The Bald Truth


Journalist Pete Paphides on thinning with dignity

When the moment of realisation came, the biggest surprise was that it didn’t bother me as much as I thought it might. It happened in the changing room of the Harringay branch of Next. As my daughter was trying on a sweater, I caught sight of my bald patch in the angled mirror. “Bloody hell!” I exclaimed. Yes, it had felt a little thin up there, but I didn’t realise how thin.

Even at the age of 10, my daughter knew what you’re supposed to do in these situations. “It’s not that bad, Daddy,” she said brightly. But oddly, I felt fine. Actually, I felt more than fine. I realised that no-one had told me because they didn’t want to hurt my feelings. How lovely is that? For my next haircut, I thought I’d alleviate any further need for anyone to tread on eggshells. “I know about the bald patch,” I told my hairdresser, “and it’s fine”. “What do you want to do?” she said. Well, in some ways, it was easier to tell her what I didn’t want to do. I didn’t want to give money to a hair growth industry that, according to the Washington Post, extracts $3.5 billion a year from Americans alone. The idea of a hair transplant or a weave was never in the running. Unless you possess Wayne Rooney’s simplicity of outlook (Look everyone! New hair turn sad Wayne into happy Wayne!), the idea of doing the school run or meeting some mates in the pub with a freshly furnished pate sounds mortifying. Gah! The awkwardness! The man in the corner shop with whom you’re on nodding terms staring quizzically at the top of your head! You may as well stick a flashing neon sign on it saying, “THIS WAS AN ISSUE FOR ME.” Why put anyone through that?

Of course, there’s always the option of shaving it all off – but that seems a little too much like the tonsorial equivalent of those husbands who douse the family home in paraffin and set fire to it rather than share custody with their ex-wives. I also can’t help feeling that some people who take to the clippers after realising they were losing their hair, feel that this is in some way superior to the much-maligned combover. But inasmuch as both are acts of hairline concealment, don’t they amount to different manifestations of the same impulse? In fact, I feel oddly defensive of the dad at my kids’ school who has stoically refused to change his parting, in spite of the fact that there’s hardly any hair left to part (although I think this might in part be an emotional response triggered by his resemblance to Van Morrison on the the cover of his 1986 masterpiece No Guru No Method No Teacher).

In the end, I told my hairdresser to cut it shorter, lest (a) I look like a man in conscious denial of what my genes always had planned for me; or (b) encroach on the look that the late Terry Nutkins spent several years making his and his alone. So now there is hair where there is supposed to be hair and baldness where fate decreed that there would be baldness. I look like what I am. A 43-year-old dad with a sensible car and a cardigan for most occasions. What, ultimately, has this most personal of journeys taught me? In the winter, the warmth of my tonsure feels pleasing to the touch of my cold fingers. Um, that’s about it.

Image credit: lindaaaslund

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