Sunday, November 18, 2018

Trim the Beard?

“Roger’s annual Xmas beard” is actually spin for “Roger is too lazy to shave every day.” 

After law school I had the kind of jobs where everything shuts down for two weeks over the holidays. This is one of the few instances where being a litigation attorney is better than being a transactional attorney:  judges and trial lawyers collectively plan vacations for the end of the year. Meanwhile, transactional attorneys have to scramble to close all their deals by New Year’s Eve. 

Each year I would stop working, and stop shaving, shortly before Christmas. Often my beard barely lasted the two weeks of winter break. A couple of times I made it to March without shaving. Two years ago I met my goal of Groundhog’s Day before the itchiness drove me crazy. After more than two decades, the annual beard has become a combination time-lapse photographic record / sociology experiment. 

My beard wasn’t always so white. I blame the children. As usual.

This was my first beard to stick around past January. Baby Hugo is currently a sophomore in college.

That year the beard atypically survived all the way until October. In hindsight, my insightful physician Dr. Heuristic would probably blame my codependency. When I met my Chicago boyfriend in spring that year, I still had the holiday beard. Once we started dating, I didn’t dare shave it off because he would have seen how hideous I am underneath. 

As soon as he dumped me that fall, however, I shaved my beard off. I also went from 150 to 125 pounds in less than a month. Stress is slimming.

Last year the beard endured all the way from Christmas to my birthday in May. I shaved it off because a summer beard would be too hot. And I didn’t want a tan line.

Even though I usually don't like facial hair on other guys, I've decided it works for me. When you’re basically chinless, a beard is a useful framing device for your round face. (Apparently, like everything else, Shakespeare figured this out much earlier in his writing career.) Once you get past that prickly initial phase, beards are nice and soft. You soon appreciate the freedom from shaving every day. And the best thing about growing my own beard is I don’t have to look at it.

Rather than wait for the holidays, this year I started the beard in September. It’s okay to wear white after Labor Day.

Some might say the early beard is another symptom of depression:  I lost my judicial election, there are no job interviews on the horizon, I’m broke, no one ever calls, life sucks…. Why bother shaving? On the other hand, I’ve already identified some of the benefits of a beard:  it’s soft and warm, it disguises my “chin,” and I save all that time shaving. 

In addition, a beard can be a useful marketing tool. Even though in my mind I look like a bohemian grad student, in reality I’m a middle-aged dad who drives a minivan. It’s time to embrace my true identity. 

In an early blog post, “Massaging Numbers,” I discussed last year’s New York magazine cover story about a recent trove of revealing demographic data. The authors concluded “Pornhub is the Kinsey Report of Our Times.” On the occasion of its tenth anniversary, the porn-aggregating website released fascinating viewer and search statistics. It turns out “Daddy” is one of the most popular porn categories, ranking below “Big Dick” but ahead of “Interracial” and “Twink.” And compared to straight porn, gay porn viewers are almost three times more likely to search for “daddy.” 

As I’ve written before, my most visible PTSD symptom is trichotillomania – compulsive hair pulling. I’m pretty lucky compared to many other sufferers. Even though it’s painful and distracting, the impact of my handiwork is not particularly noticeable to observers. And I can often divert my hands by fiddling with “fuzzy” and “unfuzzy” things. (The unfuzzy thing pictured above is an industrial sample from the innards of a Purple mattress.)

For whatever reason, even though it involves both hands, my trichotillomania currently targets only the right side of my forehead. (My right, not the viewer’s.) Because I’m balding anyway, you probably can’t tell the difference between the scrub fuzz on my left, and the clear-cut on my right.

Recently I’ve endured a particularly virulent bout of picking. Not to enter gross territory, but blood is involved. Worsening symptoms are a predictable consequence of a few additional stressors in my life. Nevertheless, some of the extra hair-pulling actually comes from increased productivity – when you’re sitting at the computer writing you have to keep your hands free. My forehead is throbbing as I type this sentence.

If you look closely at my recent selfie at the Peace Arch, you can see what happens when someone rubs one side of his forehead too energetically. My receding hairline is now frozen in a backwards swoosh, like a pathetic misplaced pompadour. Unless I remember to check the mirror before I go outside, I look like I have a cartoon haircut.

One final benefit of the beard:  it counts as a fuzzy thing. The beard creates a diversion from my forehead, giving my hands an alternative target to unconsciously rat and tease. This is what I look like at the end of the day:

So should I trim the beard, or keep growing it longer? The additional fuzz gives my hands something to fiddle with, and helps preserve my dwindling supply of unfuzzy things. On the other hand, I’m not sure “Crazed Mountain Man” is part of the “Hot Dad” palette.


"Unfuzzy Things" (8/12/18)

"Shaving the Beard" (5/10/18)

"Keep the Beard?" (2/10/18)

"More Fuzzy Things" (7/15/17)

"Fuzzy Things" (6/25/17)

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