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 Iím not sure what caused me to stop, open-mouthed, gaping into the mirror, looking at my head. The room seemed less steamy than usual; I tend to take long, sauna-creating showers. Itís most difficult here to find even a moment alone, so I try to take full advantage in the shower, where I can pretend Iím on top of the world, a world-famous rock star, churning out riffs and glowing in the adoration of the crowd, fans who donít seem to mind in the slightest that Iím naked and dripping wet.

My forehead was what caught my attention. Something looked askew. There was no out-of-control pimple, no blood-red scrape from an angry cat. It wasnít like Iíd suddenly realized I was ugly; that realization had come before even puberty. But the forehead was different. It just looked ... bigger. Yes, that was it. It was bigger. Not a lot. A little. A smidgen. A wee bit.

I stood perplexed, naked. How could that be? My forehead ... larger? They donít just grow, do they? I would assume my body has gone through all the changes it deemed necessary to segue into grown man-mode. And itís not like Iíd gotten any smarter. My brain hadnít evolved. So why did there seem to be so much more forehead there?

I smacked myself in the face. Good God, no. Couldnít be. Not a chance. Am I ... oh lord ... could it be ... not a chance ... heavens me ... am I losing my hair?

I canít say much for the styling of my hair, which has cruised recklessly from crew cut to mullet to bowl cut to Cobain stringy to artfully disheveled among the years, always a decade or two behind the times. But for whatever reason, Iíve always liked my hairline. Itís like my dadís, round, thick, prevalent. Even when the ex-fiancťe had made me get a nasty Clooney/Caesar cut right before I left for Los Angeles four years ago (to ďde-babe me,Ē my L.A. roommates told me) and I had just centimeter-long flicks of shit brown resting uncomfortably, it had never seemed like I didnít have a full head of hair.

But my, my, this, this new forehead, this couldnít mean ... no ...

My uncles Mike and Dave, on my momís side, are bald. They have a few wisps of hair on the side of their heads, but theyíre not fooling anybody. Theyíve been bald for years. Theyíre both quite handsome men, and their baldness gives them a certain dignified air. Not that they recognize it, however. They both wear toupees. Theyíre convincing toupees, donít get me wrong; if you didnít know any better, youíd think they werenít bald at all. But they look so much nicer without the toupees, and besides, it always seemed like so much trouble to wear rugs. We love Mike and Dave, and weíve always thought the idea that they even felt compelled to cover up their baldness rather silly.

Momís other brothers, Sean and Ron (cousin Dennyís father), are also bald. Theyíre a different kind of bald, not totally, just very thin shocks blowing lazily around. They both started thinning out around the age of 30. Seanís a little sensitive about it, probably because heís 34 and still not married, an enormous sin in his part of the country, but Ron never seems to mind, which is fine, because when I tried to picture him with any other style of hair than he actually has, he looks ridiculous.

Denny has hair like his father. Heís 25, and doesnít seem in any immediate danger of losing his hair. But itís dangerously thin, and Denny has always feared heíd look even sillier if he went entirely bald. My mother always tries to make him feel better: ďDenny, the baldness gene is passed through the motherís side. Your motherís parents never went bald, and neither did her brother. You should be totally fine. Will, however ...Ē

Ah, yes, me. Ah, yes, that. Since I was very young, my mother has warned me that baldness is in my future. ďMy father was bald too, Will.Ē I would tell her that I had hair just like Dad, and heís never going bald. ďOh, itís just a matter of time. Itíll happen when you least expect it, too.Ē

And thereís that mirror. Something seems fundamentally wrong with someone facing the possibility of going bald when theyíre still not physically mature enough to grow a goatee. Am I imagining it? Is the stress of the last few weeks getting to me? Have I been tugging at my hairline in my sleep?

Iíd always taken solace in the physical resemblance between my father and me. Pictures of him at 25 look almost exactly like I do now, except with shorter hair (and more stress lines, because he knew I was on the way). He couldnít grow a beard until he was 30, and he doesnít have a single chest hair. Just like me! I couldnít go bald. How weird would Dad look bald? Not a chance.

I keep staring in the mirror. I am 25 years old. Acne still makes nasty little cameo appearances. I shave every four days, and even then itís not really necessary. How can I be going bald? Am I?

I tug on my hair. I put my hand on the top of the mirror, covering my hair, trying to imagine what a bald Will would look like. I canít conjure the illusion; I just look like a guy with fingers on his head, which is quite worse than being bald.

If I were to go bald, if this is really happening, will I be like Mike and Dave? Will I try to hide it? I always told myself, God forbid, that if I did go bald, I wouldnít be so silly. But when it might be happening to you, baldness reveals aging, weakness, mortality. Thereís a certain romantic starving-artist appeal - at least, I hope there is - to a young writer struggling to find work and remain true to his dwindling principles. But what if heís bald? Once youíre bald, arenít you too old to have principles? Youíre supposed to grow up and be an accountant, or a schoolteacher, or a bartender. (A bartender ... now that I could do.) You donít get to be the cute kid anymore. Youíre freaking bald, dude! After baldness comes creaky knees, comes waning libido, comes erectile dysfunction, comes a mortgage payment, comes distinguished gray, comes straining to hear the radio, comes chasing kids off your lawn, comes watching Diagnosis Murder, comes Metamucil so you can be regular for the rest of your life. Down we go.

I hope I am imagining things. A few hours later, I check the mirror again. The forehead looks the same as it always has. Nothing appears to be receding. Was it just the angle? The light? This is either the first sign, or just an aberration. Either way ... there ainít a goddamn thing I can do about it.

Just in case, I check through some old bags. Ah, a fedora. That will keep me young. And hidden. Just in case.



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