Hide in Plain Sight by BaldSurfer
It was the second day of our long weekend away and Janine ruined it with one sentence. We'd flown to Florida to get away from the cold for a few days, and I was getting out of the pool to get us some drinks, when she said, loud enough for everyone to hear, "While you're out of the pool, honey, you'd better spray some sunscreen on your bald spot because it's getting burned."
Bald spot? BALD spot? Sure, I'd noticed the thinning in the back of my head. When I got my hair cut and was talking to Joey, my barber, I even jokingly referred to it as "the divot", asking him not to cut it too short in "the divot". It was a little thinner than the rest of my hair, but i never considered it a BALD spot. The rest of my hair, jet black without even a single gray hair at 35, was dense, wavy and thick. The front hairline had barely budged since my teens.
I'd had friends who had real MPB, with the front and back both receding until the top was bare, and I was always the first one to encourage them to just shave it all and take control of their own fate. And I always promised myself that if it happened to me, I'd just shave my head and be done with it. I'd shaved m head one summer in my twenties, on a drunken dare, and didn't mind how it looked. But I wasn't "going bald". I just had that thin spot, and the way I wore my hair, in that Macklemore style of buzzed sides and the top long and parted on the side, kept the divot from being noticeable. And I was a "gym guy", working out every day, staying in great shape, and at 6' 3", who could really get a good look at the top of my head?
But then, after a long winter when my wife hadn't seen my hair wet and unstyled in the bright sunshine, she called it a "bald spot". As I walkd to the bar to get those drinks, I reached up to the back of my head, and felt that radiating warmth that verified what Janine had said. I was getting a sunburn at the back of my head. And I also realized that I felt way more skin than hair back there. I brought the drinks back to the pool, feeling more insecure than I had in many years and asked , "Honey, does it really look like I have a bald spot?"
She saw my vulnerability but still laughed a little and said "Yeah. You know I think you're the sexiest man alive but you've been bald in the back for a long time. How have you not noticed?" I didn't know what to say. I didn't want to ruin the vacation, but inside, I was a mess. I'd get out of the shower and position the mirror on the door so I could examine the back of my head, and I'd spend way too much time trying to comb the long hair on top of my head to cover up something I was suddenly aware of and horribly insecure about. But I put on a brave face and I don't think Janine realized that she'd wrecked my self-esteem.
That first day back home, I went to the gym and worked out until I almost puked. I spent way to much time styling my hair for work. And I made an appointment for a haircut with Joey after work.
Joey was in his late 20's but already was in late stages of MPB and for the few years I'd known him, kept his hair and beard clipper shaved to mere stubble. He'd told me that when he razor shaved his face or head, he broke out badly, so the best compromise was 00 clipper shave.As Joey sprayed water on my hair, to loosen the pomade that froze it in place all day, he asked about the trip. I told him it was fun until Janine called "the divot" a bald spot. He just laughed and said "Dude. that was a surprise? I hold up the mirror to show you the back every time. For the last 6 months or so, you got maybe a dozen hairs back there!"
I accepted that I'd been in denial, but I said to Joey that if I was losing it in the front, I'd have no problem shaving it all, but except for that one spot, my hair was crazy thick.Shaving my head bald would be a tremendous amount of maintenance, and I didn't think I needed to go that far. But I knew I needed to find a new style that wouldn't make it look like I was just some loser in denial about hair loss. Joey's eyes lit up.
"Dude! I've got a great idea! We've gotta go short, but I can make it look like the divot is part of the plan."
I asked what he had in mind, but as an answer he asked "After all these years, do you trust me? I'm telling you that we're going real short, but we'll make the most of that crazy good front hairline. And the bald spot won't matter. It'll disappear into your really cool haiorcut Just trust me this one time"
With and extra assurance that he wasn't going to shave me bald or even just do an all over close buzz, I breathed a sigh of acceptance and said "Go for it."
Now, with my old haircut, Joey would start with his big Oster clippers and take the sides down to a #2, but this time the Osters had a much closer blade on them, and the right side of my head was being buzzed to the skin, all the way up past my temple. I said I'd trust Joey so I didn't say anything, but he must have noticed how my whole body tensed up, because he chuckled, said "You need to relax, dude. I got you!" and instead of moving himself to continue buzzing, he spun the chair around as he cleared away the back and the left side. So by the time he was done wit the sides, I was faced away from the mirror.
