This is not me:
I know I've said it's me, said it so many times even I believed it.
And I know you've wanted to believe it, hanging as you do on my every deathless, breathless word, my genius for insight and especially prevarication.
At one time it was me … the man-child with the uncombable hair … the glasses as big as Charles Nelson Reilly's, bobbing on my bulbous nose since 10th grade shortly after I lost — and then miraculously found — Danny Juenke's towering pop fly in the fog while I played centerfield. The fleshy lips measured in hectares, the clown ears, the flounder eyes, the JC Penney back-to-school reversible polo shirt.
All these things, though true, were not immutable. Of course I believed otherwise when I made it the symbol of my business, the first image most people encounter when they wonder what I'm up to.
Change happened. The glasses came off some five years when I realized contacts were not the torture devices I had feared, with their sharp edges slicing my eyeballs, or sticking permanently, or pulling out my corneas when I took the lenses out for cleaning.
None of that happened, of course, and the change opened my eyes, literally, to the wonder of swimming open waters. Occasionally I wear glasses, but they are small-lensed; they look like the glasses of someone who actually cares how he looks.
As of last week, the hair has gone, and I look really look like this:
(The same cross-eyed thousand-yard stare, the same Brezhnevian eyebrows, I can assure you. The same sartorial sophistication. I haven't gone crazy, for goodness' sake. Just bald.)
In my corrupted Thoreau-ic simplication of life, I stopped trying to comb recalcitrant hair, so I have been getting it cut short in the last year. Corrupted, of course, because at the same time I began wearing loafers because I didn't want to tie laces, and putting on my button-down shirts like T-shirts to save time, I have also been growing facial hair, wasting all that savings in shaving.
Last month bald patches showed up like sinkholes on the back of my head. Alopecia, my wife told me, having consulted the Internet. Alopecia, the skin doctor confirmed; a decidedly non-pattern baldness for this male. A fun game at home was when Nancy would announce how big the patches had grown.
"I can fix that right away," the doctor said. Steroid cream and it's cured, she said.
My Major League career teetering in tatters, I said:
"Actually, I was thinking of a different route," and explained my plan to shave my head.
The doctor looked perplexed. "Then what can I do for you?" She seemed to need a problem to solve, and I guess shaving oneself bald didn't strike her as a solution.
"You already did it," I told her. As long as the bald patches didn't signal some malady more urgent, then I felt free to widen the patches into a whole.
"You mean, shave it bald?!" the haircutter asked last week. "You mean, all of it!?"
"We ask seven or eight times when someone wants his head shaved," said the receptionist. "We want to make sure you're sure."
I was sure. Reasonably sure. Somewhat sure.
Off went the hair, two minutes tops. Home I went to make myself a hat of shaving cream and scrape it off with a new razor.
Swimming friend David, long bald by choice, recommended shaving with the grain. He also recommended not going out in public for three or four days after, but I hoped that wasn't necessary.
Maybe I'll stay like this, maybe not. Already I'm waffling.
At least it's been like an archaeological dig; I have gotten to see what lay all my life beneath the mass of knotty hair. My head has corners, which I've always suspected by feel, but there they are; not as pronounced as I had feared, worn pyramids from a forgotten civilization.
But my hair also hid a lot of little red bumps and discolorations, only one of which I could feel, the one I warn haircutters about when they wander that neighborhood with a razor.
As long as I'm being truthful: My first thought seeing my reflection was Dustin Hoffman in makeup as the 121-year-old Jack Crabb in "Little Big Man."
And I make sort of a bad imitation of Walter White from "Breaking Bad," which I didn't see 'til the deed was done and the mirror near.
David tells me to get some sun and the blotches won't frighten onlookers so much.
(rubbing newly bald pate to think this over …)My head is a bit too small for my body, and the lack of hair worsens the proportions. That's one feature I still hope is mutable, hair or no.
But the bumps and spots …
(more rubbing, more cogitating)Besides, baldness clashes with my lazy lifestyle. Hunting around for streaks of stubble on the back of my head, while somehow not scraping the many bumps into bloody streaks — let me tell you, it isn't pretty. Nor does the process go quickly.
So what's the point? Good question.
Maybe it was just do to it once and move on. Maybe I'll grow it into a Bob Haldeman/Roger Maris/Johnny Unitas flattop on the way back out. Maybe I'll slink back to the skin doc and ruin myself on steroids.
Until then, some insights from the newly shorn:
- Baldness attracts any cool breeze. Good for summer. Probably disastrous for winter.
- My head is always moist, which is weird. Maybe I've said too much.
- A bald head is not smooth, or I'm not doing this right, which is highly probable. Shirts do not pull slickly over my head like they used to, but stick like Velcro®™©. Hats put up a fight before coming off.
It's a non-slip surface. I could put a coffee cup up there, or a smart phone if I had one, and it would stay all day, within reach and ready to use.
Interesting fact: Geckos stick to walls by first shaving themselves bald.
- Fantastic scientific fact for swimmers: Your cap catches a great deal of water, conservatively half the volume of whatever body of water you're swimming. Your hair absorbs that vast quantity somehow. But without hair, the water spills in torrents from your cap, drowning small villages down slope.
In the name of decency, ye who are about to be bald for whatever reason: Be careful where you remove your cap. Stand beside the body of water you just left; return the water to its rightful place.
At least don't do it in the car.