I’ve had a little beard on my chin, what I guess they call a goatee, since somewhere in the mid-90s. I was taking a rare 3-week vacation around Christmas and let the hair on my face grow. What I had after 3 weeks wasn’t what you’d call a beard; it was more like the mange.
I know guys who can grow a full beard almost overnight, it seems. Not me. I never had enough testosterone to go full Galifianakis. The sideburns fill in okay but my upper lip stays mostly wispy and I always end up with bald patches here and there.
When break was over, I shaved the growth back to a mustache and goatee--- what they call a van dyke. My wife hated the mustache part. I could never make a mustache work anyway. I tried one in college and it didn’t go well. What growth I had made me look a lot like Freddie Mercury. Which would be fine, I guess, if I was the gay frontman for a glamrock band but I wasn’t, so it was fairly problematic.
So I shaved the ‘stache but kept everything under my lower lip: the “soul patch” and goatee. I’ve had those ever since.
Lately, I’ve been giving some thought to shaving the little tuft. A huge personal decision, I know. Ranks up there with tongue piercing or donating a kidney.
All right, it’s no Sophie’s Choice. But I’ve worn a goatee for nearly two decades now. My goatee is older than two of my children. It’s become part of me. If an eyewitness was describing me to the police, my goatee would surely be part of it: “yes, officer, he’s an older guy, 5’ 11,” with a little beard-like, patch thingy on his chin.”
I see a lot of old guys with my configuration of facial hair. Most of them are much older, Viet Nam vet types--- big, bushy mustache with the van dyke below. Some guys grow facial hair to cover up a weak chin. I don’t need the help in the chin department.
Abraham Lincoln had a nice chin but always looked weird in pictures without his beard. Shakespeare, Santa, Jesus… Facial hair was a definite part of Hitler’s look. How would they look clean-shaven?
People know me for my goatee, don’t they? What would people say when they don’t see hair on my chinny chin chin? What would they think of me without it? And more importantly, why would I care?
It just felt like it was time for a change. I didn’t want to become one of those people: old people who lock into whatever style they had when they gave up caring what they looked like. Or maybe the look they had the last time they felt good about themselves. Even famous people do that: Joan Rivers, Burt Reynolds, Gloria Steinem.
I chickened out last weekend. I had the razor in my hand, too, ready to go. I kept looking at myself in the mirror, trying to imagine what it’d be like to see my chin again. I wrapped my hand around it, covered it up, and squinted. Hm, yes, it’d probably be okay.
And then--- I didn’t do it. I shaved around it like I usually do…
I’ve changed hairstyles a couple of times since I adopted the goatee. I like to think the hair on top of my head, what’s left of it, is in a pretty constant state of evolution.
I had a buzzcut as a kid--- barbershop, butch wax, the whole bit. I grew my hair out in high school after a lot of fighting with my parents. It was kind of mullet-y for a while, then shorter again in my improv comedy/trying-be-an-actor phase. Then I grew it long again, well past my shoulders, wore it in a ponytail. It’s somewhere in between now.
I knew I just had to shave it, like jumping in the deep end of a frozen lake, like everyone on the Internet dumping ice water on their heads for no fully explained reason. I had to go for it.
So I did it. All done, gone. And here’s the real trauma: no one noticed.
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