This post was floating around in my drafts for ages. Then recently I’ve just got around to sorting out my photos, so the attending slide show is ready.
I’m not your regular hairy bloke. That’s not to say that I’m an ethereal blonde-eyelashed Eloi, but I definitely have trouble growing a beard. When things of that nature startedÂ growing, I wondered for a while what would happen if I left it. Another kid at school did just that and ended up with just two bunches of bristles, on on each side of his chin, which brought to mind (just now) Wells’ description of the Martians:
In a group round the mouth were sixteen slender, almost whiplike tentacles, arranged in two bunches of eight each.
That put paid to any thoughts of seeing what my face would look like unshaven. Even any attempts to grow sideburns resulted in some sparse and gappy growths which petered out as they approached the hair proper.
In 2002 I got the part of Benedick in a production of Much Ado About Nothing. One of Benedick’s traits is that he is a bit rough around the edges, rougher especially than his fresh-faced friend Claudio, to whom he refers disparagingly as “my Lord Lackbeard“. Unfortunately, my friend Mike, who played Claudio, doesn’t so much have 5 o’clock shadow as 9am shadow, whereas I had trouble sprouting something visible in three days. We didn’t want to use false beards, or dodgy dabbed makeup, so we just kind of worked around it. He’s shorter than me, so I guess it worked alright. Lovely voice too.
Time passed once more.
In 2007, Cassie wanted to see what I would look like with a beard. A reasonable request, I guess. Check out the capabilities of the new catch. So, in the month before Xmas, I stopped shaving. When I travelled to LA and she saw the result, she was pleased I had tried, let’s put it that way, and on Xmas Day after most of the festivities in Orinda, I repaired to the guest bathroom to end the experiment. The purification was documented here.
As you can see, it was only a passing fancy, not worth pursuing.
My slow follicles do have advantages. I don’t need to shave every day; twice a week is sufficient. This means I can spend more time on it and make it a grooming ritual rather than a hasty necessity. I use my Dad’s old razor, a metal Simplex safety razor which takes standard blades (actual blades, not cartridges). I’ve been fascinated with this since I was a child. He didn’t use it as far as I know; I think (and hope) that it belonged to his father. I remember playing with it as a child, pretending to shave – without a blade in it of course that would be crazy ha!
I bought a pack of Derby blades from Amazon – $15 for 100 blades. Amazing value, considering each one lasts for about 4 shaves. It could be more if I sat it in mineral oil after use. I have a badger-hair brush from the tobacco shop on Victoria Street. For soap, I go between a quickly rubbed-in cream when I’m in a hurry, or this wonderful West Indian Lime soap from Trufitt and Hill. It smells amazing, has this iridescent texture, and the current jar has lasted well over a year so far.
I’m not the most image-obsessed man around, but I do like these small efforts. And it seems so much more elegant than a plastic hunk of markup sold by CGI and yelling – although I probably wouldn’t think that if I had to shave everyday. Doing things the old way is fun when you’re not forced into it. Like making soap. Or cooking.