In 1959 John Howard Griffin, a white journalist, darkened his skin with anti-vetiligo medication and set out across the southern United States as a black man to see what all the fuss was about with this whole “not having civil rights” thing. As it turns out, not so great. He didn’t enjoy his journey and documented it in the book Black Like Me, published in 1961.
Yesterday I undertook a nearly identical task and spent the day as a bald man and couldn’t have had a more opposite experience. I loved every second of it. As I sit here, typing away at my laptop with brief intermissions to pluck glue from my beautifully quaffed hair, I long for the life I enjoyed as a bald man. Back in that day I was happier, freer, and more confident.
You see, when you’re a baldy nothing else in the world matters because no matter what you do you are first, foremost, and almost exclusively… bald. There’s an incredible freedom in knowing that no matter what you do, anyone who recounts their experience will only remember you as “this fuckin’ bald guy.” You’re not a weird guy dancing around in public, you’re just a bald guy. You weren’t a jerk who didn’t leave a tip because you only bought three waters, you’re a bald dude. A 35 year old man a decade older than nearly everyone at a 24th birthday party? No, you’re just bald.
That last part is something that really would’ve bothered me on Wednesday and would bother me today. It was Jackie’s birthday so I stopped by for a drink and on the walk there, me, Nate (also bald), and Pavs joked about how me and Nate were ten full years older than everyone, but it rolled right off my back. I knew age wouldn’t matter. I was a skinhead. People wouldn’t see me in the corner, head buried in my phone, and wonder what that old guy was doing here. I would just be an ageless freak to them. I know this because when Jackie told her friends that I was, in fact, not bald and actually was just me they laughed and laughed and said “Omg I was wondering who the hell that bald guy was.”
When I leave the house on a regular day I do so riddled with anxiety. I worry about how I’ll present myself to the world. I check mirrors and consider actions and am constantly burdened by this whole nightmare that goes along with being a human being. But yesterday I did none of that. I just… vibed. I existed. I wore a t-shirt with makeup and glue stains all over it out to a bar because who gives a shit. I wasn’t keeping score in my own head during conversations, tracking laughter and interest, and wondering how I was doing. When you’ve got hair there’s this little voice in the back of your head always telling you, “if you do EVERYTHING right then someone might fuck you or at least think you’re cool,” but when you’re bald you don’t have that. With that understanding I was finally unchained yesterday. I walked around New York City dancing and crossed avenues strumming an air guitar. I’ve never done that in my life. John Feitelberg doesn’t play the air guitar. You know who does? A bald man in New Balances.
They say to never judge someone until you’ve walked in their shoes and now that I have I gotta tell the bald community that I envy you gentlemen. Not enough to actually shave my head or anything insane like that, but I envy you. If I could come out as bald right now I’d blow the doors off the closet because I’ve never been more comfortable in my own skin. Bald men are a better version of man.
Cavemen were covered in hair and future races are often depicted as hairless on screen, that’s because bald is an elevated species.
PS - The bald cap was actually just for an Out of Order sketch but I loved it so much I left it on for the day. New episode out Wednesday.