Looking Good, How I Failed Miserably!

I remember well that as a small or smallish schoolboy; I was told that a high forehead was a sign of intellect. Twenty years later, I attended my first high school year reunion, and for the first time recognised that the guys I attended school with were mainly geniuses.

At the age of six, ten, or fifteen years old, it’s hard to believe that one day you’ll go bald, especially if you a girl. Boys are different and definitely have a higher chance of becoming follicle challenged.

A strong genealogical pedigree will be quite revealing, especially if you’re young and concerned about your future appearance. Just take a good look at the male members of your bloodline and parentage. If they can boast an enviable head of hair, then the chances are that you also will remain that way. By contrast, if the men of your family and ancestry favoured wide partings and reverse Mohawks, then the possibility of you becoming bald is far greater. Painful though the truth can often be, the gradual shedding of your locks will be significantly accelerated by having such genes. By comparison, if you’re related to more hairy examples of male humanity, or you possess Neanderthal genes, baldness is a less likely outcome.

I loved my hair

Unfortunately, my lovely dad was as bald as a baby’s bum. I quite cruelly teased him relentlessly, unaware that just a few years down the road the same fate lay in ambush, waiting patiently for me to arrive.

In my teens, my hair was strong with a widow’s peak so pronounced that any vampire would have been proud to possess it. My head was a healthy mop of thick dark brown, and exceptionally wavy curls. My mother used to say jealously that my hair had natural lustre.

By complete contrast to the more conventional short back and sides of the late 60s, I was a renegade and very adventurous in follicle experimentation. I wore my hair in a variety of longer styles, which certainly got me noticed in my area.

They say you can’t have it all!

When it came to my hair, this was in my case painfully accurate. At the tender age of just fourteen, I spotted my first completely white hair; life can be so cruel.

At the time I swept my long hair back and across my head with gay abandonment, and overnight, and without the slightest warning, a silver hair appeared at the tip of my widow’s peak and swept-back gracefully across my head.

It couldn’t have been in a less prominent place and was difficult to miss. The young and keen eyes of everyone at school who I spoke to or walked past spotted it immediately and happily told me and everyone else about it. Even a few of the less sensitive teachers made fun of me.

I was horrified, so I pulled it out!

Two white hairs came back, which I strongly suspect was a well-matched breeding pair. Within a few weeks, there was a group of twenty or thirty white hairs clumped tightly together in solidarity. Gradually, the invasion became wider with every advancing day. Until one day, it looked as though I had been struck by lightning. Suddenly, everyone was calling me badger or brock. Both names to a fourteen or fifteen-year-old were equally painful.

So significant was the lightning streak that I was regularly accused of having it commercially applied, if only! Some individuals were obviously so impressed by it that I came close to starting a trend. Within a week, two of the more adventurous boys in the year appeared wearing copycat blond imitation lightning strikes. These boys were pioneers in fashion who’d soon become founder members of the modern romantic movement or punk rockers. While their lightning strikes gradually grew out, mine stubbornly remained.

My kind parents and extended family told me I looked distinguished. However, I counted my blessings and thought of myself as very fortunate. In another class in the same year, was a pretty girl suffering the same condition and boasted an even more pronounced lightning strike than me. Everyone cruelly referred to her as Morticia of Adam’s family fame.

Strangely, even though the only thing we had in common was a natural lightning strike hairstyle. Everyone thought this was a strong enough reason to become a couple. Unfortunately, this strange condition made us look like extras on the set of the off a vampire movie. The more insensitive kids hummed the tune from the Adams family when we were together.

It wasn’t until my mid-to-late 50s my remaining hair turned completely silver. Most of my hair stayed loyal and was with me until my early 40s. However, by my mid-20s, it was mainly grey, and I grew a long and bushy ponytail, which I feel made me look very artistic, and as a performer and speaker, it suited my profession.

It was only after I got married at the age of forty did my hair begin falling out more enthusiastically. My new wife never really liked my ponytail, and so, one night as I slept, she cut it off. The next morning, she had very wisely gone out for the day.

Wash and go!

