“Alright, don’t get angry at me.” My father told me.
“What?” I replied.
It was a weekend day, my dad was dropping off a sandwich as he sometimes did, when I was too tired or hungover from the previous night, or just missed the experience of breakfast in bed.
Except I didn’t like breakfast, I like lunch.
There was half-a-grin on his face and some concept of embarrassment and some nervous humor. Why not? I’d been making fun of him for this for most of my juvenile-into-adolescent career.
“By the way,” He said. “This is not bloggable material.”
“I don’t even know what you’re talking about.” I told him. “What is this some dark family secret? I was adopted or something? I don’t think so, I look pretty much like you.”
“The hair on the top of your head is getting thinner.” He told me. “It’s not very noticeable right now, but it’s there. It’s started.”
I guess I was kind of taken aback. One thing I had never really had to deal with was a deficit of hair.
In high school, I wore my hair back in a pony-tail, reaching half-way down past my shoulders and when it rained, I’d let my hair out get it drenched and feel like a viking and when it was windy, I’d let it out too, and feel like I was facing into an airplane engine, blowing back.
After that, after my ex-roommate, ex-best friend threatened not to invite girls over, I cut it off, but I’ve still rocked something of a “fro” for most times since, pausing only for summers and maternal admonishments.
“I’ve talked to some friends.” My dad continues. “You can take a pill and it grows back thicker. That’s what I’ve heard. It’s probably as simple as that. I wouldn’t say anything, but if you’re looking for a life as a performer, it’s something you should consider.”
That conversation was about a month ago and my dad checked in with me, every week after, to make sure I still had that dermatologist appointment, still knew what I was going to say, ask.
His answer was the same as my father’s: I was going bald.
“You can fight it, or you can not fight it, but the genes are somewhere there.” He told me.
“And what should I do?” I asked, a question more loaded psychologically than dermatologically.
“Philosophically, you’re going to have come to terms with going bald.” He told me and prescribed me the pill.
I had a lot of reactions that day.
I had a date immediately after my doctor’s appointment, which in retrospect was not such a good idea.
I picked up my pill, it was ready immediately.
I took it before I went to sleep.
I worried about the side effects, which my dermatologist had said were “none”, but the internet said otherwise.
I worried about the extra blood tests my doctor ordered to make sure my pimples and my early “Androgenic Alopecia” weren’t caused by hormonal imbalances, a tumor, or something else, in my brain or my balls.
I thought about how my life would have to change again, like it did with my psoriasis, taking a pill every day, rubbing something in my hair.
Would it be trying to hide the inevitable or just fooling myself?
Or would no one even know?
When I went to write this, I wasn’t even sure if I could or should, because I don’t see the issue discussed much. Baldness is something I made fun of my dad for (even though he isn’t) and was the subject of recurring jokes on “Curb Your Enthusiasm”.
When I talked to my therapist about it, she told me it was “yet another thing you cannot change”.
I would suggest, it’s the stigma of an old person, when I don’t feel that I’ve come into my own.
Sure, there’s the usual questions of attractiveness, of getting parts or women. I could say it was worse to hear now that I’m not with anyone, as opposed to when I was.
All I can say is that, it seems like some other things, to be somewhat shameful. To be something not discussed in public. To be something ignored or shelved until it’s obvious.
I talked to my dad and a friend or two about it, one of whom had been going bald since he was 19.
But though my mom offered me from sympathy, I knew she couldn’t understand.
Who could now?
I don’t know.
What I do know is this: whether I take my medicine, or I rub whatever gels or ointments or solutions in my hair, it’s a clock, like many others. It’s the same process of looking or acting older. Of accepting some sort of change in your life that comes with age.
And if it’s private, well, I’ve shared more private things on my blog than that here.
At my writing group last night, that always seems to lull and start between members working, or sleeping, or drinking or out of town, I told my fellows about “WTF with Marc Maron” , hyping it as I could, for a recent episode with character actor and Rob Malone-favorite, Stephen Tobolowsky. A gifted storyteller, Tobolowsky ousts even the talkative Marc Maron, known for his interrogative skill at drawing out the hurt from his interviewees. It’s not necessary in Tobolowsky’s case, a character actor whose many credits are tempered by his relative anonymity in them. From the background of movie sets, rock groups and growing up as a funny-named Jew in a Texas town, Tobolowsky offers everything from stories praising Mel Gibson to near-death experiences involving a life-saving case of arthritis.
