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In this week's Hola Papi!, the advice column by writer, Twitterer, and prolific Grindr user John Paul Brammer, a reader writes in for help: he’s balding at a very young age and now worried he’ll be single forever.

So, beyond hair treatments, what’s a boy to do? Well, Papi has some advice.

If you want his advice, just email him at [email protected] with your question. Just be sure to include SPECIFICS, and don’t forget to start out your letter with Hola Papi!


Hola Papi!

I am a 20-year-old gay guy who has a big(ish?) problem: I’m balding. I know it seems dramatic and maybe conceited to be concerned about this, but it started happening after my first relationship ended, and now I’m scared that I’m off the dating market because of it.

I’m fine with bald men, but because this is happening to me so early it’s causing self-esteem issues for me. I don't know what to do.

I feel isolated because I’m now outside of the parameters of gay beauty standards for people my age, coupled with my relative newness to the dating scene in the first place. It’s a scary and rough frontier for me. Is there anything I can do, and am I still dateable even if I can't?

Signed,
Wigless Wonder

Wigless! I’m so glad to hear from you.

First of all, don’t feel dramatic or conceited. Sure, we’re talking about your looks. But looks, in the gay community and beyond, impact how we move through life. Hair is a factor. So let’s talk about hair.

Hair is a protein filament made of keratin, the same stuff your fingernails (and rhinoceros horns) are made of. I think. I don’t know. I just Googled it. Sounds kind of disgusting, to be honest. You sure you want that on your head?

In any case, the bare facts here are no cause for alarm: it’s only hair (rhino horn material), and you’re only losing it. Not having it won’t impair your physical wellness. If anything, perhaps you’ll become more aerodynamic.

But our culture has placed an absurd emphasis on hair. For men, a full head of hair is associated with youth, masculinity, and overall attractiveness.

Hair itself isn’t very interested in accomplishing any of these things. It’s dead junk pushing out of our scalps, so it’s far too busy being dead to do much else. But beauty standards are arbitrary at the end of the day, and the gay community isn’t exempt from them.

In fact, we know gay men are disproportionately affected by pressure to look a certain way, as evidenced by our high rates of reported discomfort with our bodies and struggles with eating disorders. Chalk it up to the tyranny of the male gaze! Great stuff.

Your concerns are valid. But it’s not your hair’s fault, or anything inherent with you. It’s the cultural norms we abide by, and the stigmas that come with them.

So, Wigless, here’s what we’ll do. First, let’s separate fact from fiction: Balding is commonly associated with ageing, a much-maligned fact of life. But there’s nothing wrong with ageing. In fact, there’s everything right with it, considering the alternative is being dead.

On top of that, you are not old. You are 20. Do you not kind of dispel the myth that only old people are balding? Or do you believe 20 is old? If you do, stop reading this and write a different letter! You have bigger problems!

OK, still there? Whew. I’m glad. I knew you were one of the good ones. Anyway, here’s another fiction: a full head of hair is a sign of confidence and manliness. Again, we only believe this because that’s what we are told, and we perpetuate it because we haven’t really thought about it.

Honestly, if your hair isn’t long enough to slap someone with if you spin around really fast, or if it doesn’t make white people in your office uncomfortable, I don’t really see the point in it.

But that’s neither here nor there. Let’s talk now about what you can do about your situation. Ostensibly, that’s what I’m here for.

You could get your hands on some Rogaine and get a prescription for Propecia, products (often expensive) that are approved to slow the process. I certainly wouldn’t judge you. It’s your decision!

Ask yourself, though: Is there a world in which you could be confident while balding? Is it possible to accept the way your hair looks, or, better yet, to like it? In this scenario, you like your thinning hair, because you like the way you look, and your hair (or lack thereof) is a part of that.

Try your best to imagine what that would feel like. Push the imaginary opinions of other people away until it’s just you. You can decide to like your hair. There’s no rule saying you can’t. You’ve said yourself you’re fine with other guys who are bald or balding. What about you? Why not you?

I always feel affirmed when I see someone who looks like me being confident in themselves. It makes me feel like I have permission to be confident too. I think that’s how stigmas get broken down, and how we change things. Maybe you could be that person for you and, no doubt, for thousands of other guys.

Rest assured, there are plenty of sexy, confident men who are bald or balding. Stanley Tucci did not need a full head of hair to set my dreams on fire in Easy A.

Yes, there will be men who exclude you because of your hair. There are men who exclude people because of the color of their skin and their weight, too. But that does not preclude you from romance. It precludes you from exclusionary people.

I hope you hold your balding head high, Wigless. Because you deserve to. And if you get bored and decide you want to have hair for a little bit, to braid or to whip around or whatever, there’s another option: a wig!

Papi.


JP Brammer
John Paul Brammer writes the Hola Papi! advice column at INTO. His work has appeared in NBC News, BuzzFeed, The Guardian, and more. He is working on his first novel.