A 20-something’s journey into manhood.
I was 19-years-old the first time I realized I was going bald.
It was in the fall of 2008. A good friend of mine first pointed it out.
“Mike, I can see through your hair. You must be going bald,” he said.
I laughed it off. I was a teenager with a full head of hair. How could I be going bald? That was for men in their forties. At the time I wore it up and back in a full on pompadour. It’s how I earned the nickname “Elvis.” I reveled in my thick, wavy brown locks. It defined me.
When I got home that afternoon I rushed to the bathroom. I spent the next half hour with a hand mirror and a comb, poking and prodding my hair, pulling it in every direction. I just couldn’t see it. In hindsight, it was thinning, but at the time, I had no idea that hair could get thinner.
I knew I would probably go bald eventually, all the men on my mother’s side were. It was a running joke in my family. But, I reasoned, I had a good 20 or 30 years before I had to worry. I thought I had decades of pomade and shampoo ahead of me. I was wrong.
Within the next two years I began to notice a lot more sunlight making its way through what was once a forest of hair. As a way of coping, I began trying out different hairstyles; the Caesar cut, the side-part; I even tried a fauxhawk at the behest of one stylist. They were bandages on a gaping wound.
By 22 I was an insecure wreck. Every light breeze had me whipping out a comb, every rain shower made me run for cover. I couldn’t accept what was happening. I figured if I hid it well enough, no one would notice. My girlfriend at the time didn’t care, but that wasn’t enough. It wasn’t about what she was okay with; it was about what I was okay with.
And I wasn’t okay.
It wasn’t until I was about 24 that fate intervened. Insecurity about my hair mandated I get it cut every three or four weeks at least. One night, in a hurry, I walked into a small hair salon next to where I worked for a quick cut before my shift. Distracted and intimidated by the attractive stylist, I neglected to tell her exactly how I needed it cut, and she took a bit too much off the front. As soon as I realized the mistake, it was too late.
I spent the next day toiling about what to do. There was no fixing it, the damage had been done. After hours and hours of stressing and some encouragement from my roommate, I made the decision to cut it off. I took a deep breath, pulled out the electric clippers and buzzed my entire head.
I kept the buzzed look for a few weeks but after talking with another good friend of mine who had gone bald around the same age, I decided to take a razor and a can of shaving cream and get it over with. And yes, there were more than a couple nicks and cuts, but after the bleeding stopped I realized something that I had never realized before.
I wasn’t any less of a man without some hair on my head. It doesn’t work like that. Being attractive, being confident, being, in essence, a man has always been about more than follicles. Accepting the hand I had been dealt did more for my self-esteem than any hair product or expensive stylist ever could.
It was like bearing my soul to the world, owning all of my flaws, and letting go of them; like cutting away at all of my self-doubt and insecurity. With every clump of hair that fell into the sink I became more confident. It didn’t matter if it looked good or not, I had conquered my demon. I had won.
It was the first time I had been truly okay with the man I was becoming. To this day I have never felt as empowered, as completely in control of my masculinity, as I did in that moment. I wasn’t afraid of the future anymore.
And it turned out I looked good bald.
Lots of men do, it’s like God’s way of making up for what he has taken away. When I embraced my smooth dome, the women around me did too. It became my signature, my calling card. I was the bald man in the room, immediately distinguishable from all the other guys. It’s true, some women just can’t get past it, but they’re a minority.
Being bald actually improved my dating life. Baldness, as studies have discovered, is a sign of masculinity and aggression, two traits which evolution have deemed positive qualities for men, especially when it comes to sexual attraction. Bald men are also perceived as better leaders, more mature and more physically powerful. And the best I part is it grows back.
If I didn’t like it, all I’d have to do is stop shaving. But why bother? After a couple weeks I started to prefer my new look. Showers are shorter. It takes virtually no time at all to get ready and out the door in the morning. Nothing feels as nice as a summer breeze against the skin, or rain drops running down the scalp. And you can’t fathom how many women are excited to touch a bald head.
My current girlfriend likes to remind me how she only ever went for guys with long hair. That is until we met. Because you see, gentlemen, bald is beautiful, and it’s hard for anyone to resist a man who is comfortable in his own skin.
I was 19-years-old the first time I realized I was going bald. I was 24 the first time I realized I was glad.
◊♦◊Full head of hair or completely bald… Sign up for our daily or weekly newsletter here. Photo: this lucid moment/Flickr
Would you like to help us shatter stereotypes about men? Receive stories from The Good Men Project, delivered to your inbox daily or weekly.