I was alone, eating a fish sandwich at Arby’s, enjoying my own company (at least someone does), when I heard a reverend delivering some sort of moment of reflection via local radio. His subject matter: phobias. He listed a litany of fears: heights, enclosed spaces, flying, snakes, etc. Things I’ve heard a hundred times before. But then I heard him add a new one to the list, “The fear of bald people,” causing me to nearly choke on my fish fillet.
THE FEAR OF—
Did I hear correctly?
Did he say “bad” people?
Or BALD PEOPLE?
Is it possible there are people who fear me by virtue of my baldness? Is this why I am eating lunch alone? Because I scare others? Come to think of it, the Arby’s girl at the register was having a terrible time counting out my change, as if extremely nervous.
I quickly did a Google search with my iPhone. Sure enough, there appeared entries for peladophobia, or “The fear of bald people.” Symptoms include shortness of breath, sweating, heart palpitations, shaking. And here I thought my former girlfriends really liked me when they showed these four symptoms. I had no idea they were actually displaying panic attacks. It all makes sense now. Their fear of my baldness caused them to resort to the good old head-under-hatchet-breakup-line, the most overused relationship-killing cliché in history: “It’s not you. It’s me.” Translation: “You are bald.”
Thanks to Google search, I also learned there are ways to cure peladophobia and perhaps even save a future relationship should the opportunity ever arise. For example, there are such things as behavior therapy, anti-anxiety medicine, psychotherapy, and cognitive-behavioral therapy—all of which I am now formulating into pick-up lines. “Hi, my name is Scott. Yes, I’m bald. And yes, you are trembling at the mere sight of me . . . and sweating so much that right now I am no longer even attracted to you . . . QUICK, SOMEONE GET A SPOON TO SECURE HER TONGUE SO IT DOESN’T ROLL BACK INTO HER WINDPIPE . . . but I just want you to know that after you go thru several dozen sessions of cognitive-behavioral therapy (my treat) you might be able to one day, dare I say it, peek through the cracks of the fingers of the hand covering your eyes and see my horrific hairless scalp without experiencing severe nosebleeds and/or brain fry…” I doubt a wedding gift registry is in my near future!
Is it not enough that I have had to live most of my life bald? Now, I find myself on the same phobia list with spiders, snakes, cockroaches, toads, bacteria, hell, mother-in-laws, plane crashes, clowns, Germany, Dr. Drew, etc.
My mother had wigs when I was a kid. She had plenty of hair of her own, but it was the ‘70s. I’m not saying this is one of my favorite memories, but my brother and I had fun trying on her wigs. We didn’t get all Anthony Perkins weird as we got older, in case you’re wondering. Well, I can only speak for myself. I now wonder if all that sliding on and off of those itchy wigs jumpstarted my follicle erosion. If so—talk about cruel irony.
Being bald provides no leeway for friends to skirt the issue should it come up in conversation. People with other afflictions have an easier go of it. I wish I had a dollar for every time I heard someone convincingly lie to someone with comments like these:
“You don’t look old at all, great-great grandma.”
“Lazy eye? Get out of here! Which one?”
“I wouldn’t have known about your vestigial tail, Cousin Bambi, if not for that free lap dance demonstration.”
But never can anyone convincingly tell a bald guy: “You don’t look bald.”
That’s because we know we are bald. We see ourselves in the mirror every morning, startled to see Nosferatu looking back at us.
Upon learning about peladophobia, I decided that there must be a phobia for everything. To test this theory, I Googled “fear of hair.” Entries for chaetophobia appeared. It made me slightly giddy knowing there are people who fear people with hair. Writing about my baldness does come with professional risk. You might not have even known I was bald before now. That’s why the Herald doesn’t run a photo with my column. I imagine countless Dubois County kitchen table conversations going something like this tonight:
Husband (throwing paper to floor): My god, Scott Saalman is bald!
Husband: Bald as a baboon’s butt.
Wife: Shut the front door!
Husband: He came out about it in his column just now.
Wife: He’s just being funny. He’s not really bald. I mean, he writes like he has hair.
Husband (experiencing shortness of breath, sweating, heart palpitations, shaking): I can’t read his column anymore.
Wife: Poor dear. It’s so hard watching you struggle with your peladophobia. Makes me wonder if there really is a god.
Husband: I bet Jason Recker has hair. He’s my favorite Herald columnist anyway.
I’m depressed now. Maybe mom still has those wigs up in the attic. So what if I’ll look like Carol Brady. Knowing the role mom’s wigs likely played in my baldness, though, I’m sort of scared of them. See maliaphobia.