I would like to start this post out by admitting that my complaints on this subject matter are so much of a first world problem that it's embarrassing, but embarrassing is the theme of this post so...here we go.
The first time I noticed the rapid recession of my hair line was around the age of 19. How could this be happening to me? I am way too young to be experiencing this. I was so confused and angry. My new best friend became any hat I had available. Hiding the evidence of my hair loss, evidence that I was likely the only person aware existed.
I got nervous every time wearing a hat wasn't an option; to a nice dinner, for a role in a college play, to a friend's wedding. I felt like I was exposing myself and letting go of my social security blanket. The nervousness and embarrassment never felt vain in nature but more of a protection of my self-esteem. My frustration was rooted in sadness rather than vanity.
As the years went by the hair count dropped I became more and more uncomfortable in my own skin. I felt like this young man who was facing problems way beyond his years. I felt youthful and energetic while my hair line was feeling old and decrepit. I felt so out of place in my own body. I was Benjamin Button, but I would never look like Brad Pitt.
I was always the kid, and young adult, who looked 5 years younger than I actually was. Now, I was the man who could play your dad on TV. These thoughts, though seemingly dramatic, flashed in my head every time I passed my reflection. My youthful (almost) wrinkle free face told one story, while my rapidly shrinking hair line told another. I stopped getting asked for ID at bars, and no longer got that shocked expression when I told people my age.
Somewhere in my mid-twenties I finally realized that this hair loss and it's rapidness were not slowing down anytime soon. I began to frantically research my possibilities; regrowth pills and creams, hair transplants, even wigs. My lack of money and nerves left me with the only logical option...hats. If I couldn't stop or slow down this loss I could at least hide it from the world. The cover-up began, and it gave me so much relief.
I felt like I could relax into a situation knowing my flaws weren't on display for the world to see. I felt my confidence coming back and began to really enjoy adding hats into my fashion choices. With all this added confidence came a few more worries however; worries I had never thought of before. I was worried about my hat blowing off revealing my secret. I was worried about what I would look like if I went swimming with friends. I was worried that in intimate encounters with my partner, or partners depending on the year, that they would be mortified when what was under my hat was revealed. I also began to worry that my new attire was starting to increase the speed at which my hair was falling out. Could my hats be making it worse?
I increased my biotin by double, and tried to lay off the hats. I noticed with my increase of biotin, and wearing less hats, that the loss was slowing down or even stopping. I thought, "Maybe I lost a lot of hair at a younger age but now it will stop until I am at the normal age men lose their hair!" This thought was back when I believed there was a "normal" age. Finally I had found the secret mix of biotin and minoxidil that would change my life...for a hot second anyway.
I googled more ways to help my hair naturally grow back, if I found a way to stop the loss surely I could find a way to start the regrowth. Googling male pattern baldness is an interesting experience, the first thing that appears is a statement saying, "Treatment can help, but this condition cannot be cured." Cannot be cured!? What did they mean be cured? I needed cured. Products with high doses of minoxidil, such as Rogaine, seemed to only leave me with a burning situation and a weird smelling scalp. The high amounts of protein and fatty-acids needed to maintain a healthy scal, didn't fit as easily into my vegetarian diet. The ways to manage and reduced my stress, suggested by the best online doctors WebMD has to offer, only added to my stress levels.
I once again felt defeated. I was out of resources and hope. To make matters worse the halt in my hair loss began to restart in full effect. Now, I wasn't the only person aware of my hair loss. People began to noticed, and some even began to comment. I would get unsolicited advice; what I should eat, what shampoo I should use, what doctors I should see, and reminders of what I was doing wrong.
Working the past few years in elementary schools, in Austin and Los Angeles, taught me a lot of things about children. The main lesson I learned was just how honest kids will be. One day during a field trip I received some advice from a little boy who grabbed off my hat while playing, "Wow! Mr. Jeremiah your hair is falling out...you are almost bald. You should probably just shave it off." Was that a possibility? What would I look like with a shaved head? Should I do it? Would people think I had cancer, or that I was making fun of people with cancer? I had fears of the looks I would get or the jokes that would be made. I am gay and like Jew-ish so I know I don't want to go for the white supremacist skin head look. It's not a cute look for me.
Then I thought to myself that I would never shave my head based on one little kids opinion. That would be ridiculous! After a few more loving comments from children I received a comment from someone who had even more power to make me feel insecure...an adult. A fellow staff member at a school told me with harrowing frankness, "You know, you shouldn't wear so many hats! You only have a few good years left with your hair." Her honesty was like a knife to the chest. I cried a little on the inside, but brushed off the comment with a laugh and went on my way adding another check to my low self esteem list.
Although the Internet referred to my male pattern balding as a common, I felt alone in my self diagnosis. I didn't feel comfortable sharing my stress over this with anyone. Mainly because it felt like such a narcissistic thing to be concerned about, but also because it would mean admitting out loud that this was actually happening to me. I know my physical appearance doesn't define me, but I felt this anger and sadness that I had no control over my changing looks.
I went back to biotin and Rogaine to treat the newly balding spot on the back of my head. The hair line was one thing, but this spot was an entirely new beast. It was something I didn't have to see everyday, which was nice, but it made it more difficult to get used to seeing. When I would see it in a photo I would think, "Wow that is way worse than I thought!"
Although I don't consider myself a religious man, I began to understood my Jewish ancestors desire to wear a Kippah. Yes, I'm aware that's not the technical reason they wear a Kippah (or yarmulke) but it seems like a good reason ancient Jews might have started the tradition.
As my arm hair grew as fast as Chewbacca the hair on my head still mercilessly left its host...for good. It brought up a bigger problem floating in my head, my fear of aging. For whatever reason I have always had a sensitivity to aging. The inception of that sensitivity is so deep even Christopher Nolan wouldn't be able to find it.
I remember on my 24th birthday experiencing this unique feeling of not wanting to become another year older. This was the first time I wasn't excited to add another number to my years. I knew I was too young to be having this feeling but couldn't shake it off. That feeling has gained traction with every birthday.
As I approach the final year of my 20s I feel this confidence that I've never felt. Yes, my insecurities are still present; I still do my best to hide my MPB, I'm almost always concerned about my purpose on this earth, and I daily question my ability to live as a fully functioning adult. Through these moments I still feel a sense of zen that is so welcomed. My distain for aging is still very present but I care less about how other people view my aging process. I know in the grand scheme of life I am still very young, and have a lot to learn about aging, but I feel like I have gotten a sneak peak at what is in store.
I am reminded of the quote from the amazing Bette Davis, "Old age ain't no place for sissies!"
I might be slowly going bald, but so will a lot of you one day, and I'll be ready to give you advice on how to handle it. I know I am not alone in this situation, and I now realize this affects millions of men at many different ages. Everyday I still struggle with the insecurities that accompany my male pattern baldness, but with a little sense of humor and bunch of hats I feel like I can take this "head on". I have made a deal with myself that when the embarrassment and stressfulness of this become too much that I will go full on Britney Spears and shave it off. For now, I'm going to enjoy these last few trips to the barber. For now, I'm going keep stealing the shampoos at hotels. For now, I'm going to appreciated not having to rub sunscreen all over my pale bald head. For now, I'm going to live my life. Life is way to fragile and random to spend all this time concerned about something I can never change.
Thank you for letting me publicly rant about my insecurities, and please don't stare too long at my hair line the next time you see me.
Thank you for reading. Make good choices and be safe with your bodies.