Trading in the burlap and trash bag suit for good old blue jeans.

I have been working a long project in a colder area of the United States. By “colder”, I mean “colder than I imagined could exist while molecular movement is still possible”. This is a very long project, so I get to experience all manner of cold. It has been a vast range from “I should put on a sweater” to ” Wow, that is amazing” to “When I breathe, my face hurts”.  One day, I was running late and I decided to skip my morning shave [of my face, funny people]. I have gone a couple days without shaving before, so it was no big deal.  Suddenly, I realized that I had never deliberately grown a beard.

When I was in high school, I was over at my grandfather’s house. My step-brother and his friend showed up, each sporting a slightly raggedy…for the sake of argument we will call it a “beard” (though “accident during craft day” would be more appropriate). My grandfather, not known for keeping silent, started griping about their beards. I don’t remember precisely what he said because I was a teenager and he was speaking “old coot”, a known frequency of speech that never actually enters a teenagers ears. All I got was the impression that Grandpa hated beards on teens. (I should mention that this was my step-father’s father). By that point, I was so desperate for male approval, I would have done anything in the hopes to maintain said approval. Now, that is not to say that my “blood related” male relatives did not show approval. They would have to acknowledge that I existed prior to reaching some emotion that approached “approval”.

Less than a month after high school graduation, I joined the Navy. Needless to say, I did not try to grow a beard while in the Navy. Now, some of my supervisors from the time may disagree, but that was just because I didn’t shave every day.  I always said that I had shaved, but it is hard to hold on to that lie when you wipe your face with a tissue and half of it sticks to your cheeks.

When I got out of the Navy, I was used to the habit. I was also working in various chemical plants that required a complete shave so the emergency respirator masks would make  a good seal. As the years progressed, it became a habit.

Many people have similar daily grooming routines that they just do without thinking. In fact, in everyday grooming, there are things that we do every day because of a pattern. You know what I am talking about…splashing cold water on the face to wake you up, trying to get eye boogers out, smelling the clothes piled on the floor to see if they can last on more day without doing laundry…you know, the daily routine.  We all have routines. The next time you get in a shower, notice that you almost always turn in the same patterns while bathing. In fact, you probably wash in the same order. 

So now, almost 25 years after my facial hair started growing (okay, okay, just over 20 years, I was just trying to make me sound more manly), I decided to try to grow a beard for the first time. It actually is not hard to grow a beard for the first few weeks. It turns out that if I don’t put a piece of hot sharp metal near my face, the hair will continue to grow. After three or four weeks, I started to subconsciously rub my cheeks. This action was not because I thought it made me look especially intelligent or charming. It was more because I kept thinking “Oh crap I have bugs on my face” and then realizing it was just unkempt and stringy hair.

An amazing thing happened to me after a few weeks. I looked into the mirror and marveled at the change. In just a few short weeks, I looked like a homeless person. I thought facial hair grows at the same speed. Instead, I looked like an old alcoholic bum with the mange.  Here is the part I am a bit ashamed to admit: If one person had said [lied] “Oh your beard makes you look distinguished/better/less fat/not like a homeless person with the mange”, I probably would have it until the day I die. Instead, I woke up and my CPAP mask had made a severe indentation in the hair, my face hurt and itched because of the hair, and I felt the urge to wear my underwear on the outside of my pants and talk into a shoe like it was a cell phone.

I shaved my beard after just a few weeks. One nice thing that happened as I shaved the stubble off (destroying two blades in the process) was that some of the contours of my face were not as deep as they looked. I no longer looked like I had 5 chins.I was down to four, as God intended.It turns out that allowing my own personal grooming to lapse was not the self-esteem boosting life change that I expected.  In fact, it was annoying, itchy, made me look homeless, and was almost unnoticeable from my everyday appearance. I am sure I will be trying to do some sort of life change in the future, it just may not be some sort of horrible fashion choice. Ha ha, who am I kidding? I always make horrible fashion choices, it is the thing I am really good at (I still think the all black with the white tennis shoes was a good look though, so maybe I am wrong here.) I like to think that in the future, I will be some charming Sean Connery type. I will more like Vance Colvig from UHF. (http://wc.rootsweb.ancestry.com/cgi-bin/igm.cgi?op=GET&db=dowfam3&id=I153227)

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