My existential journey into middle-agedom

It’s about time I get to the mature part of “I’mmature,” so here’s a story of love and loss … hair loss.

It was last year in December just before exams. I was invited to a party of a club I had recently joined. Being a square by avoiding parties at all costs, and only being familiar with a few other club members, I was hesitant to attend. People were encouraging and welcoming — I went, figuring it would be a chance to socialize.

As the night continued I found myself conversing with a girl my senior whom I share ethnicities with: a black and white mix. Slightly tipsy and therefore more talkative than usual, I inquired how she managed her hair. She and I are easily on the two extremes of the black/white hair spectrum: she keeps it short, and I keep it long. Of course, you wouldn’t be able to tell I had long hair if you ever met me because my hair is so curly. Short curly hair is the more manageable of the two, so any advice she could give me would be context dependent, but I was curious nonetheless.

She began telling me the products she uses and her post-shower routine. I replied in like, commenting on my products and routine. It was a pleasant little exchange. Our conversations somehow turned to our childhood; the terrible hair days of our youth and how clueless our mothers were when it came to its upkeep. I disclosed how combing my hair dry makes it trapezoidal in shape. She told me how roughly her mother used to comb her hair; she pulled back her ringlets slightly — showing me a bald spot you wouldn’t notice otherwise. I commented “How awful” and sipped casually from my drink, but on the inside I was horrified at the possibility … We parted ways and enjoyed other aspects of the celebration.

I left the party early and returned to my apartment for the night. As I finished brushing my teeth I looked at myself in the mirror. I like to say that if you’ve met me, you’ve met me for the last 20 years — I’ve had the same hair style for most of my life; pulled back in a ponytail with loose strands tucked behind my ear. Looking myself in the mirror, I pulled back my hair revealing my true hairline, relatively high and almost square in shape — I find it unsightly, which is why I tuck loose strands behind my ear; it hides my hairline rather well.

Could this high hairline actually be due to harsh combing in my youth, just as my senior club member told? Could this possibly be … balding? I let the question fester in the back of my mind as I went to bed. Soon it fizzled out and focus returned to studying for the next two weeks of exams.

Eventually I returned home for winter break. At some point I was in my basement watching television with my dad. I looked over at him; he has been developing a widow’s peak for about five years, his hair slowly becoming more salt than pepper. The question of my high hairline came back to me, so I asked him “Dad, am I balding?” or some question like that — “bald” was definitely used.

He looked at me bemused; rolling his eyes he said, “The Esnards have always had high hairlines,” and he went back to watching TV. My gaze lingered a little on his hair and then I too returned to watching TV. I haven’t thought about balding since.

There really isn’t a moral to this story; if anything it’s a cautionary tale. I have a terrible habit of overthinking things, and now that I’ve reached my third year and every other class I attend discusses grad school, the future is heavy on my mind. My hair is important to me; if I ever lost it — like, all of it — I’d probably have an identity crisis. Being in the psychology program is also important to me, but surprisingly I probably wouldn’t be lost without it.

Some things are good to think heavily on, others not so much. What does the future hold for me and my hair? What does the future hold in terms of career options? I’ll probably think about one a lot more than the other.