Monday, January 22, 2007

The Changing Face of Me

I shaved off my beard this morning.

I didn't intend to do that. I intended to do the usual job of clearing the stubble off my cheeks and neck before getting started on this pithy article about John W. Campbell that I've been mulling over all weekend. But instead, I looked into the bathroom mirror this morning and realized: it's not salt-and-pepper anymore. It's gray. With a lot of white. And it doesn't make me look distinguished, or artistic, or cuddly, or any of those things: it makes me look old.

So, as the Crosby, Stills & Nash song "Almost Cut My Hair" echoed through the canyons of my mind, I shaved it off.

Actually, I didn't shave the whole thing off. Right at the moment I've got a sort of walrus / fu manchu / George Harrison on the inside cover of Sgt. Peppers look going, for the simple reason that that's as far as I got before my electric razor ran out of charge. But the fact that the soundtrack for this story is Beatles and CSN&Y reinforces the painful central fact: old.

When I was much younger, my beard always started out red, then darkened to brown. When it got longer, it developed a pronounced fork, like you see in old Civil War era photos. I always thought it looked kind of — well, something interesting, anyway.

About ten years ago, I turned down a job offer from a It was for a senior management position with a great title and they were recruiting me hard, but they were offering way too little reward for the risk involved, and the principals were way too short on tact. As the negotiations started to go south, one of the founders felt he could improve the situation by explaining why they wanted me specifically.

"We need a graybeard," he said. "Y'know, an old guy, to be the face who talks to bankers and investors, so they don't think we're all just a bunch of punk-ass kids with ponytails and piercings."

That is long since dot.gone, of course. And as of today, so is Bruce Forkbeard.