One day, after making sawdust out in the shop, I came in to wash my hands for lunch. When I looked in the mirror, hands clean face not, I noticed the dust coating my beard made it look much more like wire or straw than hair.
I’ve heard it said (on the Philosophy Bites podcast actually) that a portrait is a picture that captures something fundamental about the subject, something more than just a record of physical features. The more I look at this picture the more it falls into a small group of photos that I think are reasonable portraits.
On the whole I like my beard. I’ve had it since ’98 or ’99. I grew it at the same time I cut my hair short all the way around (I had ‘hockey hair’ or what is called a “mullet”. I didn’t know it was called that at the time and am not in the least bit ashamed of it). People kept placing my age around 17 or 18 when I was in fact 22 or 23. Once I grew the beard I had my age placed as high as 40 (an age which I am still a couple years shy of BTW).
My wife was not a fan of the beard when I started it. I think it actually took quite a while for acceptance to settle in. Her Dad had a mustache when she was a toddler and when he shaved it, both she and her younger sister remember being traumatized by his shift in appearance.
The first cassette tape album I bought with my own money was ZZ Top’s “Eliminator”. I asked for a beard for Christmas when I was about twelve.
During a phone call with my sister she insisted that I didn’t have a beard despite photographic evidence to the contrary stretching back more than a decade. It was a very strange moment of seeing behind the curtain but discussing how our relatives see us is a different matter for a different time.
There are a couple of women I chat with on twitter who have a ‘thing’ for beards if their general posts are to be believed. I’ve never met a woman who was turned on by beards in person that I know of.
I’ve been bearded so long that I wonder if it has become a fundamental part of my adult identity. If I was to shave it, would that then signal a new phase of my adult life? Would I still look like a kid without it? Would our four year old son freak out? Many of the people I know now have never seen me without a beard. What is it about hair that ties so closely with identity?
I took the picture, washed my face, and went on with the day. Now that it is summer, I’ll trim it down a bit but I plan to keep the beard.