The Nitty Gritty

But more than all of those I am an entertainer. I carry around a ukulele with me for the same reason a gangster carries a gun; better to have it and not need it than need it and not have it. Stage or sidewalk, Your Pal Pete shows are just where they happen.
Currently, I'm working on a musical, RagnaPOP(or she's got the bomb), set to premiere at this year's Capital Fringe Festival. I'm also working on music, comedy, and musical comedy; for kids and/or adults.
The fruit of these projects will be available on this site, so check back regularly!

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

How I learned to stop worrying and learn to love going bald.(part 1)

The summer of my 19th year a prophecy had started to fulfill itself. I was inspecting my hairline in a huge hotel mirror, tracing the triangles of newly barren skin with my finger, areas that used to freely sprout my trademark "“baby fine" hair from my scalp without a care in the world. I, for some reason, had never noticed it leaving, just when it became downright Nicolsonesque. I went from Easy Rider to Chinatown in the blink of an eye. Being 19 and having a 40 year old hair seemed like the end of my life. Melodramatic, yes, but it has proven to be a sentiment echoed by many sufferers of Male Pattern Baldness. It is also known as premature baldness, like there is Mature Baldness. I don'’t honestly think that most men going bald think to themselves,"well, this is happening right on time." You'’re losing part of your self.

When I referred earlier to my “trademark "baby-fine" hair it wasn'’t a boast. One of the longest dysfunctional relationships I have ever had has been with my hair. Adding them up together I firmly believe that I'’ve had at least a bad hair decade. Through elementary school my hair was shiny,straight and obedient. Right around the time that my social skills with the opposite sex had caught up with my desire to be social with the opposite sex, it turned on me. My hair had became the follicular equivalent of an unruly child, never standing still for long and easily distracted. Under the right conditions it would be as malleable as aluminum foil. I could grab a fistful at the top of my head, pull up a little and let go, and my hair would stay up in a lolling tongue of potential embarrassment. Humidity would puff out my hair until the strands would bend upward . If the process happened any faster, you'd swear I was about to get hit by lightning. Anytime my paths between classes had a boy'’s bathroom, I would duck in to wet a comb and beat my hair down. Water had to be my only styling aid. This being the 80'’s, brlycreme was hopelessly out of style and mousse and gels gave my hair the texture of cotton candy stuck to a park bench on a hot day.

I realized how successful I was with this course of action when I was a freshman in high school. My old Junior High had a dance that was open to the high school kids. I roamed the Auditorium with a new authority and assuredness paired with a unusually good hair day. I was at the top of my meager game. I overheard some jr. high girls talking about me and I tried to focus an ear on their conversation. I missed most of it but one comment was very clear,"At least he combs his hair now." BUT I COMB MY HAIR 8 FREAKING TIMES A FREAKING DAY! I didn' t really shout that. Out loud.

My senior year in high school, my hair was vote "“most unique"” in the yearbook. This distinction was much like my 'do winning a "“best new artist"” Grammy award, an honor that history would soon make meaningless. The last tick of the old rollercoaster before the rapid decent into obscurity. Years later (post-balding), a discussion of Senior superlatives with a couple friends let me to quiz them about which one I could have been voted for. "“It'’s the least likely to win now."”, I offered. "“Most athletic?"”, one answered. "“o.k. second most"”.

I happened to start losing my hair right around the time that Rogaine first was introduced, a lucky break for me. The TV ads then couldn'’t mention the drug by name, but would helpfully suggest "“There are options for men losing their hair, ASK YOUR DOCTOR!" Yes, thank you, I will!

"“It won'’t work for you!"”, my doctor said. I had the wrong kind of baldness, I was thin on top and Rogaine worked on the bald spot kind and if it was bigger than a silver dollar it was too late anyway. And did I want to spend $50 a month anyway?

I asked my doctor about my future and she said,"”Well you get the baldness gene from your maternal grandfather, so you should only get as bald as he is at about the same rate." My granddad Highsmith at this point was bald, but every picture that I had from him from his thirties and forties showed a hairline that had retreated, but not yet given up. But further closer inception lead me to a harrowing discovery. His lonesome tuft had the upswept appearance and polmade shellacking that is.... the combover.

Fast forward to my early 20'’s I could make this liability work for me a bit. Bad hairstyles are as much a hallmark of that phase of life as binge drinking. I used to keep the back and sides of my hair super short and the top as long as I could get it. I could freak it out easily with a couple rubs to the top of head. I had to grow it while I had it, because it was most assuredly was going. But for the first time I actually got compliments on my hair!

I was most terrified about the effect my impending pateage would have on the ladies. My luck had never exactly been good to begin with but in my twenties it was abysmal. I could have used it as a superpowers. Any female supervillian would have been too preoccupied with giving me an excuse for why she wouldn'’t give me her phone number to engage in any evildoing. I had taken a informal poll among my female friends about how baldness affected male attraction. A lot of them told me not to worry about it, that my character was more important. But my friend Eric'’s girlfriend said," I would love him if he went bald, but I don't know if I would be as attracted to him if he was bald when I met him." It was a figurative kick to the groin, because that's exactly what I was afraid of. Every morning'’s mirror gaze was to see the sand in my sexual hourglass slipping away and ending. I would run my fingers through my hair and count the hairs my hand brought back.

Unless TV and Movies were lying to me, all of my fears were completely justified. Balding men have played lecherous boss and cockolded husbands with surprising regularity. It caused me to become slightly over senitive to the portrayal of the tonsrially chalenged. "“Why do they alway get a BALD man to play the child molestor?"”, I would occasionally shout. Balding actors back then traditonally straddled the line between nebbishness and creepyness. I didn'’t want to share an apperance trait with Walace Shawn (he'’s been in a few Woody Allen movies and he'’s the "“it'’s inconSHIable"” guy from the Princess Bride) and Clint Howard (if you don'’t know who he is, get thee to the internet, quickly). My friends would try to offer that guys like John Malkovitch and Sean Connery are sexy and bald. In my contentious mind these were small victory in a larger war. For every Captain Picard there are six George Costanzas.
more later...


Your Pal Pete said...

Is this getting published?

Hello Daly said...

Can they make those bald genes work in other places?? Bikini season [SIGH].

Gaz said...

This story touched me in ways that only Catholic priests previously had. You're not alone!

- Your brother in baldness.