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DIY coronavirus haircuts? No need when you're going bald. And that's not the only upside. –

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This fall, I’ll celebrate two personal milestones: getting married and my fifth anniversary of starting to lose my hair.
As our pandemic quarantine drags on, I’ve been hearing a lot of people complain about DIY haircuts. Without most barbers and salons, who is going to tame this mane? But while men are investing in a whole new suite of hair products, I’m saving my money.
It's not that I lack sympathy — it's more that I lack follicles.
When I first started balding at age 23, I was horrified. Shock quickly turned into denial, denial into embarrassment and embarrassment into anger. It was my first year out of college. I was single. This wasn’t fair.
The past five years have been an emotional, Rogaine-fueled roller coaster, but I’ve come to believe something I never thought possible: Early balding is actually kind of great.
Five years ago, I was too embarrassed to talk to anyone about my hair loss, even my twin brother — who was clearly going through the same thing. I took my anxieties to Google, instead, desperately searching for help and advice. Maybe there was a fix; maybe this wasn’t hopeless.
There are millions of articles about balding online, and it didn’t take me long to realize that they all fall into one of two schools of thought:
I weighed my options. I was afraid to start taking hair loss drugs. Once you start taking them, you essentially can never stop — something they don’t tell you in all of those happy-go-lucky infomercials. They also cost — a lot. Plus the rumors about all sorts of un-ideal sexual side effects. Instead, I opted to cut my losses and shave my head. Shaving my head meant I could control my balding narrative. It was a choice — my choice. I was in control, or so I thought.
In fact, shearing off my remaining hair totally backfired. Used to a full head of hair, I felt more self-conscious than ever before. Every person I encountered — family, friends, colleagues  —  asked me why I did it, with varying levels of empathy. One colleague even asked me whether a family member of mine had cancer, thinking I had shaved my head in solidarity. I awkwardly proclaimed this was “something I’ve wanted to do for a while.”
I anticipated being asked about my new look; initially, that’s how I thought I’d gain control of my narrative. But controlling your narrative works only when you’re not full of lies — which I wasn’t. I knew that shaving wasn’t “something I wanted to do for a while,” but I thought I could fool others — and myself — into believing that. Turns out, no one is that gullible. I ordered three bottles of Rogaine and started to let my hair “grow back.”
For context, Rogaine isn’t cheap (it’s about $60 for a couple of months’ worth). But like so many men, I felt pinned against a wall. After all, Rogaine is “the only hair regrowth treatment clinically proven to regrow up to 25% more hair in 3 months*, and your satisfaction is guaranteed.” The asterisk says the statistic is “based on hair count among men and women.” But it should probably just say, “Don’t get your hopes up, man.”
My satisfaction was certainly not guaranteed. My hair kept falling out, and what was left of it looked matted down by gel — which my now-fiancée couldn’t stand. Genetics has a funny way of winning out in the end, but it took me three years of twice-a-day Rogaine application to figure that out.
I finally surrendered and shaved my head once again. Back to square one. But this time, it felt different.
I finally surrendered and shaved my head once again. Back to square one. But this time, it felt different.
Unlike the first time, shaving my head after years of resistance left me feeling relieved, not panicked. I had tried everything. I had lived through the embarrassment. I was sick of worrying. People still asked me about why I shaved, but I felt comfortable giving them an honest answer. It was the first time in five years that I wasn’t stressed about my hair. I slept a lot better at night, even if my fiancée was still Googling the cost of hair transplants.
In hindsight, I see my balding journey for what it was: a tumultuous ride through the seven stages of grief. Shock, denial, anger, bargaining (first shave), depression, testing and acceptance (second shave). I had been grieving for five years and understood it only after the fact.
Early balding is often the first sign to men that they’re aging and that their bodies won’t stay the same forever. Studies show that bald men can still be perceived as “manly” (hello, Bruce Willis and Dwayne Johnson), but the relationship between baldness and virility is more complicated than that. (It’s no coincidence that many bald actors are hyper-muscular — the compensation is real.)
In particular, balding means publicly saying goodbye to your image of youth — whether or not you’re ready — and facing the world as a new, not-so-polished self. Obviously, going bald isn’t the same as losing a loved one, but in a sense, balding really can represent a loss of self.
Navigating this deeply personal emotion at a relatively young age forced me to reflect on how I managed internal crises. I’ve learned hard things about myself along the way, like how I sometimes impulsively act on fear and occasionally lie my way out of uncomfortable situations. I learned that I tend to bottle up my feelings when I feel shame and anger, rather than talking them out with people I trust.
It’s not fun coming to terms with these kinds of psychological shortcomings, but acknowledging them early has made be a more self-aware person and prepared me for a lot of the challenges that often accompany your 20s: career transitions, cross-country moves, long-distance relationships (yes, I found a girl who loves me and my bald patch). To my surprise, balding in my 20s actually turned out to be my advantage, not my collapse.
Getting to know yourself requires work, but it can pay dividends. It’s not that I wish early hair loss on my friends, but there are worse things than realizing you can’t control everything in your life. So, to the men (and women) giving themselves haircuts this weekend, know that it’s OK if your hack job doesn’t look perfect this time around. After all, at least you have hair to hack.
Sean McQuillan is a writer and generalist with experience in economic consulting, early-stage startups, nonprofits, and large tech companies. He is interested in economic policy, gender dynamics, and his black pug, Chester. He studied at Middlebury College and lives in Brooklyn with his fiance, Leah. 


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