Its funny how you often reference your self though exterior affectations, creating an image of yourself to feel comfortable with your place in the universe. Clothes, activities, music, and cars all make up a projected image for the outside world. These accoutrements act as a shield often protecting a soft interior from a hard world full of forces beyond your control.
For a man there are many steps you must go through on the path to peace, (if you can find it) and these are about accepting who you are and learning to live with the cards you have been dealt. Occasionally you can reshuffle the pack, chuck out the jokers and bend the corners of the aces in the pack so they can be more easily found.
One such moment is the day that you embrace or accept hair loss. I can hear you laughing as I am but hey, it’s a visual sign of ageing, or as would like to think, ‘maturity’ - whatever that is. My transition from longhaired rock god to bald coot was almost instantaneous and excruciatingly painful.
Working as a cameraman on ‘The Edge’ for Triple Echo Productions and BBC Scotland was an amazing opportunity. To make a series about Scottish mountaineering was a dream come true and unlike most productions we were filming using 16mm film. It was the real deal and not video, but on the mountain it was quite a responsibility especially when you chucked in an ice climb on Ben Nevis mid winter into the mix. We had just finished filming Dave “Cubby “ Cuthbertson on a Mega Route X, a top quality ice wall on the north face. Wrap was called and we were all exiting the hill and looking forward to a beer in the fort. I carried out the derigging so was carrying about 25kg of gear as I abseiled back down the ice wall. Descending the rope I looked down to check a foot placement, and a long length of hair wrapped itself around the rope and got pulled into my abseil device. In no time my head was pulled down into the Figure Eight through which the rope passed.
With so much weight on the icy wet ropes and with no way to let go for long enough to rig a prusik (a way to climb up a rope in an emergency) I was essentially trapped and unable to let go, unable to move up or down. Every time I shifted my weight the hair got pulled deeper into the jammed rope jack-knifing my back. Soon my forehead was touching the device in my harness. With the lock of hair well and truly stuck, I had only one option. I tried to slowly pull my head back whilst jigging up and down on the rope but it just made it worst and it was bloody sore. I took a deep breath and yanked my head back as hard as I could, and with a brain stripping yelp, ripped my head free leaving a large clump of frozen hair stuck in the rope. Relieved to be free I slowly lowered my self down the ice wall, and looking back up I could see a chuck of long hair slowly spinning around stuck to the rope above me. It was painful for sure but the greatest damage was to my carefully tailored image now that I was left with a massive - or so its seemed to me - chunk of bare, red forehead painfully heralding the loss of youth and the onset of middle age.
Everyone has to eventually embrace the ageing process, the saggy bits and/or the loss of hair. It’s a good thing. It’s a transition. The back comb, the flip over, or worse still a toupee are all cosmetic and faintly ridiculous, what matters is what is inside. No amount of cosmetic surgery, botox or decoration will hide your reality from your self. I am not appealing to you to grow older gracefully. On the contrary, grow old disgracefully, embrace the inner baldy, shave it off and get out and play.