Science from a peculiar source indicates that our bodies have been hairless for at least 3.3 million years. The DNA of the lice that infest our head hair has a continuous ancestry for 12 million years, well prior to appearance of our hominin tribe six million years ago. However, the lice that reside on our pubic hair was transmitted from gorillas only 3.3 million years ago, most likely from either scavenging gorilla remains or sleeping in their nests. Although it seems possible that pubic lice are so enamored by the unique properties of pubic hair, that they eschewed head hair altogether, the fact that these two species of louse have never interbred is taken to be evidence that we have been largely hairless for at least three million years.
Leaving behind the disconcerting topic of pubic hair, it is not at all difficult to dream up good solid survival-of-the-fittest theories as to why we have retained our head hair for all this time. However, those who have followed this blog know that there is an abundance of circumstantial evidence that what our own 200,000-year Homo sapiens species have brought to the six-million-year hominin table is vanity (you will just have to read the book to get the full story). So whatever the fitness advantages of head hair were for our ancestral species, you don’t have to be an anthropologist to figure out that, for our own species, a predominant function of our hair is what is technically called sexual display, similar to a peacock’s tail. Now we get to the topic of this particular post, which is the evolutionary significance of baldness, a clearly inherited, naturally selected trait (although it is important to note that it mainly occurs after the procreative years).
Ever since I heard William Hamilton, one of the greatest of all evolutionists, speculate about the origin of baldness (even though he had a very full head of hair) I have given the topic a great deal of thought. Yes, I am bald, and ever since a fateful day in my early thirties, I have been speculating about the evolutionary benefits of baldness. On that day I lined up two opposing mirrors so I could look at myself sideways: I can only hint at depth of my shock; there was simply no doubt about it. Now I’m not denying that I didn’t make some initial efforts to cover it up with a lower part and the like, and I recall briefly parting my hair on the opposite side. BUT, and this is the main point of this post:
I GOT OVER IT
AND IT MADE ME A MUCH BETTER PERSON (LESS VAIN)
BALDNESS HAS BEEN NATURALLY SELECTED FOR THE POST-PROCREATIVE BENEFITS TO FAMILY AND WIDER SOCIAL CIRCLES ACCRUED FROM THE PRODUCTIVE REDEPLOYMENT OF THE EMOTIONAL INVESTMENT IN PHYSICAL SELF-DISPLAY THAT RESULTS FROM THE LOSS OF A PURELY DECORATIVE BODY PART
It really didn’t take that long, and I had a lot of support from my wife and other sundry women friends, who steadfastly have claimed, “It doesn’t matter.” I still really don’t know whether they have been secretly patronizing me (and maybe even convinced themselves in the process) but that’s beside the point. When I say I am “over” being bald, that doesn’t mean that I don’t still emotionally react to my baldness; it means that I have embraced the identity of being bald, which brings with it an attitude toward those who don’t have what it takes to accept being bald. I have developed a special category of pathos for those who have resorted to actually wearing a hairpiece. Much more numerous are all the half-baked comb-overs out there who are outed by an unexpected puff of wind. Inside my bald head, a tough-guy businessman persona with a comb-over just doesn’t make it: among the motivations for combing over one’s hair, toughness is definitely not one of them.
Now, mind you I am not saying I am immune to feeling a twinge of envy when confronted with a man with a full head of hair, which brings me to BMA’s public enemy number one: Jack Kennedy.
My unflinchingly bald(ing) father hated Kennedy with a blue passion. He claimed Kennedy brushed his hair constantly with two sterling silver brushes. The fact remains, it is well known among milliners that Kennedy’s contagious infatuation with his hair tanked the hat industry almost overnight. Before Kennedy, every man in America, including my father, wore a Fedora to work every single day (see below). I suspect that my father’s equivalent hatred of Reagan had at least something to do with his in-your-face pompadour;
This brings us to the next topic, which is that a perusal of presidents reveals that it is practically impossible for bald men to be so elected. The two Adamses had congenital baldness, but, from pictures, I would diagnose them (along with James Garfield) as not bald but balding, a very important distinction and a frequent topic at BMA meetings. Then there was Ford, who was never elected, and Eisenhower is disqualified because he was a war hero. That leaves only Martin Van Buren, who was roundly ridiculed for his “golden pate.”
Then we get into the biblical Delilah (Melania?) seducing Samson into revealing to her that his strength was in his hair, whereupon she cut it leading to his enslavement and ridicule by the Philistines (Muslims?); but, when he prayed to God and got his hair back, he pulled down the pillars of the temple (Mosque?) in an act of mass-suicide-counter-terrorism.
Of course, all these strands lead back to the Republican nominee’s bizarre hairdo. I am a psychiatrist, and the American Psychiatric Association has issued a warning that we should refrain from diagnosing the Donald. But I am retired, don’t have a license, and I am not diagnosing him with a psychiatric condition; I’m just commenting on his hair as a humble bald citizen: for #!@$%^* sake, Trump has a perfectly respectable, if just a wee bit thinning, head of hair. On behalf of the BMA, we urge America to contemplate the character of a candidate who has been so sensitive about revealing his slightly thinning hair over the years that he has backed himself into the corner of the ridiculous spectacle happening upon this man’s head: BACK-TO-FRONT COMB-OVER BANGS! If Donald Trump can’t face up to the reality of this most superficial of flaws, what does that say about his grit: as quintessential tough guy “Dirty” Harry Callahan (Clint Eastwood) pronounced in Magnum Force: “A man’s gotta know his limitations.”
When reading the following, keep in mind that fully 10% of America are bald men:
We of the BMA hereby pledge to vote en-bloc for Donald Trump on the condition that he gets a normal haircut. We are confident that there is still ample time for this simple therapeutic act of publicly disclosing his thinning hair will bring about precisely the targeted personality change for him to become a truly great president.
PLEASE SHARE THIS POST WITH A BALD FRIEND.
Addendum: Jan. ’17: Trump’s physician reported that he has taken Propecia (finasteride), a prostate drug, known to retard male pattern baldness.
*Jan. ’18, LA Times: Dutiful daughter Ivanka wasn’t above a chortle with her friends about her father’s infamous orange comb-over.
“She often described the mechanics behind it to friends: an absolutely clean pate — a contained island after scalp reduction surgery — surrounded by a furry circle of hair around the sides and front, from which all ends are drawn up to meet in the center and then swept back and secured by a stiffening spray. The color, she would point out to comical effect, was from a product called Just for Men — the longer it was left on, the darker it got. Impatience resulted in Trump’s orange-blond color,” according to page 79 of “Fire and Fury.”
Feb. 23: Breaking news! Trump admits that his hairdo is covering a bald “spot” at ultra-conservative CPAC meeting, and then appeals to the comb-over constituency in attendance by saying (twice), “We are trying, we are trying.”
Response statement from the Bald Men of America: 1) We recognize that our president has backed himself into a corner (some of us have been there) and that it becomes more and more frightening to take the plunge, but we are encouraged! He knows he can count on our 100% support if he trades in his hairdresser for a regular barber. BALD IS BEAUTIFUL!