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I started losing my hair when I was 22 years old and I did everything I could to hide it. I tried cutting it short, thickening shampoo, conditioner, spray, hats, you name it. I remember my barber making a comment about it one day, too, and I didn’t know what to think. How could I be losing my hair at 22? I guess I knew it was coming, though; men on both sides of my family had lost their hair at some point, so who was I kidding. It was happening whether I wanted it to or not.
Anyway, the point here is that it’s something that a good chunk of men I know have had to go through. Others are going through it right now. It’s easy for folks, especially with all the ads on TV for things like special shampoo and foam, to feel somehow inadequate or less than they used to be. So, I thought it would be helpful to talk about how I worked my way through it and the lessons I learned along the way.
It began with some reflection. Men who I admired, including family friends, family members, and Patrick Stewart, had also lost their hair at some point. Even so, they were happy, successful, and had embraced it as one of their best features. In fact, one family friend would joke about waxing his head and how it made him a better skier and swimmer. Another joked about how it cut his prep time in the morning down to about 20 minutes. If they could have a positive attitude about it, there was no reason I couldn’t do the same.
It also involved remembering what someone had told me years before – men who lose their hair look amazing without it. This one was tough. I’d always had hair, so I had no idea if I would look any good without it. Here, I remember looking at old photographs of friends and family members from back when they had hair and comparing them to what they looked like now without it. By and large, not only had losing their hair help highlight their eyes and smiles, but they looked much more comfortable in their own skin. Maybe the same thing would happen to me.
Finally, I decided that even though I couldn’t stop it, I could decide how I was going to respond to it. For example, when someone would make a comment about it, and even rub the balding patch above my forehead, instead of getting defensive and letting it ruin my day, I could turn it around and make a joke about it. This is where having men in the family who’d also lost their hair came in handy; I could always say something about how it was a family tradition or that not losing my hair would make me stick out like a sore thumb at family reunions. Among friends, I could say things like how it was a side effect of being awesome or that there was no room left for hair because my brain was getting so big. Whatever the situation was, I made it work.
So, having thought through all of this, I decided to go ahead and embrace the inevitable. One Saturday morning while Hillary was out of the house, I took some shaving cream and a razor and just shaved it all off. And it felt great. No more hats, no more wondering what I’d look like, and no more people rubbing the balding patch above my forehead. It was mine. I was in control. I only wish I’d done it sooner.