My wife wants me to get a toupee

April 25th, 2018 Posted by Ask the Rabbi 28 comments

Dear Rabbi & Susan,

You speak and write a lot about Biblical marriage and while sometimes it sounds a bit too good to be true,  my wife and I largely follow your teachings.  We’ve had many issues crop up and we have often found answers in your work. 

But we have looked throughout your work and your website for an answer to the question that is causing some stress in our relationship right now.  We have both agreed to be bound by your answer as we want the contention to end.  Here is our problem.  I am balding.  No, that does not fully describe the situation.  From the beautifully full head of hair I proudly sported when we got married, I have now progressed to the point where, frankly, I am as bald as a billiard ball.  There I’ve said it.  It happened surprisingly quickly; I am not happy about it of course but I have accepted it.  I’ve even come up with some humorous lines to respond to my ‘well-meaning’ friends teasing me. 

Here is the problem.  My darling wife wants me to wear a hairpiece or to undergo a major hair transplant.  As I said, I am not happy about my new look, but I would be even less happy about trying to hide it.  I would feel ridiculous resorting to either a wig or hair transplants.  I think I am explaining my wife’s position by saying she feels that our marriage makes us indivisible and how I look affects how she feels just as she knows that I appreciate how she looks and the trouble she takes to look that way.  I think she feels that appearing next to me in public makes her look older though she hasn’t said that. 

If I have to do what she wishes, I will do so in good grace and accept it as I have accepted being bald.  I think if you both say that I don’t have to change the appearance that God has given me, she will also accept it and come to get used to my shiny new look.

We love your television show and appreciate all the teaching you do.

Sincerely,

Fred

Dear Fred,

This has to rank as one of the most interesting questions we have ever received. As we worked our way through it, we wanted to make sure that we knew what you were not asking as much as what you are asking. You are not asking about a marriage in which one spouse feels that the other is letting him or herself go to “pot.”  This too is an important question but it’s just not yours. 

We also want to commend you both on agreeing to be bound by the answer of a third party—in this case, us.  We too set up this kind of problem-solving-dynamic early in our own marriage.  The idea is that when a disagreement occurs, its resolution does not involve a “He won” or “She won” scenario. Instead, for the benefit of the relationship, and by virtue of your earlier agreement to be bound, the relationship wins.

Balding is not under your control. We might compare it to a woman’s hair turning gray. However, that isn’t even a fair equivalent because coloring a woman’s hair today is incredibly common and acceptable. It is also less invasive physically and emotionally than a wig or implants.  Your options are a medical procedure (transplants) or a toupee which is still the barb of jokes. So, your wife’s request is a big deal.

On the other hand, her feelings are also a big deal. Making one’s wife happy is serious business.  We know from how God created the human being that few things make a man happier than bringing ecstasy to his wife.  (Deuteronomy 24:5) This applies in the living room and kitchen and in public as much as in the bedroom.

From your letter it sounds as if you and your wife enjoy a good marriage. You don’t mention how long you’ve been married though you do describe how your balding occurred in the proverbial blink of an eye.  Many moons ago, I (RDL) shaved my head and removed my beard in anticipation of a sailing trip we planned to take together. It never crossed my mind to mention my plans to Susan.  Needless to say, with more experience, I would never make that mistake today since I have a better understanding of the stake each partner has in the other.   She was extremely uncomfortable getting aboard a 37 foot sloop with someone who looked like a stranger.  Might your marital problem go away on its own with the passage of time as your dear wife becomes more accustomed to your sleek and polished new look?

Here are five questions we would ask your wife to answer honestly (to herself or to a wise counselor). Is her discomfort only in public or is she feeling less attracted to you in private? Is she concerned with how others see the two of you or only with how she sees you?  Sorry to have to ask this but Is a great deal of her self-worth tied up in externals? Is this truly an isolated discrete problem or is it indicative of an incipient difficulty in the marriage? Is she having trouble dealing with seeing herself getting older and your changed looks aren’t allowing her to live under the illusion that she is still twenty? It is possible that we making a mountain out of a molehill, but we can’t make that decision.

Ideally, as we age our views of ourselves and the people in our lives should hinge less on the physical and more on the spiritual which includes the long term relationships and friendships we have forged. (We cover some of this idea in our audio CD Festival of Lights.) When a dear friend was in her eighties she once mentioned that when her (similarly aged) husband walks in the room she still sees the handsome naval officer she first met sixty years earlier. However, the times we live in emphasize the physical and material making it harder for us to make that transition.

As you can hear, we are tending to the idea that your wife should make peace with your new looks. We would recommend her acting as if she is proud to be seen with you until that becomes internalized. Feelings follow actions. However, we also think it is worth your taking the time and trouble to look into hair transplants and toupees, even if for no other reason than to demonstrate that you are indeed taking your  wife’s concerns seriously. Perhaps there has been great progress in the field that neither you nor we are familiar with. We wouldn’t reject an idea that holds importance to your wife without doing some due diligence.   

