Everyone has a security blanket, something that makes them feel comforted and safe. For a lot of people, their security blanket is their hair. Whether you always keep it long or refuse to get rid of your bangs, there’s something about your hair that makes you feel safe. I have felt that way ever since I was a teenager, and my biggest fear was always losing my hair. Now my biggest fear is coming true, and I finally had to face reality.
I hated shaving my head as a child, but my mother always forced me. Every summer, she would drag me to the barbershop and I would beg for them to keep it longer. They never did. Once I turned 11, and it was becoming more “acceptable” for the boys in my grade to keep their hair long, my mom finally listened and I stopped going to a barber. I started going to a salon and haven’t shaved my head since.
As an awkward, chubby pre-teen and shy, self-conscious gay teenager, my hair was always my security blanket. When I got into my teen years, my hair really became my thing. It was the era of MySpace culture and Scene Kids. I kept my hair long with side-swept bangs and flat-ironed it every day. When I was 14, I even had turquoise streaks.
For the first time in my life, people would compliment me on my hair. For someone who was self-conscious about their appearance for as long they could remember, a compliment like that made me feel more confident than ever. Finally, I wasn’t the chubby boy being teased for his weight or his effeminate mannerisms. Girls at school would tell me they were envious of my glossy locks, and my friends would love playing with my hair in class.
I always made sure my hair was perfectly coiffed every day. Neither snow nor rain nor heat could convince me to put down the flat iron and keep my hair frizzy. When I graduated high school, I even won the “Best Hair” superlative at my prom. But even at age 17, I could see the early signs of a receding hairline. When I finally gave up the bangs in college — which was a tough enough step at the time — my hairline was already a major problem for me.
The men on my father’s side all lost their hair. It was the running gag since I was a little boy that I would be bald one day — a thought that terrified me and something I always avoided talking about. My older sisters would love to joke about it and say I would have to shave my head one day, and I would always say I would get hair transplant surgery instead. Obviously, I didn’t realize how expensive the process was as a kid.
There’s an ongoing misconception that the male pattern baldness gene comes from your mother’s side, and I clung to that scientific myth for my entire youth. Every man on my mother’s side had a full head of hair until the day they died. That was my future, I assured everyone. I was wrong.
Fast forward a few years, and not only was my hairline moving back quickly, but there was a bald spot making an appearance on the crown of my head. I always thought to myself, it’s not fair that my hair is thinning at my age. After putting so many years of care into my hair, I felt defeated about the fact that I was, inevitably, going bald. The one thing I liked about my appearance was slowly disappearing, and soon I’d feel like that self-conscious little boy all over again.
I started cutting my hair shorter, shaving the sides down to make the top appear thicker. My hairdresser — my best friend’s mom, who has been cutting my hair since elementary school — would always laugh and shake her head when I would beg her not to take too much off the top. I wasn’t ready to let it all go just yet. When I got my most recent haircut, she said the words I dreaded hearing: it might be time to shave it all off. I almost burst into tears right there in the salon, but all I could say was “No, I’m not ready for that.”
I went on vacation a few days later, and after seeing pictures my friends took of me from behind, that’s when I realized how dire the situation was. I always avoided looking at the back of my head. From the front, my hair looked acceptable. Thin and receding, but acceptable. From the back, though, it wasn’t a pretty sight, and I was instantly self-conscious.
I decided right there, on the beach, that when I got back from vacation, I was shaving my head. The entire week, it was all I could think about. The boy who hid behind his hair for his entire high school career, who never went to a class without his hair meticulously done, who hated shaving his head as a kid, was ready to shave his head again.
When I got home after a week away with my hair dilemma gnawing at me, I found myself pushing back my remaining hair with my hand to see how I would look bald. I didn’t like how it looked, but I knew it was what I had to do. I told myself, Tomorrow you will walk right into that barbershop and ask them to shave your head right away.
I pumped myself up, walked right into the shop next to my apartment and asked if anyone could shave my head… and they had no openings that day. I was defeated because that meant another day ruminating with this self-conscious pit in my stomach. I was worried I would change my mind, and I was keeping my plan a secret from everyone just in case I did.
The next day, I walked in for my appointment, nervous but ready. In what felt like the blink of an eye, it was done. I shaved off the little hair I had left. It may not seem like a big deal for some people — it’s just hair — but I was holding on to my hair and everything it represented to me, for so long. Now, everything is out in the open. I can’t hide the fact that I’m balding. I don’t have bangs to shield my face. I don’t have people complimenting my hair and telling me how jealous they are of it. Nobody’s jealous of a bald head.
It’s still a shock when I catch my reflection and see my bald, round head staring back at me. But I’m starting to get used to it. My friends and family all seem to love it, but maybe they’re just being nice. One friend even gasped and shouted “Daddy!” when he first saw me, so that’s something new.
Most importantly, I think I actually like it. The last few years, I have hated the state of my hair, and pretty much gave up on it ever looking presentable again. It was hard, as someone so attached to their hair and someone who was already so self-conscious about basically every other aspect of their appearance, but this is a fresh start. And I’m finally ready to accept being bald.
Image via Getty