I always told myself that, when I went bald, I would shave my head. Unfortunately I missed this by some time, as no one actually bothered to tell me I had gone bald and I only noticed when confronted with a photo with a large white patch on my head and tried unsuccessfully to work out where the light source for what had to be a reflection was coming from . . .
Now I trim my head using the clippers with no guard. I used to use the guard but it was harder to get right and my hair seems to be getting progressively more bald (as balding, I assume, works). Last time I trimmed my head my hair looked noticeably patchy and thin when it was long enough to tell I had rested on it. This time it was obvious much sooner. It’s going to get to the point where I don’t dare have much more than stubble for fear of the places where stubble no longer grows.
Being bald, of course, has meant some adjusting. Luckily I have had a tendency to keep my hair short since my teen years (I had an ill advised attempt at growing my hair long when I was about 13 and then very little since). Short hair has a habit of acting like velcro when you put a shirt or top over it. The friction can mean a lot of effort in getting cloth to slide over your skin. Also, and this one really should be obvious, being bald is colder. I wear a lot of hoodies now, some of which stay on due to the aforementioned friction. But I feel the cold and know that a millimetre of hair can make a huge difference to how warm I feel.
There are other weird aspects to being bald. Trying to judge if you have shaved hair to a sufficient length by touch and the point where stubble buttresses up against a bald patch and you have no idea if the change in texture is due to baldness or having left a patch of hair too long. The way skin feels less elastic where it is bald. Trying to remember where your hairline actually was the last time you trimmed it. Knowing your head its as likely to be flesh, red or purple as your hair colour. Worrying that your hair may be grey or white if you actually let it grow. It’s a constant stream of surprise and reality versus memory and hoping you can look like Jason Statham or Bruce Willis when Mr Burns seems to loom large.
I had a dream where an amorphous figure in a cloak told me things, and I listened without critical faculty and believed without question. I woke up and had a think about it, about how our subconscious relays information back to the conscious mind and about how we relate to information and ideas.
When something engages our subconscious, we’re more susceptible to the message it conveys but also tend to identify with it more and feel a greater connection. When we read something, the descriptions tend to allow room for interpretation. Sometimes they are sparse, sometimes they obscure action, character and plot with their density. But they always leave room for the reader to conjure up setting and atmosphere, to interact with ideas at a conceptual level, to achieve a degree of ownership and kinship with the events, settings and people. The written word, digested with the eye or by ear, has a power and inclusiveness that stimulates and makes us more willing to accept ideas, to cherish them as our own. It’s a path to the subconscious.
The power of the spoken word for relaying ideas has not gone unnoticed: when politicians want to make a point, particularly when campaigning, they make it as an anecdote rather than quoting statistics. By placing the idea in a context and trying to get us to care about the protagonist and create a scenario that we actually invest in the idea is we will become more susceptible to it. Hopefully the majority of people who hear it will understand there are always exceptions to every rule and you can always found a counter example, even should the vast majority of cases occur one way.
Personalisation and humanising an issue lies at the heart of making an emotive argument over one borne of logic. It’s why the news looks for a human interest angle, why a politician will try to tell you about a sole person rather than the multitude and why authors tend to focus on a small core of characters. It’s not as simple as humans can’t comprehend large numbers, it’s that they can’t bring themselves to care about the group rather than the individual. It’s a lack of comprehension and empathy with the masses. We can relate to nearly anybody, but we can’t relate to everyone at once.
By crafting an idea in a way that it is digested at a personal and intimate level it is much more likely to be taken to heart and attains a much greater power. By getting the reader or listener to fill in the blanks themselves and create the tiny details they actually interact with the idea and allow it access to their subconscious. Ideas aren’t just about their quality and brilliance, they’re about their communication and presentation.
I have a habit, I don’t know how conscious it is, of picking up people’s accents and sayings when i spend a lot of time around them. My recent foray into working at a bank has left me with the habit of calling women “love.” Now this is something that I have never really intended to do and I used to bristle against when I heard people do it. One of my formative memories is hearing a woman complain to a (cold-) caller on the phone calling her “love.” She told him it was patronising. I started doing it because everyone around me did and because it was easier than remembering everybody I had to deal with’s name.
Previously I picked up the habit of calling people “mate.” Wayne is fond of telling me that it doesn’t sound like me and sounds like an affectation. I think much the same when he uses the word “dude.” I am going to try to ease it out of my language though, I don’t particularly like it and I am making an effort to adapt my speech pattern. I want to be more proper and I want to be more polite. I have my reasons, partially I have decided that I don’t communicate as effectively as I might.
Recently my dad took offence when I said “cheers” to him as he passed me something. He thought I said “chiz,” which i hadn’t, but it is another example of me coarsening my language in mimicry of those around me. There is no reason for me to say cheers and I should be looking at using other phrases that suit me better and also get across what I want to say better.
