I have a beard. I have had a beard since I was about 20. When people think of me (he said in an Eeyoreish sort of way), they think of me with a beard, although a friend once said, ‘That isn’t a beard, that’s facial hair,’ which is a remark I have never thoroughly decoded.

But actually, I am not keen on beards at all. For 35 years, I have been walking about (and indeed assuming any position) with stuff on my face which I sincerely do not like. The only reason I have a beard at all is that I am lazy. And incompetent. And vain. Oh dear, that’s three reasons. Of course, if this was 150 years ago, I would be part of the majority, and perhaps the Victorians were also lazy, incompetent and vain. But I doubt it.

The laziness is the easiest one to explain. Shaving takes time. If I am to believe the various and ever more bewildering adverts for electric shavers, this is an untruth, since modern multi-head electric shavers can do the job in a nick – pun intentional, sorry – of time. They can reach 99.9% of invisible bits of stubble just by being switched on, and pointed in the general direction of the chin. But I never took to electric shavers much. I suspect my father’s influence again. I would go so far as to say that he enjoyed shaving, that it might have represented a sort of highlight of his day: the Imperial Leather shaving soap (can that be right?), the cut-throat, the badger-hair brush (which I threw away when he died, to my clean-shaven brother’s chagrin). He was, to digress, not a particularly hairy man, and my mother, in an unguarded moment (rare) once expressed a loathing for men with body hair in the chest area. Anyway, I suspect I would have, if ever I had been a shaver, held to his shaving practices, which like most of his behaviour, was based on his naval experiences. (He never used shampoo; he always used soap on his hair.)

The incompetence bit is easy. I was utterly, utterly useless with razors, including the oxymoronic ‘safety razors’ (what would an unsafe razor be? How would you market it?) When I began shaving, I cut myself left, right, left again (or is that crossing the road? It isn’t, is it… I am not very good at crossing the road either. If I had been a joke chicken, I would have never have reached the punchline). I cut myself with electric razors, for goodness’ sake. Shaky hands. Poor co-ordination. I was useless at it.

And vain. Well, that’s easy. Underneath my not especially luxuriant beard – I don’t go for a full Karl Marx – there is a chin which would match most of the Windsors, e.g. the Duke of Kent, who should definitely follow his brother’s example and start looking a bit more like Tsar Nicholas. I know this because, on one of the few – single figures – occasions when I have experimented with seeing what my face looks like when it is naked, an occasion which a play demanded, during my obsessive acting phase, almost everyone who saw me (after trying to work out who I was from their programmes) came up afterwards and, kindly, and separately, almost privately, but one after another, and said I looked like a member of the Royal Family. That is, no chin. Seen sideways, I look like a – let me search for the correct simile – like a prat, that’s it.

But as I move into that twilight when laziness is a reward, incompetence to be expected, and vanity a pointless luxury, perhaps I will do what I like. Trim. Slash. De-stubble. I will just –

No. Too drastic. That was a close shave. As it were.


2 Responses to Beards

  1. Bel says:

    Depilation – humph – it’s a tyranny for both genders, I think. Subconscious fear of animal nature is exploited by the advertising industry to persuade us all to ‘buy product’.

    But fashions wax and wane…

  2. Madam Miaow says:

    But, Bill, the great thing about grooming is it gives you time to think and commune with yourself at the start of the day.

    Look at me, I sport a fine close shave. But granted my legs only take 30 seconds each in the shower every day.

    No, a closer equivalent is applying make-up in the morning in the hope it makes you more attractive. To whom, I couldn’t possibly say as Johnny Depp and James Marsters (Spike in Buffy) have never been seen in the hood although I live in forlorn hope.

    As long as it doesn’t look as you’ve trowelled it on by candlelight, you can face the world looking perky and welcoming, and never let on you are in fact an anaemic, jaundiced, miserable and forbidding misanthropist.

    Getting made up is what I do in place of meditation and it never did me any harm.

    Oh, yes, and beard-free snogging is so much sweeter for the smoother of the sexes. And females.

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