New love is growing on me

I AM growing a beard. It began in the Lake District as a ‘holiday beard’, which is to say a beard grown mainly because there’s no pressing need to shave. Holiday beards are like holiday flings – they feel so right at the time, but when you get back home and stare hard at yourself in the mirror you experience feelings of self-loathing and regret.

However, on this occasion, I seem to have made a small commitment to the beard. We are now almost three weeks into our relationship and beginning to get to know each other properly. We’re at the stage when the little things it does, those foibles which could in future prove annoying, are still cute and exciting. I like the way, for instance, that the beard is not uniform in colour. Though mainly brown, it is flecked, like a length of Harris Tweed, with ginger and silver.

What the beard thinks of me is less clear. It’s a bit clingy, I must say, and has a tendency to creep down my neck and up towards my eyes. It needs to understand, before we go much further, that I have boundary issues. I need my own space. So every few days I take out the razor and shave it into shape. Treat ’em mean, keep ’em keen – that’s the way with beards.

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My wife, I think, is jealous. Must be. She hasn’t been near me for a kiss since the beard came on the scene. “There are three of us in this marriage,” she says, “and it’s rough on me.” But she ought to understand that I have needs. The beard can strengthen our relationship. I am confident that in time she will learn to love it too.

I’m a modern man, so when I was unsure of whether or not to carry on with the beard, I posted a photo on Facebook. It’s at times like that, these moments of personal crisis, when you really find out who your friends are. “Keep the beard, lose the rest of the face,” was a typical remark. Not terribly helpful or supportive.

Others, however, liked it. Australians, pipe-smokers and gay men were especially keen. “I think you look very handsome. And bear-like,” said one sex-shop owner. Bear, in this case, is a slang term within LGBT culture referring to gay men who are bearded and cuddly or burly. My interpretation of the comment is that I look like Ernest Hemingway.

It’s worth pointing out, too, that with this beard I am bang on trend. Over the last few days, a number of newspapers and magazines have carried features about Retrosexuals – men who have forsaken shaving and moisturising in favour of the rugged look. The statistical evidence is that sales of razor blades and other male grooming products have slumped dramatically over the past year against a backdrop of economic downturn.

I’m not sure, though, that being unable to afford a bag of Bics is really the same as a style choice. And anyway, for me the beard is not about money or fashion. This thing we have is deeper and purer than that. One day soon, it is true, our amour fou may end as nothing more than swirled bristle in a sink. One strop and it could be all over. But for the moment, we are happy, we are hairy, and we are dancing cheek to cheek. n

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