What he also offers is the tale of his hair first falling out, when he was in college and the realization that his life might never be the same. A ham who got on stage in middle school and seized the “beima” while a pre-schooler in synagogue, Tobolowsky dreamed of fame as an actor, of Matinee idol parts, he’d now never get. It was change in his life and a disappointment he had nothing for. But he followed where his life took him, to a wife and two children, to a life in the theatre and film. To serious parts and quirky parts and many, many, many good stories and some bad ones. “The two sides of a miracle” Tobolowsky and Maron describe it.
It was fortuitous timing, that podcast, that no one at the writer’s group had listened to.
“I don’t know, think I’d still rather listen to music.” One of the writing group members said.
And the drinking and the laughter resumed.
“When are you going to get out of here?” Schuyler asked me, from somewhere behind where customers could see, down at the Angelika Film Center.
He was contemplating his own future, as he often does, especially now that he’s gone back to school, for filmmaking, no less.
“I don’t know.” I told him. “I don’t care about this job like I used to, feeling annoyed about my lack of promotions. I mostly just try to get through every day, without going nuts in some sort of visible fashion.”
Schuyler went to the same college that Eva, my ex goes to and I made a point of asking him if he was in the same section of the class he shared with her (“No.” He replied.)
But he wondered, as some of the employees there sometimes did, what my life was going to do, which way I was going and all that jazz.
“I’m here because it fits my life.” I told Schuyler.
And that’s pretty much all I got.
When I tell my father I’m “getting tired of serving people”, he always replies “I’m sure you are”, in an amused voice.
Mostly, I just spend my time reading, or trolling around, or trying to dissolve into work or motion.
Conversations tend to be one-sided with co-workers saying “How was your date?” or “You’ll find a pretty great lady soon.” and me just returning grunts.
I jump by my dating profile, checking it like my facebook, seeing who’s looking, who’s rated me high, who I can talk to.
I ran across a blog today called “It’s Not a Match”, which basically informed me that everything I was doing was bullshit.
This entertainingly written, personal, but annoyingly semi-anonymous account of one actor/writers foray into online dating includes such witticisms as “If you think you’re not desperate by going on these sites, spoiler alert, you are.”
It made me wonder about the time I’ve devoted so far and whether there was any secret to meeting someone, which of couse, sent me back thinking about how I met Eva and then, invariably, into sadness.
I while away days there at the Angelika, waiting, thinking, staring, being.
It’s somewhere to go and read things.
And live things.
Super Bowl Sunday was a downer, for a while.
A midshift I picked up at work left me there later than I thought and my friends had all already gone off to parties and bars, without invites or places to be for me.
When you’re a socially inter-dependent person, it’s tough to realize people aren’t that socially dependent on you.
I ended up at my parents’ home, a few minutes past a bad half-time I watched streaming on my phone, walking in the cold.
My parents were there sitting with clean plates and left-over salad and some chili and home made corn-muffins that my mom made, re-heated.
I sat there watching, talking, checking my dating profile and being in the warm with others.
I thought about last year, I thought about previous ones.
In some ways, as I’ve explained to people, Super Bowl Sunday was more of a holiday for my family then many other official ones, a time when we would get together as a family and with whatever friends would come along, to sit and relax and mingle and get kinda drunk and eat great food and be together.
This year, my friends weren’t there. This year, my father’s best friend and something like an uncle to me, had passed away and was sitting by the TV calling me “Nicky” with a grin. This year I didn’t have a girlfriend, or a fake girlfriend, or a friend’s girlfriend loaned, to provide some sense of hetero-normative adulthood.
No, this year it was just my parents and chili. And some good corn-muffins my mom made from scratch.
I felt warm in that living room.
And when I went home, it was enough.
Turkey Chili w/Sour Cream + Home-made Corn Muffins- free w/Super Bowl Sunday parental visit.
See your progenitors for details.