“Americans seem to be obsessed with exercising, doing mental puzzles, consuming various juice and protein concoctions, sticking to strict diets, and popping vitamins and supplements, all in a valiant effort to cheat death and prolong life as long as possible. This has become so pervasive that it now defines a cultural type: what I call the American immortal.” -Ezekiel J. Emanuel, “Why I Hope To Die At 75”
“Get over it!” -The Eagles
I’m going to end up bald. My uncle’s been promising it for years: before his sons and I hit our teens, he started taking off his hat, presenting us with the reflective cue ball of his head, and announcing, “It’s coming for you!” It hasn’t come yet, but it will. The forest–that’s self aggrandizing; the shrubbery?–is definitely getting thinner. A few months ago, someone started suggesting treatments that would “let me keep my hair.” I listened. I didn’t know what to say.
Here’s another one. For as long as I can remember, I’ve had a spot of white hair on the side of my head. The hairs there are thinner and crinklier. To be honest, I’ve always kind of liked them. They’re there. They’re mine. Five years ago a friend said, “You know, a spot of mascara could cover that up.” My friend wanted the best for me. I appreciate that. In his mind the best involved mascara, but I had never even considered covering up the little spot.
I don’t have anything against people who are trying to “keep their hair.” That’s their choice, and they should make it. But culturally, I do have something against the American Immortal. I have something against my shampoo which promises an “anti-aging formula” and the ads which question whether my skin is strong enough. I don’t think that Azlan, that this bit of functioning stuff, needs to go on for almost-forever, and I don’t think I need to be handsome and flawless for all that time. Don’t get me wrong, I want to connect and help while I’m here. But 2058 doesn’t need a toned, tanned, dark haired me in it. If our culture talked less about preventing balding, and more about how, yeah, you’ll go bald, you’ll age, and that’s okay, then I think we’d learn to be more accepting. I think we’d learn to walk more gently across the earth, and to participate more kindly in our communities. Maybe we wouldn’t be so mean. Maybe we wouldn’t be so self centered, so scared, so desperate. I’ll go bald, and in the mean time, my life doesn’t need to be about how handsome and young I’ll always be. It can be about ants on a fallen log. It can be about the trees. It can be about the kids playing outside my window.
The next time I look in the mirror, and feel sad because I’m balding or aging or just generally falling apart, I’m going to pick up my soap like a mic and let the Eagles remind me: get over it.
Then there’s the electric guitar.