Friday, May 29, 2015

Bald and Badass

I grew up the daughter of a bald man. The funny thing is, I didn’t realize he was bald until one of my elementary schoolmates pointed it out. To me, he was just “Dad.” His hair was irrelevant.

My father started losing his hair when he was very young. I’ve seen pictures of him in his twenties and, even back then, the balding was well underway. But he never seemed to mind. In fact, I cannot recall him ever griping about his baldness. What remained of his hair he kept tightly clipped. He wasn’t one for drastic measures. No ridiculous comb-over, no magic potions. As a Navy captain, he had more important things on his mind.

Baldness is a big issue among men, probably because about sixty percent of them will lose their hair. You’d think, over time, they'd simply accept it and move on. But telling a man to disregard his baldness is like telling a woman to ignore the aging process. Impossible. We are culturally programmed to lose sleep over such issues.

So let’s take a moment to explore the realm of androgenetic alopecia, aka, male pattern baldness.

Aside from certain medical conditions, if you’re losing your hair, you probably have your genes and hormones to blame. And unfortunately, there’s not a whole lot you can do about either one. You are what you are and your genotype was predetermined before you ever shot from the womb.

As for the hormones, here’s how they work. Male pattern baldness (MPB) occurs in men who have a predisposed sensitivity to the hormone, dihydrotestosterone (DHT). I’m sure you recognize the “-testosterone” base of that term. That’s because it’s a form of male sex hormone. In men with sensitivity, the DHT acts like a toxin on the hair follicles, starving them of nutrients, causing them to shrink, and eventually shutting down the hair’s growth phase. And the areas most affected? Those on the top and sides of the head, resulting in the characteristic “horseshoe” pattern of MPB.

So what’s a guy to do? There are probably as many home remedies as there are bald heads on the planet. Most of them involve some sort of herbal concoction you massage on your gourd. There’s licorice root, aloe vera, onion juice, and fenugreek (whatever the hell that is). If you have a sweet tooth, you can use honey, yogurt, banana, or cinnamon powder. Or, if you’re a manly man, you can choose castor oil, black pepper, camphor, or snake gourd. I’m pretty sure the results will be the same…

But instead of reaching for a remedy, perhaps you should consider the razor. It turns out, a shaved head says a lot about the man underneath.

First, let’s take a peek at a few of the cultural manifestations of shaved heads. There are many situations associated with head shaving – not all of them good. But I like to accentuate the positive, so we’ll breeze past the contexts of prison internment, lice infestation, and Nazi punishment, and instead, focus on the finer aspects of baldness.

In many cultures, shaving the head is a rite of passage, especially when it comes to religion. Buddhist monks prepare for the priesthood by having their heads shaved, a symbolic commitment to the Holy Life. Hare Krishna do the same as a way of renouncing materialism, although they may leave a tiny tuft on the back to distinguish themselves from their Buddhist brothers.

Many branches of the military require shearing of recruits and even the ancient Romans sported bald heads, although they tended to pluck instead of shave. (Ouch!)

But the best news for bald men comes from a recent study out of the University of Pennsylvania. The folks at the Wharton School experimented on people’s perception of the shaved head, and the overwhelming response was that men with shaved heads were perceived as stronger, taller, more confident, more masculine and, finally, more dominant than their hairy counterparts.

So if you’re losing your hair, try embracing your baldness. It certainly worked for my father. Regardless of his baldness (or perhaps because of it), he was a singular badass.

Here's a nice article on the subject...

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