thinning hair

The Thin Grey (Hair)Line

I’ve got something weird going on on the top of my head recently. Or, to be more accurate, I’ve got something weird NOT going on up there. As in, something seems to be missing. It’s called hair.

The good news is that I still have hair. There’s just less of it. If I style it with gel, or if I comb it a certain way, I can see a strange white sheen peaking through like a mythical unicorn through a weeping willow. It’s my scalp. Where the hell did that thing come from?

A month or so ago, when we were having an early spring weather day, Wife and I did some preliminary yard work. That evening, I had a wee bit of a headache. And the top of my head felt a little itchy. A little discomfort. I mentioned it to Wife and she said, “Yeah, looks like you got a little sunburnt.”

“What do you mean, sunburnt? How can you get sunburn on the top of your head?”

Wife just looked at me while I worked it through.


I remember having a similar experience the first time I spent the day out after I finally cut my mullet in the early nineties. Okay, maybe it was the mid-nineties. The back of my neck, previously shaded, did not cope well with the garish light of day.

But there are a few differences between the end of my mullet and the end of my scalp. First of all, I could regrow my mullet. Sure, society might condemn it, but the back of my fair Irish neck would be much appreciative. With the shit currently going on up there, I’m out of biological options. Maybe I could go all David Crosby, which would at least return my neck under a protective curtain. But the top ain’t gonna reverse its trend.

Another difference is that I can put sunscreen on the back of my neck. I have a feeling it would be tough to get it on my scalp now. I guess it’s hats for the interim.

I shouldn’t whine. I’m in my mid-forties. I have friends who have had this problem since they were in their twenties. Although, at least those guys are so bald now that they can sunscreen their domes without it looking like that scene from “There’s Something About Mary.”

But dammit, my hair’s always been solid. It’s always been thick. It had a certain body that I thought could withstand the tests of time. When it started graying a few years ago, I remember saying, “Well, at least there’s still enough of it to gray.”

Damn you, Fates, for mocking me so.

Interestingly, the last time I got my hair cut, the smock that they put over me was almost filled with gray. It was a virtual sea of silver, catching the light like a precious metal glowing against the smooth blue contrast of the smock. Sparkling at me. Winking at me. And I remember saying, “With all that gray being cut out, I must have nothing but brown left.”

Will I ever learn to keep my mental mouth shut?

At least the amount of grey being cut off might not be an issue anymore. Who knows how much longer I’ll be going for haircuts in the first place. The price keeps going up and they keep cutting less hair. Rip off!

About a year ago, I started growing my hair longer. On top, at least. Don’t worry, no Return of the Mullet Jedi. It’s something I used to do from time to time when the whim struck me. But I hadn’t grown it out in about a decade. Since right around when Wife and I started dating.

I told myself that I started growing my hair longer because we were looking at some of our early dating photos with Daughter, and one of them mentioned when I used to do stuff with my hair. You know, put product in it. Try to do something with it other than a subtle George Clooney comb-forward.

By the way, when I was in my mid-twenties, I didn’t get the appeal of that ER-era George Clooney comb-forward. Then, when I hit 38 or so, it totally made sense. Early bit o’ gray and, although I couldn’t pinpoint it at the time, the first little bit of thinning, made that the go-to style for a number of years.

But now I’m “growing it out” a bit more, putting product in it more often. The other mid-40s guys in my department is doing the same. I can’t help wondering if we’re subconsciously doing this because it might be our last chance.

Or maybe I’m growing it to hide my scalp. Is this how comb-overs begin? Do I have to reconsider all those dudes I’ve assumed were child molesters all these years? Maybe they didn’t just wake up one day and think they were pulling one over on everyone. Maybe it was a subtle process that developed over years. One day you just want to thicken it up a little and the next thing you know, you’re Donald Trump.

Hey, if the presidential election ends up being two almost-80-year-old white dudes, are they just going to do the presidential debate in rocking chairs on somebody’s front porch?

Anyway, Wife finally got tired of me complaining about my thinning hair. Okay, maybe I don’t really complain. It’s more that I’m astounded. Astonished. Perplexed. Incredulous. I don’t complain, I just keep commenting how strange it is. I turn my head this way and that in the mirror. I squint my eyes. I say, “is it just me or can you see all the way to my brain?”

So Wife decided to “help” by getting me a shampoo for thinning hair. Boy howdy, is that even a thing? Am I missing something? Because if that’s a thing, then why are there still so many bald people? I mean, it’s got to work, right? Don’t we have a Consumer Protection Agency to protect people from faulty advertising? I’m sure they’ll get on the thickening shampoo right after they follow up on my contention that Red Bull did not, in fact, give me any wings.

The stuff smells disgusting. Some mixture of aloe vera and chemical sludge. Although movies in the 1980s didn’t have smells, I associate the smell of this shampoo with the vat of chemical waste that Jack Nicholson fell into to become the Joker in the first Batman movie. Or maybe this is the stuff that made the Toxic Avenger.

