This column is for Danny.

“Your new column on Thursdays is interesting,” he wrote to me. “Most interesting is the cover photo and the striking tonsorial choice. It appears that although you probably have a full head of hair, you are opting for the chrome-dome look. It’s very hip and cool. So perhaps a column about your tonsorial choice would interest readers.”

Praise to Danny for his optimism.

There are men who sport shaven heads voluntarily. Michael Jordan, for example, unleashed a generation of bald-pated basketball players when he razored his University of North Carolina high-and-tight into Chicago Bulls smooth.

Hairstyles aside, I’m not like Mike.

My choice was as voluntary as traffic school. I awoke one morning about five years ago, realized my thinning hair gave me more than a passing resemblance to a Franciscan friar, then shaved off every damned inch of it. It was the scariest and most liberating moment of my life.

And I’ve never looked back. Over the years, I’ve realized that my life until that moment was lived as a bald man in a badly coiffed body. I was having a series of bad-hair years, instead of days. Although ridding myself of hair was a hard choice, it was clearly the right one. My hair and I never got along.

The earliest pictures of me show a smiling kid with a thick, luxurious ‘do à la Moe Howard of Three Stooges’ fame. My black bangs came straight down over my eyes and then cut straight across my forehead.

So I took to hats. Hundreds of them. My grandfather can still recall the windy day when my baseball cap flew from my head into Narragansett Bay. I wailed so much Pop bought me 20 more hats to get me to stop. From there, hats became my addiction. I went everywhere with one.

When you’re a little kid, that’s fine. A rumpled green mesh Hess Oil baseball cap on an 8-year-old boy is harmless; as long as I smoothed down my runaway cowlick after taking it off, I could become somewhat presentable for church in short order.

It made me happy, so my parents let me run free. I became a hat connoisseur. My dad’s car dealerships offered me a steady diet of freebies from General Motors, Ford and Chrysler, so for a while in the 1980s, my head would tell others I was Chevy Tough, a Dodge Boy or FoMoCo proud.

A trip to the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown offered the chance to be the only 10-year-old in New England, probably, to wear a 1970s-vintage, black-and-yellow-ringed, Willie Stargell-special Pittsburgh Pirates hat. To this day, I don’t know what drew me to that particular one. (I remember looking at it years later and thinking how hideous it was.)

One of my favorites was a bright red Ferrari cap, which I wore while visiting my grandparents at their winter place in Florida. They let me wear that cap with white shorts and a blue Hawaiian shirt. I have a framed picture of that get-up at my house; I looked like Magnum PI’s son.

As I grew older, the hat-wearing got less fun and more fanatical. When appearance and etiquette started to matter, the hats became both more necessary and more inconvenient. My hair was uncooperative, so the only recourse I favored was concealment.

Hats were banned in junior high school. I would wear them, and teachers would take them away. By the end of the school year, my hat closet would be almost empty.

In high school, hats were allowed. This was an all-you-can-eat buffett for a starving teenager. I think I went hatless for about five minutes for those four years. The same for college.

It wasn’t until my mid-20s that I realized this irrational behavior was causing a side effect: my hair was thinning underneath the hat, which was creating a bizarre Friar Tuck-like effect. Unless I believed my future was in the abbey — and it wasn’t — I needed to do something, and quick.

So, one day, I stared into my bathroom mirror. I did a quick assessment of risk against reward, breathed deep and took action. When I looked up about 20 minutes later, a bald me was staring back.

I’ve been that way ever since. Now, almost everywhere I go, I see others like me. This difficult tonsorial choice, more than two decades in the making for me, has suddenly become stylish.

Or, in Danny’s words, “hip and cool.” I can say with certainty that those two phrases and my hairstyle have never been matched in my three-plus decades on earth. So thanks to Danny for the compliment, and the question.

Just don’t ask me about my taste in footwear.

That’s an even longer story.

Anthony Ronzio is editor and publisher of the Kennebec Journal and Morning Sentinel. Email to [email protected]


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