I look in the mirror and another face looks back at me. It's older, tired, worn. The cheeks sag, look depressed. The jaw line is dark, round, full.
It's not attractive, not that my face ever was. But the old face held youth. A smile. Bright, ever-observing eyes.
That old joke from my days in elementary school comes to mind: Is your face hurting you? 'Cos, it's killing me.
That was the locker-room talk that my friends and I had. Cheap jokes that made fun of each other. Occasional talk of girls in class: "Did you check out so-and-so's butt in those jeans? Nice!" Sure, it was immature and wrong, but we never bragged about wanting to force ourselves on anyone. That's not locker talk that I've ever heard. Ever.
But I digress...
I was talking about my face.
I've always looked younger than my 51 years. Sure, I walk like a 90-year-old man, hobbling on my deteriorating feet, but my face has always looked young.
I have usually kept a clean-shaven face, which adds to my youthfulness. There have been times, on vacations, where I've left my razor at home. On a couple of Movembers, I have grown a moustache in support of prostate-cancer awareness. For a couple of months, when I was at home, on parental leave with my first-born, I grew a goatee.
But facial hair has never stayed long, I've never tried to grow a full beard.
On Friday, September 30, in the early hours of the morning, a rose from bed, got in the shower, and shaved, in the dark, with my eyes closed, as I always do. Before six, I dressed and hopped in my car and drove to work.
It's not uncommon for me to not shave on a weekend, especially if I have no formal plans. With the tear-down of our kitchen in full swing, I wore faded jeans and a paint-stained t-shirt on October 1. My hair, though recently cut, went unwashed, and as I pulled down cabinets and pried backsplash tiles, I became sweaty and covered in dust.
If I were to walk the downtown streets, appearing as I did, you might think I was homeless.
I didn't shave, that weekend, and when Monday came, I decided not to shave again, as I readied myself for work. For nearly two weeks, now, I haven't so much as touched my razor. A scraggly mix of salt-and-pepper whiskers covers my cheeks and makes my neck itchy. I haven't decided to grow a full beard, so much as I have given up on maintaining a smooth face.
The longer I wait, the longer the hairs grow, the more challenging it becomes to return my face to normal. The last time that I had used my electric razor, around the time that my youngest daughter cut my hair, the device fizzled out and stopped working. It was a gift that I had received about 35 years ago, at Christmas, when my first peach fuzz started coming in. That old Braun razor owed me nothing, had served me well over the decades.
Two weeks in, my beard is still patchy but the whiskers are too long to simply remove with a triple-bladed, manual shaver. Anyone who has tried to shave this much knows that after a couple of millimetres, the cut whiskers get clogged between the blades and the razor ends up pulling out as many whiskers as it cuts. It becomes painful, labour-intensive, and slow.
At this point, if I am to shave, a new electric razor is in store. I'm going to need one, anyway, because even if I decide to keep the beard, I'm going to need to groom it. I'm going to have to remove the scratchy hairs from my neck.
It's getting into sweater season, after all.
Not many people have seen my face, lately. My family, of course, as have my co-workers. And, a few neighbours. I'm not showing my face around my friends. Not yet.
The question, for now, is this: should I shave or should I grow?