The Random Comic Strip

The Random Comic Strip

Words to live by...

"How beautiful it is to do nothing, and to rest afterward."

[Spanish Proverb]

Ius luxuriae publice datum est

(The right to looseness has been officially given)

"Everyone carries a part of society on his shoulders," wrote Ludwig von Mises, "no one is relieved of his share of responsibility by others. And no one can find a safe way for himself if society is sweeping towards destruction. Therefore everyone, in his own interest, must thrust himself vigorously into the intellectual battle."

Apparently, the crossword puzzle that disappeared from the blog, came back.


Tuesday, November 4, 2008

My Beard


Someone suggested a subject for me: the story of my beard. Odd, I thought, since my beard is simply a part of me. It is something that has been there in the mirror for most of the last 38 years. You could say it's grown on me. Ok, that was unfair of me... such a cheesy pun. I just don't think about it much.

I have always been fascinated by beards. I have no idea why. My father shaved every day (twice, most times), I have no uncles or grandparents that weren't clean shaven. I don't recall any of my friends' fathers as having beards. I grew up in the 50s (mostly), a time when beards were out of favor in the mainstream. Oh, beatniks sported them. Usually these were wispy little goatees, mere affectations. But mainstream men did not wear beards at that time.

Yet, in my history books, I saw many great men who had fine full beards. Perhaps that is where my fascination began, perhaps it's connected to my love of history. Ulysses S. Grant comes to mind. A magnificent looking gentleman, a great general, a mediocre president (though underrated, I think), but a striking figure. Sigmund Freud, of course. All the great Greek philosophers had beards. Great generals. Deep thinkers. Beards were badges of wisdom and greatness. Why did we, as a culture, eschew them in modern times? I haven't the foggiest idea.

After I was honorably (by sheer luck, I might mention) discharged from the Navy, I stopped shaving. I had been forced to shave daily because beards were forbidden at the time. And that kept it on my mind for four years. I am a contrarian. If someone says I must do such and such then such and such becomes the thing I least want to do. So, after I got out, shaving disappeared from my daily to do list. Well, after I had secured some gainful employment, that is. And, as luck would have it, beards were back in style among the young. The counter-culture was fast becoming the Culture and it seemed that beards were the primary symbol.

Now, unlike my father, I do not have a heavy beard. My mother's hair was what I inherited. I had a lot, mind you, just that it was fine and wispy. So, as it grew long upon my head (and slowly down my neck and back), it straggled upon my face, it's only redeeming value was its darkness. It eventually managed to hide my weak chin, its moustache covered the scars of a dog bite I suffered at age seventeen (a scar many think of as a result of a cleft pallet or "hairlip"). It did not look like the manly beards I had seen in countless old photos, paintings, and movies but it was doing the job intended.

It is a mask of sorts, something to hide behind. It hid my crooked teeth, covered my thin lips, made me look older. In short, it shored up my fragile ego, camouflaged my youth, gave me gravitas where I felt I had none. It also filtered the bugs when I rode my motorcycle.

When I moved from Long Beach to south Florida after marrying the mother of my soon-to-be son (she is now my ex but he is still my son). I had to shave it off in order to be presentable for job interviews. I felt naked. Fear struck me when the interviewer at Southern Bell told me I might have to shave even the moustache I had left behind. Imagine my relief when I found two bearded co-workers at my assigned office. The beard was quickly (well, as quickly as I was able to grow it) back and the hair (also shorn to presentable length) grew out to eventually reach my shoulder blades.

Sadly, the beard was shaved again in a year, along with the hair being cut to acceptable length. I took comfort in the words of George Carlin, "I've always had long hair, I just kept it inside most of my life." * I had moved again, this time to San Diego, and was in another job search. I found a job, got away with a goatee until I switched jobs again (back to a phone company gig) and then let it come back in full. The hair grew long too. Until I got fed up with taking care of it and had it cut back to a "normal" length, where I keep it to this day.

And that's where it has stayed up until a few months ago when I trimmed it into a Van Gogh. But I don't really like it this way because it means I have to shave and keep it trimmed. So it will grow out again, and soon. Because, above all, it is the shaving I never liked.

Oh, and I don't dye my hair dark... my beard just grows in gray.

