I laughed at my thinning hair

J. Parrish with retreating hair.
J. Parrish with retreating hair.

I’m serious. I looked in the mirror and I saw, for the thousandth time, the stealthy retreat of my hairline and the patch of thinning hair that spoke this message to me: You are getting older, J.

For years, I noticed the gradual change in my hairline with a bit of dread. It didn’t matter that inspiring (yet fictional, sadly) people like Captain Picard rocked the baldness, or that my father and grandfather were dashing men even as they went bald. I still dreaded the idea of losing my hair. After all, when I was a teenager, my hair was an aspect I actually liked about my appearance. I had already passed all the awkward years of cropped hair and laughable mullets and bowl cuts and settled into various styles of snazzy haircuts that highlighted how cool my hair was.

I was geeky during a time when it wasn’t really cool to be geeky, and that caused me a lot of unhappiness, though I couldn’t seem to do anything about it. But my hair! I considered my hair as a redeeming factor, almost a consolation prize. I even grew it long and eventually had a ponytail, which if I’m being honest, was a terrible look that shouted out I’M TRYING TOO HARD! At the time, I wore rosy sunglasses when I looked at the mirror and thought I had Rock Star hair. Actually, the sunglasses were purple and went well with my neo-hippy clothes, since I was desperately trying to recreate the ’60s in an attempt to not be invisible.

In the last few years, I’d feel wretched and self-conscious about losing my hair. Hold on to your roots, my little follicled friends! Going to get a haircut was just a little less uncomfortable than going to the dentist, because they’d spray the water on my hair before they began to cut, and that only emphasized how thin my hair had become. I wanted to whisper stop secretly judging me to the hairdresser.

What’s funny: it wasn’t all that obvious that my hair was thinning most of the time. I had to point it out and say, look! see, right there, it’s thinner! Even now, I have yet to reach a stage where I could call myself a bald man. Balding, perhaps, but I’m not sure I’ve earned that adjective.

However, time goes on. In the last year, my hair has begun to disappear. It’s thinning in a major way that is now pretty much obvious to anyone who sees me in person. I don’t try to hide it, because that’s kind of pointless. My hair is slowly bidding adieu. So long, farewell, good night, my friends. I shall miss you, but it’s alright. The world will go on.

I laughed at the mirror because it occurred to me how ridiculous it all seemed. It’s ridiculous that I’m no longer a little 5-year-old boy with a bowl cut, a pre-teen with a mullet and a karate kid headband, a teenager with luxurious hair pulled into a ponytail. I have become 40, and my thinning hair has become a symbol to represent a new time in my life. I laughed because I finally realized that it was better to laugh than to cry. It was better to accept, with humor, than to dread the inevitable. I could choose either, but I’d rather laugh, and I’d rather really own that laugh completely.

If I’m in denial, then WOW: I must be astonishingly skilled at being in denial.

I will be bald. I don’t know how long it’s going to take and I have no idea what it’s going to look like. It doesn’t really matter, because it’s only hair. It’s not my health, it’s not my safety, it’s not my happiness. It’s just hair, and its time is coming. THIS TOO, SHALL BALD. I won’t try to stop it with products or treatments or whatever. I won’t grow some absurd combover that flaps merrily in the wind like a pennant, shouting out vibes of insecurity. Come on.

Perhaps, though, perhaps I do need a Captain Picard suit. Make it so.

J. Parrish Lewis

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J. Parrish Lewis writes. He is also the author of The Goblin Road, a fantasy novel, and The Rabbit List. He was born and raised in Maryland.  In his youth there, he and his brother had many adventures in the dogwood forests near his home.  His nostalgia for these adventures has strongly influenced his characters, their relationships, and their perspective on the world they inhabit.  He moved to California’s coast to earn his degree in communications and now lives with his family in the San Joaquin Valley.  Lewis is profoundly deaf and uses American Sign Language to communicate.  He enjoys hazelnut coffee, captioned movies, and walking his dog.
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