As an interesting aside, we read your letter the day that Prince William, Duke of Cambridge and Duchess Kate welcomed their third child. The press ran some pictures from previous years including one of the two of them at university graduation. It seems that Prince William and you have something in common! Perhaps if your wife begins to think of herself as Kate Middleton’s peer she will adjust more easily to your new look. 

Thank you for your kind words about our show and writings. We hope that something in our answer will be an asset to your marriage.

Best wishes,

The equally hair-follicle challenged Rabbi Daniel and his wife, Susan

PS: I (RDL) add, that it might be worth while mentioning to your wife that scientific studies reveal and experts confirm that bald men are smarter, stronger, more virile and have better eyesight than the hirsute!

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28 comments

Patty Neal says:

Just a thought. PRP for the scalp, basically relatively new procedure using your own blood injected into your scalp to grow new hair. High success rate as long as it hasn’t been more than 5 years since you lost your hair.

Cheryl Wetzstein says:

Brilliant, as ever.

Rabbi Daniel Lapin says:

How wonderful to hear from you Cheryl-
We go back quite a long time, don’t we? Do you remember the article you did on us in Mercer Island?
We’ve been following your writings all along.
Warmest wishes,
RDL

James says:

A very wise answer, dear Rabbi and Susan! Over and above your answer, I am reminded of your televised revelation of Ancient Hebrew Wisdom and how it contributes to the prosperity of modern Israel: recognizing the difference between (1) what one can control and (2) what one CANNOT control; and acting accordingly. Surely when a woman marries a man, she must realize that his appearance will certainly change in ways that he cannot foresee or control. And a man is also wise to realize that his wife will likewise change. One fine example this week was provided by President Geo. H. W. Bush, who lost his Barbara at 73 years of marriage. His wife determined not to color her prematurely white hair, likely out of personal integrity. And the media derided her as looking more like his mother than his wife. He paid no attention and loved her just the same. In the same vein, I feel the decision to implant or toupee himself is the decision of the husband, and the wife should respect his decision. Whether this axiom applies here I cannot say, however a shrink once advised my mother to protect herself: “Beware of people who say ‘I love you IF.’”

Brian F. Tucker says:

I can simpathise with Fred, and I’d be the last person to give anyone about how to keep their wives happy. But his situation reminded me of a saying and I just couldn’t let this by without trying to add some humor to lighten things up. It goes like this. ” if you are bald in front you are a great thinker. If you are bald in back you are a great lover. If you are bald all over you think you are a great lover.” Fred, I hope found this as humorous as I did. If not please accept my sincere apology.
Brian

Susan Lapin says:

I’m quite sure Fred has a good sense of humor, Brian. That came through in the letter.

Randa says:

In my opinion, beauty comes from within. Ask your wife how she would feel if she would get cancer, or lose her hair due to other circumstances. She may see the fact from a different perspective. Life is too short to worry about the small things….🙏👍

Susan Gilliland says:

This was both a interesting question and a humorous response, especially the follicle challanged reference. Love yall!

Rabbi Daniel Lapin says:

Thanks Susan–
Yes, I am follicly challenged of course and fortunately my Susan doesn’t press me on solving that ‘problem’.
Cordially
RDL

Darrell says:

Rabbi & Susan: Is your response different in ‘any’ way … if it is the wife (rather than the husband) who is suffering from alopecia ? Susan’s insight would be particularly appreciated. Thanking you in advance.

Susan Lapin says:

Darrell, actually when we spoke about our answer we commented that it was a woman writing about her husband rather than a man writing about his wife’s body changing after childbirth or some other natural aging process. Or a medical condition. I don’t think our answer would be different. We each should try to stay attractive for our spouse, but we have to accept what reality does to us and to others and our identity shouldn’t be tied in to our spouse’s physical appearance, especially when that appearance is beyond their control.

Joyce R. says:

Dear Fred’s Wife, it is hard dealing with changes in those we love, even if they are only superficial. Consider a somewhat different scenario where the spouse with the misbehaving follicles is you rather than Fred. There are any number of situations where this could occur from somewhat serious to devastating.

For women, hair loss seems to be even harder to deal with than men, perhaps because there is an unconscious remembrance of the biblical saying that a woman’s hair is her glory or something to that effect. As you and Fred work through this, maybe the two of you should consider how you would react if you were losing your hair and how Fred would react to it as well. I suggest this simply because I have had thinning hair since my late twenties when I first went on blood pressure medication.

On a much more serious note, I know of at least one woman who decided to have her head shaved when her young daughter developed cancer and lost all her hair while having chemo therapy. The mom didn’t want her daughter to think she was different simply because she had lost her hair. Thankfully, her daughter is in remission and both now sport full heads of hair.

While Fred’s hair won’t grow back, he is healthy and he obviously loves you very much. Maybe you should count your blessings and thank the Lord for having such a mensch for a husband.

Just a few ideas to throw into the mix as you work through this. Blessings to you both.

Mark says:

What a wonderfully expressed question from Fred, and an equally thoughtful answer.

Susan Lapin says:

Thank you, Mark. We are always amazed at the variety of questions we get.

Susan T says:

Dear Fred’s wife, sounds like you have a wonderful husband, embrace him and have a good life!

