A few orders of business that I feel obligated to address:
This Saturday Joshua Scheid will be performing a few “pop up” works at the Ruckus Pop Up Gallery in Boston. The gallery is on Boylston Street by Target. He will be performing a work of mine and a few other composers including Clifton Ingram, Alissa Voth, and Kelvyn Koning. It will be at 2 PM and should be a lot of fun!
My amazing partner Boy Nirvana made this short film to accompany the text from a lecture called “Performing The Feed” and they asked me to write some music for it. Here it is! It will also be shown at the Kelly Stelling Gallery in Manchester, NH which is pretty cool!
I’ve been to three new music concerts in the past week and a half that I want to give some shout outs to.
The Times Two Series hosted Transient Canvas and New Morse Code at The Record Company in Boston. Transient Canvas are one of my favorite local ensembles and they frankly just keep getting better. It was my first time seeing New Morse Code (who I believe are from Kansas) but I was really impressed with their performance - especially of a piece by Robert Honstein at the end of the program.
Last Saturday night Fourth Wall performed at Boston Conservatory. I’ve known Neil for quite a while now (he directed my opera!) and I’ve been aware of Fourth Wall for just as long but through circumstance have never actually gotten to see them perform and I really never want to miss another performance. Their current show is called Fallen From the Toy Box and I believe they are taking it to Minneapolis and Winnipeg right now. I helped them with their light set up and they did a really great job despite me messing up all my cues.
Last Sunday I saw the Northstar Duo at The Boston Sculptor’s Gallery. They played their own arrangements of pieces for oboe and flute, done for saxophone and flute and then performed a piece by my buddy Aaron Jay Meyers. I’m not saying this because I’m friends with him but the piece was really something else and I need to ask him for the score because the rhythmic energy of the whole piece has been stuck in my head all week. Also The Sculptors Gallery is where I first met Aaron so that was really nice! (Actually it was Transient Canvas playing a piece of his when we met so there ya go.)
Well the thing I want to write about this week is being a balding person in their mid twenties. Any reasonable person or any person that wants to appear reasonable will tell you that it doesn’t matter if you’re losing your hair. They’ll put their hand on your shoulder and tell you that it’s not important and doesn’t change anyone’s perception of you. Well I’m here to tell you that they’re all full of shit and are just saying that because they think they’re supposed to. What people actually think when they see someone balding is either:
A.) That person must be very old and probably not aging with distinction. They probably didn’t take care of themselves the way they should have.
B.) That person is somehow physically or genetically deficient.
C.) Maybe an academic of some sort?
If you’re bald (AND FOR THE RECORD I’M TALKING ABOUT NATURALLY BALDING PEOPLE, NOT THE KINDS OF PEOPLE WHO CASUALLY SHAVE THEIR HEADS IN THE NAME OF SO CALLED STYLE) you know the kind of looks you get. A pitying glance on the street. Maybe you wear a hat and when you take it off the person you’re talking to can’t help but sneak a peek at your fucked up scalp.
I started losing my hair when I was a freshman in high school. I was 14 years old and had hair down to my shoulders. I thought I was cool and I was full of confidence. And then one day my mother asked me, “Have you been feeling extra stressed lately?” “No, not particularly,” I replied, “Why?” “Well I can’t help but notice that your hair has been thinning lately.” Thinning? What does that even mean, I thought to myself. But she was right. Over the next few months I noticed it myself. Suddenly I was noticing that instead of three or four strands of hair left in the shower it would be ten. It never came out in clumps but every new strand of hair that I found missing was like a slow death. My mom did some research and found that thinning hair can be a result of having a thyroid condition. Issues with thyroids actually run in my family so we went right to the doctor where I prayed with all of my available thought power. “Please tell me that something is wrong with my thyroid so I can just take some medication and not have to be bald.”
The thing is that a hatred of bald people, or at least a perception that anyone missing the hair on top of their heads has something wrong with them, is taught to us by media. Balding men in TV and movies are often either noticeably overweight, emotionally pathetic, or both. The archetype for the lame bald guy is of course George Costanza, and although Seinfeld will always be one of my favorite TV shows (the title of this post is a strange reference to the weird toilet paper episode!) I think George didn’t provide a positive service to the bald community. Now when people see a balding man they instantly assume (whether they want to admit it or not) that he is creepy, a sexual deviant, probably a liar and a coward, and / or that he doesn’t take care of his health. Once in college I spent a few days at my then-girlfriend’s parents house (which was a total fucking disaster) but at one point I asked her mom if they had any Advil because I had a headache. Instead of offering me something like any normal human would she turned to her daughter and said, “See honey. He’s no good for you. He’s balding and he gets headaches.”
