My beard and I have grown old and gray together. We’ve been very close for decades and gone through a lot. Oh, the stories we could tell!

Our first days were quite rough. There was a difficult gestation period and a traumatic birth. I’d stopped shaving for three days and was disappointed at the lack of comments from family and friends. Then the visible growth began and the stubble brought on the trouble.

Way back then when a guy started to grow a beard he might as well have hung a sign around his neck: “Please tell me your personal opinion of my new whiskers without any regard for the traditional rules of courtesy.”

I worked in a large office but just mixed with my immediate coworkers and a few friends. Only rarely would one of them notice my new shoes, fedora or even my loud Father’s Day tie. At least they never made any remarks about them.

When my new beard began to emerge I became a popular website that was getting frequent hits, most of them painful. “So that’s not some kind of joke. You’re really going to let it grow?” someone would ask.

There were others who didn’t like my emerging beard but were too polite to say so. However, they just couldn’t keep their eyes off my fuzzy chin when we were talking shop. Once there were four gawking engineers around the conference table with me. This was way before the Pandemic, but I was thinking of faking a bad cold and wearing a surgical mask.

The head of the steno pool, a middle-aged lady of Mediterranean heritage, was the least diplomatic. “What an awful looking beard that is,” she smirked. “You should shave it off as soon as possible.”

That one really hurt, so I counter-punched. “I’m sorry you don’t like my new facial hair, Ma’am” I said. “I’ve always admired yours, especially that cute little black patch beneath your nose. Why do you keep removing it?”

A young fellow from accounting shared an elevator car with me one day. “Do you want me to tell you what I think of your new beard?” he suddenly asked.

“Yes, I’d be interested in your opinion,” I replied. “And then I’ll tell you what I think of your hippie haircut and that odd-colored suit you’re wearing.” He scurried off at the next floor.

I wasn’t sure about my new beard either. I thought it made me look kind of sinister, like Jack the Ripper, a vicious character in a scary movie. Staring into the mirror one morning I asked the hairy guy in the reflection, “Shall I shave this off?” And he replied, “Not by the hair of my chinny, chin, chin.”

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