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To Beard, or Not To Beard
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The many faces of facial hair
To beard, or not to beard: that is the question.
Whether ‘tis nobler to grow full facial hair or to be barefaced before the world.
Yeah, silly I know, but I have reached a point in my life where I don’t know if I want to mess with shaving every single day, or just give in and let the hair grow wild. I remember an old man years ago asking me “Why cultivate on your face what grows wild on your butt?” Profound words; as meaningful today as they were some 35 years ago or more.
But seriously folks, I have had some form of facial hair since 1977, and I am beginning to get a little tired of it. My upper lip ain’t seen the light of day since the Carter administration! My youngest is now 8 years, and has never seen me without a ‘stache and goatee. Whenever I say “I think I’ll shave it off” he always touches the beard and says “No, Daddy! Don’t cut it off! I like it!” And I will smile and hug him close as he says “I love you Daddy.” Who could resist that?
My wife has never seen me without my facial hair either. She always looks at me and calls me her big burly mountain man whenever I grow my full beard. I just call it my beard of many colors. When I was young, it consisted of black, brown, blonde, red, white, gray: basically any color of hair known to man. Now, however, it has slowly settled into a few less colors, and is, for the most part, grey and white with a smattering of darker colors. My chin resembles the back of a silverback gorilla (to which I wonder: does that mean my face is the rearmost portion of said gorilla?). The hair on my head is tending the same way, with the “distinguished” graying at the temples, and I watch as it creeps ever northward towards the top of the hill like some determined enemy intent on capturing the top of the hill, or some mountain climber attempting to scale Mt. Everest. From the front, my hairline is retreating like Custer probably wished he could have done, and it has become a race to see which will win the crest first. I watch with great interest daily.
I have let my beard grow to fairly decent lengths at times over the years, but anymore I stop it at under a half inch or so. Any longer, and it really holds the heat and begins to bother me. As a result, I only begin my full beard as Fall encroaches on the year. Usually, September 1 begins the full beard. It doesn’t take long before my entire face reaches the point where it looks like I have had it for much more time than simply a week. This stuff grows! Anyhoo, I usually grow it for Winter, and for my hunting seasons. Dove begins September 1st here, and Archery for Deer follows on the15th. Then comes the arrival of Turkey Season with shotgun on October 1st or so, to be followed by Gun Deer Season in Mid-November. By this time, Old Man Winter has firmly settled in for a spell, and it’s too cold to shave it off.
But, with the warming days of Spring beginning in March, I reach a point where I feel like an executioner of old: “Off with his head!” Or, at least, off with most of the hair on the front of the head. So I trim closely, and then shave it off. It usually takes at least a couple of the disposable type razors to work it down to smooth faced, then a couple of days of shaving daily to have my face reach a point where it no longer gets upset with me for baring it to the world, and gives in and stops getting cuts all over it. I always leave at least the mustache, and more often than not, a goatee. Then I wait.
Sometimes it is only a day or so; other times it may be a week. But, at some point, I can count on one of my children saying, or maybe my wife, “Oh! You shaved off your beard! Why? I was just getting used to it!” Well, I had gotten past “used to it” and was tending towards Nair. I wonder…
Over the years, I have tried out many styles of facial hair. I have had the full, mountain man look; the executive look with just a touch of gray; the Don Johnson look; the Fu Manchu (Ah, the late ‘70’s!); only a mustache; a mustache and goatee (why is it called that?); even once a Hitler-like mustache. The person giving me a haircut asked if I wanted a trim on the beard. I said “Yeah, I think it’s time to get rid of the beard”. So, she picked up a trimmer and hit the mustache first! By the time I got the trimmers away from my face, I had half a mustache on one side! What the heck can I do with half a mustache? So, I trimmed it down to a point where it was even, and realized I looked like Hitler. It waren’t good, let me tell you.
I always admired those who wore a beard as a sort of an equalizer: you know, they can’t grow on their heads what they can on their chinnie chin chin. So, they grow a luxurious beard as compensation. But from there, we have the ones who can’t admit they’re bald, so they grow hair from their chins, and whip it up to cover their bald domes. Have you seen Bill Murray’s character in Kingpin? I swear, that hair starts growin’ about chest high, and is combed into place on the tip top spot. When he gets flustered at the end, and that hair starts growing, and growing, and growing, it must be two feet above his head! That’s a swipe!
Then there are those men who have the ability to grow a beard, and have it flow naturally into their body hair. You’ve seen the type: they shave their face, and stop just above the collar. Protruding from below, like an animal seeking to rise above the fray, is hair. Lots of hair. All the way around the collar, hair. Or maybe they grow a beard, but trim it so that there is a separation between what is above; and what lies beneath. A narrow band of stubble. Bryacckk!! And then there are those who just let it all grow together, one long flowing mass of hair, beginning on the tip top of their noggin, and ending at their toes. I swear, you could brush it out and create a look a sasquatch would die for.
The one look I have never understood was the beatnik look, or that thing under your lower lip called a “soul patch”. I mean really, if that’s the best you can do, you might as well just put some cream on your face and have the cat lick it off for you. Oh, and that look some baseball pitchers have been sporting lately, where their goatee is like six inches long and dyed red! It looks like a handle one should grab and pull sharply to elicit a sound resembling a horn or something. Cut that stuff down! Looks like a Mohawk on your chin.
They say clothes make the man; I beg to differ. I feel that a good facial hair grouping will go a long way to making a man look distinguished or maybe just a little scary even. I seem to recall a moment on the old Johnny Carson show where Burt Reynolds shaved half of his mustache on national TV, then asked the audience which side they preferred: shaven or unshaven. Of course, unshaven won, to which he replied “Well, why didn’t you say something before I shaved the other side off?”
So comes an end to my ode for a beard. The time is rapidly approaching where I cease to shave, and allow what grows wild elsewhere grow upon mine face. The bad thing is: I’m already tired of what little facial hair I have now, so what am I going to do when it really starts coming in?
“Son, what would you think if I were to shave my face clean?”