Never the same beard twice

“Change is the only constant,” they say.

On the other hand, they also say, “The more things change, the more they stay the same.”

Whether directly opposed clichéd truisms such as these simply render themselves and each other meaningless is up to debate, I suppose, but they both seem fairly valid to me, in a paradoxical way.

As I have aged, I’m sure I’ve changed, but internal transformations are difficult to measure. Am I a “better” or “worse” person now than when I was a pre-teen or a young adult? More or less moral? I know I’m better at certain things, like talking to girls and doing laundry, and worse at others, like math and kickball, but I pretty much feel like the same person I was when I was 9 or 10 years old.

External changes are easier to notice in oneself. There are some clothes and music I used to adore that I now find repulsive. Yes, I once owned and wore a pink oxford shirt. Sometimes I’d don it with white shorts or khakis and penny loafers. Gah! Also little known and better forgotten is my Windham Hill phase, which overlapped with my interest in what I can only describe as smooth jazz. Oh dear.

Over the years I’ve probably been most consistently inconsistent with my hair. Shaved head, down to the middle of my back, a bob, parted squarely in the middle . . . I’ve had it all. For the last 6 or 7 years I’ve been getting it cut twice a year, once in May and once in December. I’ll use some kind of product to control it for a month or so after the cut, then just let it grow out until it’s floppy and does what it wants. I guess I’ve never really found my one look, though it’s due mostly to a cycle of attention and neglect, rather than a restless search for an ideal.

Here’s what I looked like last December, just after my semi-annual haircut. (P.S. Ain’t she cute!)

And here I am today.

On average I’ll grow a beard once a year, mostly out of boredom. I’ll stop shaving for a month or two before I tire of it. Right now, I’ve got the bushiest growth I’ve ever had, clocking in at 3 months old.

This beard came on by accident and then sort of snowballed out of control. One day a few months ago we were on our way out somewhere, and I said, “Just give me a couple minutes to shave.” Jen said, “Oh, why don’t you just grow a beard?” So I did. Now that it’s this big, it’s hard to think about shaving it off without just losing interest. I mean, it’s going to take a lot of time and effort to get rid of all that hair!

While we all know that appearance is superficial, self-presentation can and does mean a great deal. For instance, I’m sure that people make certain “assumptions” about this young man, based solely on his beard. The kooky look and shamrock tattoo also contribute, of course.

Would you let him do your taxes? Me neither.

I realize that people who meet me now think of me as a bearded guy and that it colors their impressions. I started teaching a class a couple weeks ago, and if I shaved now my students would probably be thrown for a loop and have to re-assess me a little bit. (“You look so much younger!” they might say, or “You look so clean cut.”)

There are certain of my friends who are stridently opposed to my current beard, who plead with me to shave. (For the purposes of this post I’ll just call the leader of this contingent “Parrish.”) Part of me agrees with them; I just don’t look like the person they know. Another part of me lets it grow so that I can tease them with it.

Mostly I think I’m fascinated by this ability to change my look so utterly, just by letting nature take its course. For another thing, though, my beard helps me measure the incremental passage of time. Hours, days, and weeks register on my face, a reminder of the changes that are surely happening to me all the time. Why, just look at me back in February, when this growth was in its infancy. Think of all the ways I’m different now! Right?

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23 responses to “Never the same beard twice”

  1. Godfree says:

    A couple of years ago, my lovely partner and I were eating in a delicatessen, when a young man appeared behind the counter wearing a beard net (like a hair net, but covering his beard). Taken with his cocky attitude toward the female employees, it was one of the most compelling and funny things I’ve ever seen.

    I love you Timmy, no matter what, even if you grew out and braded your ear hair.

    Speaking of crazy-old-man stuff, I’ve developed an errant mad scientist eyebrow hair that I have to cut back about once a week. Yuck!

  2. bw says:

    I’m currently participating in the Heath Ledger Memorial Beard project, which involves the promotion of the Van Dyke over the Goatee. I had thought about writing a post along these lines, but you had to go and beat me to it!

    I like your Unibomber look, though. It suits you. Sometimes I miss the heft of that beard I had a couple years ago, though for some reason I found that beard kept me from exercising as regularly as I do now.

  3. your current look also has a little bit of a grown-out mike wallace to it (the dude who wrote Gotham, not the 60 minutes guy).

  4. ssw says:

    I think beards can be pretty hot, if you groom them. For example, Mike Wallace looks pretty good (maybe his beard is even a wee bit too short). If you do go for the beard, keep the hair shorter is my opinion. Too much is sometimes well, too much.
    after beards get ‘soft’ they are also no big deal for me with regards to the important stuff: kissing! (why would men want to do anything to stop ladies from wanting to kiss them?) although, again, watch the soup, ya know what i mean?! I agree with Godfree that you’d be loved no matter what, but I really enjoyed your self-reflection in this post…very brave and enjoyable to read.

