Year after year I am haunted by my own dual identities: being gay in a heteronormative neighborhood (with very few, if no, gay friends, and a constant sense of disgust over the hypocrite militant leftists), being a closeted political dissident in an authoritarian regime (of mixed descent – whereas my father was Viet Cong, my mother’s side of the family worked for the South Vietnam’s government), and a book nerd in a world where people are losing their patience for reading long texts, especially those about Vietnamese history and literature (who longs to rehabilitate the interest in the national spirit in age of Americanization). Now, having worked my way through denial, anger, negotiation, and depression, I finally reached the resignation of joining another minority group – the ranks of balding men.
I have long anticipated this situation, though, as my father is bald, and male pattern baldness is apparently a dominant trait. Still, when someone innocently asks if my hairline has retreated or my hair has steadily thinned, I can’t help feeling anguished. To be a balding man, to me, is to lose the possibilities of different hairstyles, to earn fewer matches on dating apps, and to look much older than we’re supposed to. I had made up my mind that if I grow bald, I will shave my head completely lest people mistake me for a middle-aged loser. At least it makes me look more like Michel Foucault or Johnny Sins than Socrates or Diogenes, who, as common sense would probably tell us, are much less attractive than the former.
The thing is, both Foucault and Sins don’t have the Asian flat nose like mine, and without hair, I would look exactly like a low-ranking gangster in a Hong Kong movie, which recalls a terrible trauma I had as a kid that relates to something like an Oedipus’ prophecy. So, the thinner my hair gets, the more busting I am to have a nose job, and facial bone contouring, and eyebrow transplant, and so on, and so forth, which might hopefully save me from looking like a Chinese butcher. My years of tireless workout have proven that a strong will and physical efforts are not enough to change certain innate features, like height or skin tone. And in the face of growing discontent with our looks, we – particularly those with body image and self-esteem issues – end up finding ourselves in either one of the two scenarios: seeking psychological comfort in the body positivity propaganda or resorting to physical transformation through plastic surgery.
I’ve been tired of fooling myself about the values of inner beauty; frankly people I met don’t give a shit about what is inside my head, and there’s an idea that keeps returning to me: “Perhaps if I were less disfigured, people would treat me differently somehow.” And as I am inclined to think that body, this earthly worldly body, is too underrated, compared with the metaphysical illusory mind, the all too common self-help advice of feeling proud of how you look turns nauseating to me. It’s just as unsound as the essentialist motto ‘I was born this way and I can’t change, even if I try’.
And I must admit that I have resigned, not to the prospect of being bald, but to the fact that I need validation from surrounding people. I’m not the kind of person who weighs 300 pounds and starts preaching about fat pride whenever someone expresses their concern about my health and my looks. I want to be more attractive, even if it means conforming to the conventional beauty standards or succumbing to people’s judgements. Who cares? And if I have already committed myself to body transformation, then going bald is just too trivial, compared to those insecurities that I have already had.
Also, you know what they say, if one of the richest men in the world, Jeff Bezos, is bald, it’s obvious that there’s no cure for hair loss. Just as coming out is an annoying threshold that all gay men have to cross, perhaps the seven stages of male pattern baldness are the process that people like me have no other choice but to go through. Fortunately, with a few interesting bits of information, like that story of Masami Aomame in Murakami Haruki’s 1Q84, I can entertain myself as a balding man sometimes.