But I don’t want to pin everything on Jason Alexander, George Costanza, and Larry David because hatred of bald people is expressed in all layers of modern society. In kids cartoons the only bald people you’ll see are douchey gym teachers, unless you’re talking about a weird show like Doug where everyone is kind of deformed anyway. Shows like Gilmore Girls dictate taste in romantic partners to their viewers. In one sentence the characters will reject a man for being bald or having back hair, and in the other pine for a man who doesn’t judge them solely based on their physical appearances. Meanwhile there are almost no famous balding actors who aren’t regarded as “men of distinction.”
A common phrase used when talking about good looking older men is, “He still has a great head of hair,” or a variation on that theme. What that really means is, “Isn’t it great that he didn’t inherit a certain gene from his parents? He’s got sturdy ass DNA and I want me a piece.” The truth of the matter is that we can let our bodies go in any direction we so desire and nobody will really say anything but once you lose your hair you’re in a different class and that’s because we associate great hair with wealth, success, and upstanding morality.
Here’s a list of US presidents who were balding in reverse chronological order:
Gerald Ford - who remembers anything about this clown who was only there to finish Nixon’s disaster of a presidency.
Dwight Eisenhower - not really balding. Actually he had a very rare form of the big bad baldness. Instead of the “classic horseshoe pattern” (thanks Georgey boy!) he had what I call the “slow retreat” where the hair on the top of his head slowly becomes a smaller circle. I think this is important because he really doesn’t qualify as a bald man. I also think the “slow retreat” approach is indicative of his obsession with the Civil War. The Eisenhower estate is at Gettysburg and I believe that his pattern baldness represents the slow defeat of the Confederacy.
Grover Cleveland? I actually can’t tell if he’s bald because of the angle on these dang Wikipedia photos but again my point stands. No one remembers a bald president.
Martin Van Buren - a total creepazoid and for the record, I only know who he is because of Seinfeld so everything is truly full circle.
John Quincy Adams - I have no idea what he did other than being part of the first presidential dynasty. Although he was bald he had some sporty mutton chops which I think counteracts the baldness. It’s all about drawing the gaze elsewhere.
John Adams - this asshole doomed his son to be bald as well. Way to go #2.
Meanwhile the presidents we talk about the most are regarded not because of their great policies or their ability to lead our nation in times of great distress. They’re remembered for having great heads of hair.
Abraham Lincoln had a hairstyle that just wouldn’t quit. Lincoln was a great film about a president figuring how to get an amendment passed, but you tell me if a bald man could have convinced and tricked all those racist senators to vote in favor.
Theodore Roosevelt brought a mix of European elegance and rugged Americana to the presidential hairdo. When he wasn’t busy creating the National Park System or building canals you know he was keeping that bad boy styled with a big can of turtle wax. It adds to his charm. Charm only a man with hair is afforded in this country.
JFK. Anybody alive at the same time as him probably had a crush on him. Remember that there’s an episode of Seinfeld that centers on Elaine dating a Kennedy. When the CIA assassinated JFK they knew they would never be caught because the public would be too focused on that marvelous comb job. AND THEY WERE RIGHT.
Do you remember in 2015 when Donald Trump first formally announced his campaign? At the time everyone knew him as the schmuck who hosted The Apprentice. The public at large didn’t know anything about his actual political ideals (at least before that first weird announcement on the golden escalator or whatever it was) but that didn’t stop everyone from freaking the fuck out. Why is that? Donny’s hair is thinning fast and people have a hard time trusting someone losing their hair. It represents someone with a severe moral deficiency and of course ol’ 45’s morals are in the dumpster so he’s not doing much for the cause of follically changed gentlemen.
When I started college everyone I met assumed that I must be an older student. I can’t totally blame them for that because I did technically look older than them, but when I would explain that I was also a freshman coming to college straight from high school I would get that all too familiar pitying look. The look of, “What happened to you, you poor bastard?” I didn’t always have an answer because I was busy dealing with the mental and emotional trauma of becoming a second class citizen. A bald citizen.