MY five-year-old grandson pointed to the top of my head one day and he told me that I had no hair.
He doesn’t pull any punches that guy. He wasn’t concerned about my feelings, but I couldn’t argue with him because he was spot on.
Mother Nature, Father Time and my gene pool have determined my current state of baldness and, whatever way you look at it, I am bald. My hair has left the building.
I don’t know when the process began exactly but it was certainly a long time ago, probably when I was in my early thirties. I didn’t just wake up one morning to find my hair on the pillow next to me, it was a gradual thing.
I have no idea where I inherited this gene from because my late father had a fine head of hair on his death bed, as did his father before him. My mother wasn’t bald either so it’s a bit of a mystery.
Fortunately, it has never bothered me and, on the positive side, there are some advantages. I can cut what’s left of it myself with an electric razor and it only takes a few minutes. It doesn’t cost me anything and I can do it at home, so I don’t have to queue up in a barber shop.
On the other hand, the winters can be a bit of a challenge. Some say we lose a large amount of body heat through the top of our heads, although that has been disputed, but in any event, I compensate on those days, with a woolly hat, and the problem is solved.
There are others, though, who consider baldness to be almost as serious as losing a leg. I have seen grown men in complete distress at the thought of shedding their hair and the sight of a grey strand is enough to bring some to tears. What’s all the fuss about?
Our bodies change as we get older. We get more round, our eyesight deteriorates, and we don’t hear as well as we used to. It happens, so just get over it and play the hand that is dealt to you.
Hair is an obsession for many, though. Brazilian footballer Neymar reportedly spends about €2,000 a month having his hair done, which amounts to €24,000 per year. Given his sale by Barcelona for €225 million, money won’t bother him too much.
The actress, Jennifer Lopez, has her own hairstylist and his fee comes to $400 a week. Jennifer Aniston, of Friends fame, forks out $600 per haircut while the singer Rihanna reportedly needs almost a week of continuous hair care at a cost of almost $2,000 a week.
But if that sounds excessive, spare a thought for Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah who pays an average of €24,000 to his barber, who is flown, first class, to wherever in the world the Sultan happens to be, whenever he feels like a trim.
That’s all very well for those who have the hair and the money to look after it, but what about those who don’t have much of either? For those characters there is always the wig or the toupée. The difference between the two, apparently, is that a wig is a full set of hair while a toupée is designed to cover a specific small bald spot.
When you see the state of some of these things, you’d wonder how baldness wouldn’t be a better option. Some wigs are so bad that they draw attention to the baldness instead of disguising it.
In ancient Greece, natural hair was viewed as sacred. In fact, Greeks would often hang the hair of the dead on the door before burial, and mourners would cut their own hair and place it on the corpse as a mark of respect.
Wigs are worn for many reasons. People who have lost all or part of their own hair due to illness or natural baldness often use them to disguise the condition, or maybe to help them to feel a little more confident about themselves. Others use them to alter their appearance, like those in the entertainment industry.
Whatever we feel about toupées and wigs, some people just feel better about themselves when they have their heads covered. Maybe there are some really good ones that are so effective, we don’t even know that they are toupees, but the opposite is certainly true.
There must be some practical issues with wearing these things too, such as trying to keep them in place in the wind and keeping them clean. I imagine it must be like wearing a hat so presumably it gets warm indoors or in the sun.
All in all, you’d imagine that life would be easier all around if people could just concede to nature. Yul Brynner and Telly Savalas had very successful film careers and they didn’t have a strand of hair between them, so baldness obviously isn’t the end of the world.
There was a guy who worked in Cobh about 40 years ago. Tommy Murphy was his name, and he was from Wexford and he always had a full beard. The kind of beard you could hide things in.
I remember one occasion when he came back to Cobh after being away for a few weeks, a gang of us met up and we sat around a table having some grub and chatting.
We were sitting there for a good while before somebody eventually noticed that Tommy had shaved off the beard. Up to that point none of us had spotted it.
Just goes to show that it’s the person we see rather than the hair, so maybe we really shouldn’t be getting too hung up about it after all.