Sun | Jun 20, 2021

Getting a head in life

Published:Saturday | April 7, 2012 | 12:00 AM

Tony Deyal, Contributor

IF THERE is a typical West Indian sport, it is not 'choke-and-rob' since that has not spread through the Caribbean as widely as its inventors or, put it another way, has not grabbed or held the attention of the rest of the Caribbean as it does in its native country. It is definitely not 'bob-ball', as Trinis pronounce the local term for corruption. In fact, the 'all' part of it might take in the entire country, but is not so rife in the rest of the region to constitute either unanimity or ubiquity. 'Weeding' or the use of a controlled vegetable substance, Cannabis, is a growing indulgence, but is still legally prohibited and the police are always sniffing around to arrest its aficionados. This leaves 'jumping to conclusions' at the zenith of our regional sporting predilections and the high-water mark of our integration. We share with the great sports heroes the fact that we start with visualisation, a process by which we map out the route to success, and then we end with world records for the greatest leap, either of faith or imagination.

This is how, I suppose, the belief that baldness and riches go together, and the greater the hair loss the greater the pecuniary progress or plentitude of the person so blessed, solidified into hard fact worthy of a truism. In Trinidad, where crimes against property are more frequent than crimes against the person, the possession of an insubstantial head of hair, or any other proof of wealth, a Porsche or BMW, immediately attracts the attention of criminals. They don't care who you are so long as you bear the stigma of riches. Toupees do not fool them, wigs do not deceive them. They know that a pate as bald as a billiard ball lurks under the luxurious weave and a fortune awaits them.

the Exception

My wife knows better. Having lived with me for the past 16 years, she is fully aware that there is at least one exception to the rule and that it disproves, rather than proves the rule. When she met me, I had an ostensible head of hair. The thinness was not immediately apparent except upon close examination. The depleting density was deceptive and made even more so by skillful application of a comb and a good conditioner. She saw through all that very quickly, but persisted with me even when she realised that while my prospects were reasonable, my actual prosperity was not merely questionable but decidedly debatable. In other words, my lifestyle and my means were conducting a tug-of-war with the bank.

With the passing years, my hair loss has progressed at an alarming rate. I am not yet so bald that when people look at my head they can see what I'm thinking. I am not at the point that when I wear a turtle-neck sweater people would think I'm a roll-on deodorant. I am almost at the stage that when some careless motorist heads directly towards me, I don't turn a hair. I am turning the corner, though, and am almost there.

When I was a boy in Trinidad, we would tell people like me, 'You like Tarzan. You balding (bawling).' During the Cold War, I could have explained that I have nuclear hair - plenty fallout. The story of Aeschylus, the Greek playwright, is depressing. Legend has it that in his part of the world, eagles had developed a unique solution to separating tortoises from their shells. The eagles picked up the tortoises with their talons and dropped them on the rocks far below. An eagle mistook the bald head of the playwright for a rock and dropped the turtle on him, killing him instantly. It was a Greek tragedy.

So, there I was, sitting on the sofa, indoors and safe from passing eagles, watching with eagle eyes the televised cricket and glorying in the fact that although Jonathan Trott is younger than me, his hair loss is greater, and that Jacques Kallis, were it not for his having earned enough money from the Indian Premier League (IPL) to pay for a weave, would have been in the same position.

Even Wayne Rooney, at 26, has temporarily and possibly, surgically, covered his baldness.

Hope springs

Then I felt those fingers that used to run through and ruffle my hair, massaging my scalp. Then, my wife jokingly said, 'Where are those billions you are supposed to have by now?'

'Well,' I responded immediately, 'I spent them on research on hair loss.' She did not retort, 'You wish!', but I could see the thought despite her luxurious coiffure.

Actually, the hope that springs eternally in the human breast has now climbed the ladder of success and is residing somewhere in the follicles.

According to ScienceDaily, a gene that causes hair loss has been discovered. Scientists at Bonn and Düsseldorf universities have discovered an important hair-loss gene. During their study, the researchers investigated over 500,000 positions in the human genome, and found a gene variant which occurs clearly more frequently in bald men than in control people. In 2005, these scientists had already characterised the first hair-loss gene inherited through the maternal line, which explained why hair-loss in men often reflects that of their maternal grandfathers. This clearly was not my story since my grandfather's hair lasted longer than mine. Now, they're saying that what this particular gene shows is that if your father is bald, you are likely to become bald also.

In some ways, I could say it is a bald lie. Until his death in his 60s, my father had hair as thick as a sheepdog's. But I refrain since my two sons use my lack of hair as a family joke. When I once paid $20 for a haircut, my son George said that I had overpaid. I should only have paid $10 because the barber had less hair to cut. My other son, Zubin, runs his hands over my scalp and grins. I say meaningfully, 'Look at my pictures. My hair was once long and thick. Yours will suffer the same fate.' They don't believe me. They feel it will never happen to them. Just wait ...

Except that when I feel the top of my head, there is hair there but when I look in the mirror I see these little wisps sticking out of a shining example of self-deception. I suppose it is a trade-off. I have less hair to comb but more face to wash. As they say, hair today, gone tomorrow.

Tony Deyal, who no longer travels with a comb, was last seen repeating that for people who keep on repeating their mistakes, experience is like giving a comb to a bald man.