Bald Is Beautiful: A Look at the Struggle, Myths and Humor of Hair Loss

August is National Hair Loss Awareness Month. I can relate.

I don’t lose—or let go of—anything. That is, except for my hair. It’s the one thing I haven’t been able to hoard.

I try to rationalize. It could be worse. In my midlife crisis, I could have astronomically high triglycerides or be a glaucoma suspect. Oh, I’m both of those, too. In fact, I have the largest optical nerve that ophthalmologist extraordinaire Dr. Marlene Moster has ever seen. She calls it “funky.” I’m thinking of other F-words.

But back to hair. August is officially National Hair Loss Awareness Month, according to the American Academy of Dermatology. The campaign—which obviously benefits those who have the most to gain from your loss—educates men and women about hair loss, early detection and treatment options. The outreach (i.e. self promotion) educates those who raise a still-bushy eyebrow about hereditary hair loss, which affects 60 million men and 40 million women.

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I’ve always been jealous of Irish men and their typically premature gray hair. An Irishman’s hair is usually wavy, too.

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After my last appointment with my old-fashioned, single-chair barber, Phoenixville’s John Lauer, he took notice, as I have, that my hair now only grows in the back, down my neck and on the sides. “Yeah, you can tell it was a really good, thick head of hair,” he said.

The operative word is “was.” Jokingly, whenever my appointment crosses into someone else’s, I caution the next guy: “I used to have a full head of hair, until I started coming here.”

In all seriousness, my barber is one of the most important (and entertaining) people in my life. In parts of four decades, John has never raised my price—though with less and less to cut, perhaps I’m due a refund. He’s more of a constant in my life than my hair. I always look down when I step out of the chair, amazed that so much came off my head. Then, I almost cry when he sweeps and merges it with someone else’s hair in the corner. Could I buy some of it back? Any gray Irish wave in that pile?

Experts say 98 percent of us have a family history that dooms our hair. My dad’s dad was bald at 21. My first cousins on that side, both a decade younger, are way more bald than I am. My Aunt Nettie, who married into my maternal genetics and lived past 100, owned a South Jersey hair salon for seven decades. Her money didn’t grow on trees; it grew on her clients’ heads. I grew up around hair, but it didn’t help genetics.

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Then, there are the myths. None address my once-popular teen-gel years and what damage that might have done.

Myth No. 1: The prevalence of hereditary hair loss varies by ethnic or racial background. Not true, though it seems a hotheaded Italian like me would seem more likely to have their hairs raised in anger. Does each raised hair then fall out? It does on nervous dogs.

Myth No. 2: Wearing a baseball hat causes hair loss.
Again, false. Hats are a plus. I use mine to hide my baldness—and keep my dome out of the sun.

Myth No. 3: Exposure to chlorine in swimming pools or saltwater causes hair loss. Nope. Shower water is the only water for me, but it never helped grow my hair.

Anyway, it seems we bother less with everything as we get older, so at least I won’t have any worries about lost time on hair care. Plus, the bald eagle is as majestic a symbol of freedom as we have. Bald is beautiful. Going bald, well …

Main Line Today senior writer J.F. Pirro seems to only grow wiser—and funnier—as his hair gets thinner.
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