My One Vanity

The glory days: August 1982

And so, on the eve of my 25th college reunion, I make this confession: I’m not too bothered by the whole aging process (which is a good thing since there’s not much one can do about it). I don’t mind that I’m not as fit as I once was. I’m not bothered that I once could party like a rock star and still wake up for an early morning class/ski/surf, but now it just takes a couple of drinks to make me feel like I got hit by a train. And it doesn’t really bother me that all the lovelies that parade before my media-saturated eyes are young enough to be my daughters.

But there is one fact of aging that I struggle with. One fact that stares me in the face each and every day and reminds me that time is marching on and we are, in fact, born to die, as Billy Shakespeare pointed out: my thinning hair.

I got a haircut yesterday and as I waited my turn, a young mother was trying to get her two-and-a-half-year-old son into the chair. He was having none of it and this kid was an unholy terror. He screamed. He clawed. He headbutted — yes, headbutted — his mother. All to avoid getting his mop top trimmed a bit. The mom finally gave up and followed as her kid ran out the barber shop door. I didn’t strike out at anyone, but know that on the inside I was screaming just as loudly as that little kid as I got into the chair, but for a different reason. In my case, it was because there wasn’t much hair left to cut.

Still full but getting darker:
At college in 1984-85

When I was younger, I would shake my head in the shower after shampooing and it wasn’t until my hair was long enough to make loud slaps on the front of my face that I knew it was time for a haircut. Now, if there’s even the slightest waver as I shake my head, I head for the barber.

Hair thins. It happens, I get it. Hell, many of my friends are way more folically challenged than I am. But what gets my goat is that I had a righteous mop of curly blond locks when I was a kid. My hair went darker — it’s now more of a light brown than a blond — in my 20s and began disappearing (from the top and back first) in my 30s. It was in my mid-40s when I was sitting on a bench in my sister’s foyer, bent over tying my shoes, that my seven-year-old niece strode over and with her index finger poked me on the scalp saying, “Uncle Luke! You’re losing your hair!” I’ve never been closer to parricide (who knew that was the word for “killing a close relative”?!). That’s when I knew I was on the downslide.

In recent years, whenever I would whine as loudly as that little kid in the barber shop about my thinning hair, my mother would remind me that I was taller than most people — and pretty much all women — so no one could tell how thin my hair was really getting. That didn’t seem to deter my diminutive niece, though, dammit!

And now: June 2013. It’s all
downhill from here.

My older brother is 10.5 years older than me and still has a full head of curly blond hair. My father is 42 years older than me and though he’s always worn his hair in a thin buzz-cut, his hair remains thick as the bristles on a brush. Me, I’m hearing from friends that I should consider treatments like rogaine or some such silliness. Maybe I’m just being stubborn, but that’s not my style. I’m going through and out of this life the way I came in: using the tools I was born with.

Some female friends have even suggested that when (not if) the time comes, I should consider shaving my hair off and going bald, that bald men are HOT. Besides the psychological trauma of seeing myself bald, I’m concerned about the damage, both physical and psychological, I’d do to other people who witnessed my gigantic melon (hat size 7-3/4… no fooling) glistening in the sun.

I guess, to coin a cliche I abhor, that it is what it is. My hair is going and I’m going with it. Eventually. That fact is the one and only thing that reminds me I will shuffle off this mortal coil someday. My thinning hair is my one vanity, the one unalterable fact that makes my knees buckle and makes me growl at mirrors and barbers, much like the little boy I still feel myself in every other way to be.

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