December 12, 2012

Well, there goes the 2016 field. 

Marco Rubio is balding. 

Sen. Marco Rubio
Hair today… (Steve Pope/Getty Images)

Officially. Esquire did the leg-work on the issue. And in case we needed more evidence, he has a bald older brother. 

Bad news, 2016 predictors. In hair-loss years, four is a lifetime. 

We haven’t had a bald-ish president since Eisenhower, and balding men in uniform get a free pass. Before that there were Martin Van Buren, John Quincy Adams, and — well, Gerald R. Ford’s hair was making a pretty stealthy getaway, if you stopped to notice it. 

But maybe baldness is not the deal breaker we thought. Consider Julius Caesar, one of the most powerful men of all time — and also, if Suetonius’s Lives of the Twelve Caesars is to be credited — one of the most balding. Suetonius wrote: “[H]is baldness was a disfigurement would troubled [sic] him greatly, since he found that it was often the subject of the gibes of his detractors. Because of it he used to comb forward his scanty locks from the crown of his head.” There was a reason he was always sporting those laurel wreaths. Even in moments of triumph, he couldn’t escape the bald rap. The army would chant, “Men of Rome, keep close to your consorts, here’s a bald adulterer,” during his triumphal processions, and this was apparently considered a flattering thing to chant. 

I glanced into “Baldness: A Social History” and discovered all kinds of famous baldies, if that is a term I am allowed to use. In Kings 2, the prophet Elisha is mocked as a “bald head” by young children, and he curses them. Later, in private, he rubs his head with bear grease. Napoleon started balding at 23. Aristotle was bald. He thought baldness was caused by sex. The Roman insult comic Martial noted that “there is nothing more contemptible than a bald man who pretends to have hair.” 

The only thing worse than baldness are the remedies for baldness. What do you try? A comb-over? If your follicles put up a good fight, it seems cruel to comb the survivors over the very place their comrades fell. At least Rubio lives in the age of hair plugs and those infomercials for Magical Hair Restoration and Painless Catheter Insertion, not the age of rubbing dog’s urine and goat’s urine and chicken feces on your addled pate. That would be worse for everyone involved. 

Even Rubio acknowledged it in a tweet. He wrote: “#Esquire report on having less hair than I once did is sadly true.But good news is I am still in upper 2% in Senate. http://soc.li/8aubTIS” 

Ouch. Touche, sir. Or rather, “Toupe.”

Alexandra Petri writes the ComPost blog, offering a lighter take on the news and opinions of the day.