I had no choice at that point but to try and accept and even enjoy the process. He again ran a comb through the damp 6 inches of hair on top of my head. Then he grabbed scissors, and starting at the front, lifted my hair with his comb and chopped it off close, with 5 inches or so falling on the cape. I was scared, but I have to admit that I was also a little excited and maybe even a little aroused by the radical transformation that was taking place.
After he'd finished scissoring off the bulk of my hair, he blow dried it, using a brush to make it stand straight. Then Joey fumbled through his drawer and came out with a very wide red comb, the likes of which I'd never seen before. He grabbed the Osters, turned them on and thrust that wide red comb through my hair, the comb right against the top of my head and then he said "Hold, still, dude" and ran the clippers over the comb, shearing off even more hair. I didn't expect to have much of anything left when he was done.
Finally he took the comb off my head and I thought the carnage was over, but Joey said "Now you REALLY need to hold still. This is the most important part" and then he came straight at the center of my head with the clippers and carefully ran them straight back until I felt the warm vibrating clippers meet my scalp and continue backward. Stroke after stroke, with Joey occasionally taking me by the chin and straightening my head, he worked on the top of my head until he switched the clippers off, bent his knees so he could look at my hairline from eye level and decided he was done.
I couldn't imagine that I had much hair left on my head and I wanted to see what I looked like, but Joey told me he wasn't done yet. He reached behind me and as I heard the whir of the machine, he filled his hand with hot lather. I wasn't surprised as he massaged the warm lather over the sides and back of my head. It was actually a relaxing feeling after the tension of my "mystery" haircut. But the tension snapped back as I felt him rub warm lather over the center of the top of my head.
He put a fresh blade in his straight razor and carefully shaved up the back and sides of my head. "I told him I didn't want to shave my head," I thought, knowing that we were well past the point where I had any control. But even with that feeling of acceptance, it was jarring when he took the straight razor to the top of my head. He started in the middle, so at least I knew there was probably some hair left at the front. The sound of the raxor, scraping the crown of my head echoed in my ears, louder than it possibly could have sounded to anyone else.
Finally he was done. He wiped away the scraps of shaving cream. He took a large dab of some way substance, rubbed it through his fingers and then, starting at the front, worked it through the remnants of my hair. Joey again knelt to lok at me at eye level and used his scissor to catch a few stray hairs.
"Ready to see the best favor I ever did you?" he asked. I was impatient in my answer. I knew he's chopped off all my hair and I was eager to see how bad the damage was. Why did I give in when a barber said "trust me"?
He turned the chair around and I was dumbstruck. My thick black hair had been 6 inches on top when I walked in here. Now, barely an inch stood up, stick straight in the front. With my thick hair, the flat cut looked like a table. The sides of my head, not surprisingly, were shaved bald. It was different from what I'd ever looked like and from what I'd expected when he turned the chair around. I looked like some kind of cop or soldier. It was new. It was different. I didn't hate it, but didn't know if I liked it yet either. "But here's the best part," Joey said as he grabbed his big oval hand mirror and stood behind me. angling the mirror so I could see where the top of my head met the back.
The thick flat top front and sides blended seamlessly into shaved scalp at the top of my head. And that, of course led right into my old bald spot and ran down to the shaved back of my head. When Joey told me that this was called a "horseshoe flattop" it made prefect sense. Where my hair was thick in the front, it was a dense and lush plateau of black hair. But it seamlessly faded into bare skin. There was no "bald spot". Just a precise, and I have to admit manly looking haircut that tapered off to shaven crown, back and side. Slowly I saw myself start to smile. I took my hand from under the cape, and ran it over the smooth shaved sides and over the velvety flat front.
Joey knew he had a convert. He told me that if I wanted to keep up the camouflage, I'd need to get cut every two weeks or so, and I already knew that I'd probably want to do it more often than that.
When I got home, even though I had my keys, I rang the bell and waited for Janine to come to the door. She opened it and I could see the shock on her face. I had a second of doubt until she practically squealed with delight. "Oh my god! Baby, you look so sexy!" I Lowered my head so she could rub it and she did as she said "Look at you! You don't have a bald spot anymore! You look like an astronaut! I just fell in love with you all over again!"
That was two years ago. I don't think I've ever gone more than 10 days without seeing Joey for him to maintain my badass flat top. Did I lose more hair in the back since that first cut? I don't know and I don't care. A bigger bald spot might make Joey's job a little easier but as long as I keep a shaved back, sides and landing strip, the bald spot is out there for all to see but nobody notices it at all.