Norwood 5

For a while now it has been apparent that I am losing my hair. Going bald, they call it.

This is a very distressing turn for someone who is, as I am, quite vain. Years ago I used to laugh about this possibility, but as it has become a reality I find the situation less humourous.

My head is not yet completely smooth, like an egg or something, but there is the definite pattern of hair loss familiar to all. My crown is appearing like higher ground as flood waters recede, the small island of hair over my brow is clearly separated from the main body. There is a horseshoe shape becoming more defined. Fuck it, I am only fifty-eight for gods sake, this is so unfair.

As my hair grows back after a haircut, the middle parts don’t grow as much or as abundantly as the sides, this gives me a tufty appearance. There is a coping mechanism, I reassure myself that there is still hair present in the thinning areas, and recently I have been convincing myself that the strands are actually covering more than they were last time I looked. However, the truth is that my crowning glory is departing, and will never return.

When I was married it didn’t matter, and could be the subject of jokes as we looked over the wedding pictures or photos from holidays. Having a spouse who was not going to leave me allowed me to take such an attitude. Since she left things have changed. In the immediate aftermath of her departure I was so overwhelmed by her death and the subsequent responsibility overload, that there was no thought given to my appearance beyond the necessary washing of body and clothes. This has changed in the year since that call from the hospital.

Although we had been separated for some time prior to her becoming ill and then dying, she was a person to whom I had grown accustomed and even liked quite a lot, not to say loved even, so it has taken a while to grieve her loss and to begin to find my feet. Perhaps it is indicative of where I am in the process that the thought of my appearance has become a thing once more. A few months ago I was sitting in the barber’s chair, making a joke about how it would be nice if he could add some hair for once instead of always taking it away, when he told me he had received a transplant.

When this is mentioned you, like me, probably think of those terrible looking plugs that used to look like a shower head once the grafts had died, which they always did. This man, however, had a very natural looking head of hair, it would have been impossible to pick him out of a line-up as the recipient of a hair transplant. This fact piqued my interest considerably, having always thought the procedure ugly, risky, and usually unsuccesful. It turns out that things have moved forward in the field since the dark days of the shower head look.

There is a technique around now where the hairs are removed from the donor area leaving no mark at all, and they are implanted into micro incisions in the thinning area which heal up and are invisible. Furthermore, there are clinics in Europe dedicated to this procedure where the cost is significantly lower than it is in England. A two-day visit is all that is required to complete the operation, after two weeks the head looks normal, and over the next year or so the implanted follicles produce hair as strongly as their predecessors once did.

Since researching this topic, I learned that there is a sliding scale of hair loss called the Norwood scale which is how practitioners define baldness. My level of hair loss is called Norwood 5. When I heard this I immediately thought of films I’d seen from the thirties, this reminded me of how they used to answer the telephone, giving the name of the exchange and then the number. This allowed me to smile through the devastation of being so far progressed on the terrible scale. Still, at least it’s not as bad as being at Stage 4 on that other scale, where my late wife found herself without the luxury, if that’s the right word, of knowingly progressing through the previous stages. At least I had the fun, if that’s the right word, of being a Norwood 1 for a considerable time, holding the high ground with the attendant fun-poking potential.

You would say it doesn’t matter, and I am certain that to you, it doesn’t. To me, however, it does, it is just the extent of which I am unsure. Already, I have made enquiries of a company that specialises in this hair transplant technique. They required me to send pictures of my head from a number of different angles, to this they responded with a report on my suitability, an assessment of how many grafts would be required, and the cost. The great news is that I am a suitable candidate, no surprises there, further glad tidings are that the procedure is surprisingly affordable. My poor old head needs 3,600 grafts to return to some semblance of its former state, which sounds like a lot, but is actually not. Full recovery is expected after eighteen months.

So, how much is my vanity worth? Why would I consider doing sonething like this for an end result that is purely cosmetic, would the fact that I have hair mean anything to a person after I tell them that it is, essentially, fake. Am I correct in thinking that appearances are that important to others, would I want to be with someone who only cared that I had a fullish head of hair and not how it was achieved?

A short time ago I was involved in a minor altercation while driving, this involved me sounding the horn when a vehicle almost caused me to collide with another one. Someone driving past in the opposite direction called out ‘chill out, baldy’, and that says it all.

The jury is out, the quote for a hair transplant at a clinic in Turkey sits in my email inbox. It is true that I am very tempted to go for it, but for the moment I am waiting. My youngest daughter actually cried when I told her, she said that I would look different and that really upset her, but, as I explained to her, she will probably never know how it feels to be called baldy by a passing stranger, and therefore she should keep her emotional blackmail to herself. Of course I didn’t say that.

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