I was born into a family with no brothers. I have 5 sisters actually. Most of my close friends are women. So when this summer I was blessed with the dormant gene in my family that no one has experienced in my lifetime that causes male pattern baldness, I started to, for lack of a better term, freak the fuck out. And there was really no support system since no one had been through it and I felt very alone.
And I am not talking oh man this sucks moments, I am talking moments of depression which I have never had. How could this happen to me? Am I sick? My DNA test said I wouldn’t have this! There must be something wrong with me…
I cut out multiple different food and tried multiple different changes in my life to see if perhaps I was sick. Now this was compacted by multiple deaths this summer and life changing moments in which my life spiraled. So I didn’t really know how hard it was hitting me until I got the rest of it into order. I got back into shape, I healed from the hurt, I started to manage my childhood anxieties. And yet there it was, plain as day, my hair, thinning and receding in the front of my head and thinning in a wonderful patchiness in the back.
Still I couldn’t accept it. I held onto hope that I truly was sick and there was a cure for this. I am the guy with the crazy haircuts. The hair cuts that would get my family up in arms at all the family gatherings. The haircuts that would get the mixed “You hipster” comments on Facebook.
I boltstered enough strength to ask my friends publicly on facebook how I might look with a shaved head. The answers varied obviously but someone finally said, “I too have this!” and another, and then another. Girlfriends of guys going through it too also messaged me and said my reactions were not any different than what they were seeing. This gave me comfort. I thought I was nuts for having such a strong reaction to something so simple as hair. But then again after reading up about it all, hair loss for men has actually been compared to postpartum depression for women.
Hair is societally related to signs of youth, virility, power, social status, and sexuality. So even if I am not full on bald yet, seeing the signs of the inevitable at 35 was enough to spiral me out. I searched the internet for men with shaved heads and who looked good and who didn’t. I watched video after video of men talking about their experiences with it. Even watch grown men in tears about the idea.
Some of my male friends on facebook suggested rogaine and other drugs that work. However the catch with these drugs is you have to always take them. And it isn’t just maintanance it becomes a lifestyle for what? Hair? It seemed crazy to me, that I would invest that much time and money into something like this. I am not that vein, but at the same time I decided to try it.
Enter Rogaine. Well turns out, Rogaine and Anxiety do not mix. The chemicals are basically enemies and I ended up with some pretty shit side effects. So I washed that shit out of my hair and said no, I can’t do this twice a day for the rest of my life (because when you stop your hair just goes back to where it was or wasn’t)
Finally, I had an appointment with a doctor. He took only a second to confirm what I feared, “You are showing exact signs of male pattern baldness”, “No your dad didn’t have to have it too”, “Do not take propecia you can literally lose sexual function permanently”(I trust this doctor and if he warns against that, I listen) “If you would like to talk more about it we can set aside a time to go over all the information”. I didn’t quite understand why he offered that until I looked at how hard I was taking it. Completely out of my control, subjected to my first of a few recent encounters with mortality, it was hitting me hard.
I was relieved to hear a diagnosis though, and it gave me the strength to try my hand at a shaved head. I wasn’t in peak shape yet, so shaving my head during a bit of a chubby phase was prolly not the best idea, but I did it anyway. And hey, turns out I have a nice head under the hair! However, I looked in the mirror and no longer saw me. I saw an old man. I posted a photo and one person as a joke said “Oh look it’s homer simpson” I was devastated. All i could see was the men I grew up watching on TV that played the dad. Had I lost my youth? I am not married, I do not have a girlfriend, so I can’t trust that the person I love loves me as me and won’t judge my book cover before getting to know the contents. I did end up dating one person after I shaved it and they had no issues with it at all, in fact they liked playing with it. But what caught me off guard was when they said in response to “I miss my long hair”: “I dunno, I never saw you like that”.
That hit hard, this person would never know that person. It was like my hair being shaved had killed off a person I had been for 35 years and I couldn’t share crazy hair Tristan with them. They didn’t see the extreme change, they just saw me, Tristan, 35, today. Not the juxtaposition I saw in the mirror.
Even months later, as I have accepted it more and more, and all I want to do is shave it, I can’t get myself to do it again. I recently, because I am still not “just ok” with it all, did a poll on instagram to see what people preferred, my grown hair even with thinning spots or shaved. 90% voted grown out hair, even with the thinning spot, citing youth as main reason.(even though I think that actually makes me look older) But the general jist was I look younger with hair.
And I don’t disagree. But to me shaving it off means more than a statement, or balding, it is a way to wash my head clean of this constant reminder, however small it may be, or even if it is only visible to me, that it is happening I feel the need to embrace it to move forward with it. To empower myself to not have these shitty feelings which are uniformly the same with many men who have had long hair most of their lives. The one thing I totally missed when I shaved it was getting a haircut. I loved sitting in the chair and having that clean cut.
So again I sit here, my hair semi grown back after a summer of shaved, debating if I want to have that spot on the back of my scalp show up in photos as lighter than the rest of my head and see the front of my heads hair wispy and unable to grow the same lengths as the surrounding hair everyday in the mirror, or just take off a few years of “Youth” but giving me more strength mentally. To be totally honest I mostly wear a hat when I know I need to be seen from that angle now.
Society is a piece of shit. We are not accepting of the process of aging. Shit I am not even that old yet, I just happen to get this right at this moment in my life. We are the only creatures to understand everyone gets older, yet we cling to “youth” in the strangest ways. Ways that make you uncomfortable to even have the conversation about. Only accepting age if it defies the odds or is a meme. Uncontrollable things like hair are held on pedestals.
While I have time to decide my hairs ultimate fate, I sit here uncomfortable, but still trying to make peace with it. For those of you who like me didn’t have a support system, know you aren’t crazy, your freak out is normal, and you are still awesome. And no I am not the Rock or Jason Statham 🙂 So stop with that shit. We all have to go through this our own ways. But we are all going through it more alike than we know. And I am glad to know I am not alone after the experiences so far. I just hope I can be strong enough to decide what is best for me, regardless of anyone else’s opinion. Because that is the sexiest look for a person, self confidence.
Even sharing this is tough, because I have to admit it is real.