Okay, that’s not entirely true. I just wanted to get your attention.
My beard is not a lie. My beard is actually more of a metaphor, which is a useful sort of lie because it carries a resonance of truth inside it. With any luck, I’ll manage to tease that resonance into some manner of cognitive audibility before all’s said and done here, and the clever idea/minor epiphany that’s been tickling me the last few days will airlift a version of itself into your brain, for you to make of what you will. But let’s get back to my beard.
My beard is, by all accounts, a pretty freakin’ fantastic example of the species. Customers in the bar and random passersby on the street compliment me on it. Women with whom I’m not personally acquainted are, on occasion, unable to stop themselves from touching it. When my girlfriend nuzzles her face up against it she sighs with such contentment you might think she’d just finished a day at the spa with a bath in warm chocolate while a small team of experts rubs her feet and shoulders and sings Pachelbel’s Canon in D in four-part harmony.
Anyway, you get the idea. It’s a good beard, the kind of beard that defines a face, and I am grateful that it grows there because without it I would not look like me, nor be half so pretty as I am with it (that was certainly my opinion when last I shaved it clean; thankfully no records survive of that traumatic period).
But here’s the thing: my beard has a weakness, a flaw, an anomalous patch that will not grow like the rest. It’s right in the middle, too, where my chin ends and recurves back towards my neck. The hair does grow (or, I should say, did grow), but stopped after reaching about an inch long. On my cheeks and around my neck the beard grows wild and luxuriant, a thick tangle of unchecked hirsute masculinity that would do the doughtiest viking or hoariest science fiction writer proud. But the hair on my chin? Not so much. Maybe it’s because I’ve so rarely shaved it (maybe four times since the early ‘90s). Maybe it’s just bad luck. But if I want my beard (and, by extension, my face) to look right, I have to grow the hair beneath and behind my chin extra long and do what amounts, if I am honest, to a beard comb-over.
I’ve been pretty self-conscious about it lately. Before that, I may or may not have been in denial. But I have decided to embrace the truth of my beard, to affirm it flaws and all. Because in spite of those flaws it is a good beard, whose strengths are enough to compensate for its weaknesses and to go about the business of bearding in such a way that no one seems to notice the difference. And though I might wish for a more perfect beard, strong and thick and evenly distributed, there really isn’t much I can do about it besides what I’m already doing, which, hey, seems to be working out just fine, to be honest.
So yeah, I’m pretty sure there’s a metaphor in there somewhere. I’ll leave it to you, dear reader, to divine what manner of truth resounds within.