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Find dignity in growing old and losing a head of hair

Three stages in the life of hair: hairdo, hair did, hair done.

Readers, I am going bald. All members of my family are blessed with full heads of hair. And I, the seventh youngest of eight, hair−full siblings, am the only one destined to carry a cue ball on his shoulders forever. This, despite rubbing Kreml Hair Tonic into my scalp daily?

I fear I will be the butt of ribald, bald jokes: “Sir, will you put your hat on? Your head is shining in my eyes.” “Is that your head or are you sitting upside down?” “Does your head keep slipping off the pillow when you go to bed at night?” “When your wife nags you, does your scalp turn gray?” “You’re not really bald−headed, it’s just that you have a long face.” “Your head has the widest part I have ever seen.” “Your neck looks like it is blowing bubble gum.” “I can look into your head and tell the future.” “When you put your bald head alongside a woman’s bald head, for modesty’s sake, wear a bra.” “Your hair has a new color: platinum bald.” “Don’t get an expensive toupee or you will be in debt over your ears.”

And the worst of all from my own flesh and blood, my two sons: Vance — “Are you getting taller, Dad? Your head seems to be growing through your hair!” — and Jon, to Gloria: “What did Daddy look like when you married him?” “He had long, dark hair with natural waves,” she answered. “Well, who’s the old bald−headed coot who lives with us now?”

Oh, the agony of it all.

But after much research and investigation, I have since learned there are some advantages to being bald. I will not have hair blowing in my eyes. No more clogging the shower drain nor collecting dandruff. And it is saving me $20 a week in barber fees. (Gloria said it should cost more for the time the barber spends looking for it.)

If I find a hair in my soup, I know it is not mine. I do not have to comb my hair anymore: I merely “twirl” it. My hair may be thin, but do I want fat hair? Whatever else people say about baldness, remember: It is neat. And did you know that the monks of Tibet preach that baldness comes from the Divine One? He creates only a few perfect heads every year and the rest he covers with hair.

Readers, all well and good, but what is a budding baldy like me to do? Should I use the method preferred by most balding men the world over: the comb−over, growing hair long on one side of my head and combing it across the bald area? No. Or wear an expensive toupee? No. Cheap or expensive, it will still look like I am wearing a rug.

So I will follow Andy Rooney’s advice: “All anyone who is getting bald looks like when they try to hide it is like someone getting bald trying to hide it. I don’t know why [people are] so sensitive about getting bald. A lot of men look good bald. They often look distinguished and important. Some men even get bald on purpose.” (“Gloria, dearest, dare I shave my entire scalp?” “No! You’d look too much like James Carville.”)

Andy continues: “One of the great mysteries of life is why some men have such an easy time growing hair on their face … and a hard time growing it on their head. …. Often the amount of hair on a man’s head is sort of a political statement. [separating Democrats from Republicans] .... [I suggest a bald] man ought to only comb once in the morning and once in the middle of the day if he gets caught in the wind. Otherwise, a man ought to leave his hair alone.” Thanks, Andy, I will.

Gloria says I should be inspired by the many men whose baldness never held them back: Yul Brynner; Y.A. Tittle, nicknamed “The Bald Eagle,” who quarterbacked the football Giants to a championship in the 1960s; and my childhood neighbor, Bobby, who was born without hair across his entire body and grew up to become a hair stylist to the rich and famous. So, I will just live with the fact that only one thing can prevent baldness: hair.

Readers, among the many baldies I have met, the ones I admire most are the young children I encountered during a recent visit to the children’s Cancer Unit at Manhattan’s Memorial Sloan−Kettering Hospital. With hospital caps covering bald heads, caused by intense radiation therapy, I watched in admiration these playful tykes, laughing and enjoying life. Baldness is their badge of courage and these youngsters are beautiful.

Contact Alex Berger at news@timesledger.com.

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