Published: The Good Men Project (September 22, 2015)
Although my hairline started receding during my mid-20s, it didn’t become especially noticeable until about a year ago. Before then, people still felt comfortable joking that my increasingly prominent widow’s peak would someday turn me into a proverbial chrome dome. It wasn’t until the humor stopped and the sympathy commenced that I realized I had an actual problem on my hands.
Before I made the decision to go full bald, however, I went through a step-by-step reasoning process that I feel deserves to be shared here. It included the following:
1. Be certain that your hair isn’t coming back.
Since I’ve always found hair plugs, transplants, toupees, and comb-overs to be laughably unconvincing (looking at you, Donald Trump), I decided early on that unless my hair could somehow grow back, I wasn’t going to bother concealing my baldness. Unfortunately, there are only two reliable drugs available for treating hair loss – Rogaine and Propecia – and each one comes with serious downsides. Rogaine, though effective in treating baldness that originates from the crown, does not restore receding hairlines (it can make the hair at the front of your head thicker but doesn’t work on the “peaks” of a widow’s peak). Propecia, though more successful in restoring hairline loss than Rogaine, also has a disturbing history of occasionally causing permanent sexual dysfunction among its users. Needless to say, if you thought there was no fate worse than going bald, this realization should help put things in perspective.
2. Become familiar with your own head.
Because everyone’s head is shaped differently, it is important to consider how your own cranium will effect your overall appearance after it has been defoliated. Do you have unusual bumps or birthmarks on the top of your scalp (looking at you, Mikhail Gorbachev)? What about rolls of fat on the back of your neck? Do you have an oval face or a round one?
I’ve recently started joking that I decided to shave my head on Yom Kippur because God had already made it clear that he wanted my hair, so I chose my religion’s most sacred holiday to let him know that he wouldn’t have the pleasure.
Obviously there is no foolproof way of knowing that going full bald will be flattering for you, but these questions definitely need to be evaluated before making that choice. After you have done that…
3. Understand that you are making a major lifestyle choice.
I’ve recently started joking that I decided to shave my head on Yom Kippur because God had already made it clear that he wanted my hair, so I chose my religion’s most sacred holiday to let him know that he wouldn’t have the pleasure. This is all well and good from the standpoint of jocularity, but in the end being bald will transform how people view you. This can be both a good thing and a bad one: Already I have heard that shaving my head has made me look older, meaner, and more intimidating. At the same time I’ve also heard people say that I look sleek and more energetic (perhaps a wilting hairline conveys exhaustion more so than a shiny scalp). While the feedback will no doubt for each individual based on his own appearance and social circle, one thing is certain: People will notice and, for at least a while, will offer commentary. It’s best to be ready for it.
4. Make sure you take the first step yourself.
My close friend Adam was kind enough to help me shave my own head, but before he got around to the tricky sections in the back, he handed me the razor and uttered a very sage observation:
“I can’t cut first. It has to be you.”
Indeed it does. No matter how useful the input of your loved ones may be in helping you reach a decision to go full bald (and mine have been overwhelmingly supportive), the ultimate choice is yours and yours alone. In the end, even a symbolic gesture – like making that first swipe with the electric razor – rests on your shoulders, and as such should always be undertaken by you.
That said, I don’t want to end this article on such a serious note, so I’ll leave you with an observation from one of Hollywood’s most famous bald actors, Telly Salavas:
“We’re all born bald, baby.”
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