On growing a beard

On growing a beard

It's odd how a beard somehow tends to be associated with illness. Ever since I stopped shaving and allowed my facial fungus to flourish, friends and acquaintances have badgered me with queries about my health. And I've had a hard time convincing them that I've never felt fitter in my life.

Given my incurable fondness for acronyms, I cryptically tell them that I've stopped shaving due to 'MILL', stressing each letter to make it sound like some life-threatening illness. Then, savouring their perplexed and sometimes alarmed looks, I clarify that it stands for nothing more serious than 'Monsoon Induced Laxity and Laziness'!

Having been a daily wielder of the razor, initially people started looking askance at me when I sported a stubbly visage. Now two months later, while I don't exactly resemble a shaggy Neanderthal, my 6-year-old granddaughter opines that I'm beginning to look rather "like a bogeyman"! To correct matters, I keep my facial hirsuteness well groomed so that it doesn't turn scruffy and scary. Nevertheless, if my former British boss, an unrelenting stickler for a daily shave, were to see me now, he'd probably have a fit of apoplexy!

The other day, a friend asked me why I was growing a beard. I truthfully admitted that it's meant to counterbalance the near total absence of hair on my cranium. And, for good measure, I added that I'm thankful my beard doesn't thin out the way the hair on my pate does all too easily!

Some grow a beard as a symbol of revolt against convention or to project an aura of virility. To impress the local lasses, as teenagers in the 1960s, we used to painstakingly nurture the fuzz sprouting erratically on our chins, often to the point of narcissism. At that time it was the agonisingly slow and sparse growth that irked us. Now, well into my seventies, it's the all-too-quick appearance of the prolific stubble that nettles me!

The irrepressible Oscar Wilde once commented about a friend, "He has the sort of face that, once seen, is never remembered." Earlier I probably belonged to this category. But now, with my luxuriantly silvered jowls and chin, I find that I tend to be remembered rather than easily forgotten.

And, what's more heartening, being a conspicuous beardie seems to be getting me the consideration due to the elderly. The other day in a crowded bus, a youngster readily vacated his seat for me while another courteously held the door open for me as I alighted - thoughtful gestures as pleasing as they were unexpected and timely.

Come to think of it, doesn't a beard endow a senior citizen with an aura of venerability?

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