This morning I got up and shaved off my beard. Now some of you may be saying, “Hey! Wait a minute! You’re beardless in that picture to the right.” That makes me guilty of what almost everyone does on the net: Posting an old picture of themselves. That picture is a good 3 ½ years old. I chose it not because it best represented how I look today but because of the expression I had on my face. I had the wild, bug-eyed look of a man who has just realized that his fingers were becoming a permanent part of his keyboard. It seemed to suit the blog. But back to the real story -- the reason behind my clean shaven face.
To understand why I shaved off my beard, you need to understand why I had it in the first place. Actually, the first time I grew a beard was out of shear laziness. I hated shaving and a beard seemed like a natural solution. I was in my early 20’s and I liked that it made me look older. Even though I hated shaving, I discovered I still needed to trim and sculpt. And so began my facial hair journey starting with an all over, Grizzly Adams beard to goatees to moustaches to the perpetual “2-day” closely cropped and trimmed growth.
I had facial hair through most of my 20’s and 30’s. I would occasionally shave it all off but that never lasted more than a few weeks. Then something happened that changed my opinion of facial hair forever. I was turning gray! Men are much luckier then women when it comes to going grey. A man grows some gray hairs and he’s considered well-aged and distinguished. A woman goes gray and she’s considered old and past her prime. It’s unfair and yet I too was worried about just how old I looked. The clincher was five years ago when I found myself unexpectedly single. I decided to shave off my graying goatee and everyone said that I looked so much younger. I was hooked!
Speed up to just 8 months ago and my decision to grow a new beard. I was nearing 48 and I wasn’t dealing with just gray facial hair--gray hairs were popping up everywhere. I was still single and, quite frankly, tired of playing the “guess how old do you really think I am” game. So I decided that there was no harm in looking my age and grew a new beard in all its graying glory. And everyone told me how distinguished I looked--like a college professor. Hey, I could live with that.
So then why did I shave it off? Perhaps I wanted to give myself a new look along with my new “smoke-free” persona. Perhaps I was tired of looking distinguished. Perhaps I wanted a change. Perhaps. But I know the real reason. While training a new employee at work, we were watching a video about the company. There in the video was the beardless me from just a few years ago. I pointed it out to her and she said, “That’s you? You look so, [pregnant pause] so different with a beard.” Different!? What happened to distinguished college professor?
There you have it. The subconscious decision had already been made. First thing in the morning, my beard was getting the axe, or the razor, if you prefer. Cleanly shaven, I sauntered into work this morning, slyly grinning in anticipation of my co-workers reaction. And guess who noticed right away? The new gal. Everyone else took a little longer. It was like their brain’s computer kept loading the old “Preston cookie” with the bearded image a few times before refreshing. Eventually, everyone figured it out. And what about the distinguished college professor look? A co-worker friend of mine summed it up best when he said, “Oh, Preston, you look so much younger without a beard.” Hey, I can live with that.