“Don’t start a fresh on your head, start it in your head” said my brother, in a move that was both unusually profound and advice I would ignore. I’ve always been very protective over my hair, my curls. Only yesterday I went for drinks with a friend who hadn’t seen me since the bold move to shave it all off, to lose it all.
“Where are the curls?” she asked immediately, rubbing her hand over my scalp, looking both enthralled and disgusted, like when you pet a naked mole rat. Here is the story of how and why I shaved my head and why it isn’t that big a deal and makes me feel like a superficial little idiot.
This year has had its ups and downs. Every year has its ups and downs. It’s not really possible to blame it on the year or to say that you can’t wait for a given year to be over to start. There are positives that come from a new year but essentially time is an invention of man and you have to make your own decisions and are responsible for your own destiny etc.
I’ve said for a long time that something boldly cathartic I would like to do is shave my head. It felt like a cool thing to do, like when JT left N*Sync and shaved his head or when Zayn Malik left One Direction and shaved his head. I wanted that sort of going it alone after life in a boyband vibe. Didn’t quite achieve it but nevermind.
There’s a lot to be said about siblings. I said to my therapist this week that siblings are able to say exactly the right thing to undermine you in a way that you thought you had grown out of. I feel like a strong confident man who don’t need no thing. My brothers are able to chip that charade away with the expertise of a marble cutter and say just the thing to make me feel like a skinny little twerp once more.
“You’ve got a funny shaped head”.
Oh no. It stings. I want to hide in my bedroom and read about Narnia. Aslan wouldn’t cuss my scalp. He’s got a glorious mane. He’s like a Jesus for the new age.
I was in Singapore. It was hot. Unbearable heat and humidity and this flop of new romantic fringe kept getting in my way and I figured the best thing I could possibly do is just shave it off and it could be part of me finding myself while I travelled across Asia with my friend Adam. It seemed like a cool thing to do. It would be bold. It would be shocking. Then again, on a trek through the Grand Canyon last year I went for a dip under a waterfall and when I crawled out with my hair stuck down on top of my head the guide said “you’ve got a head like a peanut”.
I told Adam I was going to shave my head. It seemed like it would be the answer to all of my problems. It helped with some of them, sure, but there’s no such thing as a solution to all my problems. Maybe there is but the Oedipal stuff is pretty deep set.
My friend Luke worked in Geylang as a barber for eighteen months. He lived in the Pinnacle Tower. He told me that while I was there I should visit his old shop and see his buddies and they would sort me out. I decided that would be the time when I would take the plunge and shave my head. We arrived hungover on the Monday and found it was closed. It obviously wasn’t meant to be. I would keep my hair for another day. We got some questionable buffet food and continued to tour around.
When we checked into our Air BnB in Malaysia I told Adam the time had come for him to shave my head. He seemed sadistically keen on the idea. I sat on a towel topless and gave him my beard trimmer. He turned it on and ran it through the middle of my head. There was no turning back.
Fifteen minutes later I was bald. Adam told me I looked dangerous. With my tattoos and shaved head there was something of the This Is England look about me, something proved as we pranced across Thailand together and got strange looks.
It had the desired effect. I felt different. I had one less thing to worry about. I’m not going to keep it this short and can’t help but notice how high my hairline now is but fuck it, it’s only hair. It’s aged me a little but at the moment that’s not a bad thing.
The only thing I did realise is that the whole Justin/Zayn thing didn’t happen. What I had done was have a 2007 Britney Spears style breakdown. I went away to find myself. I wasn’t there. I did however get my happy ending.