The conventional wisdom of our day has it — correctly, I believe — that straight cis men face the least scrutiny on their looks. Many can barely dress themselves, let alone manage basic grooming or the self-care that might enhance their appearance, yet they successfully rebranded the Cheetos-stained-hoodie aesthetic from “basement-dwelling gamer” to “Silicon Valley CEO.” Sure, some dudes face “heightism” on the dating apps, but this is the era of Short Kings! With good humor and confidence in your own skin, much is possible for hetero guy who wants to find sex or even romance. Even baldness is hot now. Obviously, it all comes easier still when you’re a billionaire — or royalty.
Trouble is, it might be too easy. For some years now, and through the arrivals of three children, many have fawned over the marriage of the U.K.’s Prince William, Duke of Cambridge, and Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge. But now the couple is battling rumors that William had an affair with a family friend when Kate was pregnant with their youngest. It’s hard to say what’s really happening over there. If you’re interested in the finer points of the tangled drama, I’d recommend this thread by Nicole Cliffe, an expert on such topics. Yet Twitter being what it is, any ambiguity or nuance was quickly swallowed up by the narrative that William is an unfaithful dope.
And how did commentators go after the possible future king of the realm? By attacking him where it was sure to hurt most: at his fringey, pale, disintegrating hairline.
See, while men get a pass on almost anything “off” in their bodily aesthetic, they forfeit this privilege as soon as a consensus emerges that frames them as unworthy of their female partner. After Beyoncé revealed, via Lemonade, that Jay Z had cheated, he was subject to a similar pounding. Fans are especially apt to praise the beauty of the wronged woman, using this for a harsh comparison with the uglier, unworthy man. The hairline taunts carry a special sting because, in general, male-pattern hair loss is something that can’t be readily halted short of extreme measures, no matter how rich or powerful you are. At the same time, a balding man’s refusal to give up and embrace the bare dome may bespeak a fragile, withering sense of vanity. It is an Achilles’ heel.
Which I know all too well, as someone with a strikingly big forehead himself.
What I truly love, though, beyond the simple hairline-shaming, is the idea that it’s caused by the cheating — as if the stress of a mortal secret or the effort of banging someone on the side has a noticeable effect on the follicles in one’s scalp. Conveniently for this theory, Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex, who seems very devoted to new bride Meghan Markle, Duchess of Sussex, has so far retained his vibrant ginger hair.
Is there any scientific basis for this correlation? Perhaps, amid the vague linkages between testosterone and both baldness and infidelity, we’ll have an answer in the future. For the moment, however, I’d be very, very careful. Of course, an avowed monogamist shouldn’t cheat on his wife in any case, but if you absolutely must, I hope you have some thick shag up top for insurance. Or don’t have a problem with plugs.