This year will go down in history as the year I went bald. Well, actually, 2018 went down as the year I went bald. But still, 2021 will go down as the year that I stopped fastidiously brushing three long wisps of cobweb over my scalp in the berserk belief that it somehow made me look less bald. I am bald now. Hello.
Obviously, being bald is rubbish. A bad roll of the genetic dice means I am now conclusively unattractive in the eyes of most of the world. Of course I am – I’m 85% forehead now. I can never go out and commit a crime, because a witness would only have to draw a face on their thumb and show it to the Photofit guy and I’d be in handcuffs by teatime.
In the end, I embraced baldness out of practicality. In the middle of 2020, bound by lockdown, I bought a £10 electric razor from Argos and started cutting my own hair. I was terrible at it. The sides I could do, because it was just like mowing a lawn. But I could never figure out what to do with the strands on top.
So this spring, I gave up and shaved everything the same length. When I finished, I looked in the mirror and was greeted by the sight of scalp. Nothing but scalp. Where did the scalp stop? There was no longer any identifiable demarcation. Did my face count as scalp now?
You expect a big moment like this to have some impact in the world. Double takes in the street. Awkward conversations with friends. Screams of horror from people who wrongly assumed that they were being stalked by Phil Mitchell. However, to my almighty surprise, nothing happened. I went bald and nobody batted an eyelid. In retrospect, this was because everyone in the world had accepted that I was bald long before I did, and they were relieved that they no longer had to suspend their disbelief about the ratty candyfloss cloud I was trying to pass off as a haircut.
What I’ve learned from baldness is this: choose your role models carefully. For a while, mine was Stanley Tucci, but in reality Tucci does the bald a disservice. He is too charming, too handsome, too well dressed. We might think that we can harness our inner Tucci, but it’s impossible. He is a movie star, with a movie star’s presence. The rest of us could hire a stylist and train for a month and we would still look like someone who would beat you up in a Wetherspoon’s.
Instead, I found myself glomming on to Larry David, who has this year become my uncontested bald oracle. Nobody on Earth seems to understand the bald experience like David. It was he who, upon winning an Emmy in 1993, strolled up to the podium and sighed: “This is all very well and good, but I’m still bald.” And it was he who, in March 2000, wrote a New York Times column headlined: “Kiss my head.”
In the piece, which I have read and reread so often of late that I almost know it off by heart, David lays out the proper way in which a man should embrace baldness. Don’t hide it underneath a cap, he says. “Have you ever seen the looks on people’s faces when the bald man takes the cap off? They’re dumbfounded.” A cap-wearing bald man, according to David, is ultimately delusional. “You’ve tried to come off as a hair guy,” he chides. “You’ve lied, bald man.”
David’s big lesson is that the bald man has to compensate somehow. “We have to have a little more going for us than the hair man,” he writes. “And we do. Have a conversation with a bald man sometime. Go ahead. Do yourself a favour. Tell me you don’t walk away impressed.”
You just have to look at Larry David to see how true this is. As the seasons of Curb Your Enthusiasm have progressed, he has taken more and more pride in his appearance. His unconstructed blazers have grown sharper, his layering more complimentary. His ring of hair has grown out, too. And for all his apparent misanthropy, the Larry David smile is something to behold. When Larry David smiles, you’re blinded by charm. It’s a Julia Roberts smile. Only bald, so worse. This, I now realise, is the path I have to follow.
Despite repeated attempts, Larry David did not respond to requests to be interviewed about this subject. Which makes sense. Nobody wants to round out their year by discussing their most visible physical flaw. But that’s OK. “Bald men love other bald men,” he wrote back in 2000. And that’s true. I love Larry David. I couldn’t have picked a better role model.