Fifty to sixty percent of men over the age of sixty are bald; by age seventy only one in five have a full head of hair. These statistics mean that a veritable army of men worldwide closely resembles my ex-husband.
Early in our courtship, and ensuing marriage I was able to pick him out in a crowd. His casual style of dressing didn’t differentiate him from other guys his age, and it wasn’t his timeless business attire that distinguished him from other executives. I was able to spot my partner anywhere because of the shape and texture of his particular bald spot.
He might have been waiting for me in the lobby of a crowded theater during intermission, or he might have been standing at the bar of a popular restaurant, waiting for me to arrive. But regardless of the location, or the distance between us, I was always able to identify my husband in a crowd.
Some men struggle with hair loss in their teens. My ex-husband was among them; twenty percent lose their hair before high school graduation. Research indicates that the earlier the loss begins the more drastic, and acute it will be.
Dr. Ivan Cohen, an associate clinical professor of dermatology at Yale University School of Medicine states “What happens in male pattern hair loss is that the growing cycle becomes shorter so the hair does not grow as long as it once did. It becomes finer, and eventually the growth cycle is eliminated.”
Early in our marriage the interaction between us began to echo male pattern hair loss. The tender connection that bound us together was weakening. We were losing the grip on our relationship, as surely as the hairs that we found on his pillowcase almost every morning, or the ones we collected from the shower drain on a daily basis.
We were able to brush off the pillowcase, or change the linens, and clean the drain to make it seem as if nothing had been lost. In keeping with the pretense, we continued to disguise the fact that our marriage was losing ground, much the same as a man might begin to wear a “comb-over” to hide the obvious, but the obvious can’t be disguised. However, our marriage lasted for six more years.
I saw him in court, or at school functions, and other sundry locations where our children would be. Our difficult divorce resulted in a less than casual friendly relationship. I needed to ramp up my indifference toward seeing him each time I knew that we’d be in the same place at the same time.
Looking much the same as he did when we were married, it was easy to recognize him at a distance, so that I could steel myself for our encounters. Sometime after me, but before wife number two he shaved his head, along with countless other middle-aged men. The characteristics of baldness which once made it easy to tell one man from the other have been all but obliterated. Now everyone has a glistening clean-shaven head. God help me, now “he’s” everywhere.
No longer can a wife or girlfriend find her bald mate distinguished by his hairstyle. Whether a man was once identified by his comb-over, thinning crown, a dangling stringy ponytail, or the sparse clumps of hair that form an identifiable pattern on his head, women used to be able to say “there he is, I’d know him anywhere.” Gone are the days when a significant other can identify her partner at fifty paces.
Nowadays I see my ex-husband everywhere. I see him at least three times a day, middle-aged bald guys are everywhere, and they all wear the same thing. Sporting fashion neutral clothing, accessorized by either wire rimmed, or rimless glasses, it’s almost impossible to tell one from the other.
Maybe I’ll eventually date one of the five guys that have a full head of hair. But now, his third wife will have to use some kind of identification system other than the one I once used.
Paintings of bald men, blonde woman, and the clown – Jill Slaughter
Paintings by Dusty Boynton: Scream & Whirl
I Thought You Were Someone Else – Barbara Kruger