About two weeks ago, I shaved off the beard I’ve had for about 99% of the past ten years. Think I plan on keeping it off for awhile, too, though I’m sure it’ll be coming back by the time winter slithers its way into New England again and my face needs protection from the cold.
I have friends who’ve never seen my chin or upper lip. My two daughters have rarely seen me facial-hair-free, and I have to admit that it was because of them I felt the most trepidation before dispatching the beard: part of me was afraid they wouldn’t recognize me, though I know that’s certainly not the only trait they use to differentiate me from everyone else. (For her part, Kelsey told me after shaving I look “so bee-yoo-ti-ful,” which helped set those fears at ease.)
The first time I grew my full beard, I was twenty-four yet still got carded regularly when buying alcohol; I’ve always been baby-faced, so I thought a beard might help make me look closer to my age. Guess it worked–the cardings stopped almost altogether. It was also shortly after growing my first full beard that my part in what my boy Timmy B. refers to as the Great Pussy Drought of the Nineties came to a blessed end. I’m not saying for sure those two events are linked, but even the circumstantial evidence was enough to make me think the chin pelt was a good idea.
But over time I grew dependent on the beard. It became something of a psychological crutch, a way to hide my face, or at least obscure it a bit. Given that I’ve had long hair a good portion of the last ten years and I wear glasses most of the time, I did a might fair job of hiding in plain sight. I’ve never been blessed with a tremendous amount of self-confidence, especially in regards to the way I look, so I think subconsciously I threw up as many barriers as I could to keep people from really seeing me.
I certainly don’t need the beard to look my age anymore, however; the ever-receding hairline sends out its own signals about how old I am. And anyway, I’m tired of hiding. I certainly don’t have to be as concerned about my looks as I did when I was in my twenties and single–I want to look as good as I can, of course, both because I want to feel good about myself and because I want the wife to continue to find me attractive–but I don’t have to be as obsessively worried about it anymore. (I’ve always been ridiculously vain, though in the “overly-concerned-with-and-critical-of-my-appearance” way and not the “golly-gee-willikers-am-I-ever-super-fine” way.) Those attributes of mine with which I hope to impress other people have less and less to do with my looks the older I get, and I don’t see that trend changing any time soon.
So fare thee well, dear beard; you served me well for a long time and I appreciate your service. I’m sure we’ll meet again someday soon. In November at the latest.
(I’m still not cutting my hair, genetics be damned.)