For almost five decades on this planet, I did not have much success growing a beard.
Yes, I know that for everyone that first decade is a wash. For me, the next three decades also did not experience much beard growing success, despite my occasional feeble attempts.
I don’t recall a lot of beards when I was in high school, but I do recall taking my kids to high school over the years and seeing bearded folks walking into the school, and my thought was, “Why is that teacher wearing a backpack and a letter jacket?”
Maybe kids could grow beards when I was in high school. But I know I couldn’t. (Fun yet slightly related fact: There used to be a video tape of me in my freshman year in college at a fraternity party, and my voice is cracking a la Peter Brady. Thankfully, that tape was shown so many times (despite my objections) it eventually broke and died. I think that may answer some of the questions as to why I didn’t have a whole lot of facial hair experience in my first two decades.)
I tried to grow a beard a few times over the next couple of decades, with little success. Usually, I would give up after about two weeks, when it just looked like I had just not washed my face for a while.
My beard would come in scraggly and uneven, and often presented multiple colors that made it look like someone had thrown a calico cat at my face at an exceptional velocity.
On the occasions I made it past a few weeks, I usually bailed at about the six-week mark, when it became too itchy for me to bear.
A few years ago, after one of my latest failed attempts, my wife said to me that I had made some notable attempts, and it was time to just wrap it up and call it a lifetime on the beard. And that’s OK. And she was right. Then.
Because “then” was not during a pandemic. So when it all went south and we went into quarantine, I decided I would stop shaving. But to have a clear out, I put in what I thought was a handy escape clause.
I vowed not to shave until the Atlanta Braves threw their first pitch of the season. I made this vow in February, confident that the March 26 opening day would be just fine.
What fools we were early in this whole mess…
When the baseball season was postponed in mid-March. I had two choices. Give up my ruse that I was actually thinking I could grow a beard, or buckle up and see how long this thing goes.
Which is why, in late July, I finally shaved my beard. The Braves opened with the Mets in a real baseball game, and I was finally at the point where I could acknowledge that I had accomplished a beard.
I weathered the storm of the itchiness. And I finally got there. An actual beard. Like grown ups (or high school kids) have. I got to the point where my wife on occasion said, “You know, you could trim it a bit if you want?”
So for the past few months, I have had a beard. I know new neighbors and co-workers who have never known me without a beard. The young neighbor across the street saw me one morning and stared blankly at me, having no idea who I was. Based on my kids’ and wife’s reaction when I shaved, they had gotten used to me with the bearded look. But I think it will be retired. I have proven that I can do it, and I can now revert back to my babyface shaved look that I have known most of my life. From here on out, I’ll leave the beards up to the pros. You know, current sophomores in high school.Unless there is another pandemic.
Mike Gibbons was born and raised in Aiken, S.C. A graduate of the University of Alabama, you can e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @StandardMike.