The Male Pattern

In Gen X, Growing Up on February 21, 2009 at 3:31 pm

I feel bad for my dad.  I’ve only known him as bald or balding.  When I was little, I used to be able to recognize him from behind by his bald spot.  Apparently his started in his late 20’s, and by the time he was 50 he stopped grooming the top hair and started shaving his head.  

That’s not the worst part.  I feel bad for him because the style in the 1970’s was to have that bushy head of hair, like all us Generation X kids seem to like pushing on our boys now.  The Ricky Shroeder, Eight-is-Enough, Bobby Brady 1975 hair, where the sides grow into where the sideburns are and your bangs hang into your face, and the back is an inch shy of mullet.  Having that hair with the bald spot must have been a big bummer.  When my dad wore hats I used to imagine that he wasn’t bald, I used to think about how much younger he’d have looked without the bald spot.  
Apparently, male pattern baldness comes to us on the X chromosome, or from our mother’s side.   I used to take solace in this fact because my maternal grandfather died in his 70’s with a nearly full head of hair, he had a pronounced widow’s peak but the hair was still there.  So I used to smugly tease my dad about balding – knowing it was his kryptonite, not mine.  
But lately I don’t joke about it.  
I used to have a bushy head of early 1990’s, Pantene Pro-V hair.  Then when I was 21, my college tennis team all decided to shave our heads.  It wasn’t for any altruistic reason, it wasn’t like we were in solidarity with someone in Chemo, we just thought it would be silly and a bonding experience.  Of course, we decided to do it before a trip to a tennis tournament in Phoenix.  So we all duly shaved our heads and showed up in Arizona with cue-tip white heads and not enough sunscreen.  Great story.
My girlfriend at the time (now my wife) liked it, so I kept the style.  That was 15 years ago.  I would shave my head with a number 1 setting, then let it grow until I needed to start combing it, then re-shave it.  It was in style, too – I felt rather stylish with my grad-school chic, San Francisco dot-commer clothing, a 2-day shadow on my face with the shaved head.  
But sometimes, I would look at my hair and miss being able to feel the wind blow it around.  So finally, about 3 months ago, I decided to grow my hair back, just to see where it is.  It’s been a fun but infuriating experience.  I can’t believe how much mental energy I’ve put into it.  I’ve barely paid for a haircut since the Clinton Administration, but that’s not half the problem.  
My forehead is huge now.  I’ve got the widow’s peak that I had expected, but it’s not the same hair I had in my early 20’s.  Combing it makes me look like an extra from “Milk.”  That’s just not really my style.  I’m a dad, married, working full time, trying to build my career – I don’t like taking this much time out of my day for vanity.  
I can’t wear winter hats without thinking about how it messes up my hair.  I spend time in the bathroom that I hadn’t before trying to make that fluffy part stay in place.  I’ve been using my wife’s various hair-products – holding spray, leave-in conditioner.  I had even considered h air-drying it.  For what?  
So this brings me to the reason I’m really sorry for my dad.  Up until the late 1990’s, it wasn’t in style to shave your head.  Everyone had hair, even nearly bald men would grow their halo hair into a half-mullet.  Shaved heads meant you were in the military or a skin-head neo-nazi.  I don’t know how or when exactly it became acceptable, but it did.  I’m sorry it wasn’t in style in the 70’s and 80’s when my dad could have used the ego-boost and not have to worry about going bald as much.  
My dad’s been shaving his head for about as long as I have now, and he looks great – it suits him.  I think it’s about time I gave up the hair dream and rejoin him.  

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