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Going, Going, Going

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Last week the Food and Drug Administration approved the use of Propecia, a pill for male pattern baldness, to be available next month. Besides the cuteness of the name (alopecia means baldness . . . Propecia could mean gobs of this new stuff), the new drug got men to thinking. Here, four thoughts:

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“Yesssss,” I think, studying myself in my hairstylist’s mirror. “Looking good, looking good.”

The cut is turning out great. Though the lines are conservative, the hair is a bit longer in front and on top so that it can be swept dramatically away from my face or allowed to fall boyishly into my eyes.

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My stylist finishes, gives me a hand mirror, and spins me around so that I can line up the reflections and take a look at the back of my head.

“Aiiiiee!” I inwardly scream.

For there in the reflection, I see it mocking me--that thinning circle that I studiously avoid looking at except once every six weeks when I get my hair cut.

As I see the scalp glowing--sickeningly white--through my carefully coiffed hair, I sadly remember that I’m not fooling anyone. The long hair in front diverts attention from--but does not hide--the deep ravines of baldness splitting my hairline at each temple. And while I may not see the patch at the back of my head, everyone else does. All the time.

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Now, I try to be rational about this whole thinning-hair thing, but, hey, I’m a typical American guy, and typical American guys are taught--from boyhood on--that bald is bad.

We’re bombarded with bald jokes. We’re fed television sitcoms in which guys with thinning hair are hopeless losers (Jason Alexander’s goofy, geeky George Costanza on “Seinfeld” or the “duh-oh"-ing patriarch on “The Simpsons”).

By contrast, print advertisements, commercials and, yes, the all-powerful movies all make heroes of men with full, thick heads of hair. These guys--the Brad Pitts and Denzel Washingtons of the world--are put forward as the winners, as the only guys who are thoroughly virile, entirely masculine (the occasional gleaming-topped anomalies such as Shaq notwithstanding).

I rail against the unfairness of it all--against the inescapable genetic programming and the passing of time.

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Just the same, I don’t use Rogaine, and I don’t think I’ll try to wrangle a prescription for Propecia because, in the final analysis, a world without balding guys would be a world of hairy sameness.

I am who I am, and I’ll stay that way, thank you very much. Even if, every now and again when I get a backward look at myself, I fear I’m beginning to look like Mr. Magoo.


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