State Street Scribe
by Jeff Wing
Yeah, baby. You’ve probably seen me promenading about this American Riviera in my ill-advisedly tight black tee-shirt and ancient Chuck Taylors, strutting down State Street like a baaaaaaadass Merv Griffin. Naturally you incline your head and murmur to your similarly awestruck pedestrian companion as I pass; “That Jeff is an inspiring storm front of attitude, a contained cyclonic dervish of cool, a double-wide mobile hombre of righteous moxie.” And so on. Admit it, though— once or twice you’ve fleetingly suspected that I may be losing my hair, even going so far as to remark to your traveling companion through the side of your word hole; “If I’m not mistaken, Jeff is losing his hair.”
Hold it Right There, Buster
You are mistaken. You’re way off. I’ve made the same misjudgment myself once or twice. Possibly you were one of the unfortunates who saw me collapse to my knees in front of Yogurtland the other day and howl in broad daylight with the upraised hands and jutting lower teeth of a late-period Charlton Heston: “Oh, my sweet Trebek on high, I am losing my hair!” Possibly a tad too much drama, that. It was a moment of weakness. And anyway, losing my hair? Au Contraire, as they say in old Italy. The fact is, I am emphatically not losing my hair. Rather, I am surrounded by my hair. As the hairs on my head pack their bags and boldly leave my scalp, they are making themselves at home all around me. Far from being “lost”, my hair is now omnipresent. It’s everywhere I look. I CAN’T ESCAPE MY HAIR!
My hair is like one of those staring, possessed Twilight Zone dolls that keep showing up in backlit doorways to drive one to madness between commercial breaks. My hair is like that! “Say. Shouldn’t you be on my head?” I’ll chuckle good-naturedly to the former scalp-inhabitant now twined cozily around the bristles of my toothbrush when I go to polish my mouth bones. “Say-ay-ay-ay-hey!” I’ll chortle to the single hair floating like a Cheshire grin in the mud-colored milk of my half-eaten bowl of Cocoa Puffs. “What’re you doing in my half-eaten bowl of Cocoa Puffs, little guy?” There are mornings I awaken at dawn with a lilting song in my heart, until I glimpse with horror a badger-like pillow so covered with hair it coaxes from me a sudden guttural man-scream that makes the neighbor’s Chihuahua spontaneously crap. “Good morning, good mooorning! It’s great to stay up AAAIIYEEEEAAAAHHGGHHHH!!!!!!
Arm Waving and Laughing and a New “Alone” Chapter
Okay, yes. My previously demure bald spot has over time gathered momentum and is now a Category IV hurricane of beige. Place the crown of my head next to a low orbit photo of a tropical depression, and best of luck to you. From the front I do look somewhat normally hairy-headed, it must be said, and so I take great and awkward pains not to show people the back of my head. This can be difficult. In social settings and around crowds this clever deception obliges lots of spinning and arm-waving and crazy-sounding laughter, because if people are unnerved enough by your demeanor they will just want to get away and will not take the time to notice that you are balding. In practical terms, this means I’m the guy at the cocktail party in the middle of the room spinning and laughing and waving my arms like the crazy flailing tube man at a used car lot. My invitations have declined precipitously, but better they should do so because I am a scary, laughing, drink-flinging nitwit, and not because I am a bald man.
What am I so afraid of? Bald is beautiful, right? Yeah, sure. And bacon sucks. Let’s get real. I’m afraid of my bald spot, that’s what. I’m afraid it has designs on all sides of my head, afraid that it will reach all the way around to join my face. Irrational, you say? Maybe. But ironically, that scenario does provide a sensible rejoinder when I sense that people are wondering to themselves whether or not I’m balding. “Oh, I’m not balding, you know,” I’ll say nonchalantly. “What you’re seeing is my face creeping around to the back of my head.” This defense has been known to make children cry and shrink away from me. But at least they don’t think they’re talking to a balding guy.
Jason Stratham Versus Mr. Drucker
I don’t fear the fashionably five-o’clock shadowed dome of a Jason Stratham or a Bruce Willis. What keeps me up nights is the withered head of Mr. Drucker—Petticoat Junction’s jittery, bug-eyed corner grocer—his emasculating little fringe of mousey hair as fragile as Kevin Kline’s mustache. You see those men whose male pattern baldness has reduced a formerly majestic mane of thick, wavy hair to a dainty strip of translucent moss clinging in panic to the skull’s occipital ridge. No thanks, Mr. Drucker! Years before he was the weedy corner grocer in that godforsaken little TV town, that actor was a cowardly factotum in the sci-fi classic “When Worlds Collide”, abandoning his wealthy, wheelchair-bound employer at the crucial moment to skitter selfishly aboard the Earth Ark and save himself just as the end of the world was nigh, at which point he was shot down. The moral of the story? Bald Mr. Drucker types will abandon us all should another planet threaten to destroy our world. At least that’s my takeaway.
There is an irresolvable conflict at the center of all this soul-stirring upheaval, and it is this; as much as I fear the Fringe…the shaved head is not the answer! Is there anything more disturbing than a man with a clean-shaven head in a dress shirt and necktie? Good God! What on Earth is that about? I call this look the “bright pink bubble of plastic extruded through the collar.” What thinking goes into this scorched-earth option? “Well, better to have a bright pink bubble with a lil’ face on the front than male pattern baldness.” Says you! Why not take off your eyebrows too, and get a job as spokesperson for Sylvania? A world that forces a good man to choose between the Fringe and the Bright Pink Extruded Bubble is a nightmare landscape of hopelessness and rage. More or less.
As my own smirking body chemistry continues to foreclose on the hair follicles and send the tenants packing, I’m left to wonder what will be the emergent shape of my head. I have curly hair, which may have provided a helpful, lifelong obfuscation of a cranium shaped like a gourd from Neptune. Or what if finally my bald head is cruelly pointed, or lopsided, or has the smeary and hellish aspect of a Francis Bacon painting? What then?!
I guess it’s silly to obsess. Right? Yeah. I’m not THAT insecurewhatthehellyoulookinat! [ahem] I’ll just keep swaggering along with my bitchin’, raggedy-ass hair, and you can keep “sneaking” glances when we’re speaking to each other. Yeah, I know you want to confirm up close what you had only suspected from afar. We baldies see your eyes shifting when you think we won’t notice. Very smooth. It’s like trying to sneak a glance at the appendectomy scar on a pole dancer. Yeah, it’s exactly like that. The point is, we see you looking! When your hairs are departing your head with the haste of men in petticoats disembarking the Titanic, you notice these things. So…yeah. It’s time I went hat shopping. I’ve had my eye on this red and yellow beauty with a little propeller on top. It is so….me.