I've been wearing a beard for over a year, and by now the beard has become as much a part of my persona as a largish nose, spindly legs, and a spine that rivals Lombard Street in San Francisco in its defining characteristic of world's curviest.
Isn't it ironic that when you reach your 60s, you do things to try to make yourself look younger that you would have done in times past to look older?
There was, however, one thing about the beard that clearly did make me look as long in the tooth as Dracula on a hot date:
Its fleece was white as snow!
Yes, my beard was totally gray, as gray as the combined beards of actor Donald Sutherland, CNN newsman Wolf Blitzer, and cowboy Roy Rogers's grizzled sidekick, Gabby Hayes. You probably don't remember Gabby Hayes, but rest assured if you're growing a beard to look younger and cooler, your role model is not going to be Roy Rogers's grizzled sidekick, Gabby Hayes. And few were comparing me to Donald Sutherland or Wolf Blitzer.
Finally someone sat me down and told me frankly that the all-gray beard was making me look older and to dye it or give it up. That the person doing so was Santa Claus gave the advice that much more credibility and immediacy.
So I went out and purchased a box of Just for Men, the prevailing treatment today for rampant gray beardedness. On the package of the dark brown variety of Just for Men was a photo of a man who had just used the product, and indeed it had worked wonders! Through the magic of Just for Men, a 22-year-old man with a dark beard now looked exactly like a 22-year-old man with a dark beard!
In our youth-obsessed culture, even a product meant for bearded middle-aged guys is marketed via someone who looks like he's too young to shave.
With the box of Just for Men now opened on my bathroom sink, I faced a dilemma. How much gray to take out and/or leave in the beard? If you remove it all and make the beard totally dark, it looks like your face has been attacked by an insane bootblack from Pennsylvania Station circa 1957. But if you take out too little, Roy Rogers is likely to spring to life and ask you to help him form a posse.
So I stood before the mirror, took a deep breath, mixed the stuff together, and attacked my beard as I might attack a swarm of bees surrounding my face. Leave a gray patch here, leave a gray patch there, make it real dark here, and make it real dark there....ee-ei-ee-ei oh!
One thing I knew I wanted was the "gray chin patch" made famous in Philadelphia by legendary disc jockey Pierre Robert, a man who has been around as far back as the British Invasion and when I say the British Invasion, I mean the first one.
Within five minutes I was finished. My beard was a crazy quilt of varying shades of brown and gray. The gray chin patch that looks so cool on Mr. Robert on me came out looking more like a chin dipped in vanilla ice cream.
And there was more Just for Men on the sink than on my face.
The truth is, unless you've marked off a precise gray/brown designation for your beard like you were surveying the Mason-Dixon Line and you touch it up every couple of days, every application of the stuff will turn out differently. Time-lapse photography of your face over a couple of weeks would show the gray patches moving swiftly across your beard like clouds on Doppler radar.
But with it all, after many applications to my credit, I’m starting to get the hang of it. Gabby Hayes has been banished once and for all. Santa Claus would be proud.
So tell me, is the Just for (Vain) Men working? Do I look younger?
Maybe a little?
Whaddya mean, wipe that ice cream off my chin?!!