You Have a 1-in-4 Chance . . .

Somewhere along the way – maybe in 5th or 6th grade – someone told me that as long your maternal grandfather wasn’t bald then you wouldn’t go bald either. I don’t remember who told me this, but it must have been someone I trusted because I readily accepted it. Of course, the ease with which we believe something is often a function of just how much we’d like that thing to be true, and I probably would have greeted this hypothesis with a little more skepticism were it not for the fact that my Grandpa Barker had a respectable head of white hair.


Whenever the topic of baldness came up I breezily declared my immunity, citing the Maternal Grandfather Rule. Although even as a child I knew that the future held difficulties and challenges I couldn’t foresee, I took comfort in the fact that I would be facing them with a head of thick, rich hair. See, even in elementary school I was aware and fond of my hair to a degree that now makes me uncomfortable. While Ryan and Christian stumbled from bed to school without so much as a sideways glance at the mirror, my patented “Wave” required the use of hair spray and a hair dryer.


You can laugh at this all you want, but I’m going with Mara Peterson, and you’re not.

Now, this investment of time and effort yielded dividends of popularity and girlfriends, so I can’t say that I entirely regret it. But the fact remains that I was pretty into my hair as a kid, and that’s a little embarrassing. As time progressed I stopped spending as much time on my hair, but I was always pretty aware of how it looked and always had my eyes peeled for a new ‘do that would take my hair game to the next level.

However, as I got older I took a liking to wearing baseball hats, and by the time I was a freshman in college I wore one pretty much everywhere but church. In fact, a few girls I knew approached my roommates to ask if I always wore a hat because I was balding. When my roommates told me of the conversation we all had a good laugh, after which I said, “No, but seriously, that’s never going to happen. Because of my grandpa.”

When I was 22 or 23 my oldest brother Braden made a casual remark about my receding hairline. There was no uncertainty or questioning in his comment; he referred to it as an objective and obvious reality. It struck me as an absurd thing to say, not least because Braden knew very well that Grandpa Barker had a lot of hair. Taken aback by his obvious inability to grasp even the most basic tenets of genetic science, I smiled politely at his comment and changed the subject.


Ah, the smug grin of a man whose confidence in modern genetics has yet to be shaken.

It wasn’t until I was 25 or so that it occurred to me that I had a slight hair-related problem. It wasn’t baldness, or even a receding hairline. It was that the hair towards the front of my head just seemed to be a little sparser than the hair on other parts of my head. That’s OK. Hair is famously unpredictable, and there’s no law that says your hair has to be of the exact same thickness on every part of your head. I began to use gel to sort of prop up and piece together the hair at the front. Not a big deal. A lot of people use gel for various issues.

I lived happily in the cocoon of my fantasy for a little while, until it slowly dawned on me: Gregor Mendel was a fraud, and I was going bald. Now, that’s not an easy realization for anyone to come to, but it’s especially difficult for a single guy in his mid-20s. I recalled a conversation I had with my college roommates in which we jokingly swore that if one of us were to show a hint of baldness the others would immediately fly him to a foreign land to marry a woman whose desire for US citizenship superseded her allegiance to the natural laws of physical attraction. Ha ha. Not a super funny joke anymore.



I stewed about the matter for a few days, and then, for reasons I don’t fully understand, it just sort of faded from view. Kind of like my hair. I’m not sure why it didn’t end up being a bigger deal to me, especially in light of my history as a guy who cared a little too much about his hair. Maybe it was because girls didn’t seem to mind as much as I thought they would, or perhaps I became a little less superficial. In any event, life went on. For another year or so I sported my ill-advised “scraggly weeds up front, lush forest in the back” look, mainly because it seemed unfair to punish the 90% of my hair that was doing great work because a very small group of hairs were falling down on the job.

And then one day, I up and did it: in an act that was equal parts submission and defiance, I shaved it all off. I’d be angry at whoever introduced me to the Maternal Grandfather Rule, but since I can’t remember who it was, I’ve directed that resentment at my three brothers who all have their hair, Gregor Mendel, and my Grandpa Barker.

This entry was posted in Baldness, Grandpa Barker, Gregor Mendel, The Wave. Bookmark the permalink.

16 Responses to You Have a 1-in-4 Chance . . .

  1. Ryan says:

    Like Mendel has any room to talk, anyway.

