At the age of fifteen, I looked like this. The moustache was the talk of the school, as I recall, because suddenly the last person anyone expected to sprout facial hair walked into the classroom looking like Ned Flanders’ lost son (note – this was the mid 1990s, when the Simpsons was about to hit its peak, which both interests and saddens me somewhat.) As there wasn’t much of a craze at the time in one small corner of Preston in 1995 for anything beyond sports jumpers and oversized trainers it didn’t occur to any of the number of us suddenly sprouting like Fantasia characters to tend and care for our new outwardly indication of impending adulthood.
My homelife being as it was there was no American teen-movie moment when my fresh-faced life coach father guided me through lessons on how to shave. It wasn’t actually mentioned at all (not that I want to dust off my Jung textbooks but there’s a lot from my father which wasn’t mentioned at all, though this cul-de-sac might be wandered down another time.) One day, without warning or explanation, I became the proud recipient of one sealed packet of cheap, easily broken supermarket own-brand razors, and that was the end of the matter. Nothing said, nothing explained. And thus, from that day, I ventured into the certain, heady world of….
….not being able to shave. At all. And as I enter 2013, that’s as true today as it ever was.
Partly through sheer apathy and laziness, partly because regrowth speed of the wire-wool mass on my face is frightingly rapid, I’ve found shaving to be an utter chore unworthy of attention. Oh I’ve tried – and at times been ordered to try by office line managers – but after a week of dedication, all it takes is one day ignoring the matter and it’s back to being an unwieldy Highland explorer face-covering. I’ve carried out ‘experiments’ to time exactly how long it is from clean-shaven to face fuzz, and even passing thirty years old has not slowed down the results to around two days. TWO days, that’s it, from having nothing showing to speckles of hair growing underneath my eye-line.
Teenage years being as they are, I tried emulating the look of whoever or whatever seemed to be the way of things style wise, and as I’ve mentioned before on this blog, at least one element of that is another hate-filled rigmarole. Inevitably enough the results of tendering the beard were unmitigated disasters. The ‘chinstrap’ beloved of so many turned out as deformed question marks, and something approaching a nu-metal goatee looked less Frank Zappa, more Frank Spencer.
Right now I’m hosting something of a World of Warcraft neckbeard, completed with an unruly mega-goatee connected to sideburns via thick slabs of spiky fur. In short – it’s a mess, and it’s not a nice looking, could be resolved with a trim kind of mess either. Because I refuse to have a “proper” shave, with half the morning taken up with softly scraping a flick-knife against my throat as though that’s somehow normal behaviour, I utilise the best gunk and pencil-sharpeners available through supermarkets, which might explain why I often remove every last hair rather than sculpture something more refined. It’s partly an overhang from my dad’s utter refusal to accept that men might want to look their best once a while, and as I’ve explained before here and elsewhere it takes just two consecutive thoughts about ”fashion” for me to become incredibly self-aware of how much cuckoo-bananas it all is.
My then work colleagues assumed a few years ago that Movember would be right up my street, as it’s clear that clean-shaven me becomes the complete opposite within 24 hours so by the end of the whole thing I’d resemble a 1970s catalogue model. The result was….well see for yourself.
Of course the consequence of all this is the suffering I’ll have to endure under the blessed double-headed curse of a beard which doesn’t slow down, and my innate inability to perform upon myself any activity which results in an approvement to my appearance. I’ll forever be stuck with feast or famine, bare face or hedge-row, stuck with an inner frustration battling with natural apathy. In the grandest of all schemes, I suppose beards are now ‘in’, so the stopped-clock of my life has at least some synchronicity success for once. Not that anybody chooses to walk around with “unkempt”, do they? It’s only acceptable to grow facial hair if you can ensure there’s not one sprig out of place, not one millimetre free from attention from three types of pruning scissors and a ruler. Rather than feel ‘as one’ with fellow beard growers, I’m left once again feeling like the spare Crufts fan at a PETA meeting through not resembling Dallas Green.
As with clothes, then, with beard, and that means, “I genuinely don’t care”. It’s too late to learn old tricks and even if that were possible, it would require spending more money than is humanly acceptable on numerous formulated chemicals specifically designed by men who resemble Dadaist refrigerators for the benefit of men who look like alcoholic monkey-puzzle trees. Quite who benefits who is anyone’s guess, and I don’t fancy looking for an answer.