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The Cocoon: "Skin"

When was the last time you saw your bald head? Your pale, quivering, greasy yet at the same time flaky naked scalp? I imagine for most of us, it’s been a while. Probably when you were a baby. You look back at your old photos and -aww- he looks like a cute little old man!

Well, for me — dramatic pause — it was just before I came here wearing this wig.

Yes, ladies and gentlemen, I am bald. Well, baldish. I’m not even quite bald enough to be admitted into the Bald Guy’s Union. I still have enough of this that it could be considered a voluntary thing.

It’s like I’m the guy in Narcotics Anonymous whose addiction is sniffing markers.

Growing up, I was always the guy with long hair. Started with the bowl cut that all Asians are required to have. Then moved on to the 90’s parted-in-the-middle look. Then it got even longer and sort of emo.

I really considered it my best feature. I used to always run my hands through my hair when I couldn’t sleep. It was a nervous gesture, but comforting. Like a security blanket of sorts. Sort of the way wizards stroke their beards. Hair just begs to be played with.

I started losing my hair young — like really young. Unfairly young. I was 16, 17 years old. Still had pimples and braces while I was applying Rogaine to my scalp. I can’t even begin to describe how unfair it felt to me.

If you could only see my Google search history at that time — searching for a cure, any sort of outlandish treatment that may or may not work. If it restored a clump of fur on 22% of tested baboons then that sounded good enough for me.

I remember the day I had to finally ‘fess up to my situation. I was probably 20 years old, still in college. I lived in New York at the time, and I was walking back to my apartment after class. It started raining and I rushed into a nearby pizzeria — both to escape the rain and grab a slice for dinner — and I remember catching a glimpse of myself in the mirror and I didn’t recognize the person I saw. With whispy strands of hair clumped together, revealing way more of my scalp than I had ever seen before. It caught me dead in my tracks.

I shaved my head for the first time the next day. I borrowed my brother’s clippers and just went at it. I remember thinking how much larger my forehead looked than I’d ever imagined or remembered it to be. It seemed to stretch on forever.

Imagine that you’ve never taken your pants off — ever. You’re a never-nude. You might wear shorts sometimes, or longer slacks sometimes. In the early 2000’s, you tried spants but you kinda regret that decision. And now — NOW! — you have your pants ripped off from you and you’ve got Ken doll parts. That’s what it felt like.

Take a moment to think about losing your best feature. What a blow to your sense of self that is. You have to redefine yourself — completely.

But it’s like Chuck Palahniuk says in Fight Club: “once you lose everything you’re free to do anything.” And it’s kind of true. If you thought about and saw yourself one way and can no longer do that, you ask yourself: who am I? Who do I want to be? It’s incredibly liberating. The ability to rebuild a new sense of self. A better self. A stronger self. A more confident self.

You’ve tasted that first hint of mortality, a sense of your own decay, and come to terms with it. You looked death straight in the eye and said “ttyl.”

What did going bald teach me? It taught me how thick my skin really is.

 

… but actually I wear a hat all the time and grew a mustache to compensate, so don’t believe a thing I just told you. I hate being bald. I hate it. The sun’s too hot on your head and the winters feel cruel and cold. If I could fix this by rubbing dead baby stem cells on my head I would. Where can I find dead babies? Please, I’ll pay any amount. Please. I miss my hair so much.

William Tran