Let it go, Mr. President | Inquirer Opinion

Let it go, Mr. President

12:05 AM February 07, 2015

Mr. President, do you remember Yul Brynner?

Of course you recall one of Hollywood’s biggest stars of the 1960s and 1970s. I guess you’ve seen “The King and I” and the classic cowboy Western “The Magnificent Seven,” which were his most famous movies. I guess you’ve also seen “Westworld,” the 1973 sci-fi film where he stole the show as a murderous android gunfighter.

And you certainly recall the distinctive trademark that made him world-famous and a standout among other male actors of his era: his shaven head.

Well, Brynner shaved his head for his role as the Thai king Mongkut in the stage version of “The King and I.” He was so successful in this role, and became so well recognized because of his shaven pate, that he decided never to regrow his hair.


Photos of him reveal strength of character and a powerful masculinity magnified by his shaven head. When he had hair, he looked far less masculine and uncomfortably like Vladimir Putin. Come to think of it, “Vlad the Mad” would look a lot more fearsome if he were shaven.

Brynner, by the way, was born in Vladivostok to Russian parents but later became a naturalized American citizen.

What I’m saying, Mr. President, is that change can be for the better. I realize you’re very much your own man and you’re content with your looks. But it won’t hurt if you consider a change that might—might—be to your liking. Why not make that long-delayed decision to shave off your hair and do a Brynner?

I’m not saying that you should do it now, only that you should seriously consider it. I’m certain you’ve thought of it before. I guess people who care about you have suggested the same thing.


We’re both battling Mother Nature and there’s no way we can beat her. Once you hit 60, your hair will also have to contend with another foe: Father Time. I guess you’ll agree that no one can beat them both.

Hair falls. That’s a fact. The average guy loses about 100 strands a day. The only thing with guys like us is that our genes won’t allow our bodies to produce enough hair to cover our losses. If we were bankers, our hair would be a losing investment. And smart bankers know that the smart move is to cut one’s losses.


I decided to shave a decade ago. Before then, I went through the same trials with my crowning glory as you’re enduring now. We’ve got the same male-pattern baldness we don’t want, but which was handed down to us anyway by the paternal side of our families. Genetics is a b-tch, I grant you that. We’d rather be hirsute but, again, it’s our genetics that’s the problem.

What convinced me to shed my thinning locks is the realization that it’s useless to hold on to something if there’s nothing left to hold on to.

Mr. President, I’ve seen you up close many times. I was there when you inaugurated and toured the Museum of the Philippine Expeditionary Force to Korea (or Peftok) on March 29, 2012, at the Philippine Korean War Memorial Hall. I would have wanted to talk to you because we are kindred spirits in a way. Our fathers were war correspondents who knew each other and who wrote about the Korean War for their newspapers: The Manila Times (your dad) and The Evening News (my dad). We share that rare distinction of being “anakpeftok,” or the sons of men who were in Korea during the Korean War.

I was there when you keynoted all the Integrity Summit conferences held at various venues in Metro Manila in the past four years. I’ve always been impressed by your steadfast commitment to integrity and honesty despite the manic ranting of your foes. This steadfastness is one of your great strengths.

But can you shed this toughness just a bit to consider the advantages of surrendering gracefully to Mother Nature and Father Time?

Advantage 1: Shaving your head a la Brynner, Bruce Willis, Samuel L. Jackson and Michael Jordan et al. will, like them, make you project two key attributes: strength and dominance.

A few years ago, the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School did research on the advantages of being bald. All the tests it conducted showed that the female participants found men with shaven heads more dominant than men with full heads of hair. These women also found shorn men 13 percent stronger than maned men.

On the other hand, the study found that men with thinning hair were seen as the least attractive and least powerful by these women. This is probably because women tend to associate men with thinning hair with “egghead” professors or scholars. You know—the guys some women deride as harmless. Shaving your head will give you the best of both worlds: a perception of hypermasculinity and “eggheadedness.”

Yes, you’ll say that substance trumps form anytime. And that you’d rather be the real you instead of someone else’s idea of you. I believe that, too. But times have changed and you’re a powerful man. The word “selfie” means that the hypernarcissism unleashed by smartphone cams compels many people to value the gift wrapper more than the gift. And perception affects power, doesn’t it?

Advantage 2: A shaven head shows you’re badass and sexy at the same time. Most guys want to have more than what they’ve got. It’s a guy thing: Like I want to be taller, irresistible to women, and have a longer….

Every little bit helps in this game called romance. And there are young women who really, really love good-looking shaven men. A shaven head is cool, fashionable, sexy.

Advantage 3: Having a shaven head makes you stand out. The shaven man is easy to spot in a room full of men with black hair.

One is reminded of Carlos P. Romulo’s reaction to much taller American generals who kidded him for being a “shorty” (he was 5’3). Romulo told them: “Gentlemen, when you say something like that, you make me feel like a dime among nickels.”

For the shaven man, the retort would be: “Gentlemen, when you say something like that, you make me feel like a giant among midgets.” And it wouldn’t be just hot air. Research shows that a shaven head makes a man appear an inch taller.

The lesson is that disadvantages can be advantages in disguise.

Advantage 4: You literally won’t have a bad-hair day again. Think about it. No moaning over falling hair. No dandruff soiling your immaculate business suit. No more combing your surviving locks with your fingers after a slight breeze tosses them about. No more trying to figure out if propecia is better than minoxidil for you. Or if you should consider the herbal option. Or listen to more sisterly advice.

Advantage 5. A shaven head will reveal the real you, Mr. President. An American academic who did a study on social perceptions about baldness said a shaven head “is nature’s way of telling the rest of the world that you are a survivor.” He also said a shaven head projects aggressiveness and competitiveness and shows “a willingness to stand against social norms.”

The last trait is probably a good description of the part of your character that allows you to withstand the slings and

arrows of outrageous fortune. Stubbornness can be a virtue in your profession.

You can do former president Fidel V. Ramos (also a Peftok veteran of the Korean War) one better by going the route he didn’t tread. A shaven FVR as military chief of staff would probably have changed history before the People Power Revolution.

“Tanggap ko na,” you answered when Vice Ganda asked about your thinning hair at the start of 2015. That’s great news. Your views are changing.

I remember reading about you saying your hair problems were caused by stress. You’re partly right, but the scientific jury’s still out on that one. I urge you to shave, because it’s the natural thing to do.

Let it go, Mr. President. Let it go.

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Art Villasanta is a historian of the Korean War and a keen student of military history. His military websites are at www. peftok.blogspot.com and www.futurewardefeat.blogspot.com.

TAGS: Art Villasanta, column, President Aquino

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