A while ago I posted about the trauma that my hair has caused me since the day the first hair broke skin on my head (read about it here). Today I am posting about my failed efforts to grow a beard.
I do not have a beard. Why not? Because I look like a complete and utter arse; because I scare other human beings; because my cats would throw themselves on the gas fire in terror; because Mrs PM would probably drug me and shave it off. I think you get the picture – I would be a weird beard!!
I remember being supremely proud when I spotted the first hair sprouting out my chin at the tender age of fifteen. I felt like running outside and screaming “I can grow a beard; I’m a man!”
The fact that the said hair was about one millimetre long and so blond that it was only visible with a high powered microscope didn’t deter me. I was proud of that little hair. Eventually, it grew a little longer and other hairs followed on my chin and upper lip. They were still invisible to the naked eye but I knew they were there; I could feel them bursting forth. To others they were undetectable; to me they were like Giant Redwood trees.
I let them grow. I was a late developer and my voice was so high pitched it could shatter glass but at least I had a beard (or a patch of bum fluff as my dad called it). As my voice deepened, my facial hair became more noticeable and I had to take the plunge. My dad told me that I looked ridiculous; I had several very soft blond hairs protruding from my face by now. It was time for my first shave.
My dad was very helpful. He watched me as I applied the shaving foam and picked up my first razor (called something like “Gillette Bum Fluff Removal Kit”). He smiled as I lacerated my chin; he patted me on the shoulder with paternal pride as the blood gushed out of my face. I saw a tear in his eye as he handed me bits of toilet roll to stem the flow. He applauded me as I left the bathroom looking like a reject from “The Mummy”.
Thankfully my facial hair was unlike the huge blond forest on my head; it grew very slowly. I only had to shave once in a blue moon and was thankful that the scars managed to heal before I attacked my face with the next razor.
By the time I started university I was shaving regularly (once a month). My fellow students envied me. An Indian friend of mine, already losing his hair at the tender age of nineteen, had to shave every two hours and had a permanent five o’clock shadow. I would have loved a five o’clock shadow.
Then came that fatal day when I decided to experiment with my facial hair. I decided to grow a beard. I felt like a rebel as I missed my shaving day not once but twice. My beard (and I use the word “beard” in its loosest form) was pathetic. I went to the pub with my mates and the subject was discussed.
“Dave, what’s that on your face?”
“Dave, the bottom half of your face looks weird. Are you wearing make up?”
“Beard? What beard?”
Fuelled by alcohol and feeling let down by my friends I decided to return to my room and shave the beard off in the morning. However, being drunk, I foolishly thought “No time like the present”. I shaved and went to bed.
I awoke the next morning and my pillow looked like a bloodbath. I panicked for a full three minutes before the memory of my return from the pub stumbled into my thumping head. Oh no, I thought. I hadn’t had I? Oh yes I bloody well had! With rising panic I looked in the mirror and almost screamed in terror. The lower half of my face was totally lacerated; I had hacked off each and every hair and about a pound of flesh with it. The cuts were separated by dried shaving foam – I hadn’t even washed the bloody soap off (and believe me; it WAS bloody).
My friends were sympathetic and suggested (behind the giggles) that I audition for a part in the latest zombie film.
I began to shave regularly again when the wounds were healed but in my final year at university I decided to go out with a bang; I would graduate with a beard. This time, I ignored my friends and stopped shaving. My beard came on beautifully (or so I thought in my stupidity). It itched like buggery but I was proud of it. I stroked it and fondled it. I was now a proper man. My friends encouraged me.
And then I overheard a conversation.
“Doesn’t Dave look like an arsehole?”
“Yeah! And he thinks that wispy bit of fluff on his face is a beard!”
“Let’s see how long we can keep this up. He actually thinks he looks great!”
And then the final insult:
“Do you want to know what the funniest thing about his beard? It’s GINGER!”
They laughed uproariously. I hated them! I shaved it off immediately (sober this time). And do you want to know the thing that hurt most? I walked into the room afterwards and not one of them noticed that I had shaved – even when I pointed it out.
Common sense prevailed for the next six or so years. I bought myself an electric shaver and removed the foliage from my face daily. Then, in a moment of madness, I stopped shaving. The excuse I used was laziness. However, part of me was curious to discover what my beard would look like after all this time.
It grew fairly quickly; it was very thin on my cheeks and bushy underneath on my neck. I looked ridiculous and my ex-wife begged me to get rid of it. A new set of mates (those who hadn’t seen the previous effort) ridiculed me mercilessly.
“Dave, we’re your mates. Trust us! You look like a stupid geek!”
That was enough! Another beard bit the dust. And so it was for another eight years.
Since then I have grown only one more beard. In 1999, Mrs PM and I were working in Hong Kong and had the chance to spend two weeks touring China. We didn’t fancy hauling heavy suitcases around such a huge country so we decided to travel light. That meant sacrificing many things, including a razor.
After a week my ginger beard had returned. We travelled around tourist areas but at times we ended up in towns where the local Chinese people had rarely, if ever, seen westerners. My blond hair caused fascination – but my beard drew a huge amount of attention. The local Chinese people pointed at me and actually laughed – a whole nation of people thought that a blond pale man with a light ginger beard was hilarious. In bars and restaurants, people stared at me as if I were an alien. I almost bought a razor but resisted. We arrived back in Hong Kong and the guys I worked with (who also had never seen me with a beard) howled when they saw me. Another beard bit the dust soon after.
Thankfully common sense has now prevailed and I have chosen never ever to grow another beard (intentionally that is). If I had a beard now, every day would be a bad beard day. At least, with the aid of a razor, I have total control over my facial hair and my beard will never again see the light of day. Besides, the thought of being drugged and having my face lacerated by Mrs PM fills me with dread.