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8 things I learnt from growing a beard,

Now I am not sure if you noticed, but there was hair, quite a lot of it, and I am unsure how I feel about the whole hirsute (or hair-suit, there is a mental picture i dare you to try to get rid of without therapy) thing but thought I would "think out loud" for the benefit of my adoring public.

I thought it timely to reflect on the process and implications of becoming beardy, for want of another vapid topic, and decided to concentrate on 8 (was going to be 10 but I just couldnae think of more) of the most salient observations... read on, you know you want to....

  1. I did it because I could.

    Holiday time, you imagine it is all beer and skittles (well, I guess it is if you are a bowling in a pub) but some things are let slide, right - personal hygine, the job lists, diet and so on. I just decided to stop shaving - I hate having to do it anyway.

    After a few days I had a face like rough-grade sandpaper, after a few weeks the stubble was long enough not to be prickly anymore and then the shaping fun began - trim here, edge there (dang, that is not straight, little more off the other side to balance up, dang that does not look right, better put my glasses on, eek, now it is really lopsided). Beginning of January it was looking a little straggly, so I ran a 4-blade razor through it to tidy it up, edged again and so on.

    This is the third time while at my current asylum that I have grown a beard and all up about my fifth real beard (I do not count the whispy post-pubescent bum-fluff attempts that every budding young adult seems duty-bound to attempt).

    I would love to say it grew evenly, it didn't. I had a bald patch near my adams apple (always have, strangely enough) and an irritating whirlpool (tight spiral "cowlick") under my left jowl - if I attempt a long bushy growth, it grows out at odd angles which has always annoyed me but I guess you cannae re-train follicles to go west when they are pointing east.

  2. You can pretend you are not old, but your beard always tells the truth.

    I had reddish-brown hair as a kid, it has sorta gone drab as I got older but the first beardy growth was bright red - real gingernut territory. I would like to say that is the case with the latest attempt, sadly the white/grey/distinguished hairs outnumbered the ones with colour two to one. I felt a little like a silverback gorilla (and some would argue that is not where the resemblance stopped). It is interesting when you are full of energy and vitality the effect that an old man staring back at you from the mirror can have.

    Now, unless I am very much mistaken, there is no way to tint beard, moustache and eyebrows to darker (more youthful and vital) colours without risk of serious chemical burns, and that seems like too much work for a paper-thin illusion, but the whole "the beard suits you, makes you look very distinguished" argument has gotta make you wonder how dweeby and ineffectual you must have looked clean shaven and why no one ever told you that.

  3. They provide great sun-protection.

    This is true, up to a point - well, there is direct evidence that it is true in part because the underlying skin is pale, pastey and white when the rest of the time worn face is tanned, taut and about to be lasered off by a melanoma clinic. Applying facial sunscreen lotion becomes a distasteful and unattractive process as globs of goo get snared, you get the picture. I did not, however get coldsores from sun damage as i usually do in summer - oh no, I got them from hair irritation instead which is infinitely better, not.

  4. Beards are a chick magnet.

    Now this is a common misconception, held particularly it seems by those as yet unable to grow convincing facial tufts. I think, secretly, the little tufts and hairy scraggy bits are not so much a turn-on as a distraction from the other odd facial characteristics we all have.

    Designer stubble is hilarious - so high maintenance and a little like getting up close and personal with a dunny brush. I marvel at the dedication of those with custom carved lines and tufts because I know how much work it takes to keep them from not looking like you just forgot to shave - still, i guess everyone needs a hobby and that gives us blokes something else to do with our hands.

    Contrary to popular myth, a beard or other facial growth is not an overt way to demonstrate your masculinity. Those of us who exude masculine charm do not need to be hairy as well as that could sensually overload prospective partners.

  5. Beards arrive before you do.

    "Oh, wow, you have grown a beard" ... time to scream now.

    My favourite author, Douglas Adams, once wrote about human-kinds need to state the bleeding obvious but doing it before even saying hello really gets up my goatee. "Nice beard" is NOT an adequate replacement for hello, sorry. Still, I guess it is nice that people even notice something about you "something is different about you ... new glasses? you have had a haircut? oh, that is right, you lost your right arm".

  6. More hair, more tickle.

    My mum says this, interestingly Dad never grew a beard so I do not know where this pearl of wisdom came from and I do not think I want to think too deeply about that.

    Beards do not tickle, they irritate - there is a difference.

    Maybe I am different to others when it comes to being beardy, but I found that my chin constantly felt itchy, worse when wet or hot and sweaty (not that an Australian summer would make you hot and sweaty, oh no). I found it a constant chore to keep tidy, dreaded meals that had sauces and missed being able to eat icecream from a cone without wearing it.

  7. A mask by any other name.

    You can hide behind a beard - it is an interesting facade - like renovating an old home. Beard and glasses is almost complete as a personality shade and I must admit to being able to relax behind both - mind you 8 out of 10 voices in my head would tend to disagree, no we wouldnt, yes I would, who said that?

  8. I used to think it would be soooo cool.

    I remember when I was young....(strike up corny old revival version of Aztecs hit)

    The pinacle of growing up was to shave. My advice now is delay it as long as you can, it is not the least bit glamorous. Once it starts nothing can stop it, it is a daily grind to remove it and you rapidly look like a derro if you do not.

    I know, however, all people capable of growing hairy bits will experiment with those hairy bits, it is a necessary part of that constant struggle to determine just who you are.

    My wish for you is that you do not get caught on film too often in what retrospectively you will term embarrasing bad facial hair situations - that goatee or muff-tickler seemed like a good idea at the time (think Shannon Noll and that should cure you of that urge). But if you do, have the good sense to laugh at the attempt - if you cannae laugh at yourself then you are not really trying or haven't looked at yourself recently in the mirror.

What do you think?

Mail me with your ideas/feedback - I'll post it for others to see if you like.

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