Am I going bald?

I have to admit that I’m starting to thin on top. Should I shave my head?

T. Scott – Ontario

Hi, T. Scott,

If you’ve ever been in Istanbul’s Ataturk airport, you know what I’m going to say. There are few things in life more shocking than getting ready for a transfer flight and seeing dozens and dozens of men who have gone through recent hair transplant surgery waiting for their flights back home. Istanbul must have a stranglehold on male-pattern hair loss (MPHL) solutions. These guys walk around proudly with blood-soaked bandages on their heads, giving each other knowing little nods. We’re going to look rock stars when we get back to Dubai.

It’s no great revelation that 7 out of 10 of us experience some degree of hair as we age. I am completely convinced, though, that the evolutionary-balance is that 7 out of 10 women don’t care whatsoever. Nonetheless, what we do when we start to go bald is an important question.

Okay, before addressing your question, I will first of all address an easier question. When we start to add some weight to our midsection (as probably 7 out of 10 of us do), do we continue to wear the same T-shirt that we did in our twenties? Yes, it’s ironically cool that we saw Van Halen’s pre-tour warm-up gig at Sam the Record Man for their 1998 III Tour (though Gary Cherone?) but with our added belly girth, that T-shirt would make us look like we worked at a computer repair store. Instead, frame the T-shirt, put it in the mancave, and buy something from Stitch Fix.

So it goes with our thinning hair. If we even momentarily think that growing it a bit longer will make us look less bald, then we are fractions of an inch away from a combover. Those friends of our dad’s? They had no idea that they had a combover. They honestly thought that no one noticed. Except when swimming. Which they tended not to do very often.

Did you know that there was something called the Norwood Scale? A doctor dude back in the 50’s came up with this to convince us that we needed to reverse what nature thought was a wise and noble progression. And with that came the whole hair replacement industry. Plugs and wigs, buttocks-to-head transplants, hair-in-a-can aerosol sprays. I’m hoping that our children’s children will laugh to know that men obsessed about hair loss. They will walk around like the Romans, envious of those lucky enough to be endowed with the senatorial look of MPHL.

Here’s where my basic grooming philosophy comes into play. You want to shave your head? Go for it. But don’t set yourself up for being ridiculous, which in this case would mean spending an extra 40 minutes in the shower each morning making sure that you are shiny bald. Why do guys do that? I think it’s still a form of bald-shaming. After a day or two, the male-pattern baldness returns. The shock! That guy’s not naturally shiny bald! He has the lines of a balding male! Is there something wrong with him?

We need to embrace our male-pattern baldness. And then find a suitable haircut. Go ahead, shave it down with a Number 2. See how it looks. Too short? Then let it grow, which it remarkably will do. Maybe underneath that hair is one perfectly shaped head. Then Zero it down! And after you’ve screwed around with your razor a few times… go see a barber! He’ll pick something out, based on your face shape, where you’re balding, and your style.

The other day I saw a handsome middle-aged guy and it took me a minute to figure out what was different. He was dressed smartly in these olive-colored chinos and a bomber jacket. He had a short-trimmed beard. And then. Bam. Wow. Brave! Instead of completely bald with the beard, which is everywhere, he had let his hair, I guess a VI on Norwood’s scale, grow a bit. Obviously professionally cut. I used to think that guys who went completely bald were the brave ones. But this guy, embracing his MPHL, he’s like our Superhero. Fearless.

So, my recommendation to you, T. Scott, is take a deep breath, acknowledge that you are no longer twenty, and be brave. Shave it or let it grow. But don’t bother hiding it. No one, especially 7 out of 10 women, is going to be fooled.

Chop That Wood

How do I get fired up about life again?

I want to be fired up about life again. Any suggestions on how best to do this?

Brandon – California

Dear Brandon,

If I were a motivational speaker, I’d tell you to set your sights on the stars and believe that you’ll get there. But I’m not a motivational speaker. At heart, I’m a pragmatic-cynic. But I will answer your question anyway!

To best answer your question, let’s deconstruct it. There’s a lot of truth in what you ask and it’s relevant to all of us middle-aged guys.

“I want…” Great! Having that desire is the starting place.

“…to be fired up…” You’re going to have to spend a bit more time deciding what this means. Do you want to jump out of bed, throw open the blinds, and sing across the rooftops? Let’s not worry about the intensity of the emotion but instead the object of your firing up.  

“…about life…” This is the point where you need to get specific. Life? That’s ambiguous. I doubt you mean that you want to be super-excited simply to exist. Drop that word and replace it with what you really mean: your career, health, finances, or your relationship with your spouse?

“…again.” And here I’m going to stop you in your tracks. You’re suggesting that you can return to a time and a place where you were fired up. Raw truth: there’s no going back. You’re never going to be fired up about things in the same way that you once were. All that stuff about not being able to step into the same river twice, well it’s true.

The past, and whatever goals and dreams we had, no longer exists. Now that we are older and wiser, we can identify reasonable vs. unreasonable goals. These weren’t so obvious in our twenties. Let’s start a band and go platinum. I’m tired of being an accountant and think I’d be an awesome neurosurgeon. We now know those aren’t reasonable to start in our middle years.

In your second sentence you use an important word: do. Reasonableness depends on that simple verb. Let’s look at two examples.

First, let’s say that you are disappointed with your finances and want to get fired up about earning money. You want to be rich. Spend a bit of time with that. How rich do you want to be? (And why? Don’t forget to ask this because there’s no reason for us to be rich as an end in itself.) Is there a reasonable way for you to attain your financial goals? Lottery tickets do not count as attainable means to achieving financial goals. If you dream about being rich, then you are going to end up feeling less than fired up about becoming rich, because it’s never going to happen. But if you do something about it — setting (and attaining) monthly sales goals, for instance — then you’ve got every reason to be fired up.

As a second example, and one relevant to all of us middle-aged guys, is being fired up about our relationship with our spouse. Simply wishing that you had a better relationship will lead to absolutely nothing. Sit down for a few minutes and come up with some reasonable things you can do: weekly date nights, a weekend romantic getaway, reading a book together, joining a tennis club, whatever. You’ll find that if you invest into the actions, rather than the dreams, you’ll get fired up.

I should be honest and say, and my wife would echo me, that this has been a challenge for me for decades. I love planning and dreaming and hypothesizing. But I often fall short in the doing. That said, little by little I’m getting better.

I’m convinced that for many of us, our midlife crisis happens when we’re face to face with the unreasonable dreams and goals of our youth. These fired us up before we knew better. We then navigate that crisis by admitting that our personal satisfaction and, more important, our personal worth, do not depend on those pie-in-the-sky goals. Let’s not be dreamers; let’s be do-ers. Set new goals, but make sure that they align with the important parts of our lives.