This post is dedicated to Irish Gumbo, whose beard idea/theme I have blatantly stolen. He is a better writer than I (but, then, who isn't?), much better, so I hope he understands that I am no threat.
I first let my beard grow at the tender age of 23 when I and the USN parted ways on a somewhat amiable basis. Not having an abundance of testosterone, apparently, from the lack of chest hairs beyond a few strays of little note, I never had a mustache or beard before joining the Navy at age 19. No, I was as sleek as those alabaster marble statues of the gods of ancient Greece or maybe Michelangelo's "David". Not even much stubble on my face to offend a young lady if I missed an area with the razor before a date.
After my release back into the civilian world, I felt the need to do certain things which Navy regulations and tradition prevented during my tenure with that organization. I stopped shaving. Altogether. I also stopped getting haircuts. Well, the latter might have had something to do with the times and the fact that I had found a rather low paying job which meant choosing carefully what I might spend money on.
It was 1969, heady days here in the former British colonies. A significant portion of the populace of the US had decided we had become embroiled in an immoral and unwinnable war and rebellion was in the air. Freedom was in in the air also. As was a significant amount of smog in the Los Angeles basin where I happened to be.
Los Angeles, technically speaking, was not in a state that had once been controlled by our former British overlords. No, it had been under the cruel thumbs of Spain, France (while Spain was under France's dominance), and then an independent Mexico when we (the United States) took it by forcing ourselves on the Mexican government and making them sell it to us at a price we had determined to be eminently fair. Or, as Senator S. I. Hayakawa (R- California) once said about the Panama Canal zone, "[w]e stole it fair and square." But I digress... mostly because history is such fun.
In any event, I found myself free and unencumbered (meaning without a lot of funds or plans for the future) in late 1969 in a place called Long Beach, California, just south of Los Angeles. There were a lot of people with long hair and beards at the time. And I decided to join them. Well, not exactly decided, I suppose. I just found myself gradually looking like them. I had not shaved much since my discharge, only once or twice while looking for a job, and had ignored any need for a haircut. I began to look a little shaggy.
At some point in those first several months of nominal freedom, I had trimmed my beard into a scraggy goatee. So that I looked something like this:
Not very pretty but I somehow managed to find myself in the company of young women from time to time and eventually married one of them.
Marriage meant I needed a better job than I had at the time (stuffing cushions and delivering furniture for a shop in Long Beach) and we packed up our meager possessions and headed for south Florida where I fell into my career as a telephone guy. Getting that job at what was then called Southern Bell meant shaving off my beard and getting a haircut before even being interviewed. They seemed to think that appearance was important for some reason. They even suggested that I might be required by the manager at the office to which I was assigned to shave off my mustache and side burns. This turned out to be untrue.
I quickly found myself in a crew of mustachioed and slightly shaggy compatriots with a couple of full-bearded long hairs. No one said anything as my hair grew longer and my beard re-appeared.
You see, shaving had been a chore I disliked. Haircuts cost money and I, with pregnant wife and mounting bills, wanted to be thrifty. Besides, long hair and beards were "in". I started with the goatee again but soon allowed it to blossom into a full beard. I mean, if you don't like to shave, why bother to have something to trim?
By the time we (that first future ex-wife, the baby, and I) returned to California slightly over a year later, my hair was down to my shoulders and my beard covered most of my lower face. The hair got even longer over the years, though the beard alternated from full to goatee and back again to full over the years.
The ponytail effect was less troublesome most of the time.
The beard eventually went back to full around 1974 and remained so until a year or so ago but the hair finally got trimmed down to a more normal length in 1978. To be honest, having long hair is, well, a drag. It weighed a ton when it was wet, it got snagged on things, and I started to feel like I looked... an aging Hippie.
(I am the one on the right)
And now I look somewhat like that picture of me in the Profile...
Which some say is better when I smile. Though, being a curmudgeon, I rarely do.
A Night Unremembered
6 years ago