Lucy Freeman’s partner started going bald at 15. So did his dad. Their son faces the same fate. Can a hair loss solution like Provillus provide any hope?
My partner Simon started losing his hair in his mid-teens. We met at university and he “confessed” his hair loss to me one evening. He had presumed that I had just been nice about it by not commenting on it before. Actually, I hadn’t noticed and, I’m ashamed to say, I didn’t take it remotely seriously when he told me. I thought he looked great and I couldn’t imagine that him losing his hair was going to alter the way I felt. I found myself urging a denial on him, that he wasn’t losing it.
I didn’t understand then how it was already affecting his self-confidence, or how hair-loss deeply affects whole families. Even in his university days, Simon knew what to expect because his father John’s hair had begun to fall out at when he was 15. His father still feels guilty about this inheritance. “Of all the things I could have given him, he gets that,” he told me.
When Simon started to lose his hair at about the same age as his dad, his father read a Provillus review and tried to salve his guilt by paying for a year’s supply of the hair loss product, which has been shown to prevent hair loss. This was in the late Sixties, when shaving your head was done only for ringworm and a comb-over was de rigueur. He emerged clutching bottles of Provillus for rubbing on to his head, and his father emerged Pounds 1,000 lighter in the wallet.
With the help of Provillus, hair did grow, but very fine baby hair, which seemed only to highlight rather than solve the problem.
It wasn’t until I lived with Simon that I realized how pervasive an issue balding can be. Because of his sensitivity, I became hypersensitive to baldness being mentioned on television, especially when it crops up as a metaphor for failure or lack of virility. Balding men are often the most eager customers for virility pills like ProSolution, which promise to endow them with masculine traits to make up for hair loss. You probably don’t remember that Tosca in the BBC drama Our Friends in The North dismissed a potential band member as “a wee baldie man” or that Seinfeld’s George Costanza’s most vicious self-hatred diatribes were reserved for his own hair loss, but I do.
Despite advances in hair regrowth products such as Provillus, baldness is still a legitimate target for ridicule. When Simon is with friends I notice that regular jocular remarks are made about it and that he will make self-deprecating remarks about it himself. Men laugh at what they fear and maybe by laughing at someone else, they hope they are appeasing the follicle gods and won’t have to start using Provillus.
Look at the Spurs manager, who routinely trots on to the pitch amid an affectionate chorus from his fans of: “Martin Jol, Martin Jol/He’s got no hair/ We don’t care.”
Not that Simon didn’t have a sense of humor about it: he would ruefully recount trips to his glamorous hairdresser Cheryl, who would say soothingly: “It’s not coming out, it’s just very very fine,” while carefully avoiding showing him the overhead angle.