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Twenty-four-years old. Remember? The youth. The energy. The lust. The whole world just waiting for you to sink your teeth into it and become something.
Well, that’s me right now. Just another wide-eyed 24-year-old idiot floating around the universe. And honestly, this idiot’s doing just fine. College grad, career with benefits, deeply in love and I’ve stopped inhaling Pizza Pops half-naked in my mom’s basement (now I do that in my downtown apartment). There’s just one thing missing from this proverbial “prime” I currently find myself in: my hair.
I started losing my hair at 17. Now, it’s all gone.
Going bald was the doom I seemed destined for. Family events, whether it was Christmas with Mom’s side or barbecues with Dad’s, were like conventions for male-pattern baldness. I used to look at old photo albums with my grandmother and pick out my ancestors in every worn-down, sepia-toned picture, completely unaware of who they actually were. Stocky, pointy nose and a shining chrome dome? That’s an Easton. Next page, Gramma.
My hair, when it was attached to me, went through its own special phases. There was the bleached-blond highlight phase during the boy-band epidemic of the early 2000s, which, by the way, perfectly complimented my puka-shell necklace. Then came the emo bangs of my middle-school days. Yes, that was a good look: chubby, prepubescent goth boy stuffed into skinny jeans. After that I toned it down with Bieberesque wings during my early high-school triumphs.
Then, at just 17, I began to enter the great recession: My hair started falling out.
It began with a strand on my pillow. Then a small clump flew off in the hot air of a blow dryer. My once, luscious locks were turning to a frail, coiff-y hair-do, barely sitting on top of my skull.
I was too young for this. I mean, I knew it would happen someday but not this early. I should be in the pharmaceutical aisle shopping for my first pack of condoms, not my first hair-loss cream.
I started wearing hats to hide my shame and combing my hair over to cover my embryonic bald spot. The reactions to my hair loss were enough to stifle the already vulnerable confidence of a testosterone-doused teenager like myself. It’s strange how a look can hurt more than words, maybe because it makes your own brain do the heavy lifting of putting yourself down.
My self esteem was plummeting. I knew I had to do something. I could either fight it with the chemical ingenuity of hair-loss-prevention treatments or give in and shave it all off.
In every applicable sense of the meaning, I was at a loss. I was going through all the usual hoopla a late-teen has to go through and, on top of everything, whatever was on top of me was falling out.
I went to the one resource I knew who could offer sound advice, my follicly challenged father. In a George Costanza meets Gandalf sort-of way, my bald prophet spoke: “Zac, I knew you were going to be bald from the moment you had hair. I never questioned any haircut you got because I knew someday it would all fall out. Just like mine did, and my father’s did, and his father’s before him did. There’s nothing to be ashamed of. You don’t need it.”
Wait. I don’t need hair? I’d never thought of it like that. I need my heart. I need my brain. My legs, maybe. But my stupid hair? That’s not a part of what makes me, me. It was a revelation. My breakthrough. Like a flaming phoenix with thinning feathers, I was reborn.
And with that, I was ready. It was time to start the first day of my hairless life. I locked myself in the bathroom so no one could interrupt this intimate, deeply personal moment. I stared in the mirror, repeating over and over that everything would be okay.
I scrounged through the cabinet under the sink and pulled out my dad’s electric buzzer. It came in a fancy leather case, a case that seemed far too ritzy to carry just a cordless shaver. It clearly belonged to a pro. The vibrating buzz of the razors, moving back and forth in hyper speed sent a nervous shock pulsing through my veins. I mean, imagine right now, shaving off every single hair on your head. Nerve-racking, right? Now think of yourself doing it before you were old enough to legally enter a bar.
I took a deep breath, shut my eyes and began to move the buzzer against the back of my scalp, slowly bringing it to my dwindling hairline on-the-run. Like a suburban father cutting his lawn, I continued to move the hair mower in an orderly fashion, each section I completed made me feel more and more free. Once I finished, ear-to-ear, temple-to-temple, front-to-back, I opened my eyes.
Spherical. Smooth. Sensational.
Dammit, I loved the way I look. It’s like I was born to be bald. I ran downstairs, parading my new (lack of) hairstyle around the house. My mother applauded and cheered. My father looked at me the same way he did when I scored the overtime winner at my peewee hockey championships: sheer pride. As if to say, welcome to the club, my son. You did it.
And now, I carry this hairless head high. I’m a student of the ways of the bald. Studying the greats, like Stanley Tucci, Mr. Clean and a personal hero, Dwayne (The Rock) Johnson. I shave my head down to my scalp every Sunday with a four-blade razor, eliminating anything even close to resembling a hair. I keep my canvas clean and tanned to avoid looking like Dr. Evil or that dancing guy from the Six Flags commercials.
From a red-faced teenager, with a will as soft as his feathery hair, I became a proud bald man. I’d enter my 20s ready to take on anything that came my way, and it’s all because I realized, thanks to my dad, that to do what you want, you have to own who you are. I lost all my hair but gained all the confidence I ever needed to succeed. Not to mention all the money I save on haircuts.
Zac Easton lives in Winnipeg.