Thursday, April 15, 2010

The Graying Rebellion

My good friend Charlie, a.k.a. Professor B Worm wrote a post this week about hair and haircuts. His post reminded me of an article I had written a few years back for the local newspaper. I thought it still appropriate for a reprint.

The Graying Rebellion

Three years ago, I put on my retirement face. I have made very few adjustments to the look, and I think it gives me a dignified confidence to go with my ever present smile. The difference in that other face I once wore as a well dressed executive, and the one I now willing submit for public view, is that I have chosen to leave this one partially covered with gray whiskers. Every day for twenty eight years I scrapped my face dutifully, molding my look into the cloned expectations of a business world that wanted no part of individuality or facial hair. I read somewhere that an average man can spend six months of his life shaving. If that’s true, and my calculations are correct, I have already used about three months of this allotment.

I was in the Register of Deeds Office in Overton County last week. Exhibited along the back wall of the outer office, are historic portrait photos dating back to the 1800’s that depict past custodians of this noble and public office. It is those pictures, from before the turn of the last century, that I admire most. Each of these men is magnificently groomed, and display well defined combinations of artfully styled mustaches, beards, and sideburns. They have presence, importance and each individual has a very distinctive visual personality. Looking at the remainder of the photographs, reminds me of looking at an old photograph of President Harry S. Truman. When I’m looking at photos of business men taken since World War I, all the men look alike. Sort of makes you rethink the idea that that cloning is a new science.

A couple we know were found bristling over this hairy topic just this last week. An important event was before them and there was much discussion over shaving the hair on his silvery “chiny-chin-chin”. So I asked my wife, why it is that so many women liken male facial hair to a fungus that needs to be eradicated? Not all women mind you, feel that way, as there seems to be more than a few women that go completely ga ga over singers, actors, and outlaws with the late day shadow, or the I’m not shaving this week look.

My wife says that some women prefer their men to have that clean cut, well defined, strong chiseled jaw look you find in ads for men’s clothing, on the covers of romance novels, or on the men in day time soap operas. It’s the boyish good looks sort of thing; six pack abs, chiseled jaw line, and where hair is only important when it’s on top of one’s head. Most surveys conducted about women’s attitudes toward beards, find that only 2 or 3 percent of them would describe a beard or facial hair on men as sexy.

My life has traveled in cycles and so has my appearance. The rebellious long curly brown hair and wild red mustache-goatee look of my youth, has rebelliously reemerged 35 years later as short gray hair and a neatly trimmed gray mustache-goatee. I do admit to getting lazy about shaving any whiskers that I am not actively trying to cultivate, and only see to the task about twice a week on average. Since I never had that strong well chiseled jaw look, I thought a distinguished older look might do. My wife Teri warned me more than once that there is big difference between a distinguished older look that carries a charge, and the stubbly old man look that my grandkids won’t come near.

I was smiling the day I saw our friends at their big event. Inside my head I was cheering the fact he had held fast to his own personal expression of male dignity. I am grateful that my wife has seen fit to let me reestablish the rebellious look of my youth, and in some way separate myself from that corporate image I forced myself to maintain. My beard is like a security blanket somehow, and it makes me feel comfortable as I find myself stroking through it as if in search of any wisdom that may be unlocked in the soft gray hairs. Although beards have not been a traditional look worn by men of my family, I do find every now and then that when I look into the mirror my dad’s eyes are looking back at me, and hidden right in the middle of that gray mustache-goatee, he is smiling too.

1 comment:

Charlie said...

I have a moustache and a goatee that is all gray and complements my salt and pepper hair. In three words, I'm a handsome devil. Oh, some more words of praise for me: I also look distingushed.

Some (maybe a lot) of women won't kiss a man with hair around his lips, but since I'm not in the market for women or kisses, the hell with 'em.

Thanks for the shout, Buzz.