Chapter 1 "A CURIOUS KIND OF PREJUDICE": THE PSYCHOLOGY OF BALDNESS "Although the constitution makes no mention of it, it would appear that fat people are now effectively excluded from running for high political office. Probably bald people as well." -Neil Postman, 1985 On the wall of an examination room in the office of New York hair transplantation surgeon Dr. Michael Reed, strewn among his diplomas, medical society membership plaques and a certificate from a successfully completed liposuction workshop, is a framed passage from the Bible. Seeing two verses from chapter two of the second Book of Kings on the wall of a cosmetic surgeon is somewhat startling-until it's put in proper context. In the chapter, God tells the prophet Elijah that He (God) is taking him (Elijah) up to heaven. Hearing the news, the great prophet picks his friend Elisha as his successor (no doubt because the similarity in names would avoid confusion among the masses), and the two embark on a valedictory tour through Gilgal and Jericho. At the border with Jordan, Elijah parts the waters and the two continue on. Neither man, the record states clearly, discusses his hair in any manner, although Elisha was, as we will find out later, bald. After Elijah and Elisha arrive in Jordan, God sends a chariot of fire drawn by horses of fire to deliver his faithful prophet to heaven in a whirlwind, leaving the baldheaded Elisha to plot his next move. He quickly parts the waters and walks back to Jericho, a hardly subtle way of saying "I'm the man now." "The spirit of Elijah," the Bible tells us, "doth rest on Elisha." Yet he was, the record states clearly, still bald. Anyone who could part the waters and be fully accepted by his people as Elijah's successor (despite the total lack of democracy in the selection process) should have other things on his mind than his balding pate. But Elisha was a man like any other man. And this is hair loss we're talking about. After tarrying a bit in Jericho and miraculously replenishing the town's barren soil (he really was the Man), Elisha decides to leave the city, employing that classic show-biz strategy of leaving the people wanting more. But on his way out of town, he runs into several children who mock him. Rather than turn the other cheek (hey, this is the Old Testament, remember), Elisha becomes consumed by his anger at being teased by the children. And that is the subject of the framed passage on Reed's wall. In it, Elisha quickly violates the third and sixth commandments-Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord in vain, and Thou shalt not dispatch wild animals to tear apart a few wiseass kids: And as he was going up by the way, there came forth little children out of the city, and mocked him, and said unto him, "Go up, you bald head! Go up, you bald head!" And he turned back, and looked on them and cursed them in the name of the Lord. And two she-bears came out of the wood and mauled forty-two of them. The biblical passage on Reed's office wall has a dual purpose. Of course it satirizes male vanity, but at the same time it also reassures Reed's bald patients that their obsession with hair is no mere symptom of today's orgiastic celebration of youth, but an ancient and still unresolved anxiety. While Reed's patients might choose a different method of retribution, they clearly see a small piece of themselves-successful, mature, adult men-standing on the roadside like Elisha, mocked for something completely outside of their control. Studies show, after all, that 60 percent of all bald men are teased at some point in their lives. And, more important, the passage shows them that they are not alone: Baldness has been causing self-image problems for a long, long time. In fact, the Bible, whose persistent refrain seems to be "Hair is goKuntzman, Gersh is the author of 'Hair! Mankind's Historic Quest to End Baldness', published 2001 under ISBN 9780812991581 and ISBN 0812991583.