“WITH GREAT BEARD COMES GREAT RESPONSIBILITY”
The dreaded C word
Thirty three years of my life has been spent either clean shaven or at most stubbly. In 2007 (my thirty-third year), my family were hit with cancer when my mother was diagnosed with breast cancer; she fought it, won and has thankfully since been clear. Over the following four years, several other family members and friends also found themselves fighting cancer, sadly not all with positive outcomes.
In 2009 I heard about a relatively unknown charity called Movember, promoting the importance of men’s health and highlighting the increasing cases of prostate and testicular cancer. The premise is that you grow a moustache through the month of November, beginning on the first as clean shaven and then grow what you could through the month. You ask people to sponsor your efforts with donations but most importantly it raises awareness of the disease and encourages blokes to get themselves checked regularly.
I signed up and raised £260 which I was rather pleased with. Over the next two years I organised small teams (mainly through work) and raised a further £1200 collectively, which I thought was a great achievement.
For me, a month of top lip growth was not good, and not very impressive, but it was for a good cause and that is what mattered to me. These were the only times I had attempted to grow facial hair, there was never very much of it and I certainly didn’t look very dapper!
On the third year, I was struggling for members and I thought to ask my father if he would join me. He is a retired church of England vicar (priest) and he said that he regretfully couldn’t. I wanted to know why and so pressed him. Interestingly he told me that part of the oath he took was that he should always be well kept and clean shaven (it seemed a very bizarre job requirement), as at the time he took his oath (many moons ago) it was thought a clean shaven person was more approachable – and I think I can understand that.
This made me think and reflect. Looking back, I can’t remember growing up knowing anyone who sported a beard or any other type of facial hair – I grew up with no beards in my family life – I was not a ‘child of the beard’.
Over the last few years, beards have become more prevalent in society and we now find people with beards in all walks of life. I suppose, and I hate to say it, a ‘trend’ was taking hold. I don’t think I can sit here and say that this didn’t have an affect on my decision to grow a beard, something that comes up on social media, meeting people in the street and exposure to them in the general media surely has an affect on us all, not just beards but everything.
I can certainly say that my main influence for my beard journey was the re-acquaintance of a friend from over twenty years ago. I had caught up with him on Facebook (as you do) and I had a look through his profile to see what he looked like now having not seen him for two decades. To my surprise, my old friend Danny was sporting the most marvellous beard! This marvel was well groomed and had great style and finesse – I was in awe! A style that I thought that I should venture into and I wanted one for sure.
I pondered on the beard idea for a couple of years and in January of 2015 I decided to take the plunge. I quite selfishly took this decision not thinking about the consequences or responsibilities, this was something for me, I wanted it and I was going to grow it.
Children of the beard
I am blessed with three bright and beautiful children who all have their own unique characters and qualities. They are my world; it’s difficult and hard work but there are moments that just melt all those difficulties away and memories that I will treasure for all of my life. My eldest son Alex turns 14 this year. He doesn’t live with us but comes to visit every three weeks or so. My only daughter Etta turns 4 at the end of this year and my youngest son Elijah has just turned 9 months.
In the lead up to Christmas 2015, one evening I had been sat thinking, probably with something on the TV and vaping on some great juice, when it hit me: my youngest son had never known me without a beard. This concerned me. For me this beard is just one year of my life, such a small amount of time, but for Elijah it was his whole life!
If I had shaved my beard off the following day then my son would not recognise me – his father – that did not feel good. I then began to think about Etta – would she recognise me if I shaved? The following day I showed her some older photos (sans beard) and asked her to name the people in the photos, she did in fact point to me in the photo and say “daddy!” I was massively relieved.
After this I saw a video that was doing the rounds of a man who had shaven his beard off and hidden under a blanket. His 18 month old daughter was put on his lap and he came out from under the blanket and the little girl screamed – rather cruelly, she had no idea who it was and why would she?
I know from this that if I made the decision to remove my beard, it would need to be done with great care and in front of my young children. Do not misunderstand me – I am certainly not considering shaving my beard off, I am in every way a pogonophile and my beard is here to stay and grow.
It led me to think about what my children thought of my furry face – so here are the views of my children on their bearded father to date.
