Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Beards, Growing Older, Daughters and the Spirit of the Age

My beard is about to have a birthday. Sometime in the next couple of weeks, it will have been twenty years since a razor last scraped my face. This isn’t the first beard I’ve grown. I’d had a few others, grown like this one during backpacking trips. Most of these beards I shaved immediately after getting home. In 1987, when I hiked the Appalachian Trail, I kept the beard for a few weeks, but then succumbed to the razor. The next summer, when I was in Idaho, I decided to grow my “last beard.” I have no plans to shave it off and if it turns all gray, so be it. Maybe I’ll look distinguished. Some of my family and a handful of long-term friends are the only ones to have seen me without facial hair. My mother stopped telling me ten years ago that I’d look younger without it (she may have been right as the last time I was carded was right before I started growing my beard).
The powerpoint “post card” shows a photo of me a few months before I grew the beard, and a few photos of me in the months afterwards… It’s just a rumor that I got rid of all my suits when I grew a beard.

My beard is here to stay; yet, this morning, I about did the unthinkable. I came too close to shaving it all off. You see, about once every two weeks I trim my beard (I decided a long time ago that trimming every two weeks is a lot better than shaving every morning!). This morning, right before the shower, I decided it was time. I set the adjuster on the beard trimmer to where I thought was number 4, and ran the trimmer through the beard. It was wrong, it was set on number 1, the closest you can get without being shaved. I feel naked with my short stubby beard. It’s also further proof that I’m getting older, something I don’t like to admit. You see, I didn’t use to have this problem of being unable to read without glasses, but now it’s gotten to a critical point. Up close, without glasses, I no longer know my numbers! They just blur together.

My daughter, who has never seen me without a beard, is my secret to youth. Just this past weekend, I was playing with her and a few other kids in a pool when one of the kids asked her something about me. She responded, “He’s 51, but he acts like he’s 15.” It was the best compliment I’d received in a while.

Of course, my daughter has also been the source of me receiving scorn. When she was about two and we still in Utah, the two of us were shopping one day. This Grandmotherly lady was in the line behind us. She was probably my age, but in Utah, if you don’t have grandkids by the time you’re in your early 40s and great-grandkids when you’re in your early 60s, you’re not with the program and risk missing out on an eternity of eating Lucky Stars in the Celestial Kingdom.
“Did you put your shoes on by yourself?” This grandmotherly lady asked my daughter.

“No, my Daddy did,” my child proudly proclaimed.

“Well, he put them on the wrong feet,” the intruder said as she cut me a dirty look.
I’m sure as my daughter gets older, she’ll find more things she can blame on me. All children are wonderful, I just happen to think mine are more wonderful than most, despite the blame I receive. She knew her ABCs before she turned two. When we use to hike, with her riding on my back, we’d make a game out of trying to see how many words she could come up with for each letter. As you know (thanks to the tenacity of the Brits, the brutal winters of Russia and the efforts of Eisenhower’s army), there are not many English words that begin with the letter “Z.” In trying to expand her vocabulary beyond “Zoo” and “Zebra,” I introduced her to the word “Zeitgeist” (which we borrowed from the Germans, as opposed to having it forced upon us). For months, zeitgeist was her favorite word, causing another intruder in a grocery store to ask if we were German. I shook my head and goose-stepped away. Best to keep 'em guessing.

Is there a point to this post? Not really, except that I’m feeling sorry for myself for having nearly shaved off my beard, for being old enough to have had a beard for two decades and for being unable to slow down the growth of a young girl who is growing up way to fast for my likings. And, to take the focus off my aging, I thought I might as well offend any Mormon or German readers I once had.

By clicking here, you can read about the hike in Idaho where I grew this beard out.


  1. I prefer you without it, Sage, but then, I've always preferred skin to beards......LOL

  2. Children have a way of putting it out there don't they :)

  3. I think your daughter's memory, over time, of your playing word games with her will far outweigh in importance her memory of that lady's comment about her shoes. In fact, I'm certain of it.

