Why am I so anxious about going bald?

The worst thing about losing your hair is disovering just how fragile the male ego is, writes Tom Fordy

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I’ve never thought any less of bald men, just the ones whose try to cover up disgracefully, with comb-overs, ill-fitting toupees, tell-tale transplants and that look that middle-aged roadies still clinging onto the Zeppelin days insist upon – thin to the point of non-existent on top, yet persistently long down the back.

That’s why I’d always claimed that as soon as I spotted the first signs of baldness on my own head, I’d just shave the lot and live out my days with hair-free dignity. Big words for a man in his twenties with a healthy head of thick, wavy hair.

But now that I’m seeing the beginnings of a very real receding hairline, I’ve started to panic. I’m desperately scrambling for ways to hide and put off the inevitable. But why does it bother me so much? Why am I so afraid of going bald?

I shouldn’t act so surprised. The signs have been there for years. All it took was one look at my father and grandfather to see the way my hair was going. Perhaps the shock comes down to something simple – the reality of ageing. No one likes to admit they’re getting older, let alone have the evidence gleaming back at them every time they look in the mirror. Thinning hair is just the start – a terrifying precursor to an expanding gut, creaking joints, and giant earlobes.

But that’s only part of it. When I do look in the mirror, it’s not the ageing that bothers me first and foremost. I don’t find myself saying, “I’m one step closer to pegging it.” Instead, I say, “Christ, what’s everyone going to think?”

I suspect that beneath the depleting follicles I’ve discovered something that runs deeper, a more revealing and unpleasant truth about the male psyche. It’s about vanity and ego, pure and simple.

The popular image of modern man is of someone who is fashion-conscious, with impeccable grooming, and most likely surrounded by a cloud of whatever fragrance is top of Esquire’s must-have list this month.

But like many men, this is not an image I generally identify with. I’ve written before about my lack of interest in fashion, something I believe is shared by a great number of men – real, normal men whose appearance and lives have little in common with high-end style.

Vanity is something from which, until recently, I would have claimed exemption. But after the prolonged periods I’ve spent over the past few months trying to manipulate clumps of hair into various positions to create the illusion of a full-bodied fringe (a pathetic display for anyone unfortunate enough to have witnessed), it’s safe to say I have the capacity to be as vain as the worst of them.

So where does this vanity come from? Like lots of men I know, I’ve had slight variations of the same hairstyle since I was about 14 years old (and to call it a “style” at all is pushing the linguistic boundaries somewhat). Clearly, the fear of going bald extends way beyond not being able to maintain a specific look – it’s about how attractive I feel to the opposite sex.

Because, no matter how much us regular, down-to-earth men reject the latest trends, the primal desire to attract women is always present, whether it’s a desire we act upon or not. It’s arguably the one constant in the ever-changing nature of masculinity. The popular notions of what’s stylish might be alien to us, but in our own way we always want to remain appealing to the opposite sex. That’s the one thing most of us have at least a little vanity about.

Whether women find baldness attractive or not is another question entirely (some do, I’m told) and one rooted in male insecurity rather than reality, I suspect. Chances are, unless I resort to the comb-over, wig, or balding roadie look, most women won’t even notice, let alone care.

And as a friend told me recently (one who’s actually bald, I should point out, not just having an ego-ridden panic attack about the threat of it), there’s no use worrying, because there’s absolutely nothing that can be done about it, unless I want to spend obscene amounts of money rectifying the situation.

When it does finally reach the point of no return, I’ll hopefully be at peace with the fact that ultimately it doesn’t matter – the only real problem is, like so many others, I’ve been cursed with a masculine ego that’s as fragile as it is full of itself.

Written by Tom Fordy, www.thetelegraph.co.uk