DUDE, WHERE’S MY HAIR?

(Note from thesingleside):

When I first read Brent’s post I was gripped with how courageous it was of him to write on a subject many men struggle with. In silence. And as a female, I want to say that his vulnerability is not only courageous, but desirable.  Many struggle with shame over something they wish they could change about themselves. I hope that his honesty breaks shame and encourages you. Thank you so much Brent!

Many people have written about this topic, but they have failed to capture and express the devastating effects this disease has on the psyche of young men.  Although I usually write about Korea and travel related topics, I feel this is a topic that needs to be addressed.  People who suffer from early hair loss need to know that they are not alone and everyone else needs to understand how emotionally crippling this disease is for young men.  In fact, there is nothing in the world that makes young men feel more helpless, deficient, shameful, embarrassed, unattractive, unwanted, angry, or afraid.  By an unfortunate lottery, these men feel like natural failures and often withdraw to being shells of their former selves because their external appearance no longer represents how they internally know they should feel about themselves.

 

The two biggest signs of early aging for men are weight-gain and hair loss.  To a large extent, they can improve their bodies through proper nutrition and exercise.  Perhaps they are not genetically disposed to have six-packs(even if under 12% body fat), but they can improve their appearance.  On the other hand, very little can be done about hair loss.  In essence, this is why it is so debilitating.  Young men know they are strong and full of vitality, yet they are powerless in the face of hair loss.  They find their appearance reflects a version of themselves that is five to fifteen years older than their actual age.  The perception people form of them is drastically altered due to the few measly inches of recession in the front of their hairline.

 

Hair loss cannot be ignored.  We look at our face and hair every morning as we get ready for work or school.   Those who suffer from early hair loss watch a gradual recession of their hairline or watch in horror as 50 to 100 hairs fall off of their head every time they take a shower or brush their hair.  Other people can try to tell hair loss sufferers to remain positive, but they’ve never experienced what it feels like to watch years of their youth vanish in sheer moments.  When hair loss sufferers run their hands through their hair, their confidence is not affirmed by enjoying the feel of a full grasp of hair and vitality.   Instead, it is replaced by the shock of grasping for thin strands of hair or the feel of smooth bald spots that Hollywood led them to believe only existed for villains and old men.

 

Imagine the horror these young men feel when a woman they care about tries to rub her hand through his vulnerable hair or removes a hat she thinks he’s wearing to be stylish.  Imagine the horror of being invited to go to the beach with friends and knowing the addition of water to your head will reveal bald spots and thinning areas that are hidden when your hair is dry.  Imagine avoiding nicer clubs, restaurants and upscale venues in favor of casual establishments because you know you are more attractive in places that allow you to wear a hat.   These men try to remain positive, but hair loss is not something they can ignore or escape.  Every time they look in the mirror or touch their hair, their hair loss reminds them that their most beautiful and attractive days are already forgotten in the past.  They become obsessed  and look at their hair every day to try to judge if their condition is worsening, improving, or staying the same.  I believe this is acceptable for a thirty year old.  However, a nineteen year old should not endure being emasculated before his time.

 

The hopelessness for these men is only exacerbated because there are no role models or positive examples in our culture for premature hair loss.   Sure, there are people like Bruce Willis, the Rock, and Jason Statham.  However, their hair loss occurred later in life.  We have all witnessed the exploitative Hair Loss for Men commercials.  However, instead of sending a message of how to be comfortable with who you are, these commercials show grown men crying to their mothers about being follicly challenged.  What makes it worse is most of these men are in their thirties or forties.  How does that make a seventeen year old feel about himself before he leaves for college or has to take pictures for his senior prom?

The one hope this author directed his attention to was Wayne Rooney.  Rooney is a star football player for Manchester United who suffered from an advanced stage of male pattern baldness at an early age.  Despite his vulnerable hairline, he succeeded in football, became a popular celebrity, and married a beautiful woman.  He weathered criticism about his athleticism, attitude, work ethic, social life and physical appearance for years.  Despite all the criticism he overcame, this tough, gritty English football star succumbed to the psychological trauma and social stigma of hair loss.  He underwent an expensive hair transplant surgery (25,000 pounds) last summer.  His example does not illustrate how a young man should deal with hair loss; it illustrates how difficult it is for young men to deal with hair loss.  Most young men are not wealthy, famous football stars with a beautiful wife.   Most are poor and searching for someone to love them for who they are.  However, just like Wayne Rooney, their confidence is shaken by what they see.  No matter what opinion a woman has about a man’s hairline, a man with declining confidence will be universally unattractive.

