When my wife was in India a couple of months ago I stopped shaving my face. I’m not sure why. It was not a protest or planned thing. But now that my face is getting kind of fuzzy, its like I suddenly joined a bunch of private clubs. Passing hipsters, rednecks and Muslims, that all would have previously ignored or glared at me, all seem to be giving me happy knowing smiles hello. If I could find an Arkansas town full of local off-the-grid, vegetarian, Allah-loving / Hasidic, rebel flag-salutin’ organic farmers, I think I could get elected mayor.
I recall an oddly similar thing happening when I shaved my head and when I purchased my first Mini Cooper. I unknowingly became a member of either a group, gang or cult… not sure which but especially my fellow head-shavers acknowledge me on the street like I was an old baldy brethren.
I do see the irony of having this big beard thing on my face. For the past few years I had been making fun of all the mega huge beards that seem to be growing everywhere. I’ve been calling the trendy guys with long contrived overly-groomed beards ‘Mumfords’, based on the folk/rock/ country twang band Mumford and Son. Mind you, no one in Mumford and Sons currently has a jumbo beard but almost every other similar sounding band has several mondo-bearded musicians, so the name just stuck in my head. So just like how I ended up moving to Texas, a state I frequently made fun of , I too have unwittingly become the very same Mumford I have been mocking.
In reaction to the 1960’s hippie look and the garish 70s fashions, around the time I went to college in the 80s things got very neat, trimmed and preppy. I was not. I had an unkempt beard, shaggy hair and lived in Key West Keno sandals and cut off jeans. The Fraternity muckities stepped over me like a tattered door mat racing to pressure my far better-groomed friend Mike to join. I felt invisible at their parties like I was being shuttled into the side room with the other undesirables Clayton, Sydney, Mohammad, and Jugdish.
A few years later, as my beard got bigger and scragglier, I found my place comfortably among the “GDIs” (god damn independents). During that time I recall showing up with a similarly bearded friend at a professor’s house for a study session, which is what we called an afternoon of beer drinking and theoretical conversation. As we entered, in her thick accent his Iranian wife introduced us to the room as “mountain men’.
After I graduated, I cleaned up my look as I settled in for a few decades of traditional working life. Then a few years ago for the first time in my adult life, I started a job where I did not have to wear suits, pressed shirts or spit shiny shoes. Although I don jeans to the office most days now, old habits are hard to break and I still feel uncomfortable wearing a t-shirt and shorts on casual Fridays. I have not had the same mental block concerning facial hair. Last year I started letting my goatee grow quite a bit longer than business-man Dan ever would.
It was this past April when my wife and I went to London on our epic cheese sandwich quest that I realized my extendo-goatee was getting to be more work than it was worth. I was waking up with wacky bed-beard face and at home, I had no problem rationalizing using a beard brush and ‘product’ to keep the unruly thing in place. But while packing a very small luggage for a short three-day international trip, wasting precious space on beard grooming accouterments seemed mighty vain, self-indulgent and downright silly.
I had all but decided that as soon as I got back to Dallas I would grab the trimmer and hack the bejeebers out of it, but while sitting having high tea at Harrods (okay, I just read what I wrote there… was it just a week ago that I proclaimed I was not “a nose-in-the-air snooty snob bourgeois-zero?” High tea at Harrods?!?!? I might have to re-evaluate things) I saw an older guy in the bald dude club with way cool gray facial hair. It was kind of like a smart-looking anchor shape of gray fuzz on his face. It was not too contrived and did not look like it took much daily maintenance.
With visions of being a Euro Dapper Dan in my head, I attacked my face with sheers and a shaver to recreate the older English gentleman’s beard. Snip here, trim there, shape here, touch up there… I had looked at some beard pics on-line but maybe I should have surreptitiously taken a photo of that actual guy, because once I started mowing the mess on my mug, I looked nothing like the groovis Brit. My face looked more like I dropped one of those magnetic Woolly Bully kids toys on the floor creating a random furry smear on my chin. I’d have had better results recreating a Monet Masterpiece on an Etch-A-Sketch.
Frustrated, I just shaved the whole thing off; a look my wife hates. The only thing she has ever hated more then facial-hairless Dan was the time I gave myself a Hitler mustache. I argued that somebody had to try to bring it back. Charlie Chaplin and Oliver Hardy used to rock that look until Adolf ruined the look for everybody. She insisted it would not be me pioneering that one.
I’m not sure how much longer my wife will tolerate this big beard thing, I’m a deep sleeper and she knows where I keep my razors. I get it; she has to look at it more than I do but for now I am finding it amusing. My biggest issue currently is knowing where it ends. I don’t really know the side-burny spot where the baldness should stop and beard should begin.