Tony Deyal | Hair we go again, folks
When I was a boy, my hair was thick, then it turned thin, then it turned grey, then it turned loose. I had problems with split hair. Most of mine split about 10 years ago. I reached the point where a hair on the head was worth two in the brush.
Yet, even then, the worst problem about baldness were the jokes. My older son, George, that hearing I was going to the barber, shouted, "Make him charge you half-price." I found that the unkind jokes of my youth were being directed at me.
"Tony has atomic hair," one friend said. "Plenty fallout." Being bald, I could not even blow my top. Another person who had not seen me in a long time said, "Good thing you don't go to church, otherwise you would take forever to make the sign of the cross."
I was even retold the joke about the great drug store robbery on Frederick Street. It seemed that the thief had taken everything but the hair tonic and contraceptives. Police are looking for a bald-headed Roman Catholic.
Friends were the worst. "Read Steven King," one advised. "he does write some hair-raising tales." Another recommended a new miracle drug for baldness that you rub on your head twice a day. "It doesn't grow hair like some of the others," my friend Harry explained earnestly. "What it does is that it shrinks your head to fit your remaining hair."
I was advised to cut a hole in my pocket so that I could run my fingers through my hair. I was told about the advantages of having no hair. "You will no longer have any use for keys," someone said. When I looked perplexed, he laughed and said, "Well, seeing that you lose your locks ... ." I was told to look on the bright side, I would be the first to know if rain is falling.
Someone told a long, complicated, and ribald joke at my expense about a parrot owned by a priest. It seemed that the parrot had misbehaved by sexually harassing the priest's chickens so that the priest shaved off the top of the parrot's head and put him in the back of the church. On seeing a bald man attempting to go to a pew in the front, the parrot shrieked, "Where you going? Come back here! All (expletive rephrased) chicken molesters in the back here with me!"
Now, as if the jokes are not bad enough, the researchers have discovered something far worse. Baldness can kill. Research has identified a link between hair loss and cardiovascular disease, including a recent study in India that found that bald men were 5.6 times more likely to suffer from a heart condition.
Compared to men with no hair loss, men whose crowns were completely bald had a 36 per cent greater risk of a coronary event, such as angina, a heart attack, or heart surgery. Those with frontal baldness have a nine per cent greater risk of such an event than men with all their hair, men with mild baldness of the crown have a 23 per cent higher risk, and men with moderate crown balding have a 32 per cent greater risk.
Another study found that men with bald spots at the crown are 1.5 times more likely to contract aggressive prostate cancer than those without. This is bad news for us baldies. Even though a bald head is something nobody wants to have, it is also something that nobody wants to lose, especially if you work really hard to get ahead.
Yet, there is some good news for the hair impaired. It seems that the old theory about bald men being sexier might be right. The researchers believe that bald men might be at risk because of their elevated levels of androgens, male hormones that include the sex hormone testosterone. Bald men seem to have a greater level of androgens in their scalps.
History records one very early case of death from baldness. However, it was not by a heart attack. The ancient Greek poet, Aeschylus, noted for his tragedies, had one of his own. An eagle, which had seized a tortoise and was looking to smash the reptile's shell, mistook the poet's bald head for a stone and dropped the tortoise on him.
In spite of our greater need for sympathy, given our shorter lifespan, we bald men cannot expect that people will ease up on us. It is why some men wear toupees. George Burns, the comedian, once rebuked his friend Ed Sullivan for mentioning in a newspaper column that Burns wore a toupee. "But George," said Sullivan. "I didn't think you would mind." "If I didn't mind," retorted Burns, "why would I wear a toupee?"
The best way to deal with the jokes about toupees and wigs is to make fun of yourself the way Stephen Hawking, the British cosmologist and physicist, did. He quipped, "I can't disguise myself with a wig and dark glasses - the wheelchair gives me away."
Others, like me, fight back and give the jokers as good as we get. I keep saying that even though there is a hole in the roof, the fire inside is still blazing furiously. I point out that when the Almighty made heads, he covered up the ones he didn't like.
However, the best response I have ever heard came from Marc Connelly, the American writer. One of Connelly's friends ran his hand over the writer's bald head and remarked, "That feels like my wife's behind." Connelly stroked his head thoughtfully and replied, "So it does."
- Tony Deyal was last seen asking his barber what he could use to keep his hair. The barber suggested a paper bag.