Lisa Markwell: A bad-hair day is better than a no-hair day


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The Independent Online

There's a football tournament on, I believe, but the only way in which this impinges on my life is that it affords me the opportunity to study Wayne Rooney's hair transplant in close-up. Will the heat in Ukraine affect the tufts of recent growth? Is the fact that it appears to be a bit blond a sign whence it came? I need details. Others may scoff at such a trivial matter, but it is not trivial at all to those who are losing or who have lost their hair.

This is a rare moment of sympathy across the sexes. The fact that saggy, wrinkly, overweight men attract very little negative attention – while something as innocuous as Madonna's fiftysomething breast (which appears to be relatively fit for purpose) gets howls of "Put 'em away, love" that can be heard across the globe – is pretty unfair.

Women get the lion's share of appearance judgement; the one aspect in which this is reversed is hair loss. Slapheads are sneered at, comb-overs the cause of cackling. Women who routinely complain about "bad-hair days" have, logically, "good-hair days". They don't have "no-hair days". And so there is balance: we have something that is ours. Men are assumed to be disgusted when faced with cellulite (although I'm not sure that in real life many are); women can look upon a face that has more hair up the chimney than on the mantelpiece with disdain.

But wait. We guffawed when Elton John was an early adopter of the transplant, and raised eyebrows on hearing the £35k price tag on Rooney's procedure. In fact, for a famous person to change their visual destiny so obviously suggests desperation. And I know how that feels.

Admittedly, it was temporary, but when during chemotherapy I lost all my hair, I looked upon balding men with a new understanding. To see oneself without hair is grotesque, a hall of mirrors/Picture of Dorian Gray trick. For it to happen in one's forties or fifties is bad enough, but for a 26-year-old it must be devastating. I endured nine hours of fiddly, painful ministrations that wove real hair on to my sprouting tufts when cancer treatment was over, to try and look again like my old self.

So what if Rooney wants to spend thousands on treatment (although it makes less of a dent on his finances than on those of, say, Joe Bloggs, a baldie butcher in Bracknell)? What he's ended up with – on close inspection during the Euro 2012 tournament and on the sport pages – is a little bit quiffy, a little bit sparse and not entirely natural-looking. The bald truth is that a little bit of vanity is what makes us all human – even mega-earning footballers.

A good man is still hard to find

Helen Fraser, the chief executive of the Girls' Day School Trust, states that women should choose a husband who is supportive, so that they may excel in their careers – insert your own Pope/hat, bears/wood reference here. Ms Fraser, honey, if it was something that could be taught in school there would be more than 15 per cent women in British boardrooms and no divorces. Yes, a husband who is a cheerleader for his wife's career is a wonderful thing. But most of us would settle for equal duty in wine uncorking and the head-nodding absorption of ensuing job-related rants.