It started at age 27. I didn’t pull them out. I wasn’t on steroids. I wasn’t pregnant. I didn’t use peroxide. There was nothing wrong with my thyroid gland. I ate high-quality protein and exercised regularly. Yet my hairline was receding at a rate of about a half a scalp per decade.
I tried to see the situation as a statistical probability, or a hereditary gift, but the bald doppelganger that hid behind my mirror wouldn’t let me trivialize. He wanted to replace me.
There is no single accepted method for whacking the doppelganger, but over two decades I’ve identified seven different steps of trying to make baldness bearable. Understanding the nature of these steps beforehand helps you reduce the pain factor.
1) Alpha-Male Baldness
In this belief system, I belong to a rare lineage of Homo Sapiens who have been gifted with an inordinate amount of male sex hormones. A billennia of natural selection has made us useless for any other activity than warring, really. We are primeval hunks, disguised as citizens. In exchange for that privilege, we lose our hair.
It’s a soothing concept, but it’s not logical. Seventy percent of guys end up having male pattern baldness at some stage, which would equate to an ecologically unfeasible number of ninjas. But this doesn’t matter, because Stage 1 coping mechanism has nothing to do with logic.
Over the following decade I watched my hair vanish, along with my jingoism. I never bothered to check whether the androgens I originally discovered were testosterones or estrogens, but the signs were pointing to the latter.
2) Superiority Baldness
It starts with an androgynous thought—and style shift. Weapons of mass destruction are suddenly threats to the civilization, rather than cool gadgets in Jane’s. Khaki pants, and occasionally a full white gown, replace my suit pants. I increasingly look like a yogi or a cult member. With only one leg in reality, I convince myself that I am being prepped for an advanced civilization: a place where gender differences and warring classes are a matter of the past; where baldness is appreciated simply because it is more evolved, evidence of extraterrestrial inbreeding.
In Stage 2, I see evidence of this delusion everywhere.
Take the albino alien baby in Alien 3. It’s the size of a monster truck. And it’s the only Hollywood depiction of an advanced alien species that has traces of hair on it. Point being: advanced civilizations have no hair. The peach fuzz on the albino was due to Ripley’s genes, obviously. And even she had shaved her head.
It is obvious that the future belongs to the bald, the oval heads, the giant lopsided eyeballs. It is obvious to Stage 2 thinkers, that is.
3) Zen Baldness
After wallowing for a couple of years in the false comfort of Superiority Baldness, I observed a statistical fact that ruined my trip. The net volume of hair follicles on the rest of my body wasn’t declining. This whole bullshit affair wasn’t about losing my hair; it was about relocating it to my chest.
A Quasimodo in the middle, egg on the top, I had no more silver-line theories left for my bizarre appearance.
Desperate, I stumbled on Gurdjieff, the Russian self-discovery guru, and decided that his theory on human development was based on this moment. Gurdjieff called it the “shock point.” And he was, after all, egg bald.
In the musical scale, the first shock point comes after Do-Re-Mi. Call it Plop. It works like this: I hit an empty key, thinking it is “Fa,” while it’s actually just a Plop. The music that follows this point is gibberish to anyone except me, because I’m not aware of the Plop. Gurdjieff’s answer to getting unstuck from the shock point is to try and remember myself for 10 seconds straight. Tough nut to crack.
It took me a dozen attempts to crack it. And when I did, I realized a different truth: I was already voided by my baldness. More importantly, I couldn’t be voided twice. “Now go out and play,” a voice told me. My octave resumed, and I became comfortable with my nothingness.
This is the Zen of the Bald Dude.
But Zen is a double-edged sword. It relieved me of tension while diluting my character. Only surfers and samurai can handle Zen for extended periods of time without emulsifying.
4) Assimilation Baldness
Assimilation is about feeling better by identifying with other hair loss victims. It’s probably the easiest and quickest fix.
First, I pick an environment, for example a 1990s style tech company. Next, I mingle with the middle-to-top management, a team of bald dudes who defend their company’s product specs, slogan, or PowerPoint deck like hooligans defend Manchester United. After two weeks I felt better about myself from 9 a.m. until about 5 p.m.
I learned to pick different industries until I could pretty much assimilate anything, anytime. I have assimilated a Buddhist yogi, Kojak, Jayson Statham, pre-Die Hard 3 version of Bruce Willis, and even some bald inanimate statues.
The problem is that over time the assimilations lose their punch. Desperation starts to spread like oil on water.
5) Weltschmerz Baldness
The Weltschmerz solution is an easy stopover. When I got tired of assimilating with people or companies, I simply assimilated with the plight of the universe. Only I knew that the pain actually originated at the base of my scalp.
Animal suffering, the nuclear race, the One World Order, peak oil, an extinct papagei species, doesn’t matter—just make a lot of noise about it. It’s about letting off existential steam, not about saving Earth.
Being a Weltschmerz baldy is not a long-term option, however. It’s a safe path to becoming a major pain in the ass.
6) Diffusion Baldness
Diffusion is about distracting my sense of baldness with physical and psychological cloaking devices. These devices manifest themselves in four different categories:
a) Modification of my look with wigs, extensions, sprays, Photoshop
b) Enhancement of my other body parts with obsessive training, nutrition, and/or prosthetics
c) Excessive recreation and/or mind alteration through natural or synthetic means
d) Serial dating, sex addiction, and/or other addictive behavior
Each category is about diffusing the real issue: my baldness.
Diffusion is also about entering the second and final shock point. This took me a while to recognize. The longer it takes time to realize that you’re in a shock point, the harder it is to move on.
Another Gurdjieff exercise may come in handy at this stage. I would press my butt cheeks together and remember myself. It happens quickly. Clench. Remember. Unclench. Forget.
By the time I could extend the period between remembering and unclenching for 10 seconds, I was able to pinpoint about a dozen different manifestations of Diffusion Baldness, and then proceed to eliminate them. It is the elimination process that leads you to Stage 7.
7) Integrated Baldness
Seven stages plus two shock points equals nine. Everything that takes place in Stage 7 (including this sentence) only makes sense for bald guys who have made it through nine gates.
I don’t remember how I got to Stage 7. The high stress levels associated with eliminating Stage 6 junk often lead to amnesia. In the Holmes and Rahe Stress Scale, we’re talking about more than 300 “Life Change Units.” For comparison, Xmas has a score of 12 Life Change Units.
In “Dante’s Inferno,” the ninth gate is the last gate of hell. It is ruled by giants whose only job is to cure pride with pedicure, the sort of pedicure that leads to amnesia.
I personally snapped out of a daze while standing in front of an ATM.
And saw my new reflection.
The doppelganger wasn’t behind the mirror anymore. He was in front of the mirror: shaven, shiny, an octave taller, with little recollection of the dude he replaced.