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Illustration: Alan Clarke
So I’m standing in front of the full-length mirror and I hit the deck to do my usual – at least – 50 push-ups, when I suddenly spot something that makes me, out loud, go, “What . . . the actual-?”
I’m down on all fours, not even moving, staring into the mirror, unable to believe that I’m seeing what I’m seeing?
“SORCHA!” I hear a voice shout. It turns out that it’s, like, my voice. “SORCHA!”
She comes running into the utility room, sees me down on my hands and knees and probably thinks it’s a recurrence of the rotator cuff injury that pretty much ended my rugby career. What she doesn’t know yet is that it’s something far more serious than that.
“My hair!” I go. “It’s falling out in massive clumps!”
She laughs – actually laughs.
She’s like, “Ross, I’m watching Bake Off.”
I’m there, “Forget the focking Bake Off, Sorcha! Look at my head!”
Which she does, in fairness to her, examining it like she’s checking a piece of cheese for mould.
She goes, “Ross, you’re-”
I’m like, “Don’t say it.”
“Don’t say what?”
“What you were about to say. It’s obviously some kind of condition.”
“Yeah, no, an allergic reaction. Have we changed shampoos recently?”
“No, we haven’t changed shampoos.”
“Then maybe it’s my baseball cap. There might be something in, like, the fabric that’s, I don’t know, irritating my scalp?”
“Let’s ring that doctor mate of yours?”
“What doctor mate are you talking about?”
“The one who hates me. Is it Deborah or Francine or something like that?”
“Are you talking about Kate who I did Spanish debating with in UCD and who did an Erasmus year in Jerez de la Frontera?”
“Er, possibly, yeah.”
“I didn’t know she hated you.”
“Trust me, Sorcha, she hates me. Can you ring her?”
“Ross, I don’t think she’s that kind of doctor.”
“Please, Sorcha. I’m scared. I’m shaking like a literal leaf here.”
Sorcha rolls her eyes and then whips out her phone.
“I’ll Facetime her,” she goes. “But like I said, I don’t think she’s that kind of-”
She answers on the third ring.
She’s like, “Hey, Sorcha – please tell me that you’ve left that complete and utter wanker!”
Sorcha laughs, sort of, like, nervously?
She goes, “Yeah, no, Ross is in the room with me here, Kate.”
Kate’s there, “Oh, er, right.”
I’m like, “Don’t apologise,” still down on all fours, by the way. “I get that a lot.”
“Ross has, em, a concern,” Sorcha goes, “of a possibly medical nature?”
Kate’s like, “Er, okay,” obviously looking for more info.
Sorcha’s there’s, “His hair is falling out. He thinks it might be some kind of allergy—”
“I’m going to cut you off there,” Kate goes. “I don’t know anything about venereal diseases.”
I’m like, “Why do you automatically assume it’s that? Jesus, was I that bad in UCD?”
“Yeah, no,” Sorcha goes, “it’s the hair on his head this time, Kate. He was wondering would you take a look at it?”
“Like I said,” Kate goes, “I’m a gastroenterologist.”
Sorcha’s there, “I think we’d still value your, hopefully, opinion.”
Kate sighs, then goes, “Okay, let me see,” and Sorcha turns the phone around and puts the camera on me.
Kate’s like, “Why have you got your top off?” and I have to admit, it’s not the first time I’ve heard her say those words.
I’m there, “I was about to do my usual 50 push-ups in the laundry room. That’s when I first noticed it.”
“Okay,” Kate goes, “let me see the, em, area of concern.”
Sorcha puts the phone to the crown of my head, then she storts moving it around like she’s trying to scan a borcode.
“Move it to the left a little?” I hear Kate go. “Okay, and now to the right. Okay. And back a bit. Yeah, that’s okay, Sorcha, I’ve seen enough.”
The two of them – I swear to fock – stort talking to each other in Spanish then. One says one thing, then the other one says something else, then they both chuckle away.
“So what’s wrong with me?” I go. “Is it, like, a condition?”
“Yes,” Kate goes, “it’s a condition.”
“Oh, thank God,” I go, relief washing over me.
She’s there, “It’s called Male Pattern Baldness.”
“Male Pattern Baldness – yeah, no, that’s a good name for it alright!” I go. “So what’s the cure? Here, it’s not a dose of antibiotics, is it? I don’t want to have to go off the drink with the autumn internationals coming up.”
And that’s when she says it – totally out of left field. She’s like, “There’s no cure, Ross.”
I’m there, “What do you mean there’s no cure?”
“It’s natural,” she goes, then she says my five least favourite words in the English language. “It happens to most men.”
I’m there, “I am not most men, Kate.”
She goes, “How old are you now, Ross?”
I’m like, “I’m 41 – but I’m, like, a young 41?”
She laughs like there’s no such thing. Then she goes, “And is your father bald?”
I’m like, “My old man? Yeah, no, he’s as bald as the lies that come out of his mouth.”
“And what about his father?”
“I never knew him, except as some random dude in photographs with – oh, fock . . . no hair.”
“Mystery solved,” Sorcha goes – and I swear to God, she has the faint trace of, like, a smile on her lips.
“I can’t go bald,” I go. “My hair is one of my best qualities. The famous quiff that women love.”
Sorcha’s there, “What do you care what women think?” and she’s definitely enjoying every second of this. “You’re a married man, Ross.”
I’m there, “That’s like asking why do dogs chase cors when they can’t drive.”
She goes, “Er, I don’t think it’s the same thing at all.”
I end up suddenly losing it.
I’m like, “What kind of doctor is this so-called Kate anyway?”
“I’m a gastroenterologist,” I hear Kate go, “whose husband is a middle-aged man who’s also losing his hair.”
I’m like, “Hang up on her, Sorcha. I’m going to get a second opinion.”
“You can have mine,” Sorcha goes. “You’re going bald, Ross. You’re going bald very, very fast.”
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