Back around Christmas, I decided to grow a beard for the first time in more than 20 years. Perhaps it had something to do with the retirement of Harry McCawley, former associate editor of The Republic.
When Harry left, there was suddenly an opening for a balding man of a certain age with gray hair and gray beard. A quick look around the building told me I was a good candidate for the job. Actually, I think I was just about the only man qualified for the job. So I decided to give it a try, if for no other reason than to pay a hairy tribute to my friend, Harry.
My wife tells me she likes it, but my feelings are definitely mixed. As I write this, I still have the beard. But by the time you read this in the paper, it could well be gone.
I’ve never been one of those guys who has to shave twice a day nor one who can decide to grow a beard and a week later have one already in need of trimming. I admit I’ve always been a bit envious of those guys. OK, I don’t like them one bit.
My whiskers have always been slow growing. I can go a week without shaving before anyone notices. To ease my disappointment, I’ve always told myself that my body is just too busy cranking out vast numbers of awesome brain cells to spend much time producing whiskers.
I think I’m the only one buying that theory.
Whatever the reason, when I decide to grow a beard, I know it won’t be a quick process. I’m in for several weeks of awkward looks from people. I can see the questions in their eyes. Is he growing a beard? How come for the last three weeks it has looked like he hasn’t shaved for two days?
But I persevered and by late February I had a beard ready for trimming.
The last time I grew a beard was in the early 1990s. I had been wearing a moustache for 10 years and decided to see what a full beard did for me. My hair and my whiskers were still mostly dark, with a few wearing the Confederate gray.
This time, I knew there would be no dark beard. Sure enough, it grew in about 90 percent white, with a few stubborn dark whiskers that haven’t realized their time is up.
Twenty years ago when I looked in the mirror, I saw me sporting a dark beard. It looked exotic … for a while. But this time when I looked in the mirror, I saw my father wearing a white beard. It looked old and a bit creepy. No matter how many times I looked in the mirror, I always responded with a startled “AHH!”
Though I kept telling myself that eventually I would get used to my new appearance, by early April it still hadn’t happened. Not only did that guy in the mirror look like someone else (hmm, maybe that’s why my wife likes it so much), I didn’t much care for the cut of his jib.
Neither does one of my granddaughters in Pittsburgh. Erin keeps asking me if the beard is gone yet. She’s also left subtle hints that it had better be history before she comes to visit in June.
The main reason I haven’t already shaved it is the time I have invested in growing it. I’m sure it’s much easier to shave a beard when you know you can replace it in a matter of days instead of months.
Also, this is the third beard I’ve grown in half a century, so chances are I won’t be growing another one, at least not on purpose. So I want to be sure I’m ready to say goodbye before I put it under the blade.
While I’m not sure how much longer the beard will be around, I know it definitely will be gone by June. I love you, Harry, but grandkids always win.
Doug Showalter can be reached at 379-5625 or firstname.lastname@example.org.