Sunday, September 27, 2015

I Shaved My Beard, And It Meant Something

I almost chose not to write this.

It seemed silly and quite honestly pretentious to pontificate an experience so common among adult men – the grow & mow of facial hair. What makes my beard so special?

And then I quickly realized how often I begin to ask these sort of questions, interrogating myself before I speak, think – write. My beard doesn't have to be special. Not all things must be special to deserve being written about. Sometimes, we should write about the common, the ordinary, the mundane. Ironically, they're the things we forget to ponder, to remember . . .
I stopped shaving my beard the day Mama died.

It wasn't a conscious decision at first. Frankly, the first few weeks, it was like I'd simply forgotten. But just some weeks after that, forgetfulness became choice. It became giving up. Months and months of giving up growing on my face like a derelict garden.

What became humorous were comments, and sometimes even compliments, from friends. Some assumed my beard was a religious epiphany, carrying a spiritual purpose – an attempt to don the Prophetic appearance. Certain pious folk even condemned the mere idea of me eventually returning to a clean face, citing Islamic tales prohibiting the shaving of beards. Yet no one named a Qu'ranic decree – because there aren't any – and so I feared not.

Some assumed I was simply accessorizing my face, that I was letting my beard grow to simply grow a beard. Some thought it looked nice, some though it looked terrible. Most, of course, didn't care.

I was one of most. I honestly didn't care.

Even as I kept it nice and tidy, trimmed and shaped – it remained a metaphor of weight. It sponged up over a year's worth of grief-induced sweat and depressed tears. It grew longer and heavier as I shrunk and hid beneath it.

No, it wasn't special at all. But it was that serious. It is that serious, to me, because when I lost Mama, I felt like I lost a part of myself. And in losing myself, I lost my ability to care, to feel anything other than apathetic. The beard cloaked me with a layer of false manhood & maturity like a costume, a façade. It made me look and feel like a person completely different than Mama knew – and I took an uncomfortable solace in that. I looked in the mirror and I saw an illusion of perseverance. I convinced myself I was moving on.

And so, when I finally shaved my beard yesterday morning, it meant something. Because finally, after over a year without Mama's presence, I looked in the mirror and didn't see an illusion. I saw perseverance. I no longer had to convince myself I was moving on . . . I've moved on. I feel like myself again. I had my Boehner moment – "Today is the day, as simple as that" – and I mowed away the weight.

And as silly as that may sound, as silly as it really is, all I know is now I feel free.

I can grow again.