Wednesday, April 25, 2012
To shave, or not to shave--that is the question:
Whether 'tis nobler in the face to grow
The breadths and lengths of outrageous beards
Or to take blade against a hirsute mane,
And by opposing end it. To snip, to trim--
No more--and by a trim to say we end
The hirsute, and the thousand natural outgrowths
That hairy flesh is heir to. 'Tis a consummation
Devoutly to be wished. To snip, to trim --
To trim--perchance to shaving: ay, there's the rub,
For in that shaving of hair what cuts may come?
(with apologies to the Bard, and anyone else who had to read that)
Recently, I accidentally opened the camera program on my laptop, and glimpsed my face, in the depths of its hirsute nature. It was something of a shock. In the normal course of affairs, a man can count on some distance between himself and his appearance. Even in the bathroom mirror, there is a bit of distance, and with distance can come rationalization. From a distance, those wrinkles are unnoticeable. From a distance, those love handles are actually love handles, and not, you know, fat. And from a distance, my beard looked cool.
Close-up, with my face inches from my digitally reflected face, no such illusions could be maintained. Everything was a scraggly mess, a patchy, uneven jumble. I could live with that. An eclectic beard for an eclectic life. But the mustache portion--there was no forgiving it. The margin between an amazing and a ridiculous mustache is razor (ha!) thin, but my mustache was so far in the latter camp that you could hear the bells jingle if I moved too quickly. And so, late last night, I grabbed razor, and returned my upper lip to its virgin state.
Usually--and I think this a fairly universal experience for regular shavers/beardies--shaving is accompanied by a sense of disappointment. No matter how good it feels to jettison the hairy ballast, there is a profound moment of recrimination and self-doubt. How could I do that? How could I abandon my commitment to my facial hair? Who am I now, now that the hair is gone? This time, there was no remorse. I looked at my naked nasal brow and thought to myself, Damn, I look good.
And at the time, that was all I was planning to do. But do you remember that Seinfeld episode, where Jerry is standing in front of the mirror, just finishes shaving his face, and then... looks... lower? Well, I didn't shave anything south of the neck, but the idea of shaving a bit more... just a bit more... kept coming to me the next day. So I took a little off of one cheek. Then a little off the other cheek. Then I vacated the neck area of all excess furriness. (Which should have been done earlier anyway, frankly. There is no positive meaning of the term "neck-beard.") What I was left with was what is colloquially known by scholars and layman alike as "the chinstrap." Experimentally, I carved off the connecting edges, then the trail going from my lower cheekbone to my chin. Repeat for the other side. For those keeping track at home, that leaves me with the sideburns and a soul patch. It was the soul patch I was most connected to. I think I've kept that little tuft going since the ol' 500th post. Oh, sure, there were trims here and there. But the core threads stayed in place.
No. Clean sweep, clean break, clean shaven. I removed the chin tufts, and turned my attention to the sideburns. But my god... the sideburns. Like little rectangles of glory they were, dazzling my face with their fuzzy masculinity. No, these weren't going anywhere. I looked at the face that stared back at me in the mirror. Naked upper lip. Bald cheeks. Chin as soft as a baby's bottom. And mutton chops that make the gods weep. I smiled at my newly minted doppelganger. "You and I," I told my visage, "we're going to get along just fine."
There was a point I was going for here, something about the way minor changes in appearance can affect a person's mood, but that's a good line to go out on.