Baldness assaults many men over time and fortunately most deal with this unalterable fact-of-life genetic condition with resignation and consequent dignity. “Seinfeld” character George Constanza deals with his baldness with comic and graceful acceptance as does the man who invented him and served as the series’ main writer, the inimitable Larry David, through his minimalist writing and acting on his own HBO series “Curb Your Enthusiasm”.
And some men for whom nature has provided a too generous beginning, have chosen to complete the job by shaving their heads, preferring to exhibit the totally bald head rather than going about with the standard fringed pate. This category includes celebrities and politicians so the choice is a common and admired one. Actor Yul Brynner was one of the early celebrity examples of this phenomenon with many other actors and politicians joining in later. What’s gratifying about people who choose to “go all the way” is that they have obviously not only accepted their condition but have decided even to maximumly improve upon it, like actor Bruce Willis, pundit James Carville and Florida Governor Rick Scott.
Ah, but then there are those men who choose to deceptively delay the inevitable with the “comb-over”, which fails at both delay and deception but is nevertheless adopted by many. The “comb-over” is defined by Ari Stern in the Urban Dictionary as:
“n., a rearrangement of surrounding hair to cover a bald spot as completely as possible. Usually accomplished by flattening strands of hair in widely-spaced parallel stripes across the afflicted region. Rarely successful, often calls attention to the follically-challenged zone in question”.
The hairdo of “presumptive” Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump prominently exemplifies an extreme kind of comb-over with his inordinately long and strangely hued leftover locks gathered from an inordinately low part, then arranged in a helmet-like swirl hiding a seriously receding hairline, more like a “comb-up-over-and back”.
The giveaway for a comb-over is the location of the hair part, a feature of the male combed or brushed hairdo normally located well above the ear on either side of the head. When the part descends dangerously toward the ear, one can be sure that a comb-over is being utilized. The early comb-over and skillfully hidden bald spot of failed presidential candidate Marco Rubio was, I think, as much a reason for his failure as Trump’s “Little Marco” moniker, his frenzied clueless repetition of talking points, his perspiration, and his nervous lip-licking and tongue-thrust-in-the-cheek recitation of the cliches in his canned speeches.
This effort at deception and fancied delay is nevertheless popular with many , sometimes employed early in the progression of the inevitable, later perceived as futile and consequently abandoned with full acceptance of the condition, as seen in early John McCain and Rudy Giuliani compared with more recent versions of both.
But the comb-over continues to be used persistently in denial of the underlying condition, and with apparent imperviousness to what people observe or think. In most comb-over cases, the subject would be much better off and would appear much more honest and real .if it were just completely abandoned and the bald condition honestly accepted. For actually male baldness is entirely natural and not necessarily unattractive. Imagine if you will how much more honest and serious retiring Democratic Senator Carl Levin would appear if he proudly accepted and demonstrated his baldness.
And our final example, perhaps Congressman/Senator Benjamin Netanyahu, representing our 51st state, would appear a little more benign and vulnerable, in other words more human and humane, if he abandoned his progressively more severe and pronounced comb-over and showed the world exactly what his bald head looks like.
Oops, I almost forgot. There is a variation on
the comb-over that has no name so let’s call it the “Comb-Forward” or “Comb-Up”. I guess this is chosen if one has a aversion to the “-Over”. This unseemly “do” is best exemplified by MSNBC’s Chuck Todd who actually wears it quite well.
Finally in celebration of this unique hairstyle, I offer Maine poet laureate Wesley McNair’s “Hymn to the Comb-Over”:
How the thickest of them erupt just
above the ear, cresting in waves so stiff
no wind can move them. Let us praise them
in all of their varieties, some skinny
as the bands of headphones, some rising
from a part that extends halfway around
the head, others four or five strings
stretched so taut the scalp resembles
a musical instrument. Let us praise the sprays
that hold them, and the combs that coax
such abundance to the front of the head
in the mirror, the combers entirely forget
the back. And let us celebrate the combers,
who address the old sorrow of time’s passing
day after day, bringing out of the barrenness
of mid-life this ridiculous and wonderful
harvest, no wishful flag of hope, but, thick,
or thin, the flag itself, unfurled for us all
in subways, offices, and malls across America.