Experiencing hair loss is stressful. Here’s how I started to love bald me

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When I lived in Mexico as a boy, people would love and admire my hair so much that I was known as “El Chinito.”

“Chino” is how Mexicans refer to curly hair, but I recently learned my hair and nickname indirectly described a deeper part of me. The word originated as a category in the colonial Mexican caste system to identify a person of mixed race. That’s me. Not white. Not indigenous. Somewhere in the middle some 500 years later.

But yes, I had curly hair. Cute and coveted curly hair.

Fond memories include my big sister eagerly calling first dibs to do my hair after I got out of the shower. She loved to lightly pull on a string of hairs and see them easily form into a curl. There was also a time I was riding a bike with my cousins and I got startled by a woman who yelled, “Mira, el Chinito!” (“Look at the curly-haired boy!”) Her loud admiration, as if she just saw a cute puppy, surprised me so much that I fell off my bike.

My “pelo Chino” was a big part of my identity, so when I noticed more and more hair falling off in the shower at just 23, it felt as if I was being forced to prematurely turn the page into a new version of myself I knew nothing about.

In these past 10 years, I have gotten comments from women saying, “No offense, but I would never date a bald guy.” There also have been rotten kids mocking me while I’m minding my business at a store. And, perhaps the most annoying, I still get texts from family about cheap hair transplants in South America.

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Their holding onto hope — hope I saw go down the drain years ago — makes me think they assume I am unhappy with who I am, which couldn’t be further from my truth. If you’re struggling with hair loss, here are useful lessons and realizations I’ve learned as an experienced and confident bald person:

Acceptance is tough but relieving

People struggle so much to hold on to who they were that they’re miserable as who they are now. Kind of like people who peaked in high school. Just kidding.

But I was miserable in my first year of balding. I was stressed because my hair was falling off, and my hair was falling off because I was stressed. My hair was so dry, I could easily pull out big chunks of it. No more cute curls, just dead hair.

I felt as if I was carrying around a corpse of the old me. One day, I just got in my car, drove to a barber and paid him $20 to shave my head. I wasn’t immediately confident, but I did have a blank slate where I could slowly start appreciating what I loved about myself when I looked in the mirror.

“Hey, my cheekbones are actually more prominent without hair,” I’ve realized with pride.

Get rid of the taboo around the word ‘bald’

I am now known as “the bald job candidate” or “that bald guy from last night.” And that’s OK. It’s a feature, not a negative attribute or description about myself.

And look, as a bald person, I admit there are funny bald jokes and comedy gold moments in pop culture. That’s totally fine. But just like some might laugh at us behind closed doors, let us laugh at ourselves, too.

Whenever I joke about my hair loss, I get crickets. People don’t want to talk about it. Maybe they don’t want karma to get them, and one day they’ll be bald, too. Which brings me to my last point …

Stop assuming bald people are unhappy

Don’t feel bad for us. It’s nice to not spend money on hair maintenance.

And my response to the woman who said they’d never date me because I’m bald? “That’s fine, because I would never date a woman.”

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