Weekly Wire
Austin Chronicle A Bald-Faced Lie?

By Charles Harp

JULY 12, 1999:  Bald men, listen up, and all you women too: 70 million men in the United States are either bald like me or experiencing some degree of male pattern baldness. That's a lot of us, isn't it?

I'd like to know what women really think about us bald guys. Recently I was at a costume party with a pajama theme, and I had the absolutely coolest pair of pajamas on -- I could have sold a dozen pair then and there if I'd had them. Women ignored me but raved about my pajamas. Suddenly, a flamboyant woman appeared with a bundle of silk scarves, took one, and wrapped it around my dome like a turban.

Immediately, women began noticing me too and raved, "Wow, you look so regal!"

"You're so handsome, I hadn't noticed!"

"This really brings out your eyes!"

But the topper was, "You should wear something like that all the time!"

Really! A woman said that to me.

On the dance floor, women who hadn't even noticed me before moved like magnets in my direction and were openly flirtatious. I felt like Warren Beatty must have when he was in his heyday. But mostly, I felt like a social scientist investigating a certain female hypocrisy.

First, I must say, I am a man who adores women. I have experienced depth, sensitivity, and integrity from far more women than I have from men, but I have also heard too many women, when asked about their feelings regarding balding men, say that it doesn't matter, and that they find bald men sexy. Sadly, I suspect many of them are being polite and telling white lies. Perhaps they are unwilling to admit -- or unconscious of -- their own bias and contradictions regarding this most delicate of male issues. Likewise, many women will not openly admit to their brazen attraction to money, power and fame.

Outspoken moneygrubbers and Samson worshippers may be superficial, but at least they are forthright about their intentions and pursuits. I must begrudgingly appreciate their unfettered honesty.

illustration by Jason Stout

The polite women, when fibbing, inevitably invoke the legendary bald icons: Yul Brynner, Telly Savalas, Captain Picard of the Starship Enterprise, and these days, a raft of predominantly black athletes. This is usually a clue of a well practiced feint: "Oh, they are so handsome and sexy!" Yeah, but what about me? I'm standing right here in front of you!

I have done field research. My hair began thinning in my late 20s and gradually progressed to the full horseshoe I now sport. Over the years, I have been vain enough to note women's responses to my appearance. I'm a reasonably attractive man, but seldom do women reach out and catch my eye, or look that instant longer, or do a double take ... unless I'm wearing a hat. Pardon my conceit, but I look good in hats, and I have quite a collection. It has been a lifelong fascination to observe how differently women behave toward me when my baldness is concealed.

But I'm also wary of wearing a hat because I may meet a woman I'm attracted to, and later feel her disillusionment when the hat comes off. I prefer to meet women with my baldness revealed and let the chips fall as they may.

Of course, one may argue, women who are willing to dismiss me as a bald man are shallow and not worth the effort. That may or may not be true. I meet and see lots of women I'm attracted to yet who are unresponsive to me, which I often chalk up as baldness-based rejection. Shucks, I would have liked to have come to my own conclusions regarding their worthiness or lack thereof. Ask almost any bald man -- he's learned to expect and factor in a measure of rejection that men with hair simply don't have to deal with.

Another argument I hear is that perhaps I feel better about myself when I wear a hat, that I'm more self-confident, and that is what women respond to. I don't buy it. Certainly one's personality may shift depending on what they wear, but what I have observed cuts much deeper than that. Any boost in self-esteem couldn't have matched the warp speed with which the women at the pajama party got giddy.

I've tried shaving my head to emulate the icons, but it just didn't work. I studied Michael Jordan and many of the other athletes and entertainers who chrome-dome it to conceal their diminishing hair supply. Undoubtedly, they look sleek and fantastic. But many white guys, me included, with the notable exceptions of Yul, Telly, and Picard, look more like dangerous insects or Nazi skinheads. Look at Jesse Ventura ... or Dr. Evil. Hmmmm ... could it be related to the basketball gene, which we white guys also seem to lack in fair proportion?

Speaking of basketball, what about this business of bald guys having more testosterone? Science says we're hopping with the stuff. We should be oozing with sex appeal. Haven't the women read these studies? Why aren't they chasing me instead of Harrison Ford and Brad Pitt?

And why are all aliens bald? It appears to be a sign of higher intelligence. Do women really prefer a hirsute Bubba over a sensitive, intelligent, and sexy bald man?

What's going on? Tell the truth, ladies! That Eighties sci-fi movie title Earth Girls Are Easy doesn't seem to hold so true for most of us earthbound bald guys.

Adding insult, we also have to endure television commercials and print ads that blatantly trumpet our so-called undesirable condition to the world. Sometimes I fume, but just as often, I've cringed in humiliation as I sat next to a woman watching these slick ads imply that I am less of a man.

Okay, that's my rag. I must also admit to some good fortune at having begun to bald in my late 20s, when I could get on with the more essential business of self-acceptance while still young and immortal, before the assaults of being a forty-something male when so much else heads south. I look with great compassion on my brother men who have 37 exceedingly long hairs that they sweep from side to side or back to front with a fancy swirl. I deeply commiserate with my bald buddies who seldom remove their hats, those who spend small fortunes on the $7 billion-a-year hair loss treatment and restoration industry, and, of course, those with the painfully obvious hairpieces. But, hey, Koppel and Donaldson get away with their rugs, Ted Danson got Cheered, Marv Albert did okay ... until he got busted by his libido, and Letterman was probably pulling our legs about his abysmal luck with women.

But all good fortune aside, the truth be told: If I had a magic lantern, with one enchanted wish for my body, you have one guess what my wish would be.

Meanwhile, maybe I should go into the turban business.

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