 

Wayne Rooney before and After hair transplant.

 

With a few short paragraphs, I hope I’ve painted a picture of how damaging hair loss can be to the self esteem and confidence of men.  There hasn’t been a day in the last ten years where I have not thought about my own hair loss.  I often get angry at men who are unattractive because they are too lazy to eat right, exercise, purchase matching clothes, or develop likeable and honest personalities.  I get angry and jealous when I look at my 65 year old father who has a much better head of hair than I do.  I get upset because I can’t style my hair or make it look nice.  I can’t embrace my baldness because my family and friends tell me I look horrible when I shave my head.  Unfortunately, they don’t understand that I feel fake by growing and styling my hair in such a way to minimize the appearance of my hair loss.  Did I mention my forehead is ridiculously big and I’m fairly short.  The worst part is, I often can’t pursue the women I love because I feel inadequate.  A lot of people will tell me hair loss should never cause these feelings, but I’m just being honest with you… it does.

 

I’ve been fortunate to have a few beautiful and wonderful woman love me and find me attractive despite my shiny head.  Life is not over because you lose hair early and it should not revolve around how you look.  Additionally, young men now have good options for preventing hair loss.  The key is to be proactive.  I visited a dermatologist when I was 17 and he provided me with awful information and told me my only hope was a hair transplant.  I would be in a much better position had I received proper information about hair loss and available treatments.  In part two, I will provide useful information on hair loss treatments and share the best sites and forums for both information and support.  For now, if you suffer from hair loss please know that you’re not alone and I understand exactly how you feel.  For everyone else, I hope you are a little more aware of how these courageous men are every time they do simple things like jump in a pool or rock their receding hairlines with pride to the best bars in town on a Friday night.  There are no clothes, make up, or tricks to hide their insecurity.  They embrace their insecurities simply by introducing themselves and saying “hello.”

To read more of Brent’s writings:

http://kimchibytes.com

 

Looking good (for your age)

My niece and her little five year old friend play dress up for hours. Of course this entails trying to look older with makeup and heels.

Well,enjoy it.  Before long you will be trying to go back to those days before forehead lines and cellulite.  When did it happen that I noticed these things?  I think in their 20’s most women are at their prime physically.  So I guess it has been in the last few years I started seeing the signs of aging. Terrifying!  What used to not matter, now REALLY matters.  A friend said to me, “I feel like it just takes more to maintain what I have these days.”  How right she is.  It’s like at age 30+ suddenly the revelation that the clock isn’t going backwards hits you like a truck on the interstate. I’m not really that interested in looking like road kill.  Discussions amongst friends revolve around retinol and always having spf for your face, or a hat if you go outside. Don’t forget to color your roots and exercise your butt off.

I visited a friend recently that I hadn’t seen for 9 years.  Funny, but even though I obviously don’t have a crush on her I was nervous.  Nervous because I hoped she wouldn’t think I had aged.  There is something in every woman that wonders if she still “has it”.  Let’s get really honest here.  We feel better if we think we look better than another woman.  We feel worse if we feel uglier than another woman. I don’t know if guys realize how bombarded we are multiple times a day by an unachievable standard set by our culture. At times I feel so much pressure I want to rebel.

Forget the makeup!  Wear the frump clothes and boycott hair dye!  That’ll show ’em! And after a day of doing that (and skipping public places too), I’ll feel much better about being a liberated woman.

Do you look at photos and say “wow, I look so much younger 10 years ago”? And then proceed to analyze all the fresh signs of age on your face with your magnifying mirror? I tell you what, it’s not going to help you feel better unless you have money in hand for botox.  (Though I comfort myself sometimes that if I really age I can just go somewhere and get a new face).

Redneck Beauty Salon

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Contemplating the art of beautifying the nations

So, why obsess about what I can’t control?  It all boils down to this.  Whether we like it or not, in the very fabric of our being is the desire for beauty. We crave beauty.  See beauty.  Desire to make things beautiful around us, whether in decorating our house or just by creating a beautiful hospitable atmosphere for others.  Having our own ideas of what is beautiful, it varies in expression.  God made us this way. To carry this and enhance every environment we are in. And what better way to beautify than with our very selves?