I soon discovered I could quite easily waste an hour or so every day keeping my hair in peak condition. I pampered my hair with a variety of expensive treatments and conditioners, as directed by the manufacturer. However, after a while, I discovered this pampering made absolutely no difference whatsoever. It was all a smart and costly deception. Whether I invested two minutes or two hours grooming my hair, it always looked the same, and expensive treatments didn’t make me a penny in additional income. Such products were and still are created to make the user feel good about themselves. Even feeling good is a very secondary objective, the first being generating enormous profits for the manufacturers and retailers of such cosmetic products.

Not long after my discovery, I read an article about a very wise marketer. In the early 70s, this person approached a leading hair treatment company and made an offer they couldn’t refuse. He asked if they would pay him a million dollars a year if he could substantially increase the volume of their sales without additional cost. Of course, they agreed, and a contract drafted in his favour.

How was he going to do this? I hear you ask?

Simple, at the end of the manufacturers recommended instructions for the use of their product, he added just three words, “rinse and repeat!” This is a true story.

Keeping my long hair looking good was easy. I washed and showered in the morning and added conditioner to it and left it to marinade. After five minutes I would rinse it out and towel dry my hair, brush it while it was still damp, and tie it into a ponytail.

Then, it would look great until the following morning.

My life was changing!

The moment my new wife began rearrangements in my life, my hairline began receding so rapidly I imagined it was competing in some kind of race. When children appeared in our life, the race became a sprint.

My hair also became much thinner and more delicate, like a thread of silk, and it didn’t look good in any other style than short.

I had reached the point in my life when I elected for a style which, as children, we referred to as the French boy. My parents would have referred to it by a different name “victim of the nit-nurse.” Apparently, before the Second World War, the best way of eradicating head-lice in schools was by simply shaving the head of those who were infected. Victims could be easily identified even in the middle of a hot summer by the thick woollen hats their parents would make them wear to disguise their shame, both indoors and out.

Why waste time at the barbers?

I purchased a pair of electric hair clippers with a variety of clip-on extensions of different lengths. My first self-trim started with the longest, and gradually the extensions became shorter until more recently I use just the clippers, and only a short stubble remains.

At first, I wasn’t comfortable with the look, and I imagined myself closely resembling a nightclub bouncer. To hide his baldness, my father always wore a flat cap, and I tried it for a while, but it didn’t suit me. Eventually, I accepted that this is who I am, and now, please give me short and simple every time.

I tried shaving it once!

I think some men have wonderfully sexy and shiny heads; I really do, but not me. By complete contrast, my head is a mixture of pink, brown and scabby, and shaving it left me with approximately a dozen nicks and razor cuts. I resembled someone who had been in conflict with a particularly nasty cat and lost.

My beard was something else!

At the age of thirteen or so, strange and quite startling changes began happening to my body, and new hair growth began to sprout everywhere. Most noticeably was the bushy third eyebrow which seemed to appear by magic and took root upon my top lip. My mum did not approve and purchased me a brand-new safety razor and told me it was time to begin shaving. It was a big day for me, one I had looked forward to for many years. I did as she asked and a few painful cuts and nicks later, my starter moustache was no more.

Then it happened!

Presumably triggered by my first attempt at shaving, a robust follicle growth now materialised across my face. It appeared so fast you’d be forgiven for believing I was becoming a werewolf. I kid you not. Within just a few days my moustache had returned more robustly than before, plus I now boasted the beginnings of an impressive beard. Shaving was now required multiple times every week just to avoid looking like a drunk or dropout. What had begun as a coming of age ritual had now become an almost daily chore.

Learning to shave with a safety razor was a cross between skill and black art. At first, I just couldn’t get it right, and for weeks I walked around with multiple nicks and annoying dabs of red and white toilet paper stuck to my face to stop the bleeding. These highlighted I wasn’t very good at shaving, but the solution was simple and so much easier, I decided to let my beard grow.

First, I grew sideboards, so broad and healthy they would have impressed Engelbert Humperdinck. Facial hair and deep voices seemed to intimidate some of the teachers who preferred to maintain an easy to identify child-adult divide.

Not thinking a request or manors were necessary with children, my ancient technical drawing teacher ordered that I shaved them off and sent me home to do so. My mother didn’t like my hairy accessories either, but neither was she going to allow me to be bullied by a teacher, and she intervened and my facial hair remained.

The ultimate insult!

In the same spirit that someone once remarked, I had a great face for radio; someone else commented that my beard suited me as it hid my face. Thanks.

