Friday, September 21, 2012


Notes from today’s WALK...

“A beard is the one thing a woman cannot do better than a man, or if she can her success is assured only in a circus.” – John Steinbeck

I shaved off my beard today. The reasons are not important. In the end, I merely traded this comment:
“Geez! I cannot believe how much gray you have in your beard.”
For this one:
“Man! I didn’t realize how much your face has filled out.”
And since my wife has a college friend of the female persuasion who once grew quite a face full of whiskers, I couldn’t really even enjoy the masculinity of the thing.
In truth, a beard has only two real benefits. First, it means you don’t have to shave every day. Or even every week. This cannot be overestimated. The absurdity of dragging a razor blade over the second most sensitive skin on your body is immeasurable. Imagine if someone decided that corns and calluses should be addressed daily with a machete and somehow the rest of us had gone along with it for 200 years. Removing something that emerges naturally from our bodies seems arbitrary enough, but doing it with a deadly implement turns us all into unwitting flagellants.
The second benefit of having a beard is that it is a wonderful identifier. You don’t realize how often we meet new people in cafes or restaurants until you’re able to say, “Just look for the guy with the beard. That’s me.” Not, “I’ll be wearing a brown sweater,” or “I’ll be reading the paper somewhere near the back.” Nine times out of ten, having a beard is an adequate distinction. On the list of distinguishing physical characteristics, it falls somewhere between being completely bald and having a hook for a hand.
Now my beard is gone. I feel less special somehow. Coincidentally (I think), I recently learned that a significant high school reunion (one with a zero in it) is fast approaching. And when I walk to the nametag table, I’m quite sure no one will say, “Wow! I hardly recognized you with that beard.” But I’m betting on at least one, “Man, your face sure filled out.” 

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