My grandfather didn’t always shave alone. In the modest guest bathroom of his house in Orlando, Fla., sometimes I was there at his side, wanting to shave with him — or pretend to.
He would fill the sink with hot water, grab a disposable razor, hand me one with a plastic guard covering the blade, and together we would lather up. I remember the sandpaper sound the razor made as it scraped away his whiskers. I couldn’t wait to be able to do the same.
At age 15 I finally had some stubble, but it was so sparse that my face looked as if it were specked with dirt. I checked the mirror and told myself I would be able to grow a beard by age 18.
At 20 I started growing out my whiskers in an attempt to look older for a role, Judge Brack in Ibsen’s “Hedda Gabler.” After two months the results were in: bare cheeks, a fuzzy brown mustache, seven chin hairs. It was embarrassing, given that the 18-year-old playing Hedda’s love interest had grown a thick beard in a week. I comforted myself with the notion that I would have better luck by age 25.
Now I’m 27. Although beards have been in fashion for years, I have stayed cleanshaven, for the most part, ever since the “Hedda Gabler” debacle. If I happen to go two weeks without a shave, my friends tease me or a girlfriend will say: “I like it. I just think you look better without it.”
Late last year, at a bar, I looked around and noticed I was the only man there, including the bartender, without a lush growth on his face. I decided to commit. No shaving for a month.
WEEK 1 Somehow my stubble didn’t give me the sexy, rugged appearance of, say, Jason Statham. Instead, it was more of a “did you forget to shave?” look.
WEEK 2 Itchy! Beard oil a must!
WEEK 3 Less itch, less irritation. And what looked like intentional facial hair. I was growing a beard! The mustache and goatee had joined up, the sideburns were thick, but my cheeks, with empty patches, weren’t getting the message. I Googled “patchy beard solutions” and was overwhelmed by the talk of facial-hair transplants, Biotin, Minoxidil, makeup. None of these seemed viable.
WEEK 4 I was now looking at my beard, if you could call it that. I kind of looked like Ricky from “Trailer Park Boys,” with Elvis’s sideburns and Lenin’s goatee.
It hit me pretty hard, accepting that I wouldn’t be able to join the ranks of the bearded, but in the end, it’s just genetics. I’ll have to settle for a respectable mustache, goatee and sideburns. That’s worth something, especially if I ever end up playing Snidely Whiplash.
For now I will work with what I have while looking toward a hairier future. Men with beards have told me their beards improve with age. And so with that wisdom I can say for certain that by 50 I’ll be able to grow one at last.