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Bald and bold

The head of a man of different ages in profile. Child and adult face side view. Childhood, youth and old age. Vector flat illustration  

At a certain age, many men and a few women begin to look themselves in the mirror the way the world looked at Afghanistan after the Taliban took over — with mounting anxiety about what is going to happen next. And then one day, solicitous scrutiny confirms our worst fears — we are going bald. It’s the kind of rude self-realisation that takes time to sink in. While there are other ways such as creaky joints, crinkly skin and shortness of breath by which ageing sends its calling card, none of them seems as grievous as losing your locks.

Since male pattern baldness is so common as to be taken as almost inevitable, you wonder what the fuss is all about. But then, there is always the wistful thought of what might have been. Only the other day, or so it seems, we had a luxuriant top mop, just one swish of the comb away from being mistaken for Ayushmann Khurrana. Also, let’s be honest, lurking inside even the most modest of men is the wellspring of vanity. Rather than resign ourselves to the pate worse than death, we resort to desperate camouflage. We strategically rearrange strands, dive head-first into essential oils and hair restorers or take to wearing a hat. None of this really works for long, and one is reminded of Charlie Chaplin saying that a man caught in an embarrassing situation is funny… but things get uproarious when he tries to pretend that everything is normal.

Much better than pretence is to follow the old maxim — “If you can’t beat them, join them.” Many men get bold even as they are getting bald, and carry out a pre-emptive strike. They shave their scalps before nature can get into the act. Apart from the pleasure of outsmarting ageing, the bald look is considered quite attractive ever since Yul Brynner set the trend. But if your family and friends can’t stand you looking like The Rock, you need to try loftier methods or regaining your peace of mind.

What cannot be cured can be comforted. First of all, it’s the early days which will seem the longest. You will think the whole world has banded together to stare at the space above your ears. You may even become the target of catcalls, featuring such unflattering and unforgettable terms as “tube-light”. But you just need to get acclimatised. If time can heal broken hearts, what’s a bald pate!

When you look at the bright side (no pun intended), you realise that losing hair helps you gain some valuable life lessons. Simply put, what you lose on the outside, you gain on the inside, as you realise that accepting yourself as the person you are is the first step to inner calm. Your lack of hair can be a silent asset when you want to convey the wisdom born of experience. Our society may be changing but it hasn’t yet changed so much that our people have stopped valuing seniority.

Generally, when you get thin at the top, you simultaneously go thick in the middle. Now a ballooning waistline more than an ebbing hairline is actually something you need to get serious about. A paunch announces to the world that its owner lives not wisely but too well. But balding holds no such guilt associations.

Building character

There is also evidence to suggest that hair loss improves character. Those who have spent their youth preening themselves in front of a mirror, become conscious of the impermanence of it all. As they say — “hair today, gone tomorrow”.”

Even if none of these pearls of wisdom bring you solace, don’t get upset. And whatever you do, don’t tear your hair. Alas, that’s one response you will not be able to afford anymore.

jairam.menon@gmail.com


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Printable version | Oct 16, 2021 12:40:09 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/open-page/bald-and-bold/article36531682.ece

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