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How I overcame the comb-over

Donald Trump gives a speech outlining his vision

Donald Trump gives a speech outlining his vision for tax reform at his skyscraper on Fifth Avenue on Sept. 28, 2015. Credit: Getty Images / Andrew Burton

This is in regard to the anthropological significance of Donald Trump's hair.

We are not discussing politics here. Some are convinced Trump, a Republican presidential hopeful, will, as promised, "make America great again." Others already are applying for Dutch citizenship. I refuse to take sides.

But the famous Trump pompadour has touched on issues regarding the male ego that may have particular relevance to those in the senior citizen bracket.

Trump is 69, and there is an inclination to smirk and say, hey, come on, pal, get over it, you're not the Fifth Beatle, after all, and surely not Justin Bieber, whose haircut looks suspiciously familiar.

Most men his age don't have to worry about hairstyle psychoanalysis. We're bald or well on the way.

Sure, hair loss is a natural process -- so are bunions and backaches -- but it is difficult to be philosophical when movies, television and Viagra ads send a message that, no matter their number of years, the coolest guys still have reason to carry a comb.

Truth is, Leader of the Free World or retiree on line for the Tuesday movie matinee, hair is a sensitive issue. Men care about their hair -- of course, they do. And you want to know why? Because -- and I don't care what they say -- women care even more.

Oh, our better halves can insist it really doesn't matter -- honey, you look great just the way you are -- but I'm not buying. Would they still be dreaming about Paul Newman or Robert Redford if, in memory, Butch and Sundance were bald as bicycle bells?

Sometimes, you get a whiff of this when least expected.

Maybe Paul McCartney is on TV and Wink, my wife, might say, oh, gee, Paul still has his hair, isn't that something? Or we will be visiting our friends Bill and Nancy up in New Hampshire. Such nice people, Wink often remarks, and isn't Bill's hair great, so thick and dark after all these years?

Once we were sitting at a bar out of town. A fellow who said he was a retired Navy SEAL began talking to us -- actually began talking to Wink, a lot. Phew, she sighed later, what an impressive man, great stories, and, wowee, some head of hair! Oh, really, I said. Hadn't noticed.

My situation?

You can probably guess.

From the start, hope was lost.

My father's 16 mm home movies show a chubby little tyke, me, who, in diapers, already had a receding hairline. I was a candidate for a transplant long before Hair Club for Men got its charter. The Club website, by the way, says the fancy name for hair loss is "androgenetic alopecia" and that it "affects the lives of millions" around the world. In itself, this news is small comfort.

As a boy in Brooklyn, I tried to cope.

I sported a crew cut, but hair was so sparse and scalp so glossy that kids on the block claimed I'd been car-waxed and asked me, please, to never remove my Dodgers cap.

In teen years, I tried something called a flat-top -- no luck -- then, bingo, the '60s hit, followed immediately by the '70s. These were desperate times and not because of social ferment. All of a sudden, men had longer locks than women.

No surprise what happened next.

I briefly considered a sort of Founding Fathers approach -- bald on top, ponytail in back -- but Wink threatened to take the children and leave. With my slender crop withering even further, I took the last resort -- yes, a comb-over.

Oh, the indignity of it all.

Architectural issues were daunting -- cantilevering from one spot to camouflage another -- and I began to use so much of Wink's hair spray, she told me to buy my own. In public, people did double takes and grinned knowingly. I was a reporter and the newsroom is not politically correct. "Watergate was a better cover-up," colleagues would say.

Then Judy came into my life. A stylist at the local unisex shop, Judy cut my hair for years. Lovely woman, she said nothing about the comb-over. Then one day, I guess, she could no longer avoid the obvious.

"Have you considered shaving your head?" Judy asked.

The intervention worked. If Judy said I needed a reset, OK, I'd do it. I walked out of the shop feeling liberated.

Now, every two weeks, Wink gets out electric clippers. "Should have done this years ago," I say when she's through, rubbing my fuzzy dome.

Right, she agrees. You look much better. Live with what you've got.

Good advice at any age, but, still, I'd rather be Redford. He's 79 and still needs a barber.


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