For 20 years, the Upjohn Co., a drug firm, sold minoxidil as a remedy for high blood pressure. Somewhere along the line, it was discovered that a little dab of the stuff, mixed with some other stuff, could promote the growth of hair in places where it had not been seen in years. In this way, Rogaine came on the market as a cure for baldness. I can only hope it does not work.

In fact, there is reason to doubt that it does work, at least all the time. Still, given that (1) the world is full of bald men and (2) most of them would take out a second mortgage to regain their hair, it seems only a matter of time until a sure-fire cure of baldness is put on the market. The inventor of such a solution to one of man's (not woman's) oldest problems is sure to end his days as rich as a television minister.

By now, you may detect a certain lack of enthusiasm on my part for a drug that would cure baldness. This is because among all the problems in the world that afflict me, baldness is not one of them. I have -- enjoy is really the right word -- what is known as a healthy head of hair. In life, especially in the last third of it, this has given me a little edge over my fellow man, and it is an advantage I would not like taken away. I think, truly and sincerely, that if God intended all men to keep their hair, He would have done something about it.

I operate on the principle, set down by some wit whose name I cannot recall, that it is not enough for me to succeed -- others must fail. In my case, the failing of others is what falls from their head. I have what they do not, and this pleases me immensely. Some of them have what I do not -- height, for instance -- and that must please them immensely. There is, alas, no cure on the horizon for that nor, for that matter, for a certain unbroadness of the shoulders or for the inability to return a tennis ball lobbed in my direction by a very weak person. Just for baldness.

There is also, may I point out, no cure for an inability to dance nor any respite from a wife of 18 years who has never reconciled herself to that dismal truth. In fact -- and here we approach the nub of my resentment -- it was often those very men whose heads now shine like a full moon in the night who were the very best dancers back when you and I were in school.

Some of them come to mind, to wit Robbie Bell and Stewie Schneider. These two men are now bald or balding, but in their youth, which is to say around the age of 12, they were fully formed men. Robbie, in fact, was born with a 5 o'clock shadow and by the age of 6 or so was already shaving.

As a consequence of early maturation, both Robbie and Stewie were taller, stronger, faster and better-looking to girls than were some of the rest of us. They had the muscles of men, not to mention hairy chests to match. For about five minutes in their lives, they were terrific athletes, and Stewie was an all-city halfback who, once he brought in the ball, could not be caught by anything other than a gazelle. He had four wonderful, muscular years -- years of dancing, of being asked to dance, of being watched dancing by people like me, of knowing girls, dating girls and doing whatever else there was to do with girls at that age, none of which I know of firsthand but some of which I heard about at the time or have read about since. I missed much.

Now these men are bald or balding. I know this because just recently I saw Stewie at a reunion. My heart leaped at the sight of him. I wanted to kiss his bald head. I wanted to take that shiny dome in my arms, cradle it and ask where it had all gone. I wanted to offer him mock sympathy ("Oh, Stewie, you used to be so handsome!"), but I knew I should be gracious, as the rich should be to the poor, the gifted to the ordinary, the talented to the mediocre -- in other words, the full and splendidly haired to those who have lost and (knock on wood) continue to lose their hair.

As for Robbie, I have not seen him in years. But by our senior year in high school, he was already on the slippery slope to the slippery slope, and by now, I pray, his slope is as barren as the Sahara. Tall in the seventh grade, he was by the 12th short -- a lesson to us all and, when it comes to having one's moment, a precursor to the experience of Twiggy, Vanna White and so many more. In my life, Robbie is virtually a parable.

My head and what's on top of it are my vindication, my revenge, my almost biblical retribution. It nearly makes up for all those awful years, those football passes not caught, the passes at girls that were not caught either. For me, each hair those now-balding former athletes lose is a dance they did not go to, a party they were not invited to, a touchdown and whatever else not scored. Some of them have lost so much hair, I am now in the plus column. The world has righted itself, and justice, sweet justice, has prevailed. There is no surer evidence of an ethical God.

But now a cure for baldness threatens. Men who as boys had everything may now be able to have everything again. A schmear of Rogaine may restore them to their high school splendor. They and I would be on equal footing, only they would still have those good years of high school while I would still have the bad. These people deserve to be bald, to stay bald, to remain bald evermore. The world has no sense of priorities: First develop a way to broaden shoulders, then work on a cure for baldness. And take your time. ::