Gradual hair loss in a youngish writer which triggers a confidence-shattering premature slump.
Serious scalp stimulation at Palace Merano in Italy with a wider-reaching outcome.
Everywhere around me I see men like me – in their early 40s – coming up hard against the reality of their lives. And they’re depressed. Depressed by the careers that have passed them by; the unfinished albums, the unpublished novels, depressed by the state of the world. And also by the state of themselves. This, truly, is the stage of life when you begin to notice the first real signs of your body starting its inevitable physical decline. The knees that no longer turn on a dime. The growing paunches. The receding hairlines.
I’ve felt all this recently. Especially the part about the hair. There have been no dramatic hairballs gathering at the shower plug hole. And, as yet, there’s no devastating monk-like bald patch at the crown. But for a couple of years now, an agonisingly slow pincer movement has been steadily making inroads into my hairline, leaving an increasingly isolated clump of fringe. Every time I look in the mirror, I can’t help but think of a melting polar ice cap, a great chunk of which will imminently float fatally away from the main corpus.
Of course, I’m hardly alone in this. But I’m not finding solace in company. Instead, I’ve started to obsessively analyse my friends’ hair, making mental notes of where they are on the spectrum, fostering petty jealousies: the musician with his luxuriant tresses and lush beard; the geneticist with his enragingly thick jet-black rug… Coming face to face with the reality of your vanity and the fragility of your masculinity is a sobering experience. I had hoped I would be bigger than this. But the fact remains: I don’t want to go bald. I really, really don’t want to go bald.
Like most men, I’d wager, the thought of a hair transplant is a step too far and the potential side effects of finasteride (a commercially available prostate drug found to stimulate hair growth) are way worse than a shiny pate. And so I journey to Palace Merano, the most storied spa hotel in northern Italy’s most storied of spa towns. The property is dominated by its celebrated clinic, with all guests enrolled on one of its programmes. The personalised detox, which I’m doing, is six days of a carefully controlled diet (no booze, no caffeine, no dairy and one 24-hour fast), and a barrage of meridian-focused massages and hydro-aromatherapy treatments.