My beard and I have been very close over the last 40 years. We’ve been through a lot together. I can remember when I first decided to become hirsute, foolishly thinking it was strictly a personal matter and no one else would become involved. Let me warn you, if you’re planning to give birth to whiskers, things can get quite hairy.

Turning up at the office after only one shaveless weekend I was surprised to find my tiny black stubbles soon became the center of controversy, a matter of everyone’s opinion, and the comments were mostly negative. I soon learned there were some people back then who felt that a man who grows a beard loses face.

Over the centuries, depending on the current customs and attitudes, a man with a beard might be considered wise, noble and virile, or crude, barbaric and eccentric.

I had hardly sat down at my desk that Monday morning when the whole office was bristling with opinions. “I don’t like it. Shave it off!” was the typical terse verdict.  One middle-aged woman of Mediterranean heritage, said simply, “Your beard looks awful.”

“I’m disappointed that you don’t like it Madam,” I replied.  “I’ve always admired yours. You should let it grow longer.”

An engineer, whom I hardly knew, accosted me on the elevator. “Do you want to know what I think of your beard?” he asked.

“Certainly,” I said. “And then I’m going to give you my opinion on your suit and your new caps.”  He got off at the next floor. I was fighting fire with fire.

My new beard was actually a trial project and I didn’t like it all that much myself. I thought it made me look a little sinister, but those uppity critics had raised my hackles and each morning when I looked in the mirror and asked myself whether I should give in and defoliate, my answer was, “Not by the hair of my chinny, chin, chin!”



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