“Dude, I just have to tell you this,” my friend Hofer began, smiling, looking at the picture he’d just taken of me. I looked forward to hearing what he’d say next. Hofer’s camera is rarely separated from his hands, and his photos have a way of bringing out the best in a scene. He once roamed around Guatemala for months, taking portraits of strangers that were so excellent, they really should have been featured in “National Geographic,” even though, if you really think about it, the phrase “National Geographic” doesn’t make any sense.
I leaned in, waiting for Hofer to wax nostalgic. After all, this was the first time in nearly four years that my old group of friends had driven the three hours to visit my family. Ever since we had kids, trying to get my old buddies to visit has been like inviting vampires over for garlic toast. This night, though, with the kids in bed and the margaritas on the table, the four of us finally had a chance for some heartfelt catching up. The way Hofer looked at that picture, it seemed like he had something good to say.
“You’re really thinning out up there, man,” he continued, looking up from his camera and pointing at my head. Having lifelong friends can be greatly overrated.
“Really? I had no idea. All our mirrors have been in the shop for the past decade,” I told him.
“Hey, man, you really think he wants to hear that? If he is thinning out, I’m sure he’s aware of it,” my friend Gimp said, and my heart sank. If there’s anything worse than having a friend make pointed observations about you, it’s having another friend defend you afterwards, however weakly. That doesn’t happen unless you’re a helpless little frog who just got pounced on by a barn cat.
It’s true that for many thirty-five-year-old males, the balding process is an unfortunate side effect of still being alive. Still, it beats the alternative. Or at least the alternative of being dead, but not really the alternative of being alive and still having all your hair, which is clearly superior.
But from a biological perspective, my hair has served its purpose, and it doesn’t owe me anything. My wife and I have our two kids. Barring an act of God or booze, we’ve retired from the baby-making business. Once you’ve passed on all the genes you’re going to pass, you’re free to become a bald, halitosis-having hunchback.
“I don’t think it’s a big deal to lose your hair, anyway,” my friend Johnny said, a moment after running his hand through his mane that seems to be getting thicker with age. After the nuclear apocalypse, there will be only cockroaches and Johnny’s hair left.
The regular reader(s) of this column may recall that Johnny, despite being one of my best friends since we were five years old, did not know my second son’s name six months after Zack had been born.
“You gotta admit, other people’s kids all kind of blend together,” he’d told me.
He was probably too busy fixing his hair to commit my son’s name to memory. Fortunately for me, I won’t have to suffer those kinds of distractions for too much longer, though I will have to devote some time to figuring out what kind of convertible I should drive when I’m older. Driving a convertible without a thought to messed-up hair is perhaps the biggest benefit to being bald. If bald guys didn’t exist, the world would have 90% fewer convertibles and at least four fewer Die Hard movies.
In any event, our conversation that night soon moved on to more pleasant topics, and we did do some of that heartfelt catching up. I’m lucky to still have friends like that in my life. Plus, every now and again, I can wring a column out of our conversations, even if the premise might be a little thin.
You can let Mike Todd borrow your hat at email@example.com.
5 hours ago