It’s a heartbreaker for an old codger like me, who for years had looked forward to baldness to bring an end to his bad hair days, only to find that with baldness come bad head days.
The last few bad hair years were bad enough. During that dreary time my head began to resemble a moldy basketball or a rugged moon surrounded by wispy white clouds. I was the man who grew a crop of anthrax atop his scalp. From the front or rear I formed a Clarabelle the Clown silhouette, or that of a volleyball wearing earmuffs, since most of my remaining hair was on the sides. The few hairs that clung to the top of my crinkled pate often stood straight up as if electrified, having lost their natural resilience and flexibility when in my forties and fifties my essential oils dried up. Nature has a good reason for covering body parts such as my head with hair, I decided, and that is because without concealment the part is hideous. And my covering thinned out and then vanished a while ago, like a herd of mastodon.
It probably didn’t help that for years I washed my hair with harsh hand soap and then combed it with a toothbrush handle. The best thing was to shave off those upright stragglers, but that still left a pockmarked, spotty skull that no cream could restore to a youthful bloom, or even the luster of a cheap wallet. That’s what I face today: a chafed, dented-looking protuberance that nudity has not improved one iota. Perhaps only applications of wood-filler from the home remodeling store would improve its appearance, and so far I’ve refused to try those.
Not being able to enhance my head’s looks, and in despair over having to carry the unsightly orb into public on a daily basis, I do what I call “sweetening the head,” and improve its fragrance. Though it does little to fill in the cracks and fissures, I rub in a couple of drops of my wife’s vanilla bean-scented after-shower lotion when I feel particularly stippled and craggy, so that those who came in close proximity to the head at least don’t need to hold their breath.
My family members, but especially my wife, who must repeatedly spend time in close proximity to the head, sometimes remaining stuck in the car or living room with it for hours on end, have never once had cause to complain about its odor. Others who must approach the head and share a confined space with the nude, flaky entity, such as my dentist, my oral hygienist, my audiologist, my primary care physician, my optometrist, my podiatrist and my sleep apnea specialist, have none of them recoiled from the head, as they might well do if it was odorless or gave off a rank smell in addition to being unsightly. I like to think, though none has commented on the fact, that some of them even enjoy my fragrant knob, and of course I mean the fragrance alone, not the knob itself, which will always be hideous.
Perhaps some of my medical care providers in their closet-size workspaces wonder where the nice aroma is coming from. They may decide it’s me, because no one else happens to be around, but I’m not saying, and certainly I’m not pointing to my head. I’m not much given to such dandified behavior. I haven’t even told my wife that I sweeten myself with her vanilla concoction, fearing she might take it as a sign that next I’ll start wearing her dresses before changing my name to Vanessa.
Since I’m the only one in the know, my health providers would have to guess that it’s my head that smells so good. My dental hygienist, for instance, who practically rubs foreheads with me as she closes in during her probing and scraping chores, perhaps has figured out that it’s my head she has to thank for the whiff of freshness in her workspace. But she hasn’t said anything, and none of my medical attendants, all of them women, has said anything. Perhaps none wants to say, “Egad, your head smells good,” because it would sound odd, or forward.
Or perhaps they are distracted by my strange behavior: being older and subject to confusion, I tend to open wide for the optometrist and look straight ahead for the hygienist. I sometimes announce that my goal in life is to keep food over my head and a roof on my table. But how refreshing it would be if one of my caretakers were to blurt out, “Damn but your noggin smells nice. The last chrome dome we had in here stank so bad we had to throw open a window.”
Whether anyone sniffing around the head ever comments on it doesn’t really matter, though. By sweetening the head, I’ve done what I can to improve the environment, and anyone is free to enjoy or suffer my knob in silence. If there are people who want to disdain a man who goes about with the top of his head smelling like an elderly woman who has just stepped out of the shower, they are free to do so.
I only hope that no one is so disgusted as to lash out at the head, physically or verbally, perhaps in alarm that a mass grave for desiccated hair follicles as unsightly as mine is symptomatic for some awful disease. If anyone calls the first responders or curses me over the head, I’ll pull on a knit cap, tugging it down tight over my ears, and leave it on. I won’t even take it off for my medical appointments.
I end with a heads-up to those young men who can’t wait to experience this disaster, and bald themselves with a razor to be fashionable: for the sake of sufferers like me, don’t.