One of the most fun guests I had at my birthday this weekend was my barber. He came with his wife, daughter, her husband and son. He arrived a little later because his birthday is the exact same day as mine and he had people who kept coming over to wish him a happy day. Anyone who has ever needed to go someplace but was blocked by people who only had goodwill towards you knows that inescapable feeling of being trapped.
My barber and I have been together for 40 years (on the nose, this year, actually) and yet this was the first time we had gotten together for a social outing. He was able to tell my friends stories of me as a teenager (not always a good thing) and in a serendipitous moment, my sister happened to have an old photo of me and my Mom from the 70’s in my “big hair” days.
Now, mind you, my “big hair” was mostly a result of when I was up at UF in my college days and I didn’t want to go to any barber other than my own. The result of that decision was three months passing between haircuts (we did quarters in those days). By that time, my exceptionally curly hair grew inward as well as outward and the steel woolish hair took my barber some time to get through.
As the years passed and the hair began to recede, I began to cultivate a beard. Not those silly chin things they wear now or those ridiculous goatees; a regular, full-face beard.
With my kinky hair, the beard was a bear to control. After a while, I would get so tired of trimming that I would want to shave the whole thing off. One year, I hit upon an idea that piqued my fancy and shaved the beard off late in the evening before my birthday. Fresh-faced and pink-skinned, I looked much younger. The symmetry of looking younger on the day I turned older appealed to me on many levels.
The appeal didn’t last that long, though. Within a few months, I was tired of the day-to-day shaving chores. While my hair above might have been slowing, my beard had no such loss of stamina. If anything, my shadow was an overachiever, arriving much earlier than five o’clock.
When you have a beard, you can slouch a bit on the trimming. If you miss a day or even two, it’s not that noticeable. Miss a day without a beard and your laziness is on display for all to view.
So, it would come to pass that I decided to grow the beard back. My weird desire for symmetry again would drive me to choose Thanksgiving as the time to start the beard up again. Most people thought I was growing a “holiday beard” (or a “winter beard”, except we don’t have winters down here), but really it was because Thanksgiving frequently marked a point exactly six months from my birthday on May 27th).
So I would literally have my beard for half a year and be clean-shaven for the other half. Pretty cool (at least to me). The strangest thing I noticed when doing this trick is that after I would shave, people wouldn’t realize I no longer had a beard. They would wonder if I got a haircut or got some sun or something. Weird.
Since I left my last company, I have kept the beard for the past three years. Each succeeding year brought more white into the beard, probably increasing my aged appearance, but since I had less social interactions, I never considered this seriously. Still, I had a hankering this week to shave the beard off once again. Who knows, maybe I’ll start my 6-month practice again. Or, as Miyagi might have advised me…
“Beard on, beard off, Jeffrey-san!”