Tsar Nicholas Romanov 1898
On this hot a muggy June day what am I going to write about? Beards. Yes, beards. I'll let the subject of my infestation of Japanese Beetles go for another day.
From the first time I saw Jon Nagy with his Van Dyke type beard, I wanted one. For those of you old enough to remember, Jon Nagy was a television personality of the early Fifties who taught "Anyone can draw." At that time in my young life (10 years old) I fancied that I wanted to be an artist. And the man who was going to teach me to be an artist was Jon Nagy. I looked up to that man. I thought he was a cool as could be. Not for me Howdy Doody and Buster Bob and the stupid, silly Soupy Sales; I wanted to be cool like Jon Nagy. Unfortunately it wasn't I was in high school taking numerous art classes that I discovered I had absolutely no artistic talent. But that fact didn't dissuade me from wanting a full beard.
There were two other men whose beards I admired greatly. Coincidentally they were both first cousins. Their mothers were both Danish princesses. Tsar Nicholas Romanov of Russia was the one man who had a fantastic beard. His cousin, King George V of England had an equally outstanding beard. I wanted to look like them. However, at ten years old, I was some years away from having enough testosterone to grow such a manly, impressive beard.
King George V 1895
After I graduated from high school I joined the Army. Of course in the Army of that day (the early Sixties) a beard was strictly verboten. Only hippies and "artistic types" (read homosexuals and perverts) had beards in those days.
After I left the Army I scrambled around for a job. Of course one didn't interview for a job in those days with a beard. Again, the same rules applied. If you had a beard you were either a revolutionary or "artistic" (which was dangerous because "artistic" could cover so many threatening fields.) Clean shaven, I got a job at Girard Bank in Philadelphia in March of 1965.
Some years pass and the urge to have a beard still was in my subconscious. I have an angular face with a prominent nose and a beard would set me off from the rest of the rabble. Plus, I wanted to look as attractive as I could be for my weekend bar hopping excursions looking for strangers in the night.
Thus is came to pass one day I started to grow a beard. About the third day in my beard growth, some of my older, more conservative co-workers started to express alarm. They asked "Why are you growing a beard?" They felt threatened. Was this a revolutionary in their midst? Another co-worker said "You are already very handsome, why would you want to grow a beard?" My answer was always the same, "Because I've always wanted a beard."
In about two weeks time I had a full, dark brown beard and it was as fabulous as I thought it would be. I was a happy guy. Almost immediately I noticed that I would attract attention when I walked into my local watering hole on the weekend. Viola! I now felt complete. This was in the year 1972.
Me November 9, 1976
For most of the past almost 40 years I have had a full beard. Back about 17 years ago my beard started to turn white. My hair stayed dark brown (less of it) but the beard on my chin was full white. At various times I left it white and other times I colored it with Just For Men. I only colored my beard to stop Bill (my life partner) from nagging me about my white beard. He said "You look much younger with a dark beard." Of course he was right. But what a pain it was to color it every five days, not to mention the expense. Another problem was the splatters of the coloring got on my bathroom sink top and was hard to remove. Was this worth it?
Me November 1980 (celebrating Phillies winning World Series)
Back in 1995 I shaved my beard. I didn't like what I saw under the beard. My face had changed. Gravity had worked it's magic. I had this "thing" around my mouth that I didn't have before. I didn't like my look nor did anyone else. I grew my beard back.
From that day until this weekend I had not shaved my beard. This weekend I shaved it on the "advice" of a friend who said I looked "old" with a white beard. Of course he was right but then again, I am old. I am 68 years old. I will be 68 years old this November. I am an old fart. What do you want?
Me and my First Financial Bank employee photo 2001 - I'm coloring my beard now
Well, talk about not liking what I saw when I shaved my beard. This time I discovered I had jowls. Yes , jowls. Definitely not a pretty sight. In fact, my jowls have taken away my boyish look that I had retained for lo these many years. I now have that Old Prospector Look. Maybe I don't look like Gabby Hayes but I definitely cold pass for Slim Pickens brother.
Me this morning sans beard - I don't like it
So here is what I'm going to do. I'm growing the beard back. I will color it sometimes and sometimes I won't. Tsar Nicholas didn't make it to a grand old age (we all know THAT story) but George V did. Looking at Old George in his later years, he doesn't look all that bad. I would rather look like George V in his twilight years than Wilford Brimely.
Wilford Brimley and his look alike cat