Beard, or no beard: that is the question


Jendy, who I’ve only known since 1987, asked:

If you were to shave your beard, would Lydia recognize you? Would I? ([Paul [her husband] says his kids would do a double take every spring when he used to shave his off!)

I don’t get to see Jendy as often, now that she has a new job. When she worked in a public setting, I’d see her once or twice a month. So she didn’t know that, in fact, I DID have my beard shaved off, on the Saturday before Thanksgiving. It had become a scruffy mess, and I needed to get it trimmed. But once in the chair of a new barbershop, I let the whimsy of the moment carry me off, and had all the facial hair, save for the mustache, removed. Lydia seemed to recognize me, and I’m sure you would too.

Know who didn’t recognize me? I didn’t. Back in 2004, and before, I had a medium dark complexion. (That’s me on the left in a picture taken in April 1997 for Bill and Orchid Anderson’s wedding.) Then I got the vitiligo, which, not only created lighter patches on my arms, hands, legs and elsewhere, but generally lightened my skin on my face. And because I afraid of sunburn, or skin cancer, even with sunscreen, I tended to avoid direct sunlight whenever I could. This made my face considerably lighter, to a point that I did not even recognize myself in photos. There’s one in my church newsletter from three or four years ago, in which the only way I knew it was me was seeing the outfit I was wearing. This picture from the May 2010’s Free Comic Book Day does not look like me to ME.

It’s not just that I think I look better darker, it’s that it’s how I see myself in my mind’s eye. It’s not like realizing I’m grayer or heavier; it’s something much more fundamental that I cannot describe except that it was my SELF-IDENTITY.

Then, either I stopped worrying as much or something, because I guess I spent less time hiding under umbrellas in the summers, and some of the color has returned to my face, as you kinda can see in the picture below, taken in early February 2013. When I got the shave in November, I could see this odd streak of skin where my beard had been, lighter than my skin color in the 2010 pic. It looked WEIRD, freakish. I almost took a selfie, except that I actually had no idea where my cellphone was. So now the beard has returned, and while I’ll trim it, I doubt I will cut it off any time, certainly not in the near future.

This ties in nicely with a question by New York Erratic:

What’s your favorite weather?

Partly sunny, or partly cloudy, with high clouds filtering the sun. Never liked the direct sun, even as a kid. The heat index, that combo of temperature and humidity, starts bothering me at about 90F.

Not crazy about the cold at the post when the condensation on my mustache freezes. Don’t mind rain, though I’d rather be indoors. Some snow is fine. I’d find San Diego weather boring.

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9 thoughts on “Beard, or no beard: that is the question

  1. Roger, I knew a guy who had vitiligo, but he was quite young and his face was a sort of patchwork affair. We talked at length about what he called “morphing into white,” how it affected his relationships with his friends, who made all sorts of fun, called him Oreo… I’m glad that, if you did have to go through this condition, you had supportive friends and family.

    As for the sun, I have a healthy respect for it, in that I used sunscreen wherever, whenever. My two sisters are blond and blue-eyed, whereas I am “black Irish,” or in the words of John Sayles in The Secret of Roan Inish, “Every now and then, they spit out a dark one.” I’m much less at risk for skin cancer, but I slather the SPF 1,345 (!) like it’s going out of style! Happy New Year, Merry Christmas, as you can expect, the pastor’s wife has been MIA… Love, Amy

  2. I don’t like cold at all, as you know, Roger, which is why I like Auckland’s Climate so much: It gets a bit cold in winter and bit hot in summer, but not oppressively either and not for terribly long. We should all stay out of the sun at midday, however.

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