Anyone who has a beard knows that if you want to keep it looking good, you have to touch it up quite often. A trim on Monday, a mustache waxing on Wednesday, a buzzing on Friday. That’s a lot of time, effort and product. But as annoying as it can be to keep up with grooming, imagine not being able to do it at all. Most cancer patients aren’t able to keep their hair because of their treatments. This is why I, and many other men, participate in No-Shave November. We let our beards grow wild and free to raise awareness for various cancers and donate any money we would have used for grooming supplies to the No-Shave November non-profit organization for cancer research. Below is a chronicle of my journey through this very itchy month.
I am off to a very bad start. Work and school have kept me busy to the point of sleeping in 30 minute increments in a corner of the library. I have left my beard neglected and misshapen. Over the course of the last month, it has grown to resemble the beginnings of a small forest. Scraggly underbrush has started to congregate under the not-so-well-formed line separating my beard from my neck. But I had been reminding myself every single day of the month: “Make sure you groom before November’s doom.” I thought something that cheesy and juvenile would be easy enough to remember. But on Halloween, the one day of October I got to let loose and have fun, all sense of time escaped me. As I got home from my festivities, shuffled to the bathroom and clicked on my trusty clippers, I happened to get a glance of the clock. 12:32 a.m. November had begun, and I was trapped. Trapped with an uneven and scraggly beard with an entire month left to grow. I felt a wave of panic and unease wash over me as I steeled myself, turned off my clippers and slowly lowered them into the cabinet, while staring at my own scruffy reflection. I failed to prepare, and this grave mistake would cost me dearly. This was going to be a long month.
Good news and bad news. The good news is that the scraggly underbrush has finally grown in. The bad news is that the rest of my beard has been growing, too. I’m still an uneven mess, and I can feel the piercing eyes of my fellow students fixated on my face as I walk past. I feel their judgment, their shame and their sympathy all at the same time. I feel like a Sasquatch that has not yet fully grown. Sure, I’m ridiculed and laughed at now but when I’m fully grown…I’ll be ridiculed and laughed at even more. I’m pretty sure a few people will be terrified. When I tried taking my headphones off earlier, they got caught in my sideburns. I had to stand there in the library quad untangling them from my face for 10 minutes. How is that even possible? I’m not looking forward to what’s in store.
The nightmares have begun. They always begin the same way. I’m standing at my bathroom mirror, eager to finally slice the monstrosity I call my beard off of my chin. But then, the beast awakens, grabs my hand and swallows the clippers whole. Nothing can stop it. Not even my Remington. I wake up screaming, only to realize that it was just a dream. Then, I put my hand to my face, and it brushes against my beard in the darkness. The screams begin again. It’s not over. It’s never over. At least not until Nov. 30 anyway. But that might as well be forever because as bad as things are now, they can only get worse.
This Monday was an exciting occasion. I was to be an actor in SPJ’s murder mystery dinner. My character was Luis Cagliostro, an Italian student “suspected” of being in the mafia. I was ecstatic. I spent two hours perfectly pressing my jet-black suit and ocean-blue dress shirt the night before. I shined my shoes and buffed out all the scratches. I prepared my thickest and most authentic New York Italian accent. I clipped a rose and placed it gingerly into my breast pocket. And to top it all, I dusted off my old trusty costume fedora and poised it on my head with the perfect tilt. Everything was set in place, and I was ready to play my role. As I walked into work in the morning, my excitement getting the best of me, suddenly it all came crashing down. As my coworker turned around in her chair, I was expecting compliments on the suit, the hat and the attention to detail of my character. But the words that actually escaped her lips were, “Why are you dressed as an Amish person?” Curse this beard. I can’t wait for the day I can finally chop it off. Or at least go at it with some trimmers.
As the end of No-Shave November draws nearer and my clippers grow more anxious, things have gotten a little easier to cope with. All of my friends and coworkers have started accepting the beard as it is, cracking jokes about preparing for the winter. And I’ve grown quite attached to it as well. Everything below the chin has definitely got to go on Dec. 1, but the rest has been welcomed on my face. Knowing what this journey has represented and that the money I donate is going to a good cause makes me feel even better about the whole situation. While I bide my time and wait for the month to come to a close, I hope fellow men out there who have participated feel the same way.