Much is made of beards and beardliness these days; between the Duck Dynasty television program and some frou-frou movie stars trying to improve or at least pretend to have a manly appearance, beards have again become the rage. I see men I have known for years attempting to grow beards. Some succeed admirably, while others make me reach for a sympathy card.
My own beard and hair remain relatively untrimmed most of the time. I get a haircut every five years or so whether I need one or not. Thankfully, I have a wife who is highly skilled at braiding, and who actually enjoys messing with my mane.
Yes, being befurred requires some extra maintenance, but as far as I am concerned, the benefits outweigh the disadvantages. One of those disadvantages, at least in the eyes of the world, is that as I lost the wrestling match with middle age, I have somehow avoided the almost overnight changeover to genteel white, a trait shared by my parents.
I have always spent as much time outside as possible; even as a small child, I wanted dirt under my feet and under my fingernails. If you stay outside enough, your skin will tan, and your hair will lighten. I was never blessed with the sun-kissed highlight look that was so popular with men and women when I was in my 20s. Instead of looking like a hunky beach heartthrob, I always looked like something that had washed up on the shore, then hidden behind the dunes for 20 years, and suddenly crawled out, hungry.
A good friend described my hair color as calico—both the head and chin tend to streak and spot and argue and conflict with blonde, brown, black, red, and gray. I have a well-defined skunk stripe, as it’s called, smack in the middle. While the calico ain’t as pronounced on my head as my chin, it’s still there, although the individual colors are rapidly succumbing to the diplomatic appeals of the gray to join the crowd.
I found it more than a little amusing the other day when – by coincidence or some vast feminine conspiracy—both my mother-in-law and the daughter of a friend said much the same thing.
Aunt Fay put it best, I think. She and Rhonda were talking about this and that, and my beloved MIL suggested that I needed a haircut, a trim and to get a bottle of “that Just For Men stuff.
“Jeff would looks much younger if he dyed his hair,” Aunt Fay said. My buddy’s daughter said much the same thing, that if I cut the hair, trimmed the beard, and dyed the remainder, “You’d look a lot younger.”
I counter, my friends, with the answer that I am not that worried about looking younger. My wife loves me just as I am, and not more than one in five children run screaming down the street when they see me.
Well, maybe only three out of five.
Oh all right—four out of five kids have nightmares about me, but I’m okay with that.
What is amusing in the extreme is that whilst some well-meaning folks are determined I look too old for my age, others seem to think I am still of an age never to have shaved, much less be a grownup.
I am not young, but I am not by any means old, either. I am 48—a fact which my sisters and female cousins, whose ages I will never reveal, refuse to consider as old enough to make one’s way in the world. I find their need to mother, their concern and their love both touching and rather cute, although the tendencies to sometimes treat me as though I were still six is a bit annoying—especially since they don’t pay any of my bills.
There are enough clichés about age that one could find several to back up one’s position on whether or not one should dye before one dies. I won’t make too much fun of some fellow who is either henpecked into coloring his hair, or feels like he is less of a man because he looks more like his grandpa than his son. I strongly suspect the obsession with coloring beards and hair was created by a vengeful woman who was disgusted with the double-standard that expects women to remain an ageless 27, whilst men can be a sloppy 65 at age 40. For the record—beautiful ladies are ageless, as far as I am concerned, and a lack of concern over one’s hair color does not equate with a lack of concern over being well-put together and taking care of one’s self, regardless of your gender.
So for the moment, I reckon I’ll leave my calico beard and fading calico braid to nature, when it comes to coloring. If both wilderness areas clash with my suit and tie, well, so be it.
A few weeks back, I had the privilege of interviewing two great Americans, Matt Littrell and Ray C. Avery. They are riding their horses across the country to raise awareness for the shameful way many of our veterans have been treated.
Ray was reclining against the barn at the Boys and Girls Home when I met them. As I walked up, he paid me one of the finest compliments I have ever received.
“There’s a man who’s comfortable with himself,” he said, shaking my hand. It made me proud.
Gentlemen, if you need hair dye or cosmetic surgery to make you comfortable with yourself—go right ahead.
However, I sincerely doubt you’re going to find what you’re looking for in a bottle from the hair care aisle.