Column: On adjusting to sudden baldness


Roger VanHaren

I was told when I began my chemotherapy regimen that I would “probably” lose my hair. Two weeks to the day after my first treatment, I lost all my hair in about one hour! It’s been a month or so now, and I’m still surprised every time I see myself in a mirror or store window.

For my age, 78, I still had a a lot of hair – no indication of any receding hairline or bald spot. Silver colored, wavy. Lots of hair. Then, all of a sudden, Kojak or Daddy Warbucks! And because my pate has not been exposed to the sun, it’s shiny white.

I went to the Wayland Academy Alumni Reunion weekend festivities, and many of my former students didn’t recognize me. It’s such a remarkable difference in my appearance.

I did some research to see if there were any advantages to being bald besides the obvious ones: saving time and money because of no longer having to pay for haircuts, shampoo, conditioner, combs, brushes, hair creams, etc. We might not notice, but these expenses add up. Men who are bald aren’t required to spend money on grooming their hair. Another great advantage is saving time – you won’t need to style your hair. A bonus you might not have considered before is that you are able to shower a lot quicker, too. And no more bad hair days or hat hair.

Another advantage is that you’re the first one to know if it’s raining or snowing. Your head is an instant crier of precipitation. People who have hair are protected from those first drops. But if you’re bald, you know immediately what’s about to happen. It’s not really a super power, but it’s pretty close.

No dandruff. If you’re bald, you can put on your best black shirt or navy suit and head off to face the world. No flakes on your shoulders or lapels.

Then there’s the idea of national pride. What is the National Bird of America? The BALD eagle; not the “flowing locks of hair” eagle.

If you’re bald, you can be more aerodynamic in the pool. Or you can do Curly Howard impressions. You know … the Three Stooges.

One study I found researching the effects of male baldness asked hundreds of young men and women to give their opinions about photos of men with a full head of hair, and then give their opinions of the same men whose hair was digitally removed from the photos. Generally, the men presented in the photos were seen as stronger, more assertive, even taller in the photos where they were shown as bald.

The study even suggested an explanation of the phenomenon: A bald scalp is seen by many as associated with more “manly” professions, such as soldiers, cops and firefighters.

Well, so much for my baldness. Who knows how long it might last? Will it grow back when I’m done with chemo? What will it look like if it does grow back? I’ve heard from other cancer patients that when their hair came back in, it was different in texture and color. So, who knows? I guess I’ll just have to wait and see.