What I learned when I shaved my head

I had a good run. I got more than forty years out of it. But I had to face the fact that my hair was in retreat and there was no going back. In fact, the front had already been beginning to thin as far back as 1999, when I (perhaps belatedly) cut off my long hair after sweating it out in Singapore for four years. Long hair in the tropics is, not to put too fine a point on it, stupid.

It was a slow retreat and I was able nurse fantasies of a front-loaded hairline for a few more years. But the last couple of years it seemed the pace was accelerating and back was also beginning to feel more fuzzy than full. I’m not into the male pattern baldness look, so after two years of cutting my hair progressively more severely and mumbling about going all the way, I finally did. As a public service to others blessed the with consequences of a surfeit of testosterone (or just plain bad genetic luck), here are the five most important things I learned when I shaved my head.

My skull is  weird

Seriously. There are all sorts of little divots, traps and undulations, like a challenging golf course. Except round. The back of my skull is kind of flat. Is this true for everyone, or am I some kind of phrenological freakshow? The practical consequence of this is that it’s almost impossible to shave myself to completion because there always spots that I miss. And, of course, I can’t see most of it. Mrs. Imagethief has to help with skull cleanup to ensure I don’t wind up with some bizarre, postapocalyptic style involving little tufts of hair out of an otherwise glossy pate.

Gillette should send me a dividend

We have a baby hair trimmer that I’ve used to buzz my head, but it’s designed for, well, babies and tends to choke on the thicker patches. It also doesn’t get all the way down. So I finish with a wet shave. I never really thought about it, but my head is damn big, and the parts of my face I’ve shaved for years seem to account for something like ten percent of the overall surface area. Like Australia on a globe. Or at least that’s what it feels like. The result is that I go through blades at a terrifying rate, which is worrying because as anyone who shaves knows, Gillette charges for blades like they’re milled out of platinum. I guess I could go generic on the blades, but, dude, this is my HEAD we’re talking about. You don’t want to walk into the office with your skull all covered in little, bloody bits of toilet paper. People will talk.

I am the human velcro

Even a hot, wet skull-shave leaves my scalp with the texture of sharkskin. Rub it one direction and its frictionless and smooth like a sphere of Teflon. Rub it in the other direction and it will peel the skin off your hands like a belt sander. The result is that my head snags on shirts, pillows, car headrests, and pretty much anything covered with fabric. It also collects cat hair, Beijing’s endemic poplar fuzz, and any other loose detritus it comes in contact with. I’m going to have to start carrying one of those sticky lint-rollers for my head and giving myself a quick going over before meetings.

My hair is fighting back

After years of what looked like slow surrender, the prospect of extinction has encouraged my hair to fight a valiant rearguard action. I mean, this stuff grows back instantly. I ruin yet another ten dollar chromium uber-blade on Sunday evening, and by Monday morning my hair is already sprouting again. By midweek it’s walking tall, like Buford freaking Pusser. Where was all this vigor when I actually wanted it? I know, I know. Five o’clock shadow and all. But still, it seems like a cruel joke.

I still don’t look like Vin Diesel

I mean, what’s the deal with that? Where are the chicks with the head fetishes?

Anyway, it’s refreshingly cool in summer. Try it out.

Then: Singapore, 1995.

Then: Singapore, 1995.

Now: Beijing, 2011.

Now: Beijing, 2011.

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