WOW, you guys were foolish enough to answer that question. Just kidding of course. My wife makes me that to preclude anyone taking offense. I could never have a problem like this because I’m always right. Nevertheless, that was a very well thought out answer. You guys are THE BEST.

Cheryl Busch says:

I, for one, appreciated your comparison to Kate Middleton. Simply put: “the handsome prince has turned into a frog.” Personally, I have great difficulty accepting the morphing effects of aging (I am 65 years old) and find myself very much disconnected from the face I see in the mirror and those of friends and family, especially if I have not seen them for numerous years. I am dismayed at my dilemma, as I KNOW God looks on the heart but, nevertheless, I suffer from the disconnection (!) and I deal with this angst of soul in silence and constant prayer and inner reflection based on scripture and wisdom: i.e. comments stated. Thank God I am not married! Therefore, the wife has my sincere empathy. However, the best advice stated was: action dictates our feelings. Obviously, Kate Middleton knows the heart of her husband, William, and from the look on her face when she looks into his eyes, she sees her Prince—not the frog that photos declare him to be. May this dear wife find the humility and abiding love to plumb the depths of her heart and join, Sweet Kate, in seeing her handsome Prince, henceforth!

Susan Lapin says:

Cheryl, I don’t know of anyone over a certain age who doesn’t get a bit of a shock when catching sight of him or herself in the mirror.

Frank Dodd says:

Where is the like button? Great answers – consider it liked!

Rabbi Daniel Lapin says:

Thank you Frank–
We publish here on our website and the best place to express enthusiasm is right here just as you did. But we also publish on Facebook Rabbi Daniel Lapin and you can of course ‘like’ over there.
Cordially
RDL

Thomas Hammett says:

When I was in the Army, the Army controlled my appearance. Post-Army, my wife controls my appearance. After all, unless I spend more time looking in the mirror than I ought to, she is the one who has to look at me the most, and she is the one I want to please. Good recommendation to have a discussion about WHY she wants the toupee/transplant.

Susan Lapin says:

I hope your wife reads this comment, Thomas.

Carol Wright says:

I would like to echo the suggestion made by Patty Neal. Stem cell treatments introduce a person’s stem cells into the area that requires restoration or healing. Since it uses the person’s own stem cells, the body readily accepts this treatment and results are usually positive.

Rabbi Daniel Lapin says:

Hmmm….I need to look into this Carol
Cordially
RDL

Paulette M. says:

How very interesting that this question appear as my husband and I have been in a similar situation. My husband was much like Fred, full head of hair when we married (22 years ago), and gradually started to bald. About 3 years ago, my hubby started acting strangely. We used to trim his hair every weekend, but suddenly he had excuses not to. For almost 20 years, I would put his shampoo and conditioner in smaller bottles in the shower and suddenly he was refilling them himself. I asked him several times if something was going on because this behavior was out of character. He said nothing. One day he finally fessed up that he had been going to Hair Club for Men and was getting a toupee. I was devastated. First I felt betrayed because this went on behind my back. It hurt worse to know when I asked if something was up, he was not truthful. Second, I found out that it was a comment his sister made, and ideas his mother had, when he went to visit his family out of state. His sister asked him, “Don’t you think you’d look better with hair?”

The most difficult thing was the transition. When he came home with his “new hair”, it wasn’t like his old hair, and he looked very different. It took both of us almost 6 months to adjust to his looks – he looked like a stranger. Hair Club doesn’t tell you that when you are not a candidate for implants, and they sell you on the “real hair” toupee, about the expense ($400 month) and aggravation it causes. Worst of all, it put a huge dent in my trust. I felt betrayed by both my husband and his family. His family encouraged him to “just surprise me” with his new look. Oh it surprised me alright. And what is so confusing to my little brain is that my husband bears a GREAT resemblance to Prince William. He was perfect to me as he was.

Two more things for Fred’s wife to consider – family photos. How do you explain time chronology when he has hair, is losing hair, is bald, and then suddenly he has different hair. No one recognized my husband at first. And all the “why” questions were directed at me. I struggled with forgiveness for hubby and his family over this issue. In fact this weekend, I was on retreat and thought to myself that I’ve brought up how disappointed in him I was for excluding me from this pretty big decision too many times and wasn’t going to bring it up again. That was until I opened my email this morning. After I read Fred’s question and your response, I said to him that I was going to comment on this very subject. He smiled and is waiting to read my response. To sum it up, I love my husband because of WHO he is, not what he looks like. Decisions of such consequence should be made as a couple because we are a partnership. Looking back, my husband regrets making this decision.

Susan Lapin says:

I hope you and your husband have a wonderful conversation from this and move forward. Thanks for all the important points you made.

Lawrence A Stuetzle says:

Men should have confidence in themselves without being overly concerned about their hair. If he is athletic – all the better- he can look like Mike. Hair outfits prey on this kind of vanity. Also I don’t think it’s comparable to weight gain, unless weight condition is related to long term health. Sorry I don’t want my wife terribly over weight, she should do some exercise.

Rabbi Daniel Lapin says:

Dear Lawrence-
I agree with your first and fifth sentences.
Cordially
RDL

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