Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Beard-rise, Beard-set

The last time I had a full on beard was in May of 1998. It was a real doozy of a beard—black and bushy and wild—the kind of thing you could easily lose paperclips or dice in if you weren’t careful. I had begun growing it in November of 1997 and did not trim it once in the ensuing six months. My lack of attention to facial hair grooming was not due to a lost razor or minor psychosis, but was rather the byproduct of being in a local community theater production of “Fiddler on the Roof,” in which I played the rabbi’s son. The show’s run actually ended in April of that year, but I held on to my beard an extra month because I was cast as an old west mountain man in a recycling PSA. (Note: My understanding is that this commercial was only shown in Yuma, Arizona—likely at 3 A.M.—so the chances are overwhelming that you’re not one of the eight people who’ve seen it.)

As soon as I came home from the commercial shoot, the beard came off. Okay, okay—not as soon as I came home. The process, which involved a pair of scissors, a beard trimmer, a handheld razor, and enough shaving cream to bury a Honda Civic, took the better part of two hours. But once that thing came off my face I never grew a full beard again. (About three years later I briefly grew a goatee to prove to my wife—who did not know me during the aforementioned full beard period—that I was a real man since I was unable to prove it through car knowledge, athletic prowess, or the ability to grill a steak. P.S. - She was unimpressed with the goatee so I shaved it off and instead proved I was a real man by providing a doctor’s note.)

Cut to the present day. It has been well over a decade since the last time I dabbled in serious facial hair growth. My cheeks, chin, and the space between my upper lip and nose remain bald. On the weekends, however, I do often get lazy about shaving. I almost never shave on Saturday and sometimes, when I’m feeling particularly rebellious, I won’t shave on Sunday either. This past weekend was one such weekend. As I was putting my four-year-old down to bed on Sunday night he looked up at me, giggled, and said, “Dad, you have a beard.” I tried to explain the difference between stubble and a beard but this concept was a bit too nuanced for him, so I just gave him his stuffed bunny and tucked him in.

But after I left his room, his comment about my having a beard stuck with me, so I decided to take a closer look. In the back of my mind I thought that maybe I should grow a beard again just to shake things up a bit. I went to the bathroom and looked at my stubble closely in the mirror. Much more closely than I had looked at it in many years. And as I gazed upon the two day’s growth on my face, a startling realization suddenly came upon me. My glorious black beard of yesteryear was no more. If I were to grow a beard today it would be mostly white—I would guess on the order of 60%.

Why this should come as a shock to me I don’t know. My sideburns are completely white and they’re in pretty close proximity to my beard, so logic would dictate that the beard would follow suit. And yet I found this whole thing disturbing. It occurred to me that if I were to audition for “Fiddler on the Roof” today I would be much more likely to play the rabbi than his son.  And then I found myself becoming nostalgic about my own facial hair. I gazed into the mirror and began slowly singing:

Is this the little beard I blossomed?
Is this the little stache I grew?
I don’t remember growing older,
When did you?

Then I shaved…and will every day for the rest of my life.