* I cannot confirm this quote but it is my memory and it sounds like what he would say.

7 comments:

beads said...

for real?? ha3 it grows with a color gray?? wow! that's a gift.. isnt it?

Douglas said...

My hair is quickly following suit, it seems. Gray hair is a sign of aging. With age comes wisdom (maybe) but also creaky joints, fading eyesight, and a certain crankiness.

The Logisitician said...

I once read an article where the author first told what she suspected was an apocryphal story about how Madonna struggled and was never able to command an audience until she took off her clothes in the middle of a performance. This led into a story about the different reaction that the auther encountered from virtually everyone, once she dyed her hair from black to blonde. She instantly noticed that everyone treated her differently and even concluded that blondes really did have more fun. However, after two weeks or so, she noticed that people had stopped looking at her the same way, and that the "effect" had worn off. She concluded that she had started behaving differently, and that when she first changed her hair color, she walked and carried herself with a different swagger.

I used to frequently vacation in Europe and South America, and usually traveled for at least 2 weeks. This gave me an opportunity to start growing a beard, get past the unkept stubble phase, and ultimately groom it into something half way respectable. I would keep the beard for roughly 6 weeks to clear out my face and remove all of the bumps and problems with my skin, and then return to my regular shaving routine. I would do this perhaps every 18 months.

When I had a beard, I too noticed that people (including strangers) had a different reaction than when I was clean shaven. Today, it is a non-issue. At age 57, the beard is 80% grey, even though the hair on my head is only 10% grey.

I've always views beards like I view bowties and hats. They fit some folks and not others. Your beard fits you. It contributes to your contrarian personality, and that's good. It also makes you look distinguished and wise.

BTW. Best beard I've ever seen close up? Sean Connery, while he and his wife ate dinner next to me in Los Angeles. That man can wear a beard.

Douglas said...

My vote for best looking beard (though not a full one) is Alcee Hastings. Not a more distinguished beard in the world today. Next up would be Ernest Hemingway. It completed his image.

But these are beards of famous men and there are millions of average everyday men who have great beards.

A friend of mine many years ago (a fellow biker at the time) had a long blond/brown beard that reached halfway down his chest. After riding his motorcycle, he would sit in a chair and comb it out while he chatted. It was unkempt but it was as much a part of his personality as his good sense of humor and his quirky look at life.

Roxy said...

Douglas,
Your bread article caught my eye.
My husband too has had a beard for about 34 years. We've been married 31 years. His is all gray now to but so is his hair.
I like his bread but his mother and his late grandmother really HATE it.
I wanted to tell you too, I like your blog and will follow it.
If your interested in looking at my click on www.realestatenews-roxy.blogspot.com
Thanks
Roxy

The Logisitician said...

I once read an article where the author first told what she suspected was an apocryphal story about how Madonna struggled and was never able to command an audience until she took off her clothes in the middle of a performance. This led into a story about the different reaction that the auther encountered from virtually everyone, once she dyed her hair from black to blonde. She instantly noticed that everyone treated her differently and even concluded that blondes really did have more fun. However, after two weeks or so, she noticed that people had stopped looking at her the same way, and that the "effect" had worn off. She concluded that she had started behaving differently, and that when she first changed her hair color, she walked and carried herself with a different swagger.

I used to frequently vacation in Europe and South America, and usually traveled for at least 2 weeks. This gave me an opportunity to start growing a beard, get past the unkept stubble phase, and ultimately groom it into something half way respectable. I would keep the beard for roughly 6 weeks to clear out my face and remove all of the bumps and problems with my skin, and then return to my regular shaving routine. I would do this perhaps every 18 months.

When I had a beard, I too noticed that people (including strangers) had a different reaction than when I was clean shaven. Today, it is a non-issue. At age 57, the beard is 80% grey, even though the hair on my head is only 10% grey.

I've always views beards like I view bowties and hats. They fit some folks and not others. Your beard fits you. It contributes to your contrarian personality, and that's good. It also makes you look distinguished and wise.

BTW. Best beard I've ever seen close up? Sean Connery, while he and his wife ate dinner next to me in Los Angeles. That man can wear a beard.

beads said...

for real?? ha3 it grows with a color gray?? wow! that's a gift.. isnt it?