In my case, the splats are more frequent and the surprise of the drops has reduced over time but the first one in each storm which hits me still gets my attention. I have come to learn and respect the raindrop's effective point of attack but staying underneath hats and awnings can only reduce both the frequency and severity of the drops but not the cruel reality of one's lack of hair. A hat has come to mean many things to our society and with the exception of firefighters, forest rangers and miners, those things are mainly associated with fashion. Whether a fedora or the ubiquitous backwards baseball cap, my purpose of sporting a hat has evolved from personal advertising space for my ball club into providing me with protection from the elements. As I move into the summer months, my primary interest in wearing a professional baseball cap has also shifted from giving an illusion of my athletic prowess and moved into avoiding the next embarrassing eventuality: a sunburned bald spot but which quickly tires and brings me back to a bald pate shining in the sun. The sad truth is that most of my life; the top of my head was protected by a series of goofy hairstyles, now it stands increasingly naked against a wide variety of indignities that continue to remind me of the power of Mother Nature. As you get older, you discover many new ways to embarrass yourself which doesn't mean you need to embrace every one of them for the sake of enlightenment.

The aforementioned enlightenment notwithstanding, the drop of rain explodes on the top of my head and my head's surface starts to register the water's temperature, the speed and magnitude of the droplet. What makes the action unique is that part of my body has never been, until very recently, called out that information before. My somewhat normal carpet of hair kept that responsibility from the skin's surface for many years and now, with its departure, has opened up that area for thousands of potential bytes of information. The sensation of reddening skin from possible sunburn will soon join my sophisticated rain gauge as the newest feelings cascading across the top of my head. Until recently, protective hair strands surrounded that area and life was good; no need for vigilant nerve endings up there. Things came and went and no matter what physical collision I endured, I never got a report back from the crown. There was nothing to say and now it can't stop collecting all types of meteorological information. The new weather systems touted by all the media outlets are not that far ahead of my head and the irony refuses to get lost on that topic.

If a dollop of tree sap fell downward and hit me square on the head, I could likely estimate whether or not it was congealed or gelatinous, species and the rough distance from where it left the tree by using an estimate of general temperature. I can also unfairly (and inversely) compare this to someone who loses a sense in which the remaining senses develop enhanced levels of sensation. In this case, I add additional insight to the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis by teaching a long-dormant area of my body to assess and define new dimensions of everyday output which, up until now, were simply defined as rain or sun. Now, I can add additional facets of air and surface temperature, droplet size, cloud cover, barometric pressure, heat index and eventually, wind chill all being monitored by my ever-expanding cranial sensor. I can assess almost all-measurable qualities of the outburst and I am almost ready to start making some ninety-day forecasts of my own. However, my abilities as a weather researcher are not only limited, they attract only amazingly narrow audience of interested women.

The impending happiness of the solution is an alluring one. Several years ago, I was across the table from an individual who took science head on, literally. As I talked to him, I saw a row of hair seedlings about one and a half inches down from his hairline, spanning his entire forehead. These stout little seedlings were rooted fairly well but painfully lonely. Like depleted border guards, the row ran across the heads surface and was one of the most fascinating sights I had ever seen. The crude simplicity implied a Dr. Frankenstein (sincerely apologies to Mary Shelley) attempt at establishing a hair outpost in order to build a base camp for further assaults on his summit. This gentleman was oblivious to the sight and continued to make his points about something not hair related. He knew was he was getting into when he signed up for these treatments; complete and total public humiliation and fascination. However, he was there to shill his software, not convert me to a lifetime of wearing toupees. However, everytime he opened his mouth, I had a hard time concentrating:

"So, you see," said the man, "If you choose our software package, you will not only integrate current and existing solutions, you will be able to remain flexible in the future."

All my mind is registering is "Look at his hair seedlings. They look like little corn rows of hair. A valiant group of hard-working sprouts fighting against the inevitable."

"And this package will scale with all your existing applications."

"Look at his hair seedlings. They look like little corn rows of hair."

"And this package will interface seamlessly with all your existing applications, interfaces and API's which blah, blah, blah."

"Look at his hair seedlings. They look like little corn rows of hair."

"And this package will represent best practices and of course, blah, blah, blah."

"Look at his hair seedlings. They look like little corn rows of hair."