Problem is, our vision is skewed.  We get a glimpse at times into our true beauty, but not often enough to satisfy our hearts. Brainwashed by the culture, we feel helplessly less than what we know we want to be. We (singles) then have the chance to panic a BIT (like, a LOT) more and go ‘what if I’m not beautiful enough to attract someone (especially after the age of 30)? When I step outside of myself for a moment, I actually have compassion on Liz and want to tell her that she is so much more than that. That her outward frame has the privilege of containing the most important part of her. Her heart.  And I want to tell every woman (even you marrieds) that this is true of them as well.

You are altogether beautiful, my love; there is no flaw in you. (Song of songs 4:7)

I have a friend who was trying to explain to her boyfriend what cellulite was.  Having all brothers, he didn’t understand what she meant. She paused a moment and then said “it’s like cottage cheese.”  His eyes lit up and he responded with, “Delicious!”

And so it is.

 

 

The Mirror Lied-(my testimony)

I believed the mirror.  Or what I’d been brainwashed to believe I was supposed to see when I looked at my reflection.  When I was little I would stare at my reflection in the window of the car on long road trips.  My dad would tell me I was beautiful and he loved to take my photo.

 

This stopped when “the change” starting happening.  My hair didn’t know what to do.  Straight? Curly?  Which one???? My complexion changed from clear and smooth to bumpy and red.  Dermatologist after dermatologist.
Braces.  Head gear.

 

I began to avoid my reflection.  I would only look at myself in the mirror, to put on makeup.  My new mask.  I never left home without it.  I didn’t let anyone see me without makeup.  Cameras were to be avoided.  Sensitivity and paranoia replaced confidence.  I remember a boy in middle school who didn’t even know me calling me “pizza face” in the cafeteria line.  My little heart was shattered.

 

Self-hatred and shame began to enter my internal world.  I nursed an unknown anger towards God for not doing a better job on my outward frame. I didn’t know the bondage I lived under until college.  For the first time in years I was choosing to go make-up free on a missions trip to India.  You might as well have asked me to expose my deepest core fear and wound —that being, “I am not beautiful and you get to see me how I REALLY am underneath all of this pretense.”  I was terrified of the day my teammates would see what I had been hiding.  Until you have come out of deep shame, you can’t understand the pain and humiliation.  Shame exposes. It mocks and threatens with “if they only knew….then….”  So, I hid.  Until the day before my team was to depart for India.

 

My friend encouraged me to share the whole mess–the whole beautiful mess with my friends.  So, I gathered my fellow teamies and in sobs of shame and brokenness revealed that I was terrified of tomorrow.  Because tomorrow they would know the Hyde part of me.  I honestly was under the deception that I was deeply flawed and monstrous.  It breaks my heart that I believed this as my core identity. Instead of rejection, my team gave me mercy.  They cried as I cried.  I was ministered to and set free that day.  I was told that beyond the physical, I am beautiful.  Sigh.  Relief.  Rest.

 

That was the marking point of walking into freedom at the deepest part of my heart.  I began to believe that God made me and said I was beautiful to Him.  It took awhile though to stop agreeing with the “flaws” in the mirror.  Sometimes just out of frustration I would make remarks about how I didn’t externally measure up.  One particular time my sister caught me in that cycle and strongly told me to “STOP IT!”  Her eyes teared up and she said,  “it hurts me when you talk down about yourself.”

 

WOW!  I had never thought that negative self talk actually affected those around me. I began to understand what she meant.  I’d hear friends who are gorgeous talk about their thighs or their extra 1/2 pound that made them so fat.  Or their hair.  Or an imperfect facial feature.  Something began to ache in me.  I hurt that they had this perfectionistic standard that they would never measure up to.  It pains me now to see a beautiful lady hide from a camera because she feels unworthy and is bound up in shame because she doesn’t see her beauty.

 

God deliver us from the lies we hear in the mirror.  Set us free from the lies we see everyday through the media that make us feel we somehow fall short no matter how hard we try.  And finally, as You open our eyes to the truth that we are each fearfully and wonderfully created, help us to begin to break agreement with the lies and refuse to talk degradingly about the ones You call lovely. Us.