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Essay: Comb-Over

In a doctor’s waiting room the other day, I watched a tall man walk in, a good-looking man with gray hair and a carefully-tended comb-over. My first thought was to feel sorry for him, not that he was bald, but that he needed to hide his baldness.

But my next thought was that we all have comb-overs, every single one of us. We are all hiding some kind of defect—visible or invisible, real or imagined—that we work very hard every day to disguise.

I have a scar on my right cheek, for example, from a deep cut I suffered as a child. I wore my hair long for years, parted on the left, so that my thick locks would hang over my right cheek. I’m sure I never fooled anyone.

Then, when I was 30, I was with a group of women discussing our bodies, what we liked and disliked about them. The list of dislikes was enormous and called my attention to things in others I’d mostly never noticed, or features I’d admired for their distinctive irregularity.

In a perfect world, there would be no perfection. The bald man would know he was even more handsome without a comb-over.