Wednesday, June 24, 2009


I’m bald. There’s just no two ways about it.
I came to accept the fact of my follicular barrenness many years ago. I had a lot of time to prepare since I had a receding hairline in high school. It is said that the gene for baldness is passed down through the mother’s side of the family, and my mother’s father was from all reports bald by the time he was 28. Although, I do have a few hairs left up there so I guess I should consider myself fortunate at 48 to have held out against the inevitable recession for a little while longer. My older brothers all still have hair on top, and I applaud their good fortune.
Now, I don’t want anyone to think that I am bitter about my hair loss. I learned to accept it long ago. I tend to grow hair on my body instead. My wife once said that the only places I don’t have hair are the top of my head and the bottom of my feet. That’s not to say I wouldn’t rather have hair up there simply because I don’t want to have to wear a hat whenever I go out in the sun. Sometimes I forget the hat and get sunburned anyway and then it starts to peel and people think I have a really bad case of dandruff. Oh well. Being bald has made me more aware of what other people think of it though. I have seen the lengths some men go to hide their baldness, and quite frankly, I am appalled.
The first method is, of course, the Combover. You know, letting the hair grow long on one side and then combing it over the top to try to make it look like there’s really hair there. Let me be frank here.
Guys – it looks dumb. Everyone who sees you knows you’re bald, and in a stiff breeze when the hair gets blown off it looks like a helmet standing on it’s side.
Then there’s the hairpiece. Every time my wife and I are out and about she can always tell if a guy is wearing a hairpiece, then she points it out to me and laughs. “That looks so phony!” she says. She’s right. I have yet to see one that looks truly natural.
There’s also Rogaine, which works for some, and not for others depending on what kind of baldness you are afflicted with. If you don’t mind forking out the monthly cost and then having to put the stuff on your head everyday I guess it’s ok.
Another solution is the hair transplant. I have seen the news shows that detail the lengths some people will go to replace their hair. It is in a word: horrifying. In one procedure they put water balloons under your scalp and fill them in order to stretch the skin of the scalp where you have hair growing. When the scalp is sufficiently stretched the balloons are removed and the excess folds with the active hair follicles are cut out and then sewn back on to the areas where there is no hair. Too much pain involved for me. And what if one of those balloons springs a leak? I don’t know how anyone else feels about it, but I wouldn’t want to be seen in public while all this was going on either. Can you imagine walking down the street with big bulges in the back of your head that sloshed when you moved? I suppose you could just put on a Star Trek uniform and tell everyone you were shooting a movie.
In another procedure they take little “plugs” of follicles from the hairy part of your scalp and sew them into the bald area. It looks like the aerial view of farmland. Nice neat little rows.
On top of all this after it’s all done there is no guarantee that it will work. The little follicles may not like the new spot and not grow. Or some may grow and some may not. Your growth pattern may then resemble the pattern of a waffle iron. What a pleasant thought.
All this is done because somehow some of us were convinced that the presence of hair determined whether people liked us or not. Let me be the first to let you know something: if they don’t like you without hair, they probably won’t like you with hair. Throw all the money at it you want to, but know that hair replacement does not equal personality adjustment.
Since I am bald I tend to notice when someone else is bald. It’s kind of an unspoken bond. It’s like when you get a new car and you start to notice other people driving the same kind of car. You never noticed how many there were until you got one.
So now we come to the heart of the matter.
I was in church a few weeks ago, and we were sitting towards the back. We usually sit in the back. It’s an old habit we developed when our daughters were babies. We wanted to be close to the door in case we needed to make a quick getaway to change a diaper or something. Anyway, as I was listening to the sermon, and I was listening, I noticed there are a lot of bald guys in church. Obviously they are secure in their baldness or I wouldn’t be able to see their shiny pates. I also noticed something else about them: a lot of them had sores on top of their heads from where they bumped there head on something. I noticed it because I had one too from when I was climbing the ladder in the garage and bumped my head on an exposed rafter.
But I realized something else too. I knew that just because I could see sores on the bald guy’s heads didn’t mean they were the only ones with sores on their heads. People with hair bump their heads too; they just have something there to cover up the sore. I noticed all of this because I had it in common with them. I recognized in them the same thing that was in me.
It is like that with our sins.
We often look at other peoples’ sins and shortcomings and we judge them accordingly. But we fail to recognize that the reason we can see their sins, and speak of them with such authority, is not that we are somehow better than they are as we like to think, but rather that we are guilty of the same sin. We recognize the same faults in them as in ourselves, and we seek to distance ourselves from them by seeming to be above them. Just like getting a hair transplant we seek to find a way to cover our flaws. We look for something to divert attention away from ourselves. We seek a way to look better on the outside rather than seek an internal change. Seldom do we hear a sermon and seek to apply it to ourselves first. It’s usually a good message for someone else to hear. “If only so-and-so were here. He really needs to hear this.” Never mind that we ourselves are guilty of what we accuse that person of.
When Christ said, “Do not judge so that you will not be judged.” (Matt. 7:1) He wasn’t kidding around. He’s the only one qualified to judge me or save me. My job on this earth as a Christian is not judgement, but reconciliation. I must show others that despite my flaws it is still possible for me to draw near to God because of His sacrifice, not my supposed superiority. I must show them that I am not greater than them, or higher up on some eternal ladder of performance. Because I am guilty of the same sins as them I am in need of the same remedy. Not the same method of covering up, but the same method of change.
There’s something else about bald heads: they are highly reflective. If you are walking towards someone with a bald head and he looks down, the glare can be somewhat blinding. The idea is that they reflect light, but they aren’t the source of it. And they are capable of reflecting that light even when they have a sore on their head. Despite our flaws, or hurts, or sins, God still uses us. Our effectiveness is in our willingness to be exposed and used.
So, next time you’re tempted to look down on someone, don’t look down your nose at him or her. Shave your head and look down and help to light their path.
©Dan Bode 2000