Mon | Mar 4, 2024

Tony Deyal | Hair we go again folks!

Published:Saturday | December 2, 2023 | 12:05 AM

When I was in my 40s, my friends and I used to joke that “three score and ten” had to be our success with women and the number we had dallied with. In our language, they were “scores” and we had indulged with scores of them. We really did not look too closely at the scores of women we spent time with and their scores. It is not that I was unaware the “three score and ten” was from the Bible (Psalm 90:10) which states, “The days of our years are threescore years and ten; and if by reason of strength they be fourscore years, yet is their strength labour and sorrow; for it is soon cut off, and we fly away.” Now, as I close in on “four score”, not in ladies of the night or day but in age (80), it is a case of here today, gone tomorrow. However, long before that, with me and other men especially, but not totally, it is and has always been hair today and “done finish” or gone yesterday, today and worse, tomorrow.

I remember my barber telling me, “Tony, you could put some colour in your hair you know.” I replied, “Not me. We heroes never die.” My friend Patrick who was there with me shouted, “Hair! Hair!” My son Zubin, when he was in his teens, used to joke about my hair-loss with comments like, “Daddy, you have atomic hair. Plenty fallout” and “You’re so bald Daddy, that even if we get you vex you can’t afford to blow your top.” He was not the only one to make fun of my baldness. One of my friends in the Canadian university I went to saw me reading a book by one of my favourite authors, P.G. Wodehouse. He advised me, “Tony, forget P.G. You should go for Steven King. He writes some hair-raising tales.” Another friend recommended a new miracle drug for baldness that you had to rub on your head twice a day. “It doesn’t grow hair like some of the others,” he advised. “What it does is that it shrinks your head to fit your remaining hair.” Another, when I worked for PAHO, insisted that there was at least one advantage of not having any hair. He laughed, “You will definitely not have any use for keys.” While the others around us laughed, I was perplexed and asked, “What you mean by that?” He laughed even harder and then explained, “Well seeing that you lose your locks.”

One day I was having some word-play fun with Zubin and I asked him, “What’s the difference between an ape, an orphan, a prince, and a bald man?” We all laughed at the answer – an ape has a hairy parent, an orphan has nary a parent, a prince is an heir apparent, and a bald man has no hair apparent. When the laughter died down, Zubin’s mom added, “You know about hair today, gone tomorrow? Well, yours left since last year.” My traditional response, though not as belligerent as before, has always been, “Just because there is a hole in the roof it does not mean that the fire inside is not still blazing hot.” I made sure that I looked deeply in my wife’s eyes when I said that.


I dealt with Zubin very quickly by sharing a story from the work of the great American humourist, Erma Bombeck. She believed that you should never lend your car to anyone to whom you have given birth. Her son asked her for use of the “family” car. She demanded, “First, you have to get good marks in school, keep your room clean, make certain the yard is neat, and cut your hair. When you do that I will reconsider.” Time and term exams passed and the young man said smiling, “Mom, I did very well in exams. I have been keeping my room neat and cleaning the yard. Can I use the car now?” His mother said, “All of that is true, but you didn’t cut your hair.” The boy replied, “But, mom, Jesus had long hair.” His mother replied, “Yes, son, you’re perfectly right. And he walked everywhere he went.” Unfortunately, Zubin no longer asks me to use the car. In return he cuts what is left of my hair. He used to drive me up a wall with his jokes about my hair-loss but now, armed with his cutting tools, he puts me on a chair and drives me up a Wahl (electric hair clipper). It is always a hairy situation and a very close shave.

Fortunately for me, I get badly sunburnt because of my medication. This at least saves me from the fate of the ancient Greek poet, Aeschylus, noted for his tragedies, who had one of his own when he became the earliest recorded death from baldness. An eagle, which had seized a tortoise and was looking to smash the reptile’s shell by letting it fall from a great height, mistook the poet’s bald head for a stone and dropped the tortoise on it. On the other hand, having great hair on a big head like mine, does not go down well all the time. A youngster who was getting more jokes at his expense than I got at PAHO came home very upset and in tears. He complained to his mother, “All the kids in school make fun of me. They say I have a big head.” His very solicitous mom comforted him by saying, “Don’t worry with them. They’ re just a waste of time and envy your beautiful head full of hair and brains. All of them will get bald long before you and you would get a chance to laugh at them.” Then she told him, “Now stop crying. I want you to go to the store and buy a pound of rice and two pounds of potatoes for me. I have to cook dinner.” The boy asked, “Mom. Where’s the shopping bag? You know Neal and Massy now charges you for even plastic ones.” His mother replied, “What happen to you?, You know we don’t have any. Use your hat!”

I have a hat that protects me from the sun. In any case, I can no longer scratch the few strands of hair left on my balding head until I come to terms with the fact that I am now “folically challenged”, and if I thank the Almighty at all it is not as an “elderly person” but as a “senior citizen” whose only consolation is that at my age hair loss is no longer “premature”. Like the movie-star, Clark Gable, it’s gone with the wind. What I take with me is this story. The US playwright, Marc Connelly, ran his hand over a friend’s bald head and said, “That feels like my wife’s behind.” His friend then stroked Connelly’s head and replied, “So it does.”

Tony Deyal was last seen embarrassed by the fact that when he heard Jamaica had a curling team, he thought it was hairsay. Send feedback to