Baldness/ Hair

For all those poor men out there who are fretting over hair transplants, rugs, and comb-overs, I’d like to reassure you about something: I think bald heads are attractive. And there are many women who think so too.

An American friend of mine who visited Thailand told me that she thought the monks, with their clean-shaven pates and their flaming saffron robes were very sexy. As someone who grew up in Thailand, this sounded blasphemous. It’s a cultural taboo for monks and women to have any physical contact. When a female hands something to a monk, she transfers it onto a scarf or platter, and then the monk picks it up from there. But then, I could see what she meant, from a purely visual effect.

Naked bald heads have a sculptural beauty, like an egg. Think of the black and white photos: Edward Weston’s peppers and shells, Imogen Cunningham’s calla lilies, those simple sculptural forms have an erotic appeal. I’m not a phrenologist, but seeing the actual shape of the head, unobscured by hair is sensual. Imagine the brain under the skull’s surface, and associate it with the person’s intelligence and personality. Between Picasso and Einstein, with whom would you pick to be stranded on a desert island?

[Of course, this is easy for me to say, since (1) I’m a woman and (2) I come from a family where the men don’t lose much hair, but everyone gets a full mop of white/gray hair early on. I’ve been plucking them out of my head since I was ten. Soon I’ll be sporting the Indira Gandhi look just like my dad’s sister did.]

On the other hand, I must say the men who have thinning spots on top of their head have quite a dilemma. There’s still hair there, yet the sparseness is such an ineffective camouflage as to be a mockery . . . it’s an inevitable matter of when will the hair become extinct? Actually, as a short person, I don’t often see those patches, unless that person is sitting down and I walk past them. (I remember at a Thanksgiving dinner, where I came out of the kitchen, and saw my cousin, head bent over as he concentrated on carving the turkey. I was shocked to see such a thin spot of hair, since he’s only a couple of years older than me. Well, on that side of the family, baldness is a hereditary trait.)

For those men who are balding cleanly, forget the comb-overs, and don’t waste your money on hair implants. Wear your baldness proudly and sexily. (Neatly-trimmed fringe of hair around the ears is OK, a ponytail is not.) Don’t try to hide it. Turn the shortcoming into an asset. Some of the most beautiful brides I’ve seen strode proudly down the aisle bearing the most prominent of bellies.

Besides, think of all the money you save on shampoo and haircuts. And it will be easier to apply sunblock to your head. People with thinning or really short hair don’t usually apply sunblock up there, and may actually be more susceptible to melanoma.

I’d be a bit envious actually of bald people not needing to get haircuts. I’m plagued with idiosyncratic hair: everyday is a bad hair day for me but looks different depending on the price of eggs in Zurich. I also hate going to the hairdresser: somehow sitting in the chair reduces me to a pathetically-insecure-about-my-image wallflower (“What must the hairdresser think of me?”); in contrast, sitting in a dentist’s chair is less stressful. Maybe it’s because there’s always a mirror in front of you and you’re stuck looking at yourself the whole time.

Part of my hairdresser-phobia is also that you tell them what you want, they nod their head and agree, and then simply give you the haircut they want to give you, which is not what you wanted, and usually wrong for you. You tell them you’re lazy and never blow dry your hair: they give you a coiffure that requires fifteen minutes of styling with two mousses and the blower every morning. Hearing problems we’re getting are not from going to rock concerts, it’s from hair care.

Why is it that in the animal kingdom, only human beings need to get hair cuts? If we don’t get haircuts, our hair grows long enough to sit on…why doesn’t that happen with orang-utans or dogs? Why is it that other animals simply shed hair before it grows too long? How did evolution select that trait for them but not for us? Did some Neanderthal hairdresser lobbyists genetically modify that trait to ensure job security for that industry? (Any wh is it that evolution hasn’t done away with armpit hair, whereas our limbs and torsos have become less hirsute?)

Early in the Rattanakosin period (i.e. 1782 through 1900’s), Thai women wore their hair cropped short, as short as men’s hair, not because of climate considerations, but in honor of the two heroines who saved Phuket. (Yes, that island now famous as a resort destination. In fact today at the main roundabout of the island’s highway, you can see the statue of the two women in commemoration.) The Burmese were invading Phuket, and the governor had died. His widow and her sister took charge with some strategic cunning: they had women dress up as soldiers and cut their hair short, to make the Thai defense forces look greater than it actually was. These women were told to sneak home at night and march back out again in the daytime, so it appeared that fresh soldiers were constantly arriving. From that we went to Asian women who dyed their hair blonde, brown, red in epidemic proportions in the late 1990’s. That was kind of weird, although I think it was less of a ‘rejection of cultural-self’ than a collective ‘I’m sick of boring black hair.’ I never got used to seeing it though.


5 thoughts on “Baldness/ Hair

  1. i saw a documentary once about baldness over the ages. apparently, people have been trying to develop cures for it for centuries. in ancient rome, for instance, balding men rubbed chicken droppings into their heads every day in order to entice (or scare) their follicles into sprouting new growth.

  2. caesar was said to wear the olive leaves on his head to hide his baldness. just what i heard: didn’t know him personally…

    I thought in some cultures male pattern baldness was a sign of maturity or something. Feudal Japan, maybe? Didn’t Roman Centurians also cut off all their hair? However, I believe that was a pragmatic tactic to prevent someone grabbing their hair in combat rather than a fashion statement.


  3. the problem with being bald is that you lose a lot of heat in the winter unless you have a cap or something. In the summer, you are likely to get a sunburn unless you cover up. One would have to invest in some headwear…

    I’ve thought of a preemptive shave to teach my male pattern baldness a lesson. But have not done it yet due to:
    1. low priority — hey, i never even comb my hair when i go out.
    2. intestinal fortitude — I’d have to field silly invasive questions from co-workers and glares from the people who work at Supercuts.

    On the other hand, I could wax my bald head and use the intense glare to painfully blind tailgaters or to signal to any searching rescue aircraft.

    hmmm, i’ve gotta careful weigh these pros and cons…

  4. Does that mean that it was the neanderthal hat industry lobbyists that GMO’d baldness into human beings?

    One of the funniest Target print ads a couple of years ago was where they had a bald guy having his head buffed by a buffer tool, so that it was very shiny.

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