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Vanity of vanities, says the columnist; all is vanity

February 12, 2012
By JOSHUA S. FLESHER ( , Tribune Chronicle |

''There are no grades of vanity, there are only grades of ability in concealing it.''

- Mark Twain

I will admit it. I am a vain person. To admit such a thing could be looked at negatively, an admission of pride in one's appearance. It may even seem a bit arrogant, but the truth is, everyone has some level of vanity in them and, like many, I try to hide mine.

Mine comes in the fact that I want to look as good as I can. Again, this may seem conceited, but in truth it is not. I am not saying anything along the lines of how handsome I think I am or how great I am, but simply that I want to make my appearance as good as I can.

The reason I bring it up is that in the past couple of years I have noticed something that scares me a bit. I look in the mirror every day and see that same face I've always seen, but there are things happening to and around it that I didn't bargain for.

First off, the hair seems to be distancing itself from my forehead in an apparent sign of protest against what I can only assume was a misunderstanding between the two.

I knew I was bound to be bald and since high school have been fighting an unwinnable war against genetics. My father, a man who has all of his salt-and-pepper hair neatly combed at all times, tells me that at least I will never go gray, and to that I say, nonsense!

But you have to be happy with what you are given. I came to terms with this lack of hair many years ago, and yet, no matter how prepared I've been, the further that hairline retreats toward the ever growing circle of emptiness on top of my head, the older I feel.

I will be 30 in April, and I know that is not old, and that I have many years ahead of me, but my upcoming birthday makes me slightly nervous in that it marks the end of my naive youth.

Your 20s are the period of time you end college and embark on adulthood, but even then it's not a fully realized reality because you are starting everything for the first time.

Getting married, getting a ''real'' job, paying ''real'' bills and buying a ''real'' house, these are highlights of your 20s, a decade that began with being in college and taking snowboarding lessons on the staircase in a dorm.

What does this have to do with vanity?

Well, in my life, which is what this column is supposed to be about, I have made a decision in my late, late, late 20s that I am not going to just ''be'' any more.

I want to get myself to a place that I am happy with and that starts with the way that I look and feel.

My family and I have booked our summer vacation, and that means that I am going to be forced to sit on a beach for hours at a time because my wife loves it and that's what we do. I like the beach. I like the weather. I do, however, get a little bored sitting there all day doing nothing.

But I digress. Being on the beach means having to be dressed for the beach.

I've never really been too hung up on the way I look without a shirt, and that's because I just don't really care. But lately I've decided that I want to care.

This isn't for anyone else, and being married, I couldn't care less if anyone in the world looked at me, but feeding that sense of vanity in me, I want to like what I see.

But the more important part is by working out, exercising and eating right only improves my life in that I am healthy and have energy to chase two kids around the house.

I've made a vow to myself that I will get into shape, limit my sugar, stop eating fast food and spend my limited down time focusing on health and well-being because I want to watch those kids grow up. I want to be able to run with them and play with them for a long time and not have to worry that I can't keep up.

Perhaps it isn't vanity as much as it is taking the only body I have seriously and making sure that I take care of it.

As for losing my hair ... what are you going to do?



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