And this isn’t just a “put it in and rinse it out” kinda shampoo. The instructions tell me I must leave it in my hair for two full minutes. Not a moment less, nor I suppose a moment more. One minute, fifty-nine and my head will still resemble a chewed-off pencil eraser. Two minutes, one second, and I assume it’s seeped through and giving me brain cancer.

This isn’t great for a guy who a) has a morning routine drilled down to the microsecond in order to sleep in as much as possible and still get to work on time, and b) likes to wash his hair last, with eyes closed. Because now I either have to do my hair first and let it sit there while I maneuver the rest of the shower, subjecting my eyes to the burning trail of napalm that keeps snaking down from my hair, or I have to lather up my hair and then stand there like a dumbass trying to think of a song that lasts two minutes.

I looked it up, so now I try to sing “It’s Only Love,” by the Beatles. But about the time I’m fumbling through “the sight of you makes nighttime bright,” I remember that the original version of the song was called “Thanks for the Hat” and I wonder why Lennon’s so emotional about a goddamn hat, because I can only assume the rest of the lyrics would stay the same, and “Thanks for the hat/and that is all/why do I feel the way I do/thanks for the hat and that is all/but it’s so hard taking a hat from you, taking a hat from yooooooooooouuuuuuu….” just like how Paul McCartney has said the original lyrics to “Yesterday” were “Scrambled Eggs/Oh, my baby, how I love your legs,” which I can only assume were followed by “Now I need a place to hide aweg/Oh, I believe in scrambled eggs,” and now that I think of it, it’s… “ahh! ahh! ahh! Shampoo’s in my eyes! It burns! It burns! I’m meeeeeeeeeltiiiiiiiiing….”

On the plus side, my eyebrows are going to be positively LUSH! Maybe I can at least get the cool kind of brain cancer, like John Travolta in “Phenomenon.”

And I know it’s totally psychosomatic, but man, I can feel that shit doing something to my hair while it’s up there for the full two minutes and not a second more. And it doesn’t seem something overly natural. Well, at least when I die, the corpse’ll have positively dashing locks. Maybe the mortician can give me a dash of Just For Men while he’s at it.

And the sorta crappy thing is that I had finally found a shampoo I liked. After years of going from whatever crappy piece of wax was cheapest on the shelf to whichever one was next to it, all the while complaining about the dandruff I just could never get away from, I finally decided I made enough money to splurge fifteen bucks on a bottle that will last me for six months. And wouldn’t you know it, my hair started feeling fresher and the dandruff was gone. I just didn’t know this new hair god took ten percent tithing.

Wife says I can still use the good stuff. She says I can do the two-minute ritual with the pagan juice, then wash my hair like I normally would. But this seems counterintuitive to me. Wouldn’t I then just be “cleansing” my hair of whatever napalm I had just put in there? Or is the two-minute meditation long enough for it to seep all the way into my brain in order to be dispensed into my blood stream at regular intervals throughout the day?

So I still resort to the American Crew once or twice a week when my hair is particularly gruesome. Sometimes I use it after the two-minute pagan sacrifice, sometimes by itself. Don’t tell the thickening shampoo. I think the first commandment was “Thou shalt have no hair products before me.” It’s right up there with not coveting thy neighbor’s hair.

So the real question in this whole process is, “Does it work?” I’m an American, and we are fully versed in destroying our bodies and souls in order to maintain a surface beauty. But dammit, if I’m going to sell my soul to the Pompadour God, I want to at least make sure my sacrifices aren’t falling on deaf ears. Unhearing ears behind a curtain of hair is fine.

But unfortunately, I can’t answer if the thickening shampoo is working. Because of the fine print. At the very bottom of the bottle, underneath all the unpronounceable chemical ingredients (wait, is that how you spell hellfire?), it says that results will start to show after six months of use.


And then they really have me by the short-and-curlies (which, naturally, aren’t thinning), right?  Because anyone who buys this product already has thinning hair. Which means that six months from now that hair was probably already going to be thinner. So if my hair is the same thickness six months from now, they can just tell me that it would’ve been thinner without their product. Heck, even if it continues thinning, they’ll say it would’ve been worse. It’s really hard to create a control group when you’re studying history. We’ll never know if Japan would have surrendered without dropping the atomic bomb. And I’ll never know if I would’ve had less hair six months from now without using the thickening shampoo.

You know what we CAN know for certain about the future? I can guarantee that the bottle of shampoo won’t last six months. I’m guessing they’ve put about a five-month supply in there. Because I’m going to need to buy that next bottle before I can say definitively if it’s working or not. And then five months later, I’ll look in the mirror and say to myself…

“Hey Honey, is that my scalp I see?”