Many years ago, one of my coworkers at the office got hair implants. He was just a couple years older than I was and, at the time, we were both in our early thirties. We would often chat about our common maladies of marriage, fatherhood, and working for the man. While we chatted, he stared at my hair. I am certain of this because we were the same height, and I could see his eyes focus above mine. It slowly dawned on me that he was envious.
Envy is one of those troubling emotions. Once it gets started, it’s hard to stop. It may even be one of the deadly sins, and if it’s not, it’s probably a makes-you-really-sick sin, like when a nagging cough turns into bronchitis that won’t go away, and bothers you for months. Envy is one of the sins that hurts yourself more than others, at least at first; and so it was with my coworker who stared at my hair. I wonder if there is a way that envy can be made useful?
The way he stared at my hair informed me about how women feel when I stare at their breasts (Actually, I’m more of an ankle man, so if I bend over to pick up a penny, it’s not for the money, if you know what I mean.) But I’m not envious of women for their breasts. I’m merely lustful. Well, I’m actually just horny in those moments. Had I somehow conspired to play with the breasts and get a much closer look at the ankles, I’d be lustful. Very few people would accuse me of that sin.
I was careful back then to not stare at his hair implants. I would steal glances at those poor bastards, those lonely soldiers standing guard on the vast wasteland above his forehead. They were transferred from the back of his head, or from his back, or (worst of all) his backside. They all looked miserable and unhappy with their post, like the infrantymen assigned to protect Alaska from a Siberian invasion that was never going to come. No woman would ever run her hands through that field of transplanted ass hair, so why should they even stand at attention. And there would never be any relief from their duty, or even a friend. Maybe, on a dare, a woman might run her hand over the tips to experience the tactile sensations. “How shall I compare thee to a Fuller Brush,” she might say, but that woman would never take hold of those misplaced follicles to get a good grip and move that head where she wanted it, if you know what I mean (over the sink to do the dishes). So why should those lonely soldiers remain at their post? Why not desert your post?
It has been said that love of money is the root of all evil, but I think a balding man would give away all of his money for a shot at a full and youthful head of hair. It’s vanity that motivates us, that longing for something we don’t have, something we are not. Envy–the outward expression of our own self-loathing–can make us miserable. But can it help us in any way?
If one were somehow in possession of a reasonable self esteem, noticing what others had that we desired might be a useful motivator. We all have unique gifts, and style, and answers to life’s questions; they are the things we carry forward during a lifetime of disappointment. If those disappointments are kept in proper perspective then it is possible to use those first envious stabs to inform us of our desires. We are all flawed regardless of our hair, and will continue to mistakes throughout life. Imperfection is the main ingredient in all humans, like eggs in a torte cake.
Envy cannot be denied. Our sinfulness is one of those baked-in ingredients of our nature. But it can be whipped, sweetened, and baked into a useful shape, like a torte cake. To do so, you have to put your self-esteem in perspective. You have to forgive yourself your humanity, and acknowledge that you will desire much in life that cannot be attained.
For some of us, great hair will remain unattainable. I recently saw a photo of my former coworker. He had posted a headshot on his LinkedIn profile page. He looked directly at the camera with a bright, cheerful smile. He was bald as an egg. The light reflected off of his scalp like a sixteen pound AMF bowling ball fresh out of the ball-cleaning machine. I like to think that he was fine with how things had turned out. He was always a friendly, happy guy. I trust he embraced his baldness, and protected himself from the dangers of envy.