(NOTE: I wrote this for the Winston-Salem Journal in 2000. It was my first story for the Journal.)
Men find good reasons to shave their heads, and they get strong reactions
By TOM GILLISPIE
When Jeff Maynard decided to shave his head in 1992, Laurie Maynard wasn’t too pleased.
To be truthful, Mrs. Maynard was plainly ticked off.
“She never really yelled,” Maynard recalled, “but you know how you know you’ve done something that has not pleased your wife?
She acted that way for a couple of months. It took her a lot longer to become resigned to the fact.”
Like most of guys who decide to go hairless, Maynard was looking for a change in his life. He didn’t want to look like most men — thin on top with a patch of hair around the sides — so he approached Laurie about shaving his head.
“I wanted a new look that no one else was doing,” said Maynard, who lives in Rural Hall but works, interestingly enough, as a nurse in the Intensive Care Nursery at Forsyth Hospital. “I figured a bald head was more esthetically pleasing, because I was not into a bit of fringe around the side.”
Maynard says he had tried several extreme haircuts from long hair to a buzz cut similar to a mohawk. When Laurie Maynard kept saying no, Maynard decided to out-flank his wife. When she was at work, he broke out the shaving cream and razor.
“It was not pretty,” he said with a laugh. “I looked like somebody who dove head-first through a barbed-wire fence. There were nicks and cuts everywhere. Gradually, it got better.”
True, but then Laurie came home, and the shaving cream hit the fan.
"At first I didn’t like it,” she admitted recently. “It was a shock.”
Eight years later, she’s calmed down a bit.
"She’s gotten used to it,” he said. “Well, she tolerates it. She’s resigned to the fact that I’m going to keep it this way.”
It still bothers her sometimes.
"I can’t imagine him any other way,” she said. “What bothers me is that there’s a lot of mess involved, in the sink or bathtub. He spends a lot longer in the bathroom. The look itself, I’ve gotten used to it.”
Jim Sexton, who lives in Winston-Salem but works at a computer business in Greensboro, says he was luckier than Maynard when he shaved his head.
“One Saturday morning while my wife was downstairs cooking breakfast, I shaved it off,” the 37-year-old said, “and she loved it. I’ve had it since.”
He did get strange looks from others, though. “The funniest reaction was my mom,” he said. “She got my hand and rubbed my head with it.”
Maynard, who is 5-foot-8 and 200 pounds, says he gets strange reactions. He’s bald, has tattoos, has stretched ear lobes and wears an earring or two. Since he doesn’t have to wear scrubs at the hospital, he often settles for athletic gear, and people take him for a biker dude. Once they realize he’s professional and interested in the well-being of their children, though, they relax.
Apparently, though, lots of bald guys get odd reactions. Sexton, who is 6-foot-2, 250 pounds and a former member of the Air Force, jokes about looking like pro wrestlers, and, indeed, he bears a strong resemblance to stars “Stone Cold” Steve Austin or Bill Goldberg.
"For some, it’s a little more intimidating with a bald head,” Maynard said. “You could take the same guy with a head of hair, and it would not be as intimidating.
"Every now and then, someone will tell me I look like a biker or wrestler, because I have a few tattoos and ear rings. For me, first impressions are different. But, when people talk to me, they realize we’re just the same on the inside.”
Byron Weeks gets strong reactions as well. Weeks, at 5-foot-6, 170 pounds, isn’t an intimidating figure per se. But add a bald head, muttonchops, tattoos and some visible piercing – Weeks has tattooing and piercing businesses in Winston-Salem and Greensboro -- and people look at him askance.
"I have a bird (tattooed) on the back of my head, and that makes people look with interest, too,” said Weeks, who has two baldies working for him.
Weeks, 32, like his friend Maynard, has gone through some extremes. He once had hair halfway down his back. Then about three or four years ago, he asked his wife, Kelley, if she’d mind him shaving his head, and she said no.