  4. Hold on a second, do you ever get ingrown hair if you don't shave for a while?! :)

    You looked really good in Spring 1988, when you didn't have any beard. Did I make you feel better or no? Ha!

  5. Kenju, my mom would love you.

    Kontan, if you can find the secret of keeping them children, let me know, okay?

    Holly, she would have forgotten about the woman and the shoes if I hadn't reminder her of it--as it is, she laughs about it

    Mother Hen, another one after my mother's heart... I've occassionally had an ingrown hair, but not often. And in that picture, 20 years ago, I had more hair on top of my head and was dressed better than the photos I normally show of myself in this blog

  6. I think this is the first ode to a beard I've ever read. Thanks for including the postcard! Also, doesn't it make you wonder how your daughter knows what a 15 year old male acts like? ;-)

  7. TOUCHE, Sage! (re: your comment to me) LOL

    I don't think any of the men in our families had beards.....LOL and say hello to your mom!

  8. I've never seen my dad without a beard either. I'm guessing his beard is slightly older than yours. Probably a couple decades older.

    I've grown a couple over the years but I think Iowa is too far south during the summer to keep one on year round.

  9. My Dad drove semi and always had a beard. Then one summer when I was little, probably 3 or 4, he shaved it off before he came home. I was scared to death of him.

    To this day, I think he looks weird without one. Which is why it's a good thing he only shaves his off once every few years ;)

  10. Happy Birthday to the beard. My 'stache is almost thirty.

    Until I graduated from law school, I would grow a beard starting on the day after the World Series ended and shave it on Opening Day in April.


  11. Murf, now I am going to worry about my daughter all afternoon

    Kenju, but if you go back far enough in the pics, you'll find beards! I know I'm touche about the subject

    Ed, a beard keeps your face from getting sunburned (except for the nose)

    TC, in my family, only my uncle and I have a beard--but he shaves his on occassion and I don't. I've heard of kids have problems with dads when they shave

    Sherman, your face was like a baseball calendar, eh? interesting tradition.

  12. Yes, as we get older, it becomes more and more important to bring our reading glasses with us into the bathroom!

    Glad you escaped this close call!

  13. This is one of my favorite posts! I love the pics and the story behind them, but most of all I love your daughter's comment about her 51 (15?) year old daddy. ;)

  14. Sometimes the best posts ramble and this was one of them. Really like it when you're this loose

    Think your daughter's comment was something a lot of kids say. You're going to spend the next decade or say mortifying her while secretly being her hero

    Loved your comment. I didn't put it in as I was writing while listening to thunder and more engrossed in that but when I was a bit older I realized our house was just another suburban development split level

  15. Thanks for the visit, Sage. My high school is now a junior high, and I don't know what their mascot is.

  16. Sounds like you had a relatively "late" baby, too. Closing in on 50 here with a 14 year old. I think having him at 35 has kept me young and on my toes. I remember the word games with him when he was little, also. It's nice to see the results, as they grow older, of the early years spent reading and exposing him to different cultures and giving him all the love I had.I am still surprised, however, when I run into high school classmates of mine in town and they are showing me pics of their grandkids...teenagers. A funny feeling for sure. I wouldn't change the way I did it for the world,though!

  17. Diane--you know, I have reading glasses stashed around the house and in my office and in my truck! sometimes, I just need to use them!

    Scarlet, thanks!

    Pia, I'll have to try to "loosen up" then!

    Kenju, they give the Jr. Highs the old school and build the high school a new one? My comment had to do with a lot of the schools down south having to drop their Civil War mascots for less offensive ones

    Susie, yeah, adopted an 11 year old at 40 and then along came a baby when I was 41!

  18. I wrote an erotic prose poem on beards sometime back. I don't know if you read it or not. I suppose you will love it!


    PS: It sure feels good to visit you again!