I’ve probably wasted a few weeks of my life looking into the mirror, staring at the endangered grassland atop my head where red curls once grew. I tilt my head and adjust the light in the bathroom. I apply gel to prop up the strands that are too weak to stand on their own. And then I look again.
I feel like a loser.
I began losing my hair at 22, in my senior year of college. At first, it was like a slow drip. A few hairs at a time. By my late 20s, the pace quickened, and I helplessly watched my hairline move higher and higher.
I considered intervention and scanned hair-loss products at grocery stores, always late at night to avoid being seen. I even carried a bottle of Rogaine to the register once, but stopped short of buying it at the last second. Better to bald gracefully than to try to fight it.
By the time I turned 30, my hair had thinned enough that you could see my scalp in several places. If I didn’t wear a hat to the beach, my head burned. My mom tried to reassure me, “It’s really not that bad.” My brother had a different opinion. “No dude. It is that bad.”
Being bald isn’t always bad. Along with his signature Nike sneakers, Michael Jordan’s shiny head became a part of his image, one that sold millions of No. 23 jerseys and basketball shoes. To be like Mike was to be cool. Long after his last Bond role, Sean Connery proved bald men could still be sexy – not just young bald men, but old bald men too. But unlike Jordan and Connery, I wasn’t blessed with a round head. Mine is sloped with a divot at the top wide enough to rest a golf ball.
I turned to my sister, a hairstylist, for advice. She gave me a shampoo and conditioner for “noticeably thinning hair,” and suggested I twist my hair into clumps with the help of hair spray to make it look thicker. Neither seemed to make a difference, and eventually denial gave way to acceptance.
I now look back at the time and money I spent trying to reverse the course of nature and wonder why I fought it. Hair falls out. Breasts sag. Cheeks wrinkle. People spend millions of dollars every year on injections and implants to hide these signs of aging, but in the end they’re fighting a force they can’t beat: Time.
I may have lost the DNA lottery for hair, but that doesn’t mean I can’t age without grace.