From hair to eternity
I’M WRITING this piece after getting done fixing my hair—or what’s left of it—in the mirror in my room that I came close to breaking had I not channeled my inner Ms. Restraint. But it was a close call.
You see, I belong to that army of people who are approaching baldness, and I can say it now, without batting an eyelash, that it was the bane of my existence. There were many times that I almost sued the hairdresser for cutting the bangs that I used to cover the spots just above my forehead. Those spots were my personal Bermuda Triangle—anyone who attempted to pass through would either be pulled by a strong magnetic force that is my slap, or never be seen again, at least with me around.
It was one thing to make fun of it, but it was completely another heinous thing to tousle the few strands and laugh about the deed afterwards.
God knows how much I’ve tried to resuscitate my crowning glory. I’ve tried everything from aloe vera to Mane & Tail (a shampoo for horses), to no avail. I just ended up frustrated. The mere fact that I can write this without squirming is proof that when things become natural to you, you get accustomed to it and you sort of don’t care whether people laugh at you, or call you names, or employ means of boisterous bullying.
But it can get pretty tiring sometimes, especially when you are a teacher and you face humanity every single day of your life. One moment you are extra-zestful to impart knowledge, and another moment this overhead fan sends your hair (or what’s left of it) into all directions and you hear laughter that cannot be squelched by blazing eyes. Your train of concentration is suddenly derailed, and instead of launching into your lesson with vivacity, you mellow down to just getting it done so you can go home and lock your door and not eat for hours.
You conclude that there are two things that the world is not nice to: a below-standard paycheck and a bald teacher.
I’ve also tried a variety of acts to glamorize this flaw. When asked how I would describe my condition, instead of using the generic “bald” with which most people are familiar, I use “receding hairline” to mollify my trampled ego. Of course, a change of phrase does not change a thing, but at least I can be creative in my description.
I’ve also had my hair swept to a nice side, sometimes pinned with a nice hair clip (except during school days), but that only heightened my comedic value. I looked like a reject from a shampoo commercial or a reveler in a Halloween party gone wrong. I’ve tried using hair mousse, but upon learning that it could ultimately harm—if it hadn’t already—my scalp’s chance to regenerate, I halted all interventions involving hair products.
And what about playing “deadma” with a twist? Whenever my friends teased me, instead of laughing it off, I laughed with them. Yes, you learn to laugh at a joke that is sadly about your hair, or lack thereof. This, too, shall pass, you tell yourself. In fact, “This, too, shall pass” becomes your mantra. In my mind, I was skinning my tormentors alive, but they could not see it in my eyes. Instead, they saw something they could not quite place. Was it hurt? Nope, it’s indifference—several degrees higher than hurt.
To whom do I lay the blame for my woe? Definitely, not my father. He died even before this unhappy malady came into being, back when my head of hair was still desirably full, or, as Danton Remoto would say, a “graceful river.”
My only source of comfort was the thought that whenever someone made fun of my (near-nonexistent) tresses, my father in high heaven would find a way to retaliate.
Shall I put the blame on the endless shampoo commercials that promise beautifully long hair? Who are they kidding, anyway? Those locks screaming perfection are likely to be fake. Or digitally enhanced. Or I am just being envious because my hair is in crisis.
Should I be accepting of my condition? But to what extent? Do I want myself to be perpetually referred to as “that fat, gay guy with a receding hairline”? Will I always launch into the silent treatment whenever the conversation veers to amusing anecdotes of “hair today, gone tomorrow”? Or will I rise, higher than and as elegant as I can possibly be, and celebrate this flaw?
Of course, if in desperation I decide to have my miserable mane shaved off, rest assured that it would not be because I have had my share of probing stares and petty (huh!) annoyances from flawless people. Words are at everyone’s disposal, so they can say whatever they want. As they say it in an old nursery rhyme, “Sticks and stones may break my bones/ but words will never hurt me.” Sure, character assassination is instantaneous, but choosing your battle is a more admirable thing.
I’m writing this piece after getting done fixing my hair—or what’s left of it—and after the near-rabid paroxysm that could have resulted in a shattered heirloom mirror. I’m smiling my biggest smile in years, all teeth and gums showing, because hey, I’m getting bald, I’m having hair shrinkage that can only be categorized as not normal. I’ve had a cult following of people, young and old, who’ve made my hair their waste of time—but hey, who’s laughing now?
Ryan L. Faura, 27, is a Grade 9 teacher at San Isidro National High School in Antipolo City. He says he likes Instagram and mixtapes and the visceral thrill of bargain-book hoarding.
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