“Why does it really bother you that you have no hair? There are a lot of bald people in the world after all…” How different two views of one and the same thing can be – in my case, a bald head. I’m not hearing a similar phrase for the first time, but it’s still a bit alive. I haven’t lost my hair with age or the legacy of ancestral baldness. For some months, universal alopecia accompanies my life.
Bald men like me don’t run on the ground so much. I have an autoimmune disease that kills every follicle in my body. Unlike Bruce Willis, Hynek Čermák or Yul Brynner, whose names of my friends often reassure me, my beard does not grow, I have lost my eyelashes and my eyebrows, and you would look in vain for another hair.
Another difficult question entered the difficult period, when, in addition to the final solution of my long-term personal worries, I also changed my career direction: what will be left of me?
For someone in vain, who relied on a perfectly trimmed beard and did not come out in front of his hair without combed hair, I turned into an atypical figure, which my two compulsory school daughters affectionately call an “apple of pine”. It is the speed of self-change that causes the greatest shock. And it can make a person look at the world and themselves through slightly different eyes.
Moderator, Public Affairs
For fifteen years I created news programs on Czech television and regularly acted on screen. First as an editor, then as a moderator. Anyone who says that press guides don’t care about their appearance, but mostly about their professionalism, experience and knowledge, isn’t quite right. Although the viewer does not primarily perceive the look, the appearance of the moderator acts as a trademark of its kind. A public identity that co-creates the product you offer to the viewer. And this role is gradually reshaping you personally.
Read also: What Volodymyr Zelensky teaches us about masculinity
The Western world has been facing a serious problem for several decades: if women have succeeded in emancipating themselves from patriarchy, men often do poorly. And yet, it is in their own interest – patriarchy, as a model that predetermines their future and their lives, regardless of their own ideas, is as harmful to them as it is to women. Perhaps even more harmful: it is men who are the first to be “vanquished” in a crisis situation in a patriarchal society.
The model of masculinity of the 21st century comes from Ukraine
As a moderator, you will receive autograph cards with a photo of the best version of yourself. You see your face in TV trailers – its task is to attract viewers to your show. Every day, you check out the visual presentation team, the selection of suitable clothes, a suitable hairstyle, you receive well-meaning advice leading to making your appearance as perfect as possible.
Over time, people will start to recognize you on the street. They praise your work, but they’ll never forget to mention how you touch them – solidly, cleanly, earnestly, professionally. On social networks, contributions with photographs receive engagement, which, for example, a fresh and readable analysis of the political situation on the same network would only achieve in the wild dreams of academics.
Only a strong personality can isolate this environmental influence from itself, and I still don’t know if I know anyone like that. Anyone who doesn’t care about matching the colors of their clothes and the shape of their hairstyle knows that a well-placed voice, just a wide smile and a friendly face known from the screen opens the door where they remain closed to others. Half of success on the television screen is confidence, as well as the art of presenting your public persona in a clearly identifiable physical form.
Someone else looks in the mirror
The first bare spots in my hair and beard started to appear in July last year. The beard started to crack and in some places I had to grow my hair out to cover the small bald patches around the perimeter of my head. But a few weeks were enough, and it was clear that minor image changes would not be enough. The shaved beard no longer had the will to grow, and in a few days it became the same with the other hairs of the body. They lost strength, gradually they could be pulled out with only a small grip. There was a distinct inflammation at their roots, which gradually eliminated their ability to regenerate.
Extensive bare patches gradually began to creep into my hair. I was afraid to touch them – every time hundreds of them fell, they fell to the ground. I stopped dating people, and if so, only with a hat. I stopped sleeping and when I fell asleep I woke up two hours before the alarm clock. Another difficult question entered the difficult period, when, in addition to the final solution of my long-term personal worries, I also changed my career direction: what will be left of me?
Many men I know hope that it is this perfection, this sufficiency, that will lead them to be accepted by those around them. Recognition as a valid member of the community. For the commercial team leader. For the head of the family. For a respected professional. In short, for a guy.
After years of being closely tied to my appearance, after years of how I affect people was an alpha and an omega, a change was happening that I had no control over. I loved myself as I knew in the mirror, not as the future was dawning on me. In a few weeks, someone completely different will be looking at me in the mirror. After ten years with a beard, I can see the contours of my face, which can hardly be described as young and fresh.
I discover the shape of my head. Only the edges of the glasses slightly mask the unusual appearance of a person, which lacks a seemingly marginal detail that gives the face natural features – the line of the eyebrows. When I sweat, the sweat runs straight into my eyes because there are no eyelashes protecting them. With all that I have lost, I also gain something more: a lot of questions.
Heroine Magazine: With Men on Men
What exactly is masculinity? What are men afraid of today and what bothers them? Because gender equality and justice are not just about women, the new issue of Heroine magazine has made a place for “men’s issues”. And along with them, a man – activist and artist Lukáš Houdek – also appeared on the cover.
Get over it, you’re a guy!
How will my daughters perceive me? Those who didn’t like their father’s physical change when I lost my beard? Can part of my livelihood still be on public display as I lose what people have identified me as? And finally: will I ever be attractive to women again? I don’t have answers to some of these questions yet and expect to learn them over time. I try not to ask them and deal with minor procedural matters. For example, the fact that I have to introduce myself to a lot of people because they don’t believe it’s me. Or an internal training of myself as the tougher co-workers stop stopping on my change and start a series of boyish pranks about the wind in my hair and the throwing of piglets.
For many of those I confided in, these feelings were incomprehensible. You just lost your hair, they said. And even if it bothers you, you’re a guy and they can take care of things, fight. They represent the voice of rationality, and thus form an antipode to emotions and an endless solution to subordination – the apparent attributes of the feminine world.
I know a lot of men who don’t manage their face. They don’t need a perfect BMI or a perfect fitting suit. They seek perfection in themselves, in what they do, in the way they act. It is not an insignificant part of them in their appearance. And they hope that it is this perfection, this sufficiency, which will lead them to be accepted by those around them. Recognition as a valid member of the community. For the commercial team leader. For the head of the family. For a respected professional. In short, for a guy.
Authenticity is more than perfection
The journey to know that even without perfection a man can be respected is often long and complicated. I am far from done, but I already know that the forced detachment from the compulsive feeling of being master of my body box in all circumstances has considerably accelerated my journey. It occurred to me that at the end of this journey, perfection isn’t the only thing that will make you a man. But a guy who’s somewhere inside you who’s just been waiting for you to realize that manhood isn’t waiting for you to meet corporate standards and achieve an illusory sense of perfection. But when you find out what your “guy” really is.
Authenticity is more than perfection, and even imperfections can hide beauty. The apparent perfection of the environment often frightens her rather than appreciates it. And if it turns out that’s not true, there are still small pleasures that cause imperfections. For example, how quickly a person without hair or a beard is sent to work in the morning. Or, for people who don’t have contrasting elements on their body, patterned hats and shirts look great.