I’m growing a beard. I’d like to say I’m growing it in an attempt to emulate the great writers such as Tolstoy, Melville and Hemmingway in his later years. Who knows? Maybe their writing abilities and their talent to craft stories and weave words came from their facial hair the way Sampson’s strength came from the hair on top of his head? I’d like to say that. The real reason is because for twenty-six years while I was in law enforcement, I wasn’t allowed to grow a beard. Our department policy said we could have a mustache, but not a beard.
I didn’t really want a beard. I never grew the moustache, which I could have grown. Long ago when I got out of high school I grew a beard. After three months of growing it, when nobody noticed, I shaved it. (Everyone kept asking, “Did you forget to shave today?”) I’ve never had a thick beard. I have a friend who can shave in the morning and by noon he looks like a member of ZZ Top. With me if I shave in the morning by evening I might have a little stubble that you could feel if you dragged a nylon stocking across my face. Now that I’m retired, I figured I’d grow one. It all comes down to growing a beard because now I can.
It has been two weeks since I started growing it. I’ve noticed it makes me look different. I’ve noticed it makes me look less conservative. I’ve noticed it itches like crazy. Sometimes it drives me nuts and I want to grab a salad fork and work my face over like a rhesus monkey digging for lice. All this time when I’ve seen people with beards stroking their chins thoughtfully, they were actually doing everything they could to keep from going at it like a Labrador retriever with fleas.
I had hoped it would improve my writing, but it has actually slowed me down. It is hard to type one-handed while the other hand scratches my face. Friends with beards tell me after a while I will get used to the beard and it won’t bother me so much. I’ll give it another two weeks and then decide. Now excuse me, I have to go find a salad fork.