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I never intended to grow a beard. Bald since nineteen, I thought a beard would only draw attention to the lack of hair on the top of my head, as though by shaving my face I somehow made my shiny scalp less noticeable. I’m not saying this made sense, I’m saying this is how my mind worked.

Before I had to shave on a regular basis, it looked so appealing. Razor commercials made the whole routine seem exhilarating, all splashing water and six pack abs and if that’s what shaving was like, sign me up. When it came time to actually shave, there was less splashing water and washboard abs and a lot more blood.

The night of my freshman homecoming dance was the night I decided my journey as a man would begin. Borrowing slash stealing a razor and shaving cream from my stepfather, I holed myself up in our bathroom and said goodbye to the peach fuzz on my upper lip. Having never really attempted this particular move but imitating every Gillette commercial I had ever seen, I confidently dragged the razor up my lip and directly into the side of my nose.

What they left out of the commercials are how much shaving wounds bleed. Shearing the side of my nostril clear off opened up a geyser that was instantly more noticeable than the invisible peach fuzz had ever been, and I spent the next hour before pictures dabbing my face with cold towels and ice cubes and praying I wouldn’t bleed on my date all night long.

I wish I could say this was the last time I cut myself, but when all my hair fell out a couple years later, I had a lot more surface area to cover and had only gotten marginally better at not injuring myself. After more than a decade of sleepily lobbing chunks of scalp off in early-morning showers, the back of my head now looks like it survived Dresden.

This past fall, on an extended beach vacation with my family, I decided to give my face a vacation from my razor and before I knew it, I had a beard. I thought I’d get rid of it when I came back to Los Angeles, but I started getting compliments from friends, most of which were nice. That beard looks great! So much better than…before.” Before? You mean when it was just my face? Awesome.

All of a sudden, I had hair to take care of for the first time in sixteen years and I spared no expense. Shampoo, conditioner, oil, creams, and after it got long enough, my first trip to a barber shop as an adult.

Seated amongst my fellow bearded men in Los Feliz, the sign in front of me announced the shop’s rules: “No phones, no politics, no bullshit.” I had found my people and as I was summoned up to the red leather chair, I imagined my future weekly visits, filled with high fives and male bonding and inside beard jokes.

After fastening my cape, my barber spun me around to examine his canvas, which is when I learned how strictly the “no bullshit” rule was followed. “You been trimming this yourself?” I told him I had been, how could he tell? “Because you have a huge hole on one side and the whole thing is really uneven. And what’d you do to the back of your head? First time shaving?”

The rest of the shop laughed and then we swapped shaving wound stories for twenty minutes because apparently the only one who never cuts himself is the guy in the commercial.


This is post #18/30 in a 500 Words-A-Day Challenge. Read them all here.


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