Mansplaining With Stuart Heritage: Going Bald

Esquire.co.uk's new columnist confronts man's greatest fear: having a scalp like a North Korean nuclear testing site

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My name is Stuart Heritage, and I am going bald. This isn't really news – I only have to stand beneath a moderately-powered lightbulb for you to see that I've got a scalp like a North Korean nuclear testing site – but it needs to be said. I am going bald, and I have to come to terms with that.

It's harder than it sounds. Going bald is horrible. It's horrible for everyone. A 2013 study found that hair loss can trigger all sorts of psychological problems in men, from low self-confidence to anxiety to body dysmorphic disorder, with exaggerated sensations of ugliness contributing to reduced quality of life. And, well, no shit Sherlock.

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A good head of hair is a sign of youth and virility. But baldness? That's a disfigurement. It's a sign of decay. It's a big flashing neon sign that screams 'Warning! Crap genes!' at anybody who you might want to have sex with. Baldness can be an enormous, insurmountable thing to get over, which is why the global hair loss treatment industry has an annual turnover of almost three billion dollars.

I'll just be another bald man. Another man with more face to wash. Another enemy of Big Shampoo.

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For a while, I thought I could get away with it. My hair has been very gradually thinning for about 15 years, but now it's gone into full retreat. The stress of the last few months – including the birth of my youngest son and the death of my mother – has sent it packing, as if it can't really be doing with the bother any more. And now it's terminal. My hairline is a wasteland. It looks like the lino underneath the kitchen table of someone who can't eat Shredded Wheat properly. On a good day, if conditions are perfect, my hair can just about look normal. But on a bad day – a day where my oldest kid has been riding about on my shoulders, Ratatouille-ing me around by balling up my wispy remnants in his fists – I go to bed looking like a burns victim.

Jason Statham: definitely bald

"But that's fine," you're thinking. "Jason Statham is bald. The Rock is bald. They shaved their heads at the first sign of baldness, and they're the most masculine men on the planet". Well, yes, but I am not Jason Statham or The Rock. I am a mildly overweight withered sack of a man with alabaster skin and a permanent air of total exhaustion. If I shaved my head, I wouldn't look like a Fast and The Furious castmember. I'd look like the sort of close-to-death bloke you see burning to death with a hankie on his head on Margate beach on a Bank Holiday. I'd look like a gone-to-seed white supremacist with a fatty liver condition. I'd look like Steve Bannon cosplaying as Nosferatu. A shaved head wouldn't be a great look for me. Besides, if you made The Rock choose between fame and a full head of hair, I guarantee he'd be behind the till at Poundstretcher first thing tomorrow morning.

Larry David is going to be my spirit guide through this

Really, though, I think I'm getting used to the idea. There's going to be an uncomfortable transition period where people who saw me with hair will meet me without hair for the first time and unsuccessfully attempt to mask their surprise, but that'll be temporary. After that I'll just be another bald man. Another man with more face to wash. Another enemy of Big Shampoo. The thing I'm least looking forward to, though, is talking to other bald men and hearing their endless self-justification.

For an example of this, watch Larry David's recent interview with Matt Lauer. At one point Lauer, who recently went bald himself, spoke of a University of Pennsylvania study that claimed women found bald men more attractive, confident and dominant than their full-haired counterparts. David, who has been bald for decades, barked "What a crock of shit!" in response.

Lauer's attitude seems to be the stock attitude of the bald, all spouting conspiratorial over-compensatory bullshit about their supposed virility. At least Larry David can see through it. He's going to be my spirit guide through this, right down to his reluctance to shave. If he can leave a ring of hair, then I can leave a ring of hair. He's got the confidence to draw attention to his baldness, just like Danny DeVito and Bruce Willis in Looper and my dad. I'd be proud to be in company like that; company that cares so little about how they look that they've made no attempt to camouflage it.

Probably. It's fine me saying this now, when I still have a meagre smattering of hair on my head. But once it really goes, who knows what I'll do. That final step – the step where you definitively cross over from 'balding' to 'bald' – is going to be terrifying, and I have no idea how I'll react to it. Maybe I'll shave the lot off. Maybe I'll fashion an elaborate combover or buy a wig or remortgage my house for some experimental baldness treatment. It's hard to say, but I know one thing for sure. If I ever approach you with a cockamamie statistic about the perceived sexiness of bald men, you have my permission to punch me in the face.

@stuheritage