Friday, August 22, 2014


I shaved my beard and mustache a couple of days ago.   It was, as Mick Jagger sings, time for a change (is it as déclassé to quote the Stones as it is to quote Shakespeare or Molière? I don’t know.) I shaved with a certain degree of trepidation; what I feared was being subjected to a hundred questions from friends and acquaintances. “Why?” they would ask, before telling me going whiskerless helped me shed years, why, “You look like a young man again!” they would swear. I’ve been bearded for the last six-or-so years, maybe more, and it’s been my experience that people comment when one makes major changes in one’s appearances.
What happened was that nobody noticed my new and improved look, except one guy in my writing group who looked at me quizzically and asked, “Did you shave?,” and the man who’s at the desk at my gym every morning, who exclaimed, “Hey! Look at you! Clean shaven!”
The young woman next to whom, for three months, I have been diligently expanding calories on the elliptical machine didn’t notice. Neither did the Panera guy from whom I order forbidden bread products five times a week, nor my neighbor of 20 years. The glances of a few writing friends I’ve known quite a while merely swept over me with no appreciable hint of interest.
I am left with two inescapable possibilities and one observation.
One, my friends are by-and-large a bunch of unobservant nincompoops.
Two, I am nowhere near as important as I should be, or think I am.
Three, I am reaching the age where no one pays attention to how I look.
I’ve known for years that women always note new shoes, new lipstick shades, and weight loss measured in fractions of ounces. My musician friends might say, “Hey, you switched to Martin Ultra Light strings!  Good move!” Other writers will note style changes, new formats (“Whoa! You’re doing 12 point Times New Roman! Radical!”) 
Others’ lack of appreciation for my physical appearance is sort of disappointing. When I first started growing my beard, a friend’s wife snorted, “We’ll, it certainly makes you look ancient.” I put that down to jealousy. Her husband has tried for years to grow a beard and the most he has achieved is a sort of homeless look, the kind of appearance where people want to give him their spare change. My beard, though greying, was thick and proud, an intellectual’s beard. Think Freud, Ulysses S. Grant or Hemingway, or maybe even Jesus. I didn’t apply to the National Beard Registry, but I could have.
Oh well. It’s gone and I assume I look generally the same. Maybe if I shave my head…

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