Ahh, sweet vanity, how we all at some level, succumb to thee. I love my facial hair and I am assuming you do as well since you are reading this article…that is, your own facial hair and not mine. Unless this is Troy – If this is Troy, BACK OFF ALREADY! Is a restraining order not obvious enough about how I feel for your unrequited adoration of my beard? The Facebook fan page was the last straw.
“Sigh”, ah yes facial hair.
No matter how well you treat your fur, conditioning, oiling, and molly coddling even, sadly, it will inevitably betray you. One day you will wake up and look into the ever truthful mirror, mounted on the ceiling above your bed, and spot that mocking white whisker, erect as a middle finger and wagging like a tongue. You will then here its child-like voice in your inner ear.
“Na na na na naaaaaaa naaaaa!”
“Damn”, is all you will come back with, hardly a clever retort.
Or even worse, your current girlfriend who you are easily 10 years her senior will spot it first.
“It’s actually blond “, you will tell her in a scolding tone. Then excuse yourself as you retreat to the bathroom, in a calm, calculated fashion of fuax non concern. Which is as transparent as the whisker you are about to dispatch with tweezers. Glaring into the shaving mirror you mumble to yourself “Ave, Caesar, morituri te salutant”.
This may drive most aging, dare I say, hipsters to shave, but not you. For you realize this is a bad idea, and you will lose friends and lovers besides. This is not good. And so here is where my sad tale of woe begins.
[pullquote] The first is the shaft, which is what we see, style, and sometimes playfully nickname.[/pullquote]
Let me slip into my lab coat and drop a little science in your lap. I promise it will be brief and conveyed in laymen’s terms, which I speak rather fluently. The hair that makes up your beard, moustache, and everywhere else on your body is comprised of two key components. The first is the shaft, which is what we see, style, and sometimes playfully nickname. The second part is the follicle, which lies beneath the surface of the skin and resembles a white bulb. The follicle contains melanin; the very same stuff that lends pigment to our skin also fills the shaft giving color to the hair.
As time passes, the follicles become lazy and produce less and less melanin until eventually…nada. The filament is now empty and empty it shall remain, which gives us that white or grey whisker, which some of us take as an indicator species -Telling us it’s time to buy a motorcycle. Or the more sober of us, time to dye.
Going to the store and actually purchasing beard dye is a lot like the first time you dared to buy a pack of condoms or a dirty magazine…for your buddy. You try to camouflage the purchase with contrasting items in vain hope of distracting the cashier who could easily be your sweet, little old grandmother. You want to send the nonverbal message:
“I was just in here for a pack of number 2 pencils, triple A batteries and a random impulse buy of “Animal Action Quarterly”.
“Gee, I was only in for some Butterfingers and a Slurpy but Hell, I need to pick up a gag gift for a pal. Throw in a pack of Stubby Boy condoms too. HAR HAR HAR…”
A nervous cold sweat breaks under your lanky adolescent arms and down your back as your voice cracks on the last “HAR”.
So here I find myself again, now in my mid-thirties. Damn. I look at my soon to be purchases laid down on the counter between me and the 19 year old college girl now working behind the register. Where’s grandma?
Item 1: A copy of the New Yorker: obviously I am a man of the world, culturally up to date and an avid listener and supporter of NPR.
Item 2: A crisp copy of the new Rolling Stone: though sophisticated I may be, I am obviously still hip and possibly a post grad student of the liberal arts.
Item 3: A pack of Dentyne. There was actually no forethought for this, I am just naturally a sucker for strategic product placement and shiny things.
Item 4: A box of Just For Men standing on its side, UPC conveniently facing up for scanning ease.
I stand on the balls of my feet, shielding the box of Just For Men from the people behind me with my body. I stare at the closest thing to me and try to look engrossed in it. This happened to be the most recent copy of Women’s Day. Damn. The transaction is going rather smoothly and the color I can feel coming back to my face…until she gets to the box of Just For Men. She wears a confused look on her face. Obviously she is baffled that a strapping young man such as myself is buying this…must be for his dear old dad. Turning the box over and over in her hands she begins reaching for the phone. Oh god, I know what’s coming next. I start sweating and stage whispering “$7.99…it’s $7.99…the tag said $7.99…” To my utter chagrin and amazement she starts transmitting over the store intercom system, “Price check on Just For Men, light medium brown, Price check on Just…”
My heart stops and I may have even peed myself a little. I can feel the line of college aged people behind me, burning a hole through my probably greying back hair with their eyes. Before my mind shuts down and curls into the fetal position, I eye her name tag and read it outloud, “SUSAN” … I shan’t forget you. [Fade to black]
To be continued in PART 2 of Coloring Your Beard or Moustache : Ready to Dye
By Douglas Smythe