December 20th, 213
On Beauty and Balding
The fascination our society has with youthful beauty is overwhelmingly present. One cannot avoid the advertised need for smooth skin and perfectly colored hair. People spend thousands of dollars to have things tucked, cut, and sucked to once again regain that youthful beauty. However, the end result is simply Frankenstein’s monster, a patchwork quilt of engineered youth. The essay Bald, by Richard Selzer, addresses societies concerns with beauty from a satirical standpoint; deploying literary devices and speaking to both a primary and secondary audience in order to convey the idea that aging needn’t mean the end of power and strength. One of Selzer’s methods of satire in the essay is hyperbole. The essay, the beginning in particular, is full of exaggerations which assist in bringing the satirical aspect of the essay to life. Selzer says, “A curse has come and passed,” (paragraph 6) in reference to balding. Balding is hardly a curse. Selzer is trying to show the foolishness in pretending like balding is something cast upon a person and not just the natural process of ageing. Also in reference to balding, Selzer writes, “What is it, this snatching that pains worse than gout, hurts worse than a hernia” (paragraph 12). Balding it is not an ailment which produces physical pain. As unpleasant as balding may seem, it is not something one contracts from airborne particles or develops due to a bad case of foot fungus. While there is a solution to gout and hernia’s, balding is a process that cannot be stopped. The analogy at the beginning of the essay serves as another method of satire. It connects balding to battle: “Frantic fingers forage among the survivors. You search for tomahawk wounds, fissures, all the lacerations and gougings of assault” (paragraph 6). The use of a war analogy was a wise choice on Selzer’s part. War is a topic that hits heart strings in the majority of people. It is a universally understood event of tragic loss. Aging is also a universally understood event of loss, however, unlike war, it is not so tragic. It is another stage of life, another view of the world, which comes slowly with time as it always had.
Selzer’s description, in paragraphs six through eleven, paints a vivid picture of a balding human. There is a strong feel of sarcasm coming from the dramatic use of successive simple sentences: “All is smooth. All is still. Barren” (paragraph 6). As well as, “It is no use. You are shorn, forlorn. Delilahed” (paragraph 11). These short sentences provide more opportunities for the humor of the essay to show through. One’s inner voice can imagine the dramatic cadence of these short phrases as an elderly man stands examining his head in front of his bathroom mirror. One can picture his rushing to the phone, scrambling down the numbers of all the possible people that could help him: “You lurch to the telephone to sound the alarm: Dermatologist! Barber! Quack Shop!” (paragraph 11). This description is not only a good example to Selzer’s incredibly strong writer’s voice, but is also a good method of satire as it exaggerates the attempt at putting a stop to the ageing process.
Absalom, Samson, Amenophis II, Ramses II, Nefertiti, Aristotle, Julius Caesar, the Crow tribe, the Sutherland Sisters: Selzer uses a vast amount of biblical and historical allusions. Theses allusions serve to explain that ageing doesn’t equal a lack of power and youth doesn’t equal a monopoly of it. Absalom, a young king, was hung from a tree by his long locks, and Samson, despite his youth, lost all of his strength when his tresses were cut in the dark of the night. Amenophis II, Ramses II, and Nefertiti are considered some of the most powerful rulers of ancient Egypt, despite their baldness. Aristotle was a man of brilliance. He had, quite possibly, the most powerful mind of his time and, along with it, a balding head. Julius Caesar was a long term ruler of ancient Rome. His