This is Epth Nation

Epth is a state of mind, not a place. Reading this will give you a virtual drivers license in that state, but you'll still need to be 21 to purchase alcohol. And you can't get any there anyway, so stop asking.

Friday, November 04, 2005

Baldness is a Personal Choice

Being bald is a lot like having to live through that one part of The Odyssey, the one with Scylla and Charybdis. If you don't remember those guys, I'm not surprised. It's a pretty grim part of the story, and like most normal people you probably blocked it out. I'm nuts, so I remember it way more than the Cyclops or the Sirens or Circe or the Mohicans or whatever else is in that book. It made an impression on me, I guess.

Ulysses (as the Book Club adaption called Odysseus) and his men come to the part of the sea that has a narrow passageway between the Scylla (a giant spider-like creature with 6 heads and a body consisting of barking dogs -- I'm not making this up) and the Charybdis (basically a whirlpool of death). They need to pass through this stretch, there's no getting around it. There is no possible plan B. Through numerous mythological twists and turns, they decide to avoid the Charybdis all together and sail on the far edge of the territory of Scylla. Why did they do this? It's quite simple, really. If the Scylla gets all up on them, a few of them die; but if they get stuck in the whirlpool of death, they all die. In the choice between horrible and more horrible, just plain horrible always wins.

Which brings us to baldness and men's* reactions to it, which can be divided thusly: Those who fight it and those who don't. And by "fight it" I don't mean, "try to conceal the fact that one's bald via head-shaving or strategic comb-overs." Rather, I'm talking about those people who would try to either a) grow their hair back, or b) glue/graft hair onto their heads in an effort to convince others that it's their own. I must confess, I don't really know exactly what scientific advancements have been made in the area of combating baldness. That should tell you what side of the great baldness devide I'm on.

Baldness and the fight against it is a real issue because of a little thing called, "our crappy superficial society." There are men in this world for whom baldness is emotionally crushing. I don't really know what the big deal is, but if I were to guess I would say that they probably don't feel as "sexy," "young," "virile," or "successful" as they would if they had hair, and every morning when they look in the mirror their ugly old impotent failure is staring them in the face. Again, I have to get outside myself to get into this mindset here, so I'm painting with a broad brush and maybe missing the finer points. This is not a baldness support group. Anyway, it's because of these daily mirror-trips among certain men with money that the science of baldness got into high gear. Men would pay top dollar for baldness treatments, and covert labs all over the world strove to find the One Cure that would reverse baldness and make these shallow men feel whole again. So far it has not been found (although we are getting ever-closer), causing many of these clearly-too-affluent men to throw that money into radical hair-grafting or significantly less radical wigs, the only methods available that have been proven effective in covering up bald heads.

And it's not just our society, either. In ancient Israel, the prophet Elisha was mocked as a "baldhead" by some hair-rich young ancient jerks. Of course, he called the wrath of God on them in the form of a bear, which massacred the kids and ate their bones. He did not, however, take the hair of the bear and make a toupee' with it. Such is the difference between ancient Israel and later, more civilized societies such as ours.

If you are a bald man, your preferred side of the fight/don't fight divide will decide what side you call "Scylla" and what side you call "Charybdis." That's not to say the issue is relative, however. There is a right and a wrong answer. In this case, the "Scylla" is equivalent to being bald and accepting that baldness, and "Charybdis" is the trap of reclaiming your youth with rugs or pills. I can hear the tools protesting now -- "But we need hair to feel like men!" "We can't be bald, people will make fun of us!" "You're just jealous of my money and importance!" Easy there, Vanderbilt. Just because you're superficial doesn't mean we have to be. And just because other people are jealous of your money doesn't mean you're not a tool.

