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Hair yesterday, gone today: Why are there no bald mice or Beatles?

Rick Wagner • Jan 31, 2018 at 3:00 PM

From when I was about 16, I remember a conversation with my maternal grandfather, Jim Winegar of Bloomingdale, like it was yesterday.

I was talking about how my hair was so thick that I could hardly see my scalp in the part, so surely I never would go bald.

He ran a hand through the few hairs atop his head and said his hair used to be like that, too, at my age.

Well, about 37 or so years later, I am not yet nearly slick bald like he was, but suffice it to say I am follically challenged, an awkward and somewhat politically correct way of saying going bald. OK, pretty much gone bald, I guess is more accurate.

In my late teens in college, one of my roommates noticed a thinning area at the crown of my head. In my late 20s, a photograph that showed me from behind revealed that area was more thinning.

The rest, as they say, is history. And so is most of the hair that used to be atop my head. In college, I lamented it was so thick it was hard to control — sometimes thick, sometimes frizzy and sometimes just sticking straight up. But it doesn’t put up too much of a fight anymore.

Some of my friends have just given up and shaved their heads or cut their hair short. I’ve heard people say you never see a man with a crew cut who is bald, but I don’t really think that has any validity.

I still keep mine a little long on the sides, over the ears, a holdover from the late 1970s and early 1980s. My older sons say it is a little too hippie like, but after all, I was a big Beatles fan in high school in an era of AC/DC and Journey, although I liked and listened to then-contemporary rock and pop: the J. Geils Band and Men Without Hats. AC/DC and Journey are great, too.

It’s nice to see a lot of aging rockers and icons, including Paul McCartney of Beatles fame, have not gone bald. None of the Beatles did. Where did I go wrong? My father’s hair thinned, but he never went what I consider bald.

I tried Rogaine for awhile, but it didn’t seem to have any effect, although I later learned that it was more likely to slow or stop hair loss than to grow a new full head of hair.

I remember that scene from the movie “The Fabulous Baker Boys” where Frank (played by Beau Bridges) used what looked like spray paint on his scalp to offset baldness, although brother Jack (Jeff Bridges) was skeptical. Hmm, I guess maybe I could use a little Krylon if it came in a shade of medium brown and graying. Or maybe the dead possum-look toupee would be more my style? Sorry, but no thanks on either of those.

I never really thought a lot about my hair loss that much until my two older children saw a photo of me and their mother from our wedding day.

“Daddy,” my daughter said, “you used to have hair.” That was a decade ago or more. I have less today, and I haven’t written her out of the will.

Now some of you might say I inherited my baldness from my maternal grandfather, but that is an old wives’ tale. I was assured by my high school Biology II teacher, Gary Birchfield, — known as Mr. B and a longtime biology teacher at Church Hill High School and then Volunteer High — that getting baldness genes were a crap shoot, based on probabilities like those we figured in Biology II on the potential offspring of a short-haired, long-tailed mouse with a long-haired, short-tailed mouse. I asked this at a reunion, long after much of my hair was history.

You see, I didn’t get that mouse genetics homework assignment quite right, although today I’d settle for some hair on top, long or short. In humans, it’s all got something to do with hair follicles shutting down production because they are sensitive to testosterone or something like that.

Quiz: Mr. B, if you see this, why have I never seen or heard of a bald mouse or a bald Beatle? Bonus question: What if an old wives’ tale seems to hold truth even if that is just a coincidence?

Rick Wagner covers education for the Kingsport Times News. He may be reached at rwagner@timesnews.net.

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