By Kelly Hagan
What follows is the epic tale of 30-some days of facial hair.
It was a few days before author Chuck Klosterman came to town to do a reading at Bismarck State College that it occurred to me: Hey, I hate shaving. Klosterman has a beard. I’m just going to stop shaving and tell people I’m Chuck Klosterman.
Surprisingly, Hardee’s does not give discounts to guys who kind of look like famous authors. Sorry, any guys who look like Stephen King.
Still, I had a beard for a month, and that was awesome because beards are awesome. That’s just a fact. Name one person with a beard who isn’t freaking awesome.
Abraham Lincoln? Greatest president of all-time. Jesus? King of kings. Lemmy Kilmeister? Ace of Spades! Cookie Monster? I saw a movie once where he ate half a Volkswagon, and that is supremely fantastic.
And, yes, he has a beard. It doesn’t matter that he has hair everywhere else on him; he has hair within the established beard barriers, and that’s all that matters. Don’t argue with me. That wouldn’t be very beardy.
I knew this beard would not be long for the world, for my sweet wife, Annette, does not like facial hair. Probably has something to do with her distaste for Chester A. Arthur’s administration. So, inevitably, whenever I’ve pondered growing out the beard, the need to impress my wife overtakes my wish to be awesome, and I give up and shave.
However, a miracle occurred during this growth, after Klosterman had left town and I no longer had the “but it’s a tribute to my favorite writer, baby” excuse to fall back on. Just on the verge of removing the hair from my face, my own sweet child, Sayssomewords. Thatarenotwords (not her real name), reached up to my face, slid her tiny hand across my face, smiled and exclaimed, “Soft!”
And so, because anything our child likes must be preserved, my beard had a license to survive.
It grew and grew and grew. I shaved along the edges, because nothing is quite so unprofessional as neck hair. But the beard grew out full, making me look like some kind of professor, or maybe an ocean explorer. I was Magellan. I was Balboa, I was Cortez. I was Sir Francis Drake, y’all.
And then something unexpected happened. My beard got annoying.
No, it wasn’t itchy. I know that’s what you’re thinking right now, because everybody always thinks a beard has to be itchy, but it really isn’t, so long as you’re applying regular coats of car wax, like the instruction manual tells you to.
It was just always there, and for some reason, that troubled me. I could feel it on my face, just sitting there, waiting. I could almost hear it whispering softly each night in the silent, hazy period before I fell to sleep. “Soon … soon,” it would say. I don’t know what it was planning, but probably nothing good.
The beard was removed. It did not go down without a fight, though. My whiskers are strong, like steel wool, and my electric razor barely survived. But, for the good of all mankind, I fought, slashed and hacked my way to a baby-bottom smooth finish.
“What happened to the beard?” a co-worker asked me yesterday. “It committed hairy-kari! Wocka wocka!” I said. And during the moment of stunned silence that follows all my attempts at humor, I could almost hear the spirit of my vanquished beard howling in the distance.
It always loved my jokes.
(Columnist Kelly Hagen spent a day with a mustache, just to see what it felt like. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org for grooming tips.)