The last time I shaved off my beard was 1997.
It was for our New Year's 1947 party. Our reference material seemed to indicate that men of our social class in 1947 just didn't have beards; besides, it had been some years since I'd last seen what I looked like without mine.
I showed up for the party, sans beard, in a trenchcoat and fedora; then I switched to a white suit (rented from a costume shop for the occasion). It was widely remarked that I looked about eighteen.
I have a couple of photos of me from then, but transferring them from paper to computer is too much effort for tonight. And anyway, that's not what I'm here to talk about.
A couple of weeks ago, feeling vaguely dissatisfied and wanting some kind of a change, it occurred to me to actually do something I had been considering for years: shave my beard again.
Partly it was just 'cause it seems like fourteen years is long enough between incidents of finding out what my uncovered face looks like. Partly it was because I suspect it won't be long before shaving would mean my beard coming back in entirely in grey—there are already some grey hairs in it. (I sometimes trim them out, out of pure vanity.)
I warned Kam ahead of time, because she had previously expressed unhappiness about the prospect.
And then Thursday night, after my last day at work before a week and a half off, and after a little time with Mary Anne, and after going bowling with Kam and a bunch of other people, and after a videophone call with Debby, I thought, okay, if I'm going to do this, now's the time. It'll have eleven days to start growing back before I go back to work.
(Startling my co-workers would be very entertaining—but I wouldn't want to have to go in to work beardless for a couple of weeks as it grows back. And last time I made a significant change to my appearance—the blond-and-then-red hair episode—no one seemed to like it much, which made going to work a little awkward.)
So I took some Before photos (like the one at the start of this entry). And then I ran the trimmer over my whole beard, set to a close trim. And took more photos. And then repeated those last two steps a couple more times, until I had removed most of the beard with the trimmer; then I shaved.
And then I took some After photos, one of which is included here.
It was an interesting experiment. It was worth doing, because if I hadn't done it, I would've continued to be curious.
But I don't like it.
I don't like the shape of my face. As someone noted the other day, if I take my glasses off it looks a little better, but it still looks kind of nondescript and generic to me.
One great thing about some beards—including mine—is that they can be easily trimmed to reshape the jawline. I like how I look with the beard; I dislike shaving (when I was in college, I used to call it “scraping my face”) and can't get a really close shave, so I always look a little scruffy when I don't have a beard; and the beard lets me make my jaw look how I want it to look.
So it's an easy decision; I'm growing it back. Mary Anne suggested that I could wait and see if I get used to it, but I'm pretty sure I don't like it. One friend said I looked ten years younger (Kam said I look even younger than that), and another friend said they liked it, but pretty much everyone else's only comment has been that I look totally different, like a stranger. That's how it feels to me, too—I catch sight of myself in the mirror and I do a little double-take, because it's obviously not me.
I've even been kind of covering up my jaw and chin while I talk with people in some contexts—I feel a little like I've accidentally gone outside naked or something.
Anyway, it'll look more or less like this After picture for probably another week or so, as it gradually grows back in. (I'm shaving around the shape of the beard as usual, so that as it grows in it'll be clear that I'm not just forgetting to shave.) So if you want to see it in person, let me know. Video chats may also be available in some areas.
Not sorry I tried it, but glad it doesn't have to be permanent. This may be the last time I do this. If I get curious again in another ten or fifteen years, I may look back at this entry and reconsider. Though I don't know yet how I'll react when it does go grey; that might change things. We'll see.