According to authorities like WebMD and the Mayo Clinic, male pattern baldness occurs in 80 percent of men under 70, and hair loss can negatively affect men’s self-esteem, confidence with the opposite sex or potential employers, and can lead to shyness, insecurity and even depression.
So when Science Translational Medicine published a study that found a link between high levels of a certain protein (prostaglandin D2) and baldness and reported that drugs that inhibit the action of that prostaglandin are already in the pipeline, millions of men probably regarded this as the most hopeful news to come down the pike since the Food and Drug Administration green-lighted the little blue pill.
But most women I know couldn’t care less. I was motivated to conduct my own research (via Facebook and email), and 99.9 percent of women surveyed said they thought baldness fell somewhere along a spectrum of “not an issue” to “totally sexy.”
Most of these smart, stylish women in their 40s, 50s and 60s were passionate in their responses. Kathi said: “Baldness does not matter to me whatsoever. I have been married to a bald man for 23 years, and the only person who has an issue with his lack of hair is him!! I think most men make too much of an issue out of something that means little or nothing to most women. As long as he is kind and well-groomed, a man's hair length does not matter.”
Shari, a petite athletic type, was even more philosophical. “It’s not the hair per se — how a man handles his hair changes is what is or isn't attractive,” she said. “If someone pretends it's not happening or is ashamed of it, I find that less than manly. Losing hair can actually be gaining something else — like the confidence that you don't need to hide behind your hair.”
She even offered a suggestion that could save a guy months of therapy: “Take control of what you can't control by choosing how to shape your hair as the hairline changes.”
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Some women shared funny stories — or at least hinted at them: “Once I was in the shower with a guy and his ‘hair helmet’ kind of lifted off,” Jo said. And a pal in L.A. said, “Remind me to tell you about the horrible glue smell” on a certain celebrity.
When I asked Andrea, whose hairless hubbie has a 10,000-watt smile, if she’d secretly prefer it if he had hair, she wrote: “God, no! I didn't know my husband before he was balding, and seeing old photos with him with thick blond hair is weird.”
Echoing Andrea, Anne said: "If I had to choose between a self-absorbed man with a head of hair like George Clooney's or a bald man who made me feel like the center of his universe, the choice is obvious: the bald man.”
And then she brought up a theme that almost every woman touched on in one way or another. “What is a huge turn-off is a comb-over or, God forbid, the instantaneously desire-killing toupée,” she said. “Both are powerful signals that a man is vain and insecure, which is a particularly lethal combination that gets in the way of a building a healthy relationship.”
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The comb-over is definitely the most detested look. My respondents overwhelmingly preferred a shaved head, or hair clipped very short. Stacy commented: “Bald is totally hot. Don't delay, gentlemen. Take it all off.” And one woman who requested anonymity confessed that she loves the way the stubble feels “two to three days after initial shaving. I have been known to rub the heads of my male friends who shave theirs. The tactile sensation is wonderful.”
Another common theme was head hair vs. “hair elsewhere.” Facial hair did not score high points (as Lynette summed it up: “Baldness is better than beardness”), and Toni articulated the thoughts of many with the pithy wisdom of a fortune cookie: “Better no hair on head than much hair on back.”
My social worker friend Susan said she has “no issue with baldness, especially at 55. I mean, at our age, something has to go. My husband’s hair is receding, but I don’t notice it after 25 years. But in my heart of hearts, I do feel that more hair is better — unless you are Rod Blagojevich.”
I don’t think women will be surprised by these findings, but I do hope men are — pleasantly so. Relationships are tough enough without something as superficial as hair adding tension. And when you put it in perspective, it really is minor stuff.
Carol took up that theme in her reply, and she didn’t mince words. “This issue seems pretty insignificant compared to what true love will be demanding of us over time,” she said. “Is your husband still employable? Is he able to dress himself? Does he remember who you are? Buckle your seat belts, ladies. If you think the depth of your feelings is being tested by a bald spot, you haven’t seen anything yet. Start practicing now.”