I suppose it was inevitable!

In complete contrast to my rapidly greying hair, my beard was thick and dark brown, and the stark contrast gave me the appearance of a liquorice all-sort. I tried wearing my beard in both fun and traditional styles, but generally, for the first twenty-five years or so of its existence, I kept it short. Then one day in my early twenties a grey hair appeared, it was quickly followed by another. Two became four and grey whiskers spread and multiplied as promptly as weeds in a freshly cultivated garden.

Once again, my parents remarked that I looked distinguished.

Although well-meant, these kind comments still didn’t make me feel any better, although neither did they really bother me either. Success in life is about playing the hand that life deals you, and I think I’ve done that quite well.

The mountain man!

At first, it was just an experiment and a bit of fun, but as it grew longer, it noticeably annoyed my wife, and the dragon lady ordered it to be removed. At first, I ignored her because my little experiment was still in progress and generating lots of fun. Christmas was coming, and my beard was getting long, and financial possibilities abounded.

One day in late autumn when it was halfway down my chest two things happened which dictated a change. First, the weather was still warm, and as I drove along with the car window open, and my beard flicked up and across my face. One moment I was enjoying the autumn colours, and the next minute total whiteout. Then came the cold weather and the need for winter clothing, and I immediately caught my beard in my coat zipper. It hurt. Enough was enough, and everything usually happens for a good reason. So, my wife got her way, and my father Christmas became a well-trimmed goatee once again, and to my wife’s satisfaction, I kept it that way for many years.

Then came COVID-19!

I’m not quite sure exactly why, but I needed to demonstrate my support for the front-line workers in this global epidemic in some way. I wanted to make a sort of silent protest, so I decided to leave my goatee growing until the virus was no longer a threat to humanity. In hindsight, this was a poor choice of reasons to grow my beard. After just four months it’s already six inches in length, and I realise things could soon become more challenging. It could soon be long enough to be used as a skipping rope, and even longer before a complete cure for the virus has been found.

I’ll leave it growing for now.

So, why a beard?

The answer is simple, although there is more than one. As a youth, my beard made me look older, and at the age of fifteen or sixteen, I could buy beer without question or proof of age. I’ve always looked older than my age, although since that point I’ve wanted to look younger! I suppose I also like facial hair and donning an artistic appearance, although I wear clothing that easily distinguishes me from being mistaken as a biker. A substantial beard also serves the same purpose as a comfort blanket or pet cat. It’s something pleasurable to stroke and fondle while in deep thought or contemplation. Especially when I’m thinking and composing my words, like right now. It’s also both cheaper and easier to carry than worry beads.

Without a beard to disguise and break up my features and outline, I look fat. I feel naked and have nothing to hide behind.

Last year I briefly replaced my goatee with what I am told is a ‘Soul Patch’ or ‘Chin puff’, a small well-trimmed strip of facial hair that hung neatly below my bottom lip. My wife and family immediately reacted badly towards it. This highlights the fact you can never please everyone, and that my face is best presented partially hidden.

I recently read that people with beards are lazy!

What a load of bollocks (rubbish)!

Perhaps I am lazy, but having a beard takes far more work than not having one. Mine must be washed regularly, or it begins to smell and becomes a tangled mess. My moustache needs regular trimming, or hairs grow into my mouth. It has to be brushed and stopped from tangling and forming dreadlocks. Plus, as mine is a goatee, I have to shave at least half of my face daily. No, growing a beard has nothing to do with laziness as far as I’m concerned.

Food can be a problem!

Short beards are fine, although longer ones are going to get involved with eating habits. I love tomato soup with a passion, and most of all, I enjoy dunking pieces of buttered crusty bread into my soup before eating it. Soup, particularly red soup and snowy white beards don’t make good bedfellows! However hard I try to avoid it happening, eating tomato soup usually leaves me looking as though I have just bitten somebody in the neck.

Keeping my moustache trimmed regularly is essential, or my mouth disappears completely. A long moustache, combined with the present length of my beard, gives a strong illusion I’ve just half-swallowed a white rabbit, and it also frightens children.

There is one beard related saying I find exceptionally annoying, although it was funny the first two-hundred-and-fifty times I heard it said, what is it?

“look, he’s got his head on upside down!”

There’s nothing like originality!

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