Identity and Beardedness

The other night, as I stood clutching a pink Wilkinson’s disposable razor, I was assailed by a strong wave of emotions. I stared into the mirror above my sink and didn’t recognise the man looking back at me. The man in the mirror was clean shaven, complete with marks and cuts given to him by a razor dulled on hard stubble. Who could he be? I glanced at the twin-bladed devil in my own right hand and, in that moment, I realised my terrible mistake. The beard that I had lovingly cultivated and maintained for well over a year was no more than whiskers in my sink.

The beard was dead. Long live the beard.

I know that this sounds a little overly dramatic for something that people around the world do everyday, but there is more to it. I had kind of wrapped my identity up in my beard. I believed, and had been vocal about it, that anyone who could grow a beard should do so. I once shared with a group of men (in varying states and levels of shavedness) the opinion that the beard is the ‘bonsai tree of the face’, requiring dedication and commitment to get right. I still hold this opinion, even in my current clean-shaven state.

I feel that I need to elaborate on why the shave occured in the first place, as I’m making such a big deal out of it. I saw a picture of myself the other day and felt that my beard was making me look old. Not just aged, but haggard too. The beard was full and lucious, but wide and straggly too. I realised that I needed to trim it down. Rein it in. Usually I have my beard done professionally (entirely because I don’t trust myself with clippers) but on this occassion I figured that I could handle it. I was wrong. A little bit more from each side turned into ‘oh well, I guess I’ll have a goatee’. Levelling that out turned into ‘oh no, it all has to go’. Should have stuck with my lack of personal trust. If I had, I would still be whiskered.

When the sink was rinsed and the final hairs were washed down the drain, I realised the seriousness of my error. I had grown so attached to the beard (quite literally, but that should be obvious) that shaving it off left me feeling genuinely emotionally stunned. I just stared into that mirror not knowing what the hell I had done. The beard was me and I was it and, with nothing but a flick of the clippers, that was suddenly over.

But it is not the end. The beard will return. Sure it will take some time, but then all good things do. My beard was a good thing and I have no one to blame for its loss but myself.

It will return. Until then, I just need to get used to my face and learn once again what my (weak) chin looks like.

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