Stubble, stubble – why go to trouble?

by | Feb 5, 2012 | Comment, Detroit Free Press | 0 comments

I came. I saw. I shaved.

This was after five weeks of trying to grow a beard. You couldn’t really call it that, a beard. More like a collection of facial hair, some here, some there and none everywhere else.

If my beard were clothing, it’d be jeans with holes cut out. If my beard were a landmass, it’d be the Galapagos Islands. My beard had more patches than an Eagle Scout. More vacancies than the Bates Motel. Hairy clouds against flesh-colored…Well, you get the picture.

This, by the way, is why I never try a beard when I have to see – or be seen by – other people. You hate to enter a room and have everyone break out laughing.

But I recently had a five-week absence to finish a book, and I was holed up in a room most of the day, and the only people seeing me were members of my family and, let’s face it, you could come downstairs in a clown suit and your family would say, “What’s for breakfast?”

So, alone in my cave, I gave it a shot.


A hairy dream since childhood

I have a history of doing this every few years. It goes back to the first time I envisioned myself with facial hair.

In the seventh grade.

I thought it would be cool. I thought chicks would dig me. Of course, back then, I was also hoping my voice would change.

But all boys secretly imagine themselves with a drooping Fu Manchu or fat sideburns. And so, unable to actually sprout hair on my own, I took a magic marker and drew a mustache over my lip. Then I smeared it to make it more “natural,” which left me looking like a girl who applied black lipstick in the dark.

The next day, after a firm scolding from my mother, and perhaps some turpentine, I was once again clean-shaven.

But my dream would not die.

Now, there are two types of teenage boys: Those who grow five-o’clock shadows by gym class, and those who grow nothing but the occasional pimple. I was the latter. I waited for facial hair. Nothing came. I examined my ears, my chin, beneath my nose. Hairless.

Soon the dream turned to envy. When Al Pacino sported that mustache and beard in “Serpico,” I wanted one. When those guys in “Miami Vice” had that sexy stubble, I wanted it. Burt Reynolds. Elvis. Walt Frazier. They were always so cool with their sideburns, Van Dykes, moustaches. Even today, from Brad Pitt to that guy from “The Hangover” – Bradley Cooper – I still look on jealously from the sidelines, wistful for whiskers, my hirsute merely hearsay.

If at first you don’t succeed

So last month, I braved the waters once again. I stopped shaving. No one noticed for five days. Then the occasional comments from family members, which advanced from “Forgot your razor?” to “Going grubby?” to, eventually, “Hey, what’s that on your face?”

The hair grew in these places: chin, cheeks, upper lip. The hair never grew in these places: sideburns, jawline and the area that connects a mustache with a goatee. I would press against the mirror, looking for the smallest green shoots. Nothing.

What I did see, once the chin hair thickened out, was this shocking development: It was coming in gray!

How is that fair? I never got a young man’s beard, and now I was Santa Claus?

I had been leapfrogged, left in a squat, like a man who fell asleep in spring and woke up in fall, his summer stolen. Even if I were successful in my bearded efforts, I was now fated to be … Sean Connery.

Who – I realized – was bald.

So last week, with the book completed, I got out the electric razor, the hand razor and some shaving cream. I am happy to report that there was some tug, it actually hurt a bit to cut it off. (Sweet resistance! Proof of existence!)

The bad news is, losing it took all of three minutes. And I was back to where I started.

And where I will remain. You have to count your blessings, and the Lord has left me with hair on my head if not on my face. Who knows? Maybe Sean Connery would see me and say, “I want some of that.”

So I am clean again. Resigned to smooth cheeks and barren jaws. I came. I saw. I shaved.

Or as they might write on a bathroom wall, “Here I sit, brokenhearted, minus the beard, that never got started.”

Contact Mitch Albom:

or 313-223-4581. Catch “The Mitch Albom Show”

5-7 p.m. weekdays on WJR-AM (760).


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Mitch Albom writes about running an orphanage in impoverished Port-au-Prince, Haiti, his kids, their hardships, laughs and challenges, and the life lessons he’s learned there every day.

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