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Hair Apparent

by Stephen Lautens

September 17, 1999

I'm doing one of the most difficult things a man can do. I'm growing a beard.

I don't expect the women out there to understand. They figure the hair just sort of grows without much effort. It just shows how little they understand us. For men, growing facial hair is a significant achievement. All other honours pale in comparison.

You could be walking down the street with your Nobel Peace Prize hanging around your neck, and it wouldn't mean as much as a friend saying: "Hey, the beard is filling in nicely."

Sure, facial hair will grow if left unattended, but the true beard experience requires us to look in the mirror every half an hour and rub it thoughtfully.
Some men have it easy. There were guys in my grade seven class who had to shave twice a day. At twelve years old Billy Reardon looked like one of the Smith Brothers.

Not me. The men in my family have never been known for their body hair. I suppose we've found better uses for our hormones.

Being blond on top of everything else adds up to not much on my upper lip. My first razor was mostly ceremonial. I've never had sideburns. I grew a microscopic moustache when I was twenty-one. It never filled in to become the dashing accessory I hoped it would be. It only survives in a few family photographs, and is usually mistaken for an eyelash on the camera lens.

But beards have gone through a bit of a renaissance, especially the kind that is currently sprouting under my nose. I couldn't grow the full ear to ear job if I wanted to. It's pretty slim pickings between ears and chin. Besides, I don't want to look like ZZ Top.

Since that's where 90% of it grows, I'm going for the goatee look ­ a little moustache and chin tuft. And after two weeks, I'm quite encouraged. My co-workers have finally begun to notice it on their own without my having to draw their attention to it by standing in very strong light.

And my wife said it makes me look sinister.

That was the wrong thing to say. Sinister is exactly the look I've been going for. If I can't look like James Bond, I at least want to look like the guy trying to blow up the earth.

All my life I've had a baby face. Bartenders look at me twice before deciding to serve me. The beard may not make me look any older, but it makes me look like I mean business. Or at least it will when the bare patches fill in more.

At the moment, my wife is not strongly voicing her objections, although I can see by the way she looks at me that it is not a hit.

She's a smart woman. She knows I'll get tired of it soon enough, and shave it off on my own. But if she comes right out and tells me how ratty it looks, I'll be forced to keep it for another week as a point of honour, just to prove her wrong.

And I don't want to have to do that, because it itches like heck.

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