Two bald men discuss very little about hats.
Part of the fun of adjudicating TNQ’s writing contests is that the process is completely anonymous. Each entry is given a number, and the writer behind the words remains a mystery until after the winner has been chosen. Now that we’ve named our winners, however, we’d like to get to know the writers a little better.
For this interview, we tried something a little different: we asked Graeme Lottering (whose postscript story, "Love is a Foreign Language," appeared in issue #120) to talk to Don Charlton about his essay, "The Bald Aesthetic." We met Graeme at our 30th "Birthday" party, and knew immediately that his sense of humour would be compatible with Don's. Plus, they had a little something else in common...
GL: I have to say that as a bald man myself, I greatly enjoyed your article. It was both informative and funny. I would also like to extend a heartfelt 'thank you' to all the women in Group A. They really save the bald man's sex life, eh?
DC: Thanks Graeme. I’m grateful to the TNQ jury for including my essay among so much good writing.
I am a little troubled that in selecting a bald writer to interview a bald writer a liberal-leaning arts organization such as TNQ, presumably composed of thoughtful, sandals-and-socks wearing listeners to CBC Radio, would seek to ghetto-ize bald writers. I think it’s wrong—I think it’s morally wrong. But it just means that glabrous scribblers such as you and I will have to work that much harder to resist attempts to marginalize us. Regarding your question about Group A, I can’t think about sex when an injustice is being done.
Do you find it difficult to write humour?
The ability to write funny is mysterious to people in the same way that I find the ability to write music and solve math problems to be a mystery. Writing humour is challenging and rewarding, and because I have a facility for it I have a head start. And I like the path of least resistance.
How did you come to writing? Do you have any literary heroes?
As a kid, I didn’t write anything outside of assignments at school. I spent one year in a writing for broadcast program at a community college before transferring to a liberal arts program at a university, where I took one course in creative writing. Since leaving school, I have held several jobs as a Copywriter for ad agencies and marketing companies. (Attention: any employers in Waterloo Region looking for a smart marketing guy, I’m available).
In answer to your question about literary heroes, here’s a list of three contemporary comic novels I wish I’d written: The Information by Martin Amis; Headlong by Michael Frayn; About the Author by John Colapinto. In addition to each being very funny and well-written books, they share another quality. The central character is driven to dishonesty by artistic envy.
What was the source of inspiration for your essay?
“The Bald Aesthetic” is the product of painful, hard-won life experience. The idea came to mind at least 15 years ago and I thought about it for several years before putting pen to paper—conceiving of the three "types" and their differences, for example. I wrote and tinkered with the essay over a ten year period (so it became a hobby and my magnum opus). In that time, I showed the essay to three professional writers serving as writer-in-residence at public libraries in Ontario. I accepted a few of their suggestions regarding word choices and sentence structure and ignored any good advice that would have challenged my writing skill.
In your article you mention being exposed to the elements. How do you protect yourself?
Graeme, I infer from your question an assumption that as a baldie I may have assembled a defence mechanism to protect me against a world that favours and rewards men with the hair of a Republican Presidential candidate. No, mostly I wear a hat.
In your opinion, are bald men ahead of the game evolutionarily speaking?
Yes. I also don’t have the vestigial tailbone of homo erectus.
In my own experience, I have either never come across a vixen from Group C—'the carnivore' as you call them—your interaction with them seems so surreal that I just write it off as impossible. Are women from Group C golden unicorns?
Oh, they’re out there. Traditionally, there was an assumption that a man who lost his hair at a young age did so because the passions burning in his furnace were very hot indeed. Passion has always been an attractive quality to women.
I don’t wish to be critical of a segment of the world’s female population that is attracted to guys who might otherwise spend a lot of Saturday nights at home reading. But, to be candid, I think one is forced to conclude that women who are attracted to men whose hairline has aged them prematurely have a bit of daddy-thing going on. So, my balding brethren, if you wish to enhance the likelihood that you will attract a Group C, I recommend you wear a cardigan sweater. Preferably in navy blue or beige.
Do you still struggle to "storm the battlements of Group B" or have you come to terms with never breaching that impregnable fortress?
Nah. The terrific thing about women, which I argue in the essay, is that even though a man is bald there remains a large pool of potential romantic partners willing to give him reasonable consideration. Personally, I never married. I’m a confirmed bachelor. I had my confirmation, last year. Lovely ceremony. So many flowers.
Lastly, which bald man sums you up, Bruce Willis or the Dalai Lama?
The Dalai Lama. I follow a path of modesty and quiet contemplation and take pleasure in advising people on how to live their life.