My father will turn 65 years old this year. Time has had its way with him here and there but he still has a bushy, impressive, full head of white-blond hair. The men on my mother’s side of the family, however, do not. Now I, like the rest of you probably, was inculcated at some point or other with the mistruth that baldness comes entirely from your mother’s side of the family. So, it was a quite a relief when, in freshman year biology class, Mr. Stefan disabused me of this notion and described that male pattern baldness is not in fact sex linked, merely sex-influenced. Huzzah! There was hope for me! Thin hope, but hope nonetheless. Maybe my father’s robust, hirsute genes could ward off the (dashingly) cue-balled DNA of my mother’s clan. Alas, this was not so. After years of eyeing my hairline suspiciously in the mirror, mentally willing it to stay in place, I had to come to terms with the cold, hard truth: my hair was going the way of the buffalo*.
As a true over-thinker, I had my whole response to baldness mapped out by the age of 19 or so. I would never wear a toupee. I would never go for visually-upsetting-and-not-fooling-anyone plugs or surgeries. I wouldn’t even do medication. I would bald like a man. Unfortunately, I was 40 in all of these fantasies**, not 29. Why couldn’t it wait til I was at least 30?! Of course, if I was 30 I would say, “why couldn’t it wait til I was 35?!” etc. on down the line until I was, I don’t know, 70. So, at the age of 29, I was faced with what I saw as two options: audition for bald guy roles for the rest of my life or seek some chemical assistance. Now, I know what you’re saying***, there are many successful bald actors. And you’re right. But they don’t play leading men. Quick, let’s play a game. Name a bald leading man that doesn’t have ridiculous muscles. You were going to say Bruce Willis or Jason Statham before you read the second half of that sentence, weren’t you?! And look, I’m no Gosling. I know my money won’t be made in making women swoon. But I still hold out a hope that I can I can protagonize here and there.
So, Propecia. Many of my friends were/are on it and have had great success. It’s expensive, but if you can get your doctor to be a little creative there’s a prostate medication that has the exact same ingredients as Propecia and is 4x cheaper. You just have to have the patience to cut an already tiny pill into 4 tinier sections. Fuck it, I’ve got time****. So, when I was home for Christmas I got an appointment and went in to sheepishly waste a doctor’s time for a large chunk of money*****, and went home with a bottle of tiny green pills.
Only then did I think to look into the side effects I’d heard to be related to Propecia. Side effects that are, shall we say, private in nature******. I’d heard whispers about them in conversations with friends but had never fully looked into it. I also hadn’t looked into it because I do my best not to look into that sort of thing. See, if you don’t know me then you don’t know that I dabble in hypochondry. A headache is brain cancer; an itch is an antibiotic resistant bacterial infection, etc. So, for the most part, in the interest of my sleep and blood pressure, I avoid looking up illnesses/side effects on the internet*******. But not this time. I had to get the dirt before starting on what would potentially be decades of medication.
It turns out the dirt was not pretty. In fact, the dirt was junk-shrinkingly terrifying. I will take this moment to recognize that it is damn near impossible to tell what is viable information and what isn’t in the giant, gaping maw of the internet. Conspiracy theory and well-researched truth run together willy-nilly; Big Pharma funded bullshit poses as hard science. I know. I know. But there were enough legitimate websites describing cases of “permanent sexual dysfunction” to make a man cringe. Apparently, in some cases, the embarrassing side effects of Propecia were not going away when people stopped taking the medication. It’s important to state that this is incredibly rare. Only 2% of men suffer any side effects at all and it appears to be much less than half of those that suffer permanently.
It’s a relatively new medication in the grand scheme of things and this sort of information may be coming to light more and more in the future. Who knows.
At the end of the day, this was a cosmetic medication that I was thinking of taking because I am vain and afraid of change. Regardless of the veracity or lack thereof of these studies, was I willing to gamble my manhood on a baldness pill? And the answer was no. I would have spent the whole time on the medication worrying that my balls were going to stop working instead of marvelling at my luxurious hair. And that’s a trade-off I’m not willing to make.
So, call me crazy. Call me alarmist. Call me maybe*******. But I’ll be willingly following the path of the Willis, the Statham...the Tobolowsky. So, next time you see me on the street and I’m looking a little thin up top, put your hand on my shoulder and give me a tight-lipped smile of sympathy, eh?
*The buffalo went bald, right? **My fantasies are really exciting. ***In fact, I’m inside your house right now. Hi. Nice furniture. ****I’ve definitely got time for you, girl. No, sorry, not you, the other one. To your left. Yeah. Hey, what’s up? *****I don’t have good health insurance. I am playing chicken with life. ******Penis and balls stuff. *******A girlfriend once described me as, “The Man Who Googled Himself Cancer”. ********I’m so sorry.