  5. LP says:

    From Tim’s comment to Bryan’s beard post of 03/06:

    “Hey Bryan,

    …I’ve always wanted to grow a great big long one a la Melville, a beard I could heft and pat contemplatively with my hand a good 6-10 inches from face, about level with chest, but I’m afraid I just don’t have the patience or the gumption…. ”

    Wager, given the astonishing growth rate of your beard, I predict you will be there by Labor Day. That is my fear.

    Also, I noticed at the bottom of said comment that your signature read: “(Jeremy’s friend) Tim”

    Talk about “all the ways [we’re] different now”! Can it really be that there was a time when all we knew about you was that you were Jeremy’s friend?

    Missing your clean-shaven face,
    or at the very least,
    one with smartly-trimmed beard,
    yr.
    devoted
    but
    picky
    LP

  6. Natasha says:

    Wow, Tim, when I met you, you had the English teacher, PHD, intellectual look. But after seeing this new picture, I think that with great ease we can invite you for my friend’s baby’s baptism as a Russian Orthodox pope next week…and in three more months, I’ll have to stop working with you. Just kidding, it’s all good…stubble? Please…pretty please…with a cherry on top…

  7. Godfree says:

    I have to wonder if it’s a coincidence that you’re smiling in the other two pictures (the less beardy ones), Tim, are you sure the beard’s bringing you happiness?

  8. By not knowing you at all, I’d say you look soft now. Soft in a “wise, kind, venerable” sort of way. In February, you looked perky and geeky. And strangely like a biker. Maybe it’s the shirt?

    I can’t decide what you looked like in December. Professor-like?

    A lot of this could also be your clothes and your pose in the particular picture. Obviously you would look more professor-like in a suit than in a T-shirt.

    Don’t cut the beard. It accentuates the soft look of kindness and quiet, inner concentration.

  9. LP says:

    7: The happiest guy of all, please note, is wacky-bearded-shamrock-tattooed man.

  10. Godfree says:

    I wasn’t suggesting that I want Tim to be that happy.

  11. I don’t think he’s really happy — just high as a freaking kite.

  12. Dave says:

    2: Yeah, my beard is some kind of psychic drag when I go to the gym. But if I don’t look at myself in the mirror, I still manage to get through my workout.

    I believe in beard trimming, though, while Tim does not.

  13. Tim says:

    If I could wield the scissors deftly enough, I think I’d spend more time trimming my beard. As it is, I’m happy to let it go to seed. Occasionally I’ll cut the real ‘runners’ and the moustache (to allow for the ingress of food and beverages), but that’s about it.

    The eyebrows, btw, Scott, are the first to do this; I’ve been getting them for the last ten years or so. When I’m a *really* old guy, I’ll be happy just to let them go.

    Thanks to all for comments. It is strange to think that once upon a time just over 2 years ago I was best known to TGW as Jeremy’s friend. Now I’ve been promoted to Parrish’s sidekick.

  14. LP says:

    Wager, don’t be modest. You are my sun, my moon, my garlic salt! I am a delighted devotee in the Cult of Wager.

  15. LP says:

    And that’s even WITH the beard. Yours, not mine.

    BTW, I can’t believe no one has made the obvious joke about photo 1: That’s the one where Tim’s beard looks the best.

    Ar ar.

  16. ruben says:

    tim, i think the beard is super cool.

    do you find it colors the way you approach certain tasks though? does it keeps you warmer? are you leery of cotton candy or caramel apples? are civil war reenacters overly friendly all of a sudden?

    seriously though, as someone who cannot grow a proper beard and would if he could, i think you deserve major props for rocking it old (as in 19th century) school. i always wonder if i would have been discriminated against back then for not being able to properly cover my face (and soul?!?) like any self respecting russian novelist.

  17. trixie says:

    does your beard make me look fat?

  18. Tim says:

    And that’s even WITH the beard.

    Jeepers, what if I shaved? Would you join my zombie army and do my bidding?

  19. LP says:

    There’s only one way to find out.

  20. Natasha says:

    Ruben, that’s a hilarious comment. You know though, if Tolstoy lived just a couple centuries ago, Peter the Great would have had him jailed. Peter passed a law that made wearing a beard illegal. He believed that wearing a beard made men look old fashioned, uncivilized and uneducated.

  21. J-Man says:

    I’m lobbying for shave-all-but-the-mustache. Plus platform shoes and a polyster shirt buttoned down to here, with a large pendant. Whaddya say?

  22. Godfree says:

    Buttoned down to here?! Or here?