Let me say that being bald (or, in my case, balding) is no walk in the park. You do look older and uglier. Women treat you like you're either invisible or part of the surroundings, like wood paneling. You never get to be the main character of the story, you are always in the background talking to some other bit player who's probably even less significant than yourself. If you ever do come out of the woodwork and get noticed, you're seen as old -- or worse, creepy. The best look you can hope to pull off is Well-Groomed, which is a far cry from handsome and not even in the same zip-code as attractive. But that's not the worst part. The worst part is, the "haired" people actually think they're better than you because they have hair. They pity the bald. Their pity is everywhere, from our entertainment to the boardroom to the restaurant to the head shop. You can't escape it. There is no plan B (besides, of course, the More Horrible Charybdis). Their scorn and pity is the 6-headed Scylla, and it will grab 6 of your mythical sailors and chomp them like 6 fat kids chomping McRibs. Nobody wants to deal with that.

(Side Note: Here's the thing about baldness: It gets better and easier to deal with as you get older, because most people go bald eventually. When you get to a certain age, the baldies outnumber the haired, and it's not such a big deal anymore. We young people don't like to think in terms of getting older, but it's an advantage to the bald man. Think of it as a race that the bald people are currently winning, but eventually all but the extremely toolish will catch up.)

Confronted with the barking dogs of Scylla, many hairless men steer clear of the pity and scorn altogether and conveniently forget there's another monster in this story, one that annihilates everything and leaves no survivors. The results of Charybdis' destruction are numerous and apparent to all: The old man with an ill-fitting purple toupee'; The Tobias Funke look-a-like with the bad hair-grafting that looks like the head of a doll; The news anchor with the impossibly coiffed fake hair that very nearly has more personality than the anchor himself; The owner of an NFL team who looks ridiculous in a hairpiece that was seemingly spontaneously generated from his own overblown ego; The guy on the commercial for Rogaine who's trying to sell his own insecurity to you before he sells you the supposed cure for it. We are all familiar with these poor men who have sold their soul to the devil and in return received the due penalty for that bargain -- they look stupid.

More common, however, is the young executive who looks at himself in the mirror one day and sees looking back at himself a man he doesn't recognize. He sees this man, and compares him to earlier pictures of himself. When the two persons do not match, he starts to freak out and ask horrible questions: "What will become of me and my bald head?" "Can a bald guy even get a promotion to Senior Exec in Charge of Downsizing?" "Will all those bald people who I made fun of start to make fun of me, or will I become one of them, blending in with the walls of my office and getting passed over for promotions because people think I'm just a desk lamp?" These questions are the clarion call of the monster Charybdis, and soon the young virile exec has decided that certain and expensive death by drowning is way better than a 1-in-50 chance of being eaten.

So they get a rug, or some plastic-surgical procedure, and everybody then knows that not only are they really and truly bald, they're also superficial and toolish enough to spend the money to cover it up. They are not more virile, they are not younger, and they live in constant fear of being discovered and outed as a closet bald person. Life is harrowing enough without having that in the back of your mind (or the top of your head, as it were) all the time.

Baldness is a genetic lottery, won by some and lost by others. It's unfair, but so is the fact that you're a Junior Exec and I'm writing this and not getting paid, so shut up. To all the bald people far and wide across this great hairless sphere, I have but one piece of advice: Accept baldness before it destroys you.

*I say "men's" because women's baldness is a whole other ball o' wax, and I don't feel that this Scylla-Charybdis analogy is adequate to cover the nuances of the issue. Men, however, I have down cold, as you'll soon see.


  • At 1:59 PM, Blogger dewwy peterson said…

    This is a great blog you have here... what a great place to share information. Hope you don't mind I paid you a visit. I also have a site about rashguards because I like to surf.

    bye bye - thanks for having this blog! (if you want, come visit my blog - I'm always looking for suggestions)

  • At 2:43 PM, Blogger Mike Pape said…

    What, now I've got to post on fricking rashguards? I don't even know what they are! Also, I don't get rashes.

    I mind. Oh, how I mind.

  • At 7:04 AM, Blogger Dan said…

    Rashguards are the thin, spandexish suits that people wear when then go wakeboarding, waterskiing, etc. How they got rashguards from your post, I have know idea.


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