A few months back, my wife Renee, younger daughter Brianna, and I decided to venture together in support of a worthy cause. We formed a team to participate in a charity walk to support the Arthritis Foundation. We did this largely to support Brianna who battles rheumatoid arthritis. We designed t-shirts. We networked via Facebook, Twitter, and Google+ to help raise funds for the walk.
I also performed another gesture as the walk got closer. I grew a beard. I was growing a “playoff beard”. About two months prior to the walk, I decided that I would grow a full beard and not shave it until I came home from the walk. I had done playoff beards before. I used to work on a technical support team that would grow beard during a two month season of peak support. Part of me would like the look. The other part would hate the itch. As much as I hate the task of shaving, I REALLY hate the itch. Some guys grow really nice beards. They occasionally stroke their beard while caught up in thought or conversation. It’s a very relaxed look and gesture. I, on the other hand, do not stroke my beard. I do not twiddle my whiskers as i get lost in thought. I scratch my beard. I scratch it frequently and furiously. The only thought that enraptures me in that moment is: DADGUM! THIS BEARD REALLY ITCHES!
The other thing that I noticed about growing my beard is that you suddenly get a lot of interaction from other men who are long time beardsmen. Women with beards are conversely much less engaging. It was like I suddenly became a new member of a secret organization. I got quite a few recommendations and endorsements of assorted combs and oils. These bearded brothers in arms love their oils and swore to me that it would reduce my itching (and my swearing). When I would tell my hirsute heroes that I was planning to shave off my beard after the charity walk was done, you could sense that some of them were holding back tears.
The other trouble with the beard was that it had really become much greyer than in previous years. Yes, I understand that the rest of my head has become greyer as well. Still, there were many days that I would look in the mirror and say: OK! I know I am 49 years old but I am ONLY 49 years old. I was getting a few comparisons to Kenny Rogers, Red Green, and Santa Claus. It was hardly a ringing endorsement to keep the beard.
True to my word, the walk came. I did two laps around the trail (a total distance of 5 kilometers). We all gathered together after the walk, exchanged hugs, and headed home. Once I got home, I headed upstairs and reached for the clippers. I took a pre-shave picture and a post shave picture and posted them up on Facebook.
This was when I REALLY started to get some responses. A couple of my former teachers told me that my beard made me look handsome and distinguished. Others chimed in and complimented the beard. My older son, Tom, was disappointed that I shaved but he sports a much nicer beard than mine. One friend compared me to the late Phillip Seymour Hoffman. I’m still not sure how to take that one.
The best feedback came from my old friend Brian. Brian is an ordained pastor for a church in Savannah, GA. I have known Brian since 9th grade. Brian told me that I should grow my beard back. He even backed it up with scripture: “The hoary head is a crown of glory, if it be found in the way of righteousness.” (Proverbs 16:31). I told Brian that I took issue with how old it made me look. Brian reminded me that it is a blessing to live for half a century. THAT was tough to argue. I then told Brian that my other concern was also found in the Bible: “But he that is married careth for the things that are of the world, how he may please his wife.” (I Cor 7:33) It was at this point that Brian began to backpedal. Brian’s basic response is: “Happy wife. Happy life.” Brian is apparently a much wiser man than I thought.