M. Giant's
Throwing stuff at the internet to see what sticks

Sunday, July 19, 2009  

Beaten by a Whisker

You wouldn't know it to look at me, but I have something in common with Johnny Depp. Something related to our appearance. Years ago, I remember reading his lament that he's cursed with a thin beard. It has stuck with me ever since, becuase it makes me feel better about mine.

It first became an issue for me when I was a sophomore in high school, and I had a small role in Fiddler on the Roof. Making high school students perform a play in which every male character is either a hirsute Russian Jew or an even more hirsute Cossack (I was lucky enough to have a dual role as both) is, I have since realized, a cruel ritual designed to make those teenagers who can't cultivate a decent crop of whiskers in two months feel inferior.

Then the next year was Carousel, whose portrayal of a "sympathetic" wife beater wasn't as offensive to me at the time as the expectation that we all grow big, bushy, turn-of-the-century mutton chops. The lead came through on that score, but he was about the only one. By the time I was in The King And I, I was relieved to not have to sport a more embarrassing look than pajamas and whiteface.

But maybe I was just a late bloomer. Eventually I grew up and got a series of office jobs, environments in which my inability to grow facial hair wasn't held against me. When Trash and I took week-long vacations, I would quit shaving, just to see what would happen. Still, nothing ever did. In 1999, during an extra-long road trip, I started cultivating my first and last goatee. I had two weeks away from the office. It took about six, and even then it was never really satisfactory.

Then I dropped the idea for years, keeping my face baby-smooth by shaving every other workday whether I needed it or not. And then, about a year ago, I started telecommuting.

Working at home is an environment that doesn't place much premium on grooming, showering, or even pants. After those fell by the wayside, where do you think shaving ranked in priority? That dropped all the way to the bottom, even below brushing my teeth and wiping my ass, and right above clothes with buttons.

I began to toy with the idea of sprouting a full beard, something I had never tried before. But the reality was that it hadn't gotten much thicker, except for a few new hairs below the corners of my mouth. But since I didn't need to be presentable anywhere for weeks at a time, I thought maybe I could make up for lack of volume with length. Sort of like a facial combover.

That was harder than it sounded. I think the longest I ever went without shaving was three weeks in a row, and then I'd have to go to a family function or a funeral or on TV or something, and I couldn't show up looking like a recently harvested cornfield.

But this last month, I decided, screw it. Maybe if I can just reach that one-month threshold, I'll be home free and I won't look like a guy who hasn't shaved for a week and I'll look like a guy with a beard.

As of yesterday, it had been five and a half weeks. 39 days. The longest I've gone without shaving since my teens. Behold the glossy, luxuriant chin-pelt that resulted below:

Anybody have any Face-Rogaine?

This was about the time I realized that any additional length would provide not coverage, but spiky little protuberances like the antennae on satellites. Plus, to my chagrin, the white seemed be coming in faster than the brown, which did not make for a flattering (let alone deceptive) contrast with my skin tone. One bribe offer from Trash later, I admitted defeat, and moments after this was taken, I was out in the garden with a compact and a pair of nail scissors, sprinkling a powdering of new organic matter onto the flowers and down the front of my shirt. Because no matter how sparse my beard looks on my face, once it's on the sink it looks like a pair of clippers went after Russell Brand.

I don't think I'll conduct this experiment again, at least not until the end of my forties. Telecommuting or not, I've decided to maintain my clean-cut appearance. Just because I'm working at home is no reason to look homeless. Two weeks between shaves from now on, max.

posted by M. Giant 7:23 PM 7 comments


I've known my husband for 17 years now. Never in the entire time I've known him has he ever, ever grown any facial hair. At various points over the years, I've begged, pleaded and cajoled him to try to get him to at least grow a Magnum PI mustache, if not a proper goatee. I figured he could do it, as I have witnessed firsthand the Sonny Crockett-esque stubble he will develop within a day of not shaving.

He has always steadfastly refused. Even after he had surgery on his Achilles' tendon and was at home, laid up on the couch, telecommuting for three full months with no one seeing him regularly besides me, his ortho doc and the physical therapist, he refused. (Though he did have me shave his head down to "grade school boy in the early summer" buzzcut length.)

I've always thought my hubby was a bit weird. I guess he isn't alone in these "it just won't grow in well" sentiments, and so I thank you for demonstrating the "what-if" of this phenomenon for me. Shout out to Trash for living with it over the past 39 days, too. Just one question: what did M.Edium think?

Oh, and my word verification for this comment? tooted - I kid you not!

By Blogger Heather, at July 19, 2009 at 8:23 PM  

Oh man, I really really REALLY don't like facial hair. Goatees, moustaches, beards, name it. I feels they very rarely look good. And they make the person look a lot older. I'm lucky because my spouse always shaves (well, every two days, anyway) and he absolutely has no intention of growing a beard or a goatee or anything like that. I can handle stubble, but I told him that anything else, I'll be shaving in his sleep.

By Blogger Chanie, at July 20, 2009 at 10:51 AM  

Well, you still look better than these teenage doofuses like whatshisname bogus Twilight vampire that played Cedric Diggory, who apparently has a stylist telling him both not to shave AND not to wash. Oh, and my word verification? "Brylard". So, Brylcream, I guess, but made organic, or something.

By Anonymous Cora, at July 20, 2009 at 11:40 AM  

At least you're not blonde. A friend of mine from uni backpacked around Europe for 8 months, and didn't shave in that time. He had the lightest bum fluff you've ever seen - it looked like a fluffy fungal growth on his face. He gave up, accepted that he was never going to have actual facial hair and shaved after we all laughed at him.

Your facial hair in comparison? Is actual facial hair and a lot thicker for starters.

By Anonymous lsn, at July 20, 2009 at 4:47 PM  

a recently harvested cornfield? bwahaha. you have been playing that farm game on facebook, haven't you? it's ok; i farm too.

By Blogger Erin_NV, at July 21, 2009 at 4:37 PM  

Actually, I think it's pretty hot, but I am a die hard Depp fan, so there may be a little transference going on.

By Anonymous Kate, at July 23, 2009 at 12:27 AM  

That photo is freaking me out a little. It's the crazy eyes.

By Blogger Febrifuge, at July 24, 2009 at 11:25 PM  

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