There comes a point in every man’s life when he decides it’s time to let Mother Nature take her course and let the old face garden grow. To mimic the gods and heroes of old: Thor, Heracles, Kris Kristofferson. It’s a perilous journey, filled with misery, pain, and scornful comments, most of which involve reminding one to “wash that dirt” of ones face. This year, as I do every vacation, I attempted to follow this path. Unlike other years, I walked the journey to completion. This is my story.
Day 1: Packing for the shore. One day’s growth already shading my cheeks. I grab my razor and pause.
“Go ahead, Jim. Bring me along. You know you’re going to need me in three days when you start looking like Sea Isle’s only homeless man.”
“No way, razor,” I shout. “This is the year of the beard. I’ll never need you again!” (Yes, I talk to my razor just like I talk to my GPS)
I toss him back into the cabinet and flee the bathroom, the razor’s mocking laughter echoing in my ears.
“Who were you talking to in there,” my wife asks.
I debate telling her. She’s one more incident away from being able to sign the involuntary committal papers and I don’t want to provide any more ammunition, so I simply shrug. “no idea what you’re talking about.”
Day 3: Stumbling back from the Wawa, a woman throws coins into my open coffee cup.
“I hate seeing these guys wandering around here,” she tells her friend. “I feel so bad for them.”
“I’m not homeless,” I begin to yell while fishing coins out of my coffee. Before I finish, I think about my bank account, emptied by the rental fee, and realize I now almost have enough for a second cup of coffee. I camp out near the loading dock for another hour until I collect enough for a muffin and a morning paper too. It’s a much better gig than I thought it would be!
Day 4: I lean in to kiss my wife and and end up scraping off the first five levels of skin from her cheek.
“Keep that thing away from me, Brillo Boy.” she screeches, fleeing the bed, hand clutched to her bleeding face. I’ll spend the rest of the vacation sleeping on the floor. On the plus side, I now have an idea for Marvel’s newest mutant superhero.
Day 5: The day I have been dreading: The Colorless Ones have arrived. For as long as I’ve been producing face hair, the Colorless Ones have plagued me. I have discovered that my body contains a finite amount of melanin, and at a certain point each beard attempt, I start growing bristles completely devoid of color. My very first attempt at mimicking Magnum PI, resulted in a blonde monstrosity that haunts me still. As I’ve gotten older, the Colorless Ones have reduced in number, but my past attempts have been more calico cat then man. This year, I will remain strong. I drape a pillow case over the bathroom mirror and walk away.
Day 6: Boy, this thing itches a little. I’m sure this gets better in time, right? My skin just needs to get acclimated to its new covering. No worse than a wool sweater for my face.
Day 7: Yeah…just a little itching…I’m sure those gouges I put in my face will heal eventually…and I don’t look silly at all with these socks over my hands.
Day 8: MY GOD! IT’S LIKE DEMON SPIDERS BURROWING IN MY FACE AND GNAWING AWAY AT MY IMMORTAL SOUL. PLEASE GILLETTE, PATRON SAINT OF THE FIVE BLADES AND LUBRICATING STRIPS, SAVE ME FROM THIS INFERNAL ITCHING!!!
Day 9: Phew…the itching has subsided to a waterboarding level of torture. Even better, I can now attach the Velcro tabs on my CPAP mask directly to my face. It makes for a much tighter fit.
Day 10: I wake up screaming…Caterpillars! Poisonous Caterpillars crawling all over my mouth! Oh wait, never mind…. that’s just the hairs foresting the divot above my chin brushing against my upper lip. Might need to do something about that.
Day 11: mmmmm…steak. I love me some steak. Wait a second …we had steak three days ago. My God, is that from my beard? I taste again….holy sustainable sirloin, batman! You mean I can still taste my steak three days after I eat it? AWESOME! I’m so glad I did this!
Day 13: It’s a cold, sunny morning down the shore. I don my hoodie and shades. Several minutes into my walk I start hearing words like “Una-something”. A few minutes later, I’m being followed by a non-descript sedan driven by a non-descript guy wearing a non-descript suit and non-descript sunglasses. I scurry back to the house. The next day a panel van appears outside. It says “”Flowers By Imogene” on the side, but I tell you, if that’s Imogene driving , she is easily the biggest, ugliest florist I’ve ever seen.
Day 14: The beard is here. Whiskers curl and course down my face in manly streams. I’ve taken to stroking it thoughtfully while staring into the mirror and saying things like “I see your point, Manchester” and “Oh, you are so very droll” in an English accent made suddenly legitimate by my facial hair. I’ve done it, I look sophisticated and manly and…wait…what…is that? Is that grey? Grey …in my beard? What the Hell man, I’ve been trying for twenty-five years, I finally get there, and it’s turning grey! I wanted Thor,not Gandalf! I weep openly for several minutes, the moisture glittering mockingly at me in the wavering bathroom light.
Day 15: You know what? With these pudgy cheeks and extra chins, I think I have a real baby-faced appeal. Who needs a beard?
So that’s it, my path defined, my journey complete. Maybe next year I’ll go for muttonchops.