Having abandoned this little project upon completion about five years ago but not having the heart to shut it down, it is with inestimable pleasure that I note it’s still getting respectable hits every day. What can I say? Thank you all for your continued support.
Well, I’m still around, obviously, and despite what some consultants might tell you about Alopecia Universalis, my hair never did grow back. Anywhere. And all I really want to say about that is that I’m OK with it. In fact, when I come across a photograph of myself in the before-time, with my nondescript, mousey hair, I have to admit that I look a lot better now. I’ve forgotten the last time I caught site of my reflection in a mirror and saw a stranger. It’s just me. My kid doesn’t even remember me with hair… I mention this in case anyone out there has found their way to this blog because of ongoing hair loss, for whatever reason, or bloody lightening alopecia (mine all fell out in under three weeks). I know how stressful this can be, and all the anxiety about looking so different. I just hope you’ll trust and believe me when I tell you that you get used to it, while no one else around you bats an eyelid. I used to be self-conscious about having no eyebrows or lashes, but unless I mentioned it, no one had even noticed.
Back when it happened, though, I was freaking out, like you do. And I had excellent support from friends and family as well; I was very lucky. Without going into gory details, I was already fighting depression, low self-image and body dysmorphia when alopecia got me, and had been dealing with this lot for most of my life. You can imagine what an appearance-altering condition did to me. At the time, what kept me going was what always keeps me going: I had a family to get up and look after, and I had to keep working. It was pretty hellish, but I did it. I’m sure you can relate. Whoever you are, whatever you do, and whatever your age or gender, losing your hair is no bloody joke! My point is that it gets better. There are worst things than this, and in time they get better too. They have too. The alternative is to give up, and what a waste that would be. Life is always precious. You figure that out more the older you get, I can tell you.
So, what have I been up to since then? I’m happy to report I’ve got my mental health under control, with the help of an excellent GP, my lovely wife, Gracie, and a brilliant therapist called Sonja, along with the right balance of meds. No longer plagued by depression and social anxiety, I’ve got back into my first love of motorcycling again in a big way, after years of just using a bike for work and running errands. Now they’re fun again. I’ve written and published three books – a novel, a history and a biography – and am under contract for a fourth. I’m also now regularly selling articles on literature, film and history, and making it as a professional writer and editor. (When my hair fell out I’d just gone through academic redundancy and didn’t know what the hell I was doing.) I’ve also gotten into tattoos and started colouring myself in for a bit of visual excitement. And without any hair growing through, those colours surely do pop. My son is nearly ten now, and we’re thinking about having another kid. OK, the pandemic is a drag, but we’re all doing alright. At least all these lockdowns are giving me more time to write, rebuild old motorbikes and do a bit of blogging again.
Anyway, this blog was a significant part of my recovery. Stage one was finding Alopecia UK, particularly their Facebook group. I’d urge you to do the same, because early on it’s important to realise you’re not alone, and to get proper information about your condition as well as good old fashioned moral support. My experience was that the medical profession wasn’t much help. I got offered some horrendous treatments as well. I’ll warn you though, guys, expect to hear a lot of women discussing wigs and cosmetics. It’s a lot easier for us. We can just go full Jason Statham!
I’m not so involved with Alopecia UK now. I’ve just gotten on with my life. (I don’t really think of myself as ‘having’ alopecia now. This is just my face. I could do with losing a bit of weight, but I don’t really think about hair.) But I’ll be eternally grateful to them and I’ve made some good friends through the group. The next stage of recovery, or acceptance… moving on, whatever, was this project, which started out as a bit of fun on social media, a challenge to myself to find a bald icon every day. This was quite well received at the time, so I turned it into a blog. Looking back, I wish I’d tried raising a bit of money for charity, but hindsight’s a wonderful thing, innit? I found that exploring all these different (bald) looks, all people that I regarded as pretty stunning, was hugely helpful in accepting my own transition from hairy biker to Marlon Brando in Apocalypse Now. And I figure if this exercise made me feel better, maybe it would help others as well, especially kids. I can only hope it has, and I do still sometimes get lovely feedback from readers, so I guess in some small way, it did.
Because of my interests, my choices were always going to tend towards actors and iconic characters, as well as musicians, artists and writers. I’m well aware that the world of sport was under-represented, for which I apologise. I’m of a certain generation too, so a bit old fashioned; I’m also acutely aware that there wasn’t nearly enough age, gender and ethnic diversity. And I’ve often kicked myself for forgetting someone obvious – Jason Statham, for example. So, with all that in mind, I though I might as well fire this thing up again. Not every day mind – more of an as and when I have time – but if it in any way raises someone’s self-esteem a touch, or just a smile, then it’ll be worth it. We are a cool bunch, us hairless heroes, craggy, exotic and full of character. Let’s keep celebrating that!