Monday, 26 September 2011

Snacks Between Meals: Hirsute Suits Me

One winter day, about three years ago, I looked in the mirror and thought, “You’re short, fat, and homely.  But, at least you still have your hair.  Heh, wouldn’t going bald just complete the picture.”

Oh damn.

The past three years have been very hard on my hair, which of course means they have been very hard on me.  I have always been “small for my age” (I still find myself considering the purchase of clothes that are too big for me, hoping that I might “grow into them”), and chiseled is a word that doesn’t describe any part of my body or face.  But I’ve always had two features I could carry with pride: my eyes (they don’t see perfectly but, naturally blue and framed by long lashes, they look great) and my hair.

My dad has a full head of hair; it’s blazingly white like the Glad garbage man, but it’s still all there.  So after more than thirty years of complete cranial coverage, I figured the follicle fairy wasn’t going to be visiting me anytime soon to fly off with fistfuls of fur in tow.  As a bonus, my mane was also maintaining most of its luscious chestnut color, a real achievement compared to how grey my brothers had been getting.  And soft!  My natural wave required no sticky or stiffening styling products, so it felt like a wig made out of kittens.  If I had grown it long and stood in a wind tunnel, even Fabio himself would have wept with jealousy.

But the first sign that something was seriously wrong (the canary in the coal mine as it were) was when I was walking down the hall at my company’s head office and a vice president walking a few steps behind me suddenly commented,

“Did you know you’re losing your hair back there?” 

I was dumbstruck, both because I didn’t want to believe him and because saying stuff like that is just not something one guy says to another.  It’s very uncool, like choosing to use a urinal right next to another man when there is a whole row of vacant ones.  Un. Cool.

Naturally, I responded by filling his office full of shampoo while he was away on a business trip, but that’s a story for another day.

I bring all of this up now because I occasionally get lulled into believing it isn’t so bad.  The frontal hairline hasn’t receded much, so unless I set the bathroom mirrors at the proper angles or step into one of those elevators with mirrored walls on three sides, I never see the damage.  Even when I get my hair cut, when the time comes for the hairdresser to hold up a mirror to show me how she trimmed the back of my head, I deliberately (this is so sad) unfocus my eyes so I can only see a dark brown blur.  (She could have shaved a swastika back there, and I wouldn't least until a large member of a visible minority "informed" me later).  What also helps my denial are friends who are shorter than me.  I know, they are rarely found outside of cookie bakeries built into trees, but I do know some smaller people.  For example, we went to Karen and Heery’s place this weekend for dinner and somehow the topic of “the signs of aging” came up. I mentioned my emerging scalp.  Karen just rolled her eyes.

“What are you talking about?  Your hair is fine.”

“Really?  Watch this.”  I bowed my head.

Gasp!  Sweet mother of....!”

Karen literally jumped out of her chair, and that’s quite an achievement in itself, since she wears an electric device to help her MS-affected leg move, and jumping usually means turning the dial all the way up.  Really, I think she was more shocked than that guy from the IRA was when Forrest Whitaker's girlfriend unveiled “her” cannelloni.  (Even worse, this isn't the first time I've elicited this response.  People are repelled and fascinated at the same time.)

The frustrating part is I know I can grow hair; the rest of my body excels at it.  I have eyebrows that (unchecked) start to climb my forehead like vines, ears that are increasingly effective at keeping out bees (who hasn’t been worried about bees flying into his ears...right?  Right?), and the once thin line of hair that starts at my chest and heads downwards (affectionately known as the “Pathway to Paradise”) has expanded from a simple pathway to a 16-lane freeway (sadly without all the traffic that metaphor implies).  Have you heard that old joke about why Italians wear gold chains? (Answer: so they know where to stop shaving.) It isn’t so funny to me anymore.

Sadly, there is really nothing I can do about any of this besides avoiding swimsuits and tall people.  Tall people, from my perspective at least, are everywhere, and I enjoy waterskiing too much to spend all year covered up.

I guess it’s just time to pull on a hat and start shopping for gold chains.


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