First beard at 51

Call it a symptom of a mid-life crisis, decades-long curiosity, or the desire to blend in with the sailors on my return trip to Tristan da Cunha next month (likely all three), but at 51 years old I have finally attempted to grow a full beard. I have had goatees and moustaches before, yet had never had the patience–and courage–to suffer through the scratchy genesis of beard growth. I have long admired trim beards, and to explain why I feel that way I would always fall back on the We long for what we cannot have excuse. My facial hair is quite fine, and I cannot grow sideburns at all, so I always resigned myself with regret that I could never sport a full set. Yet for the past year or so I thought I should at least try to grow a beard. Every man should try at least once, no?

And so at the end of July I stopped shaving. I wanted to give my facial hair a month’s head start before I left on holiday, when I will be off this continent for two months. When I return home in mid-November then maybe it will have filled out and grown longer.

As I look at myself in the mirror I am met with a face staring back at me that looks exactly the same as before. Why is it that I can’t see my own beard? I see my same clean-shaven face in my reflection. Maybe I have to wait till my beard grows longer and fuller before I detect a change in my own appearance. I waited so long to grow a beard that my facial hair is now grey–with large white patches, goldurnit–so that doesn’t help make it stand out very well. Both areas at the corners of my lower jawline are now solid white, and the cheek area above them is still brown. From a distance you can’t even see the beard on the side of my face as the eye tends to pass over the white area and it interprets the darker cheeks as a shadow. Sigh.

Yes, I know I shouldn’t write about me growing a beard without providing a photo. Since I got this computer (is it?) three years ago, I have ignored its built-in camera and video capabilities. I turned the video feature on once and it scared the living daylights out of me and I have never used it since. Let’s use this post as a teaser and just before I head off to Cape Town I will post a photo. That at least will give the beard three more weeks to grow in.

Mark hates it, and in spite of that reaction I do appreciate his honesty. Without asking her opinion, a close friend of mine just came out and said she liked me better clean-shaven. My Scrabble friend Shan and work friend Ken liked it, however. But one remark I have heard more than once is that the beard and the greyness age me. With it, I now look in my fifties. I do not dye my hair; the hair on the top of my head is my natural colour. One downside I can already see is that with a fuller beard–a grey beard with white patches–is that I will look like those ridiculous men who dye their hair yet leave their facial hair grey or white. It does not suit a man to have a scalp dyed jet black or dark brown while his beard is white. I will become one of those men but with my natural hair colour.

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