I am faced with the unappealing certainty that I am going to be bald. In fact, I'm currently careening into the ranks of the shorn-headed males who owe their nude shiny scalps not to any cosmetic predilection, but rather to that complex synthesis of genetics and environment for which there is little control over. Despite reassurances that the genes responsible for baldness are inherited from one's mother, the collective glares emitted from atop my father and his brothers in pictures and at family gatherings have become seared into my mind as a forewarning of whatâ€™s in store for me down the road.
While I remind myself that baldness synchronous with the prime of age is, while unfortunate, really not all that bad when held up to the gamut of serious medical conditions and diseases that afflict so many people, it still fails in assuaging all compunction about a change that is so indelibly fused with old age. An alternative perspective, however, has helped me view the less-than courageous retreating of my hairline more amicably.
Much to my delight, I once read of an evolutionary biologist who proclaimed premature baldness might conceivably be an adaptation naturally selected to enhance survival. I hope the seeming inanity of that last statement does not dissuade you from reading on, so please let me attempt to explain.
Looking back through prehistory to the hunter-gatherer mode of human existence, he notes that, in contrast to our society today, elders in the relatively small groups garnered great benefits in power, occupying a high position within the social hierarchy. Concomitant with this posturing of power and status by male elders within the tribe (life expectancy was remember closer to 30 than 80) was the implication of "well, he must being doing something right if he's lived this long," making them attractive mates for prospective females, with good genes and resources to pass on to progeny. In addition, some primeval societies upheld an ideology of patriarchy that promoted elder men within the group to mate with younger, fertile women, thereby increasing the chances of producing offspring (as opposed to elder men mating with elder women).
In other words, the older men who ran the show got first dibs on the chicks. Consequently, men might conceivably gain reproductive fitness by appearing older than they really were (celebrating one's birthday hadn't quite come of age yet). Physical traits that would make one (male) appear older (such as baldness) would become more prevalent as the potential reproductive benefits the individual gained became more tangible. And hence, the scourge of premature baldness has become rampant.
Loosing one's hair was and still very much is, merely another despised marker of age progression, complete with an entire industry devoted to thwarting (often with less-than amazing results) the onslaught of the physical changes that occur in tandem with the natural progression through one's life. However, as the pates of younger and younger cohorts of men now shed more and more hairs upon their heads with alarming alacrity, this evolutionary explanation for why a man in the peak of his physical prowess would be subjected to such a crowning imperfection that used to be (and still is) indicative of old age, becomes all the more appealing. At least for men like me, who will soon be bald.
Copyright © 2010 cherry-eyed
In Praise Of Baldness; An Evolutionary Advantage?
Copyright © 2010 cherry-eyed
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