Alex is in his teens now and he is very much becoming a typical teenager, with teenage responses. I asked him what he thought:
“Ermm, yeah” he said.
” Anything else?” I asked. To which he responded:
” Nah, not really”.
I take a year of my life to grow this magnificent hairy form on my chin, carved and cultured, trimmed and handled with loving care and my son has no opinion, whatsoever.
Now Etta has plenty to say on the subject, in fact she has plenty to say about most things and if she runs out of words, she makes some up so that she can continue to talk. She is what we call an ‘old soul’. Obviously she is only three but there is such maturity in her speech and her humour along with great comic timing too.
As for the beard, well her opinions change on a daily basis, but if I was to do an average response it would be that she did not like it.
“Furry kisses, eurgh” she would say.
So most of her kisses are given to me on my leg, my arm, my shoulder, or my chest, and mainly ‘air kisses’. Etta does forget from time to time and I do actually get a proper kiss.
If we are sat watching the TV she will sometimes sit and run her fingers through my beard and she also sometimes runs up to me, grabs my beard and uses it to shake my head from side to side whilst saying “coochie, coochie coo!” – it’s not very pleasant.
One evening recently I was putting her to bed and we’d just had stories and turned the lights out. As we lay there (Etta likes someone to be there until she’s fallen asleep) Etta said:
” Yes” I said.
“You must shave.” – she demanded, in a very serious voice.
“Shave what?” I asked perplexed.
“Your eyebrows daddy, your eyebrows.” she confirmed.
“Oh?” I exclaimed.
“They don’t look good Daddy.” she said in disgust, promptly rolling over and falling asleep.
On another occasion when we were getting ready for bed, we were in the bathroom and had just finished brushing teeth.I have a tendency to play with my moustache, twiddling it, exaggerating it, curling it up and this was one of those such occasions.
Etta was standing on the toilet (she can easily reach the sink from there) and turned to me with a scowl on her face:
“Daddy!” she exclaimed.
“Come here!” She demanded. She reached up to my face and with her finger pushed my curled up moustache back down, shaking her head and saying:
“No daddy. No”.
Etta knows what she likes and what she doesn’t like.
And last night, Etta in fact decided that she actually wants her own beard, just like Daddy. Not sure how to explain to her that that might be tricky….
Elijah being only 9 months old can’t quite voice an opinion yet, but he certainly works with smiles, facial expressions and noises to get his opinion across. In the house he is known as the ‘hair grabber’ especially by my wife and Etta, because if they get too close Elijah will grab a chunk of hair and hold on for dear life, in general the girls are taken by surprise.
For me there is an expectation, but he can take me by surprise too. When you carry a baby in the crook of your arm, their hands tend to be around shoulder height or beard height in my case. So, as I said there is the expectation that if you put something so tempting in reach that can be pulled – they are going to pull it.
Playing around with Elijah, helping him get around (he is just crawling) and playing games with him, I have quite a bit of face to face time. Often with this comes a full on grab of a chunk of beard and yank it as hard as he can and there is an element of being prepared for this.
Then there are moments when Elijah will sit quite happily and softly run his hands through my beard, giggling (I assume because it tickles the palms of his hands) and I’m drawn into a false sense of security that he is just going to be caring and gentle.
Then suddenly, still with a smile on his face, a frenzied attack will commence! Elijah will take a good hold of my beard with both hands and with no rhythm or coordination pull with all his might in opposite directions. He will release only to then collect fresh clumps of beard or moustache (this and the hair on your bottom lip is the most painful) and pull again in different directions, leaving me in disarray and all my hard work grooming undone. Elijah would however have found it highly amusing and become disappointed when I stopped him and moved him away.
Though the choice to grow a beard was somewhat selfish, I feel that all my children have embraced the beardiness of their father and wouldn’t have me any other way.
I feel that they have either become, or always have been ‘children of the beard’.
Have a dapper day cloud chasers!
MOD & juice: Dripex DBOX 30W with an Aspire Triton tank – 1.8ohm coil. Honey Vapes – Raspberry Custard 0.6mg (delightful,easily an all day vape!)
Haircare: Apothecary87 original recipe beard oil and a little Layrite pomade to calm the tashe (which I also use in my hair)