t creeps up on you ever so quietly. The actual process began many years earlier but realization hits you as if it were something that just fell out of the sky. You’re standing in front of the bathroom mirror humming away, having just finished shaving, innocently practicing your Gillette facial poses as you check for that little patch you inevitably missed… and then it happens! Staring you in the mirror is a thin strip of skin crawling subtly across your forehead. Skin, let me add, where there should be hair. You look closer and the first image of the true shape of your head – hidden for years by your once beloved locks – reveals itself beneath the fuzz of your remaining hairs. It hits you that soon all that you will be left with to protect your precious brain is a thick layer of bone and a thin layer of skin. Slowly but surely, and very irreversibly, whether you are black-haired, brown-haired or blond, you understand that you are… most definitely… balding.
Emotions that may follow are shock, depression, denial, rebellion. Some fellow balding men try to convince themselves that women find them more attractive. Or that balding is a sign of excessive masculinity siting Yul Brynner and Sean Connery as examples of big bad bald beauty. Others try to find miracle cures whether traditional (among those I’ve heard of are cactus juice, cow saliva and camel urine!) or chemical (like Rogaine or Propetia), yet alas the debate over their side effects and actual effectiveness still continues. But, for most of us balding men, panic eventually fades as we sadly, or perhaps defiantly, accept our fate of living with a cooler head. And it is at that point that the very obvious question hits you. Why is it that only men go bald?
With me the question took on the significance of the eternally elusive philosophical quest for the truth about life. The doors of evolutionary biology sprung open and I entered a world hitherto unknown to me, and it was all thanks to my balding state (I wonder if Darwin was bald…?). In any case, I went to the library and began to read. Over the following weeks I grappled with the basics of genetic inheritence and with the very mechanics of evolution. Finally, I came to my scientific conclusions. Here they are…
- Men have evolved to have more body hair than women. According to evolutionary biologists, this is probably because thousands of years ago men had to go out and fight and hunt, while the women stayed at home to look after the children. Apparently, men had a better chance of killing a tiger or elephant if they looked more like a gorilla (??!!).
- Women have evolved to have less body hair than men. Some biologists seem to think that by not having body hair, women helped men to distinguish them from other men. I dread to think how these biologists imagine sexual relations before women lost their body hair. (Personally, I think some of these biologists need to get out of the lab more often.)
- Given that men have evolved to have more body hair and women have evolved to have less body hair, why do men and not women become bald? Biologists, ladies and gentlemen, have absolutely no clue.
As you can see, weeks of scientific investigation taught me more about evolutionary biologists than about the reasons for balding. But the balding issue continued to haunt me. Despite my disappointment with biologists, I knew there had to be some scientific exoneration for baldness. Somehow, being bald must serve a purpose. Somehow, it had to be linked to man’s relationship with woman. Could it be that it was some method man developed to influence woman in some way? Or could it even be the opposite? It was only yesterday that I finally found out the answer.
Last night, I was at my parents house when their new next door neighbour came to visit. She was a pleasant old lady who had been widowed for a number of years now. She started talking about her two sons. Apparently, the older one had always been a quiet and obedient child, while the younger one had always been naughty and rebellious. Quite by chance the conversation turned to balding. It turned out that her youngest son was balding while – surprisingly – her eldest was not.
These clues immediately got my brain working again. You see, what the lady said was also true about my elder brother and myself. Indeed the more I thought about it the more I realized that baldness and rebellion very often ran hand in hand. From Bhudda to Ghandi to Lincoln to Lenin, bald revolutionaries have been changing the course of history. Being bald was simply a sign of being a rebel. All the pieces started to fall into place. For instance, women who are attracted to balding men are not attracted because they find them more handsome than the hairier ones, it’s because a woman instinctively recognizes a bald man as a rebel, and some women are attracted to rebellious men. To be bald was to be rebellious and rebellion was a beautiful thing.
So finally that was it, I had found my explanation and was happy with it. This was the first time in my entire life that I felt positively good about being bald, and I let out a loud sigh of relief. Our sweet neighbour noticed my sigh and, clearly misunderstanding the reason for it, said,
“Oh, I don’t mean that bald men are unattractive in any way. In fact it’s quite useful.”
“How’s that?”, I asked with a silly smile, still on a high about being part of the rebellious elite.
“Well,” she continued, “ my late husband, who was bald, always used to try to flirt with other women at large social gatherings, especially when he thought I was too far away to notice. I always caught him at it though, and he always used to wonder how I found him out,” she said with a chuckle. “I never told him that his bald patch made him stand out of a crowd like a bonfire at night. Naughty men tend to be bald, did you know that? It’s lucky God made them bald, it makes it easier for us women to keep an eye on them.”
Maybe being bald wasn’t such a beautiful thing after all.