Needless to say, no order was consummated due to my fixations. My curiosity continued as I wondered what force was so powerful to force someone into legitimate public display of cutting-edge science with an attempt at recapturing his youth. Once recaptured, I hoped that this individual would determine all his agony worth the effort and he would walk around blissfully happy because if anyone deserved it, it had to be him. I never saw him again but I did assume that after that row of seedlings took sprout, his wealthy doctors placed another row and yet another row into his skull and it would all mesh into one thick and impenetrable forest of hair. In fact, I hope that parallels to Eddie Munster would be used when describing him to his friends and peers. I wanted him to be seen by his friends and loved ones as a growing ecosystem of hair with his enemies growing green with hairy envy. I didn't want to patronize him; I just wanted him happy.

However, when one has some extra time on one's hand, you begin to generate additional questions; where the strips came from? How expensive was it?, How painful was it?, What series of events led him to this life of restorative head maintenance. The answers to these questions, I could only imagine with ignorance and disbelief? Did the sprouts come from the lush back head area that most balding men seem to still have? Did it hurt to the point of crying? Did it come from some disgusting non-head area that seems to sprout hair as an afterthought? I decided to stop wondering and just gave polite pity because if I continued with this slippery slope, I would be changing emotions from the curious to the ghoulishly fascinated. Not a place I wanted to go, with or without a medical degree in cranial reforestation.

If the pain of the last example was too much, the growing opportunity to purchase hair enhancement products over the counter is growing (pun intended) which implies that I am only television-owning male that is experiencing and/or suffering from this malady. Just as prophylactics are sold on the air, now the do-it-yourselfer can purchase hair loss retardation potions just by slowing down by the pharmacies or signing for a few overnight express packages. Tested by a friend of mine, the Rogaine-type products do work to a certain extent but at a cost of freedom and confidence. However, the first cost is the sensation of a low-grade heart attack. The rogaine revs up one's pulse and opens up all the veins and arteries and forces circulation through the whole body under the assumption that blood flow will be restarted in the hairline.

My friend said, "I started applying the stuff and my heart really started to beat."

I, still curious, asked, "How did it beat differently? Was it faster, harder or in an irregular fashion?"

"Yes to all of the above," said my friend. "It was as if Desi Arenz and his band were working overtime inside my chest cavity."

"That sounds healthy." I said but after a proper pause, I asked, "Did you grow short of breath?"

"Yes," said my friend.

I then asked, "Did you get the sweats, the shakes or the yips?"

"Yes, yes and I don't think so," said my friend.

Then my friend went on to describe the child-like wonder that accompanies any potion application. He sprayed on the clear lotion, rubbing it in genteelly and then going to bed. The first morning, he jumped up and quickly looked in his mirror, looking for growth of any sort. As stated before, a watched pot never boils and a seeded head isn't far behind. My friend dutifully complied with the instructions by applying the exact amount of grow juice to his crest of head and constantly reminded himself not to exceed the amount instructed to be applied. When nothing happened, he consciously disregarded the rules about if one is good, two must be better. He kept spraying and rubbing, spraying and rubbing and then one day, two months later, fine little hairs began to be seen by the naked eye. The next month, rapture and perseverance walked hand in hand and his little bald spot was becoming blissfully out of focus.

My friend continued on this track for several months more but the fear of a heart attack and the pricey nature of the solution grew with time. So, as most people know, magic potions work only as long as you apply them and this potion was no different. Within a few weeks, all the hair that magically appeared via the hair tonic disappeared during the might. His fine crop of baby hair withdrew to places unknown, but on the bright side, his heart rate returned to normal levels and he could sleep at night. The cruel proximity of his personal ecstasy and eventual agony compounded his biggest lesson learned: if you stop squirting on the stuff, all your crops are wiped out. Literally, hair today, gone tomorrow.

The research dollars that are aimed towards hair augmentation versus the eradication of life-threatening diseases are not lost on me. The hair tonics of today had to have undergone as much FDA scrutiny as all the other drugs headed to the marketplace. I hope there wasn't a big batch of bald lab rats that were used to prove the effectiveness of the new hair lotions. But I fear that somewhere resides rats in various levels of hair loss that are taking up both research time and lab space just for the vanity of humans. In a world that allows for scientific leaps forward, we have people spending time developing no-fat butter and longer lasting hair colors at the expense of research on diseases that needed to be eradicated decades earlier. That agony and ecstasy is a bit out of place as well but it is trumped by the painful irony of priority setting. Although it was less painful and less attention-getting as compared to the guy with the hair sprouts, I still had to give my friend points for taking a stand about his predicament. Although he ended up was exactly the same place he began, but with less hair and hope then when he started, I salute him and his medicinally smelling head. You are a hair warrior: militis capillus.