I swear too much. Swearing at all is wasted apart from in moments of anger and a lack of ability to articulate caused by a rush of blood to the brain. I’m looking at cutting back on that too. I have a good vocabulary, it can be used more and I can be funnier and more cutting without being lazy.
There are also problems with my pronunciation. Mainly I am too quiet, but that is getting better. There are also estuary vowels and lazy moments of dropping Ts and letting the endings of world go missing. I am reminded of Tony Blair and his rather fake blokeish act. It doesn’t suit me.
Recently I have been going to the gym with my friend Wayne. One of the downsides to this is discovering that I am getting quite bald: my hairline has receded into a definite widow’s peak and I have two bald patches growing to meet each other on my crown. Earlier in the year I discovered that I had white hair in amongst my beard growth and have had to keep my stubble shorter so as not to look older. The baldness left me at a quandary as to how to deal with my hair: shave it completely, trim it short or try to somehow disguise the baldness. I went with the middle option, it is too cold to shave it all off and I have an odd shaped head which doesn’t particularly suite being bald.
There are other signs of aging too: my chin doesn’t have as taut skin on it as it used to and I have creases in my cheeks where once I had dimples as I smiled. My forehead shows more lines when I am pensive and I am sure I never used to have this many crow’s feet. I also find weight harder to shift than before: I have gained at least a stone (14lbs, just over 6kg) in the past couple of years that is only coming off very slowly (see: going to the gym) and I have to watch what I eat far more than I used to.
Of course, I am told that growing old brings wisdom and perspective. All I see is it brings me patience and an ability not to worry about things as much as I once did. I am not sure if this is purely a factor of age rather than experience, though. Conversely, I do find myself believing music was better when I was younger, worrying about the mindset and knowledge of the youth of today and sure the standard of teaching in schools was better when I was younger. The number of times I catch myself saying “who taught you . . .” is worrying.
That’s not to say I don’t like many aspects of modern life, I love the technology and I do find that I enjoy a lot of films now. And we have gone back to proper winters, although some sun in summer would be nice. I just find myself in a world that isn’t the one I grew up in with the realisation I am old and not quite sure how I should act.
This weekend, having been battling a cold for most of the week, I finally succumbed to sleep. A solid 10 or so hours, riddled with those strange dreams you only get when you have been ill.
In one dream I was removing used carpet tiles and storing them. Psychologists, I dare say, would have a field day with that. In another I was trying to escape a flood by going into a tall building and running up the floors. As I reached the top floor (ninth, if memory serves) I was surrounded by children looking at tanks of water with fish in them. Upon studying a tank I was accosted by a fish shaped animal that had a human esque face, but coloured blue with gold eyebrows (but no hair). An earnest, young face with wide eyes and oddly sharp features. If I had to say, I would say a P Craig Russell drawing made 3d and animated. There were also para sailing SWAT teams at the windows.
Now I remember reading somewhere (and you will have to forgive me, because I can’t remember where) that the human brain cannot create new faces and that the faces of everyone who appears in dreams is of someone who we have previously met or seen. Which can explain, to an extent, why people we know pop up in our dreams so frequently. It is not necessarily that we need them to be there or that they actually represent themselves, but that they are familiar and our brain needs someone’s face for that role. But, hand on heart, I can honestly say I have never met a small, talking, bald, fish person with P Craig Russell features.
Memory and dreaming is an odd concept anyway, as is trying to recall a dream once you awaken: the conscious mind takes the man disparate and non-linear threads of a dream, where locales morph seamlessly into one another with no travelling between them and people change completely within moments and enforces a structure and logic on them that they never had. In trying to analyse or even remember a dream we throw much of it out in an attempt to even comprehend it. And the more time passes between the dream and our attempt to work it out or actually recall it the less of it we actually recall, what was vivid imagery as we awaken rescinding into the merest of summarised descriptions.
I have had a few dreams that seemed to have burst forth whole from my subconscious, which I have transcribed as best I can to use as stories at some later date. If I ever get round to fleshing them out. If ever I manage to draw them. But the thing about fever dreams is they seem to lack any form of structure or narrative or meaning that would allow me to do that. Despite my best efforts all they ever remain is the fragmented musings of a healing mind that defy all efforts of transcription.
I woke from an odd dream, but the thing about processing dreams on waking is that your conscious brain doesn’t work the same as your subconscious and unconscious mind. There were details in the dream that kept changing, things that made no sense and several things that happened out of order or couldn’t possibly happen. This is no good to the conscious mind. It likes narrative and order and structure. I find myself both knowingly and unknowingly editing my dreams as I try to transcribe them, the final result diminishing whatever it was about them that made them worth writing about in the first place.
It’s unusual I remember my dreams. I don’t know if that means I don’t dream or only some of them I remember. When I do remember they are vivid though. People and structures whose faces I can visualise to the point I could probably draw them and colours that are saturated and distinct. I dream in colour, although apparently this is no longer believed to be a sign of psychosis. Simply of having grown up with a colour tv.