Note: This blog entry is dedicated to Jarret Lobb, my uncle. After two serious operations, he's recovering with a new artificial heart in Rochester, New York. God-willing, Jarret (he's never let me call him "uncle") will continue to progress and be healthy enough to accept a second donor heart. He will always be my favorite uncle. And, even though he's my only uncle, I suspect he'd be right at the top of the list, even if I had fifty of them. Keep fighting Jarret!
The other day my wife noticed that both Matt Lauer and Al Roker of NBC's Today Show were growing beards. "What's with the beards? Everyone is growing one these days."
I pointed out that neither Savannah Guthrie or Natalie Morales had beards to prove that not "everyone" was doing it, but I understood where she was coming from.
I'm not certain if it's Duck Dynasty or the Boston Red Sox who spurred this full beard trend, but it's starting to bother me too. Don't get me wrong, I like beards. In fact, I love beards. The problem is, I've never been able to grow one. It's the single most frustrating thing about me that I've had to deal with since I started shaving thirty or so years ago.
I've tried growing a beard even before it was the popular thing to do. Usually, I'd start it on vacation or prior to beginning a new job. Unfortunately, beard growing is not one of those things you get better at with experience or the more times you try it. I always start out strong, with a full face of stubble in a just a few days. Week two looks a lot like week one, with the added element of itching. Then I hit the Facial Hair Wall. Nothing works, no matter how much I try to coax more length out of my follicles. Week three is when I usually throw in the towel and think about what could have been - that maybe next time I'd do it right.
Not being able to grow a full beard is a huge hit to the male ego. When I do give up and shave it bare, I feel like I'm removing a layer of testosterone. I may as well just give back my man card and sign up for electrolysis.
As I'm shaving, I'm reminded of how well I grow hair in other areas of body. My back, nose, ear, eyebrows and arms are all flourishing with thick swaths of hair - those areas are like follicle savants. Similar to weeds that won't go away even if pull them out by the roots, hair in those unwanted places keeps coming back for more. When the most important feature of my Mangroomer is the warranty, I think you can start to understand what I'm dealing with here.
Last night I spoke with a friend after my son's seventh-grade basketball scrimmage. Of course, he was growing a beard too. Go ahead and kick me when I'm down.
"So, what's with the beard?" I asked.
He chuckled. "I don't know. I stopped shaving for a week and it started to fill in."
"It just started to fill in, huh?"
"How long have you been growing it." I would have guessed a month or two.
"Two and a half weeks."
"You heard me. I know you're Italian and that gives you an unfair advantage over normal people, but that's only two and a half weeks?"
"Yeah, I kind of like it."
"Do you have any compassion? You come out here strutting around, showing off your precious two-and-a-half-week-old friggin' mountain man beard and you can just be so casual about it? Do you know what people like me would do for a beard like that? Do you? I'd kill for a beard like that."
He quickly responded. "Now, hold on just a minute. I didn't think I was strutting."
"Well, one thing's for sure, you didn't think." My friend is much bigger than me. I should have probably stopped there and just walked away. But I kept hammering the poor bastard. "You're like a damned bearded peacock saying 'Oh, look at me and my amazing new beard!' Well, I think you've crossed the line my friend."
"Well, I'm not going to shave it just because you can't grow one."
There it was. A low blow and I let him know it. "Okay. I see how it is now. You think I can't do this?"
"That is kind of what you told me. You said you'd kill for a beard like mine." I hate when people use my own words against me.
"Yes...yes, I did. But, I didn't say I couldn't grow one myself. In fact, I'm starting on my beard today."
"Okay then, good luck with that. Sheesh." He walked away.
I have no idea what I'm going to do. I may have just bitten off more than I can chew. Pride says just stop shaving for a year and see what happens. Maybe week four is the magical week my face has been waiting for. What if it's longer? Can I hold out that long? One thing I can count on is that my beard will be better than anything the women of the Today Show will be able to grow.
When I got home it occurred to me that I may have been a little hard on my friend. It also occurred to me that despite the harsh words and beard-growing threats, once week three rolls around I'll be shaving off another layer of my manhood.