Sitting in high school biology, listening to the teacher drone on about
genetics, I snapped to attention when she used male pattern baldness as an
example of a dominant trait. My heart started pounding with fear - with bald
men on both sides of my mother's family as far as the eye could see, I was
doomed to have a chrome dome.
I remained anguished about the prospect of being bald for the next 20 years
as my hairline retreated and my hair steadily thinned. Bald men seemed
disfigured to me. I felt pity for them, so I tried to disguise my own condition
by keeping my own hair clean and fluffed with a blow dryer. That hardly
qualified as a treatment for baldness, but no other options seemed viable. I
recoiled from the cost and the upkeep of a hairpiece. Minoxidil didn't seem to
work very well. Hair plugs looked awful - one man I met looked as if he had
been burned several times on the top of his head with a cigarette and each spot
had sprouted a tuft of hair.
Mark Liszt, a food broker from Los Angeles, has had operations on both knees and a toe. A doctor has suggested a total replacement of his right knee, but he’s afraid it will affect his ability to play ball. At 59, Liszt can’t stop. On Tuesdays and Fridays, he plays basketball with guys who are sometimes half his age. On Saturday, he hobbles around all day with serious knee pain. Friends and family have referred him to doctors, but he’s stayed away. “I don’t want to be told what a fool I am,” he says...
Like a man told he has a terminal illness, I worked my way through denial,
anger, negotiation, and depression. Finally, I reached resignation - I would
join the ranks of bald men - but I was far from resigned to the prospect.
Then, when I was in my mid-30s, I suddenly stopped caring about being bald.
I felt as though someone had flipped a switch inside of me that turned off the
shame I felt about losing my hair, and I never worried about it again.
But why do bald men feel shame? And how did I overcome the shame,
embarrassment, and dread that baldness once inspired in me? And even more
importantly, how can other men achieve the same blissful indifference to their
own hair loss?
Going Bald: Understanding the symbolism of hair
As advertisements, Hollywood, and the behavior of countless men demonstrate,
hair represents strength, power, and virility. Freudians used to argue that a
man's hair symbolized his penis, so losing one's hair amounted to symbolic