November 3, 2013

How can I keep this beard?


---- — The 2013 World Series is over, and now I face a dilemma: How can I keep this beard?

It started in September, when the Boston Red Sox, fueled by the unity of their facial hair, clinched a spot in baseball’s playoffs.

As a devout fan, watching from afar, there wasn’t much I could do but cheer and pray. Except, of course, my own visible show of support. I grew a playoff beard.

I have no way of knowing, for sure, how my added follicles might have enhanced the Sox’ October chances, but I have to think it helped, just a little.

Now, however, the season has finished, and the stated purpose for my beard has disappeared. Unfortunately, I find that I’ve grown attached to my face.

My wife is looking at me now with a “so, that’s over, what now?” look. She doesn’t like the beard, not a bit. She won’t come right out and say it — except in her sleep, when all truth is revealed — but her hints aren’t particularly subtle.

“No, really, you look … um … cute.” “Well, it is a little scratchy.” “I sure do love a clean-shaven man.”

Though it has grown with shocking amounts of white, the beard has filled in rather nicely. I’ve only had one beard before in my life — briefly, on a whim, not a noble purpose — and I’ve got no idea how to care for it. Do I need beard conditioner? Is it safe for me to trim it once a week with a machete?

Still, I feel like I want to keep the beard a little bit longer.

When someone asks a question, I can stroke it wisely, like some kind of wiseman. It hides my scars, pockmarks, warts, zits, unfortunate chin tattoos and birthmarks. It also masks most facial expressions, making me a better poker player.

Having a beard saves minutes a day in shaving time, minutes that I can use productively. It makes me look mildly distinguished instead of like, you know, me.

In fact, the beard has proven an amazing bit of camouflage. No one looking at the 25-year-old picture attached to this column would recognize me now, allowing me to avoid the words I’ve come to dread when I go out in public:

“Oh. You. I read your column this week.”

My children also think I’m mom’s new husband, so they listen better.

The beard hasn’t gotten to the point where I’ve named it, but if it gets just a little longer, I’m going to call it Gandalf the White, Katmandon’t or Lenny.

I fear, though, if I don’t shave it, my wife will do it for me while I sleep. I need more, better, reasons to convince her to let it stay, like some stray cat that has wandered into the house and latched onto my face.

I’ve started to make a detailed list. Feel free to make additions. Every little bit helps.

A beard is more likely to intimidate intruders and trick-or-treaters. A beard was a sign of virility in ancient Greece. A beard will keep my face warm during winter.

A beard protects my face from the sun and thus skin cancer. It protects me if I’m sprayed with broken glass. It shields the heat if I run into a burning building to save an infant or a puppy. It softens the blow if I’m punched in the face by an angry reader or an angry Keanu Reeves.

I can safely sneak popcorn and unshelled peanuts into the movie theater with my beard. Extra food can be stored there in case I’m stranded on a desert island. I could hide a gerbil in there, if the gerbil was on the run from an abusive relationship.

A beard means the electric razor goes in the closet, saving up to six cents a year in electricity costs, thus helping to save the environment.

A beard ensures that I never have to play for the New York Yankees, who require their players to be clean-shaven automatons.

A beard makes me appear more manly, compensating for a squeaky, feminine voice. A beard masks embarrassing nose hair.

A beard can attract and hide parasites, keeping them away from other family members and pets.

If I fall off a tall building, a beard could save my life, getting entangled on a flagpole or providing a handle for a heroic office worker to grab.

The Red Sox offered $1 beard night at Fenway Park. This could catch on nationwide and provide many budget-saving deals for bearded families, like $1 movie night, $1 steak night or $1 Viking massage night.

If I ever want to become a Muslim cleric or an Amish farmer or a Civil War re-enactor or a wizard, a beard will give me an enormous head start.

Some of the greatest men in history have worn beards. Santa Claus. Jesus Christ. Abraham Lincoln. The cast of “Duck Dynasty.” Dumbledore. If it was good enough for Mrs. Claus, shouldn’t it be good enough for my wife?

I guess I could always start over again in February with my Spring Training beard.

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