"To tell you the truth, I’m not much into the hair thing,” he said. “If I’d known what being bald was like before I did it, I would have done this when I was 25.”
Other men wait and wait, though.
Peer Plaut, who runs a computer business out of Greensboro, says he was looking for products for bald men several years ago, so he tried www.baldmen.com on the Internet. Stunned that there was no Net site just for baldies, Plaut (rhymes with clout) started his own: www.baldmen.com. Plaut is the self-proclaimed Head Baldie, and Sexton, the Head Tester, is a co-worker with the computer business and with www.baldmen.com.
Until recently, Plaut had let nature take its course. He cut his hair short, but he didn’t shave it. Now he’s thinking that maybe he will shave his head for this story. Like most men, Plaut wanted to run it by his wife first.
Still, some women prefer baldies. It was that way even before Telly Savalas and Yul Brynner have shaved their heads decades ago.
"In my experience,” said Mick Scott, “some women like it, and some don’t. Those who do REALLY like it.”
Scott, 40, didn’t have to worry about someone else’s feelings. It made him happy, though.
"Before, I was a guy losing his hair; a guy shaving his head felt better,” said Scott, a librarian at the N.C. School for the Arts, an artist and a graduate student at UNC Greensboro.
"It was a pretty radical move eight years ago to have a shaved head. There was a lot of response, both positive and negative. Some people were taken back. Some were offended. It’s not as big a deal anymore, though.
"I don’t WANT it to be a big deal. This is just what I look like.”
Scott, who is also into kickboxing, kung fu and bicycling, likes the fact that he doesn’t have to worry about his hair.
There are no figures, of course, but there are bunches of baldies out there. Many are men like Maynard and Sexton who were losing their hair anyway. Some have been cancer patients. Many are youngsters trying to be like Mike (Michael Jordan) or to assert their independence.
Tony Thompson, a barber in Kernersville, says he had a full head of curly hair before he went out on the town with friends. Someone bet him he wouldn’t shave his head. They were wrong, of course. Years later, he’s still bald.
Others, meanwhile, go bald almost by accident.
Bryan Grayson, the 25-year-old associate fitness director of the Central YMCA, grew up in a military family, and he once cut his hair about a half-inch-long on the top and shaved the sides. Grayson liked his High & Tight, but one day he got a little overzealous with the razor. It turned into a High & Very Tight, and he just shaved it off.
Even that had its problems, Grayson says. He left a few ugly splotches on the sides, and people wondered what was going on. To make matters worse, before he shaved, Grayson had a full head of hair on the top and none on the sides. When he shaved the top, he had a white crown and tanned sides. THAT drew a few strange looks. But all things must pass, and now his tan is even.
Scott says he doesn’t need to congregate with other baldies; but, naturally, others will get together. Some hit web sites such as www.baldmen.com or www.cutterscrew.com. Others, like Plaut and Sexton, attend the annual Bald Is Beautiful convention at Morehead City. The baldmen.com duo may be among the dozens of baldies (shaven and otherwise) who will attend the 26th annual convention on Sept. 8-10.
Want to join them? If you’re thinking of shaving your head, you’ll need good tools. Grayson started out using a product that he would mix with water, and he’d put the paste on his head. When it dried, he just knocked off the hair. It worked, but it irritated his scalp. He eventually switched to a normal razor and shaving cream.
Sexton, though, uses a special shaving cream, Kiss My Face, as well as the specially made Head Blade. Kiss My Face is sold at health food stores, while inventor Todd Green sells his product on his website, www.headblade.com.
Maynard says you have two options. One, you can cut your hair shorter and shorter; when the time is ripe, break out the razor.
The other option? “Go ahead and give it a shot, see if she (your spouse) will grow to like it,” he said. “If you’re dead set on doing it, go ahead and do it. And pray for the best.”
CONTACT: Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com. Also, my Twitter handle is EDITORatWORK.
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