Going bald was always a foregone conclusion for me. From a young age, I was aware that I had inherited most of my physical traits from my maternal family. Whereas my father's side was blessed with voluminous mops of thick, black hair and olive skin, all three of my mother's brothers and my grandfather were (and obviously still are) bald as coots. I grew up being told repeatedly that a similar fate awaited me and, as foretold, my hairline began to recede around the age of 16. To be honest, given the truly hideous 'curtain' hairstyle I was rocking in 1995, many might say this was no bad thing.
However, the years passed and somehow, most of my hair remained. In 2006, my hairdresser, who was always very keen to reassure me that I was 'unlikely to go bald' given that I hadn't done so already, suggested a hairstyle which involved sweeping my hair forward over my forehead and spiking the hair around my crown. This was fairly à la mode at that time (but then, so were mullets) and I literally thought nothing of it. It's only with the benefit of hindsight that I can see that actually, my hairdresser was concealing the inevitable truth and helping me to forestall my follicular fate.
I fared quite well. It wasn't until the age of 32 that the hair loss was of such an extent that I began to shave my head. Given that the aforementioned uncles had, by all accounts, lost their hair by their late teens, I felt fortunate to have held on to mine for so long. What's more, I was lucky enough to have a partner who reassured me that they found my shaven look attractive. I am, for want of less dramatic terminology, at peace with my premature baldness. Why, then, are so many other people so disappointed on my behalf?
From my mother - who, frankly, should know better given that it's her contribution to my genetics that has caused it - to random people I barely know, there is never a shortage of people ready and willing to express their sympathy with my 'plight'. 'Are you gutted to have lost your hair at such a young age?'. 'Have you ever considered a hair transplant?'. 'It's such a shame as you had such lovely hair'. The comments are numerous and made without a second thought as to how they might make me feel. For some unfathomable reason, unsolicited remarks about this aspect of someone's appearance seem to be socially acceptable. Conversely, it is rightly considered to be inappropriate or downright offensive to casually mention a person's weight gain, physical ageing or acne, for example, 'Are you devastated to have become so wrinkly?' is certain to offend and understandably so. There is a double standard at play and it could, for some people, be incredibly damaging.
The curiosity, misplaced sympathy and callousness does make me question whether I should be more perturbed about losing my hair than I actually am. Should I, in fact, be spending more time dolefully gazing into the mirror, lamenting the gradual disappearance of my golden locks and frantically researching ways to return to the 'glory days' of hairbrushes, combs, shampoo and regular trips to the barber? I think not. After all, for many, hair loss is symptomatic of serious illness, stress and trauma. To self-indulgently bemoan my male pattern baldness as a relatively healthy man headed for 40 with relatively little to complain about would, for me, feel unseemly.
That's not to say everyone does or should feel the same. Men who seek to regain (see what I did there?) their beautiful barnets should be neither mocked nor castigated - but neither should those who are at ease with the hand dealt to them by genetics, hormones or a mix of the two. Male pattern baldness continues to be open season for uninvited jest, lampooning and commiseration. It's insensitive, anti-social and wildly inappropriate. Balding, like any other physical change, affects individuals in a variety of ways - a little consideration for the feelings of others costs nothing.
Now, if you'll excuse me, I have a date with a certain Mr Remington...