  2. Katherine Lewis says:

    There is no reason to be embarrassed about the “wave”. It was so hot. I don’t know a single girl in my Elementary or Middle school who didn’t have a major crush on any boy who could pull that off. It think it does a fine job of taking the attention away from those braces. You hardly notice them. Those pictures were amazing! Thank you for sharing.

  3. Squenado says:

    I don’t think you’re the only Bell boy with an unhealthy obsession with hair, but I’ll let Chris tell that story . . .

  4. Ben Pratt says:

    My wife also had a Grandpa Barker (William Powell Barker, son of Henry Barker, Jr. and Sadie Powell, all from Ogden). You guys are totally her cousins.

    My dad is bald, but I totally fell for the maternal grandfather rule as well. For now my hair is thinning out, but one of my younger brothers got the baldness birthright. He seems to be taking it in stride.

  5. Steph says:

    Ahhh, the “wave.” This is the Davy Bell I knew and loved…and you’re right, you were going with Mara Peterson…and she was hot…I mean, IS. But so is your wife, so no worries, you’re set:)

  6. Emily Oyler says:

    Oh my gosh Dave! I love that story!!! I remember the “wave” like do, and even though you were(are) my cousin, I liked it!!!! To bad it didn’t last! HA!!!

  7. Braden Bell says:

    Oh Dave, I feel TERRIBLE!!!! I am so sorry to have said such an insensitive thing! If it makes you feel better, my children are all convinced in the same objective reality, uncontroversial way that I am going bald, too.

  8. Christian says:

    Squenado is a paid commenter sent by the folks at one of our rival blogs, so everyone please ignore him.

    If I ever go bald it’s going to be a bad things for everyone, given the sagittal crest on the top of my head. You, on the other hand, pull it off pretty well. Adds to your Big Guy stature.

  9. Eliza says:

    Hmm, how many different ways can i say how dang funny you are?I just don’t know what to say anymore except that you guys kills me.
    the wave is so awesome, I’m so glad you kept it real like that. and btw, you actually do pull off the baldness thing really well. Chris, you definitely need to blog about your baldness phase, so funny.

  10. Jense says:

    Didn’t I offer some of my chest hair from my fertile supplies to you on a Bell family vacation as seedling? Or was that Chris? Either way I was more then willing to help what was eventually a lost cause. Its a shame you guys don’t have any Eastern European ancestry.

  11. Davis says:

    Ryan, good point. Mendel was punished for his perfidy.

    Katherine, good catch on the braces. The Wave was in part designed to call attention away from those.

    Squenado, I know what you’re referring to, but given the delicate nature of the topic (and the delicate psyche of the person in question), I think it’s best we leave that one alone.

    Ben, that’s funny, because my Grandpa Barker really did live in Ogden. Weird.

    Stephani, hi! Melissa is hot, and it’s amazing she took me, since the Wave has long since petered out.

    Emily, hi! I should have been looking at your dad, rather than Grandpa Barker, as my future, no?

    Braden, don’t worry about it. i really did blow you off as though you were being crazy.

    Kook, thank you. Baldness does seem to go hand in hand with being a big buy, doesn’t it?

    Eliza, please see my comments to Squenado. Let’s tread very carefully here.

    Jense, we really could use a swarthy Croat in the genetic tree.

  12. Rebecca says:

    I’m not sure which I like more- the “wave” hair for the I’m-too-cool-for-school look in the second pic. I’m also a fan of the varsity sweater??? Funny post, Davis.

  13. Jeff says:

    That hit close to home Davis. I too had the same maternal grandfather misconception. Can we trace it back to the 6th ward? I also have 3 brothers who haven’t lost a hair while I look like Mr. Clean. And I cared a little too much about my hair when I did have it. You are still a handsome lad. (bald guys can say that to each other)

  14. Andrea W. says:

    Wow, some seriously AWESOME photos.

    When my roommates told me of the conversation we all had a good laugh, after which I said, “No, but seriously, that’s never going to happen. Because of my grandpa.” and your response to Braden’s observation had my dying of laughter.

  15. Sackett says:

    Wow. this was epic. I did believe in the grandpa effect and am leaning towards the full shaved head. The new wave was awesome and I had some great times with hairspray and a hair dryer perfecting it. If you ever do a collection of 7th to 9th grade new wave haircuts let me know and I will send you mine. You could surf on it.
    Hats are great.

  16. Troy says:

    Former wave hair guy here as well. In fact, I think I could easily trace my decision to sport the wave back to my friend Davey. He was always good for some fashion and style consulting.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s