Topic #2 – Shaving.
I had not originally intended to address the topic of grooming on this blog because, honestly, I didn’t give it much thought while we were away. But my wife sure did. Every trip picture with me in it that got posted on Facebook, regardless of the stunning backdrop or the interesting sign I was standing next to or the scary cliff I was navigating, all drew exactly the same feedback from her. S.H.A.V.E.
My wife is a beautiful woman. She’s also smarter than I am. So I married up. By definition that means she did not. It also means she had to make allowances when she agreed to this union and, let’s be honest here, some of them were pretty significant. I have a tendency to speak my mind. At the wrong time. I am inpatient. I have a bad temper. I am moody. I am stubborn. I am depressive. And I’m not beautiful. Not even close. And that’s the short list. That she overlooks these shortcomings, and has for over thirty years, is nothing short of a tiny miracle in my life and something I think about almost every day. And I try to compensate in little ways to smooth out the disappointments for her. I clean the house. I do the laundry. I make the bed. I change the oil in her car. I mow the lawn. I painted her office last summer. And I shave regularly. Mostly.
Let me acknowledge here that I know this is a stupid topic. But I’m fielding it because one of our friends, whom I ran into today, said this to me. “I hear you grew a beard on your trip but Audrey didn’t like it so you shaved it off.” It was funny and confrontational in a who-wears-the-pants kinda way. But I didn’t flinch. I told her she had it exactly right. Here’s what else I told her.
There are three broad categories of beards, in my opinion.
The first is the kind that make you look distinguished. I’ll use my go-to guy U.S. Grant as my favorite example here. Full, groomed, and absolutely necessary. Couldn’t have smoked a cigar or won the war without it. Or Edmund Gwenn in A Miracle on 34th Street. Can’t play santa without that bathmat. Awesome.
The second kind makes you look badass. A number of hollywood actors rock this type for effect but they look good anyway. Like George Clooney. Or they look so badass anyway that even a bad beard doesn’t screw it up for them. Put Ryan Gosling’s mess on me and I’m asked to leave the restaurant, for example. But that’s not really what I mean. I’m thinking badder-ass than that. Like prison bad-ass. Like the goateed dude stewing in solitary for eviscerating his cellmate with a bedspring. Who tattooed himself. In the other guy’s blood. With that same bedspring. That kind of beard.
The third kind is hard to assemble into a descriptive category but let’s start with depressed and jobless. The I-don’t-remember-when-I-stopped-caring-about-myself beard. Patchy. Calico. Should shave it but I’m not even showering now so…why bother.
That third one? That’s the one I had when I came home. Now it is true that I am depressed and jobless, but that’s not why I grew the beard. I grew it because I had three weeks away from my wife to air it out. I’ve never had the opportunity before to go that long without shaving and I wasn’t going to let it go to waste.
Actually, it was Bill who suggested we go Jeremiah Johnson on this trip. But he got so itchy by the end of the first week that he caved and shaved. I toughed it out. It did get uncomfortable after about ten days and I found myself checking it for snack residue a couple of times. I also will not include a complete description here of the dried mucus in my mustaches episode except to say I only discovered the damage after I’d finished the Grand Canyon hike. So not only was I presenting a portrait of hiking agony to my passing trail mates and looking depressed and jobless in the process, but I had also besnotted myself. Oy.
So when I returned, it had to go. I actually kept it for a couple of days after we got home just as a litmus test of sorts to see if Audrey still loved me anyway and…she did not. Boom – off it came. A small sacrifice.
A quick thought on my previous post. If people were almost uniformly nice to us the whole trip, it was in spite of my beard. Two possibilities here. First is that folks were so cool they overlooked my obvious disfigurement. Second is that I tapped in to some kind of sympathy vote – patient son and his special needs father kind of thing. That is a new angle I had not considered. More study required.