There are other, less technical alternatives remaining in the search for follicled happiness, which men with fewer guts and lesser money have taken over the centuries. This most famous path of least resistance is the timeless comb-over. This tactic, reserved for the truly foolish, implies that the entire world must be so collectively stupid to be misdirected by the camouflaged strategy of this slight of head. The only successful way to utilize the workaround is hoping that no one is paying attention. Not exactly an aggressive strategy and it flies in the face of trying to get the opposite sex not to pay attention. In the mind of the comb-over expert, to hope no one notices them is a strategy only gets points in the bizarro world.

I mostly notice the comb-over on blustery days, as these crafty men have at least one hand on their head as they try to get from here to there. Inside their suit jacket or their briefcase (or both), is an inventory of hair products and at least one large, professional hairbrush. Once inside from the elements, these comb-over pros head straight to the bathroom for a quick check and twirl. They rebuild their pate, maybe add a spray of some augmenting aerosol and walk out to greet the hopefully, calm day. The comb-over can come from over the top or from the side and most attempts are impressive in their planning. One does not begin the comb over from the start; they begin by fully utilizing the top hair as long as they can before it dissipates. The comb-over is a destination, not an initial plan, as I believe all men begin with good intentions and end up on the side. Hank Thoreau said that "the mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation. What is called resignation is confirmed desperation" and in this case, and this case, he really called this one. By the way, I hear Hank, that lucky bastard, had a full head of hair so just remember that when you are pointing fingers.

The comb-over is a tribute to the truly resourceful yet desperate individual; armed with several, extremely long strands of hair, they layer, level, and build a patina of hair-colored lines with some hope of reweaving history. Undaunted by the sheer lack of sense, the legions of comb-over aficionados specialize in the art form of misdirection. Unfortunately for them, the novelty of the comb-over was short-lived and most sensible men did one of two things: shave off the stragglers or headed to the rug shop.

The toupee represents the middle ground by introducing a new material to the equation. Up until now, the subject had to grow some more of his own hair or over tax his remaining resources to a breaking point but the toupee gives us another option: artificial deception. The first lesson learned is that there are two kinds of toupees: the horrible hair hats which appear to be sleeping on top of some poor slob's head and the professional one that isn't noticed. The two types imply that these categories are equal but nothing can be further from the truth. For every ten thousand poor toupees, there are two, maybe one which can fool the public. These toupees are so good that no one knows and these examples are automatically counted as real hair. So, toupees take an unfair shot due to the vast majority of the bad rugs we can see and in fact, further analysis shows there is really only one kind of toupee, bad ones. The good ones, which are astronomically expensive, place the wearers firmly back into the world of the flaxen and they are free to mock the visible toupees because they had paid for the privilege. In fact, we can allow those people to leave the conversation forever but they bought themselves out of the discussion. They can go now but first, I will tell you why: the good ones are freakishly expensive and are truly the possessions of the ultra rich. They have barbers on call and are constantly trimming and dying their hair to match the tone and texture perfectly. The cost of the initial rugs and annual maintenance runs into the tens of thousands and these guys are just as desperate as the comb-overs but they have two things in their favor: tons of money and the reassurance that women love rich guys, no matter the circumstances. Eventually the rug comes off for mainteance but they are in a win-win situation and they don't seem to complain much. Finally, I hear that the pros avoid the Rogaine just because they aren't for heart complications and they avoid the hair sprouts because they don't believe in pain. I didn't say they weren't sensible but other than the double negative, they are above most earthly laws anyway.

One group remains. A minority of men seemingly to stand somewhat in middle with significant amounts of self-esteem and a desire to keep embrace logic. When faced with the options of chemicals, sleight of hand, expensive deception and astronomical pain, the man in the middle decides to live with the way things are. My options are wonderfully limited: keep it clean, keep it cut and focus my energies on something of substance. Those are not the words of a downtrodden sycophant but that of a man that looks at life for more enlightenment than the stuff that grows off the top of my head. My life has to continue to be supplemented by travel, learning, challenge and enlightenment and if I spend a few extra hours a month at the mirror or at the toupee guy, that is one less book that I have read or one less road I didn't get to travel.

As my bald spot continues to become more obvious, I am resolute in my lack of concern and I will monitor the slow but steady retreat off the front of my head. Once it gets especially sparse, I will ask the first friend I see for some advice: should I shave it all off or should I keep whatever is there in some noble manner? Hopefully, the friend I pick will give me a straight answer based on common sense and I can go on with my life. My head may not be a lush main of hair but it is all I have and when I look back at the peak of my hairline, let's say 1975, time hasn't been too kind to me on that issue anyway. I may amuse you but I will never insult your intelligence by trying to pulling anything over anyone, especially someone else's hair or another stupid hat.

I keep my hair clean and comb what is there and that is about it. Let it ride.

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