Had a beer with a beard the other day to celebrate the relentless commercial onset of Christmas. The beard was my old friend’s familiar trademark and I told him once more how much it suited him.
Over the years I’d seen it mature from wispy goatee to bushy maturity, from an indeterminate grey grey-brown to a credible imitation of Santa’s whiter than white version, with all the jollity it was associated with.
Many years earlier, neither my friend nor I had beards. Hair yes, down to our shoulders, but beards had yet to come into fashion. Now they are everywhere as boomers desperately try to extend their youth.
They sport lusty beards, trim hair as close as possible to their scalps or shave it off, trying to make baldness their friend. You can fool some of the people most of the time this way because it remains pseudo-fashionable.
What you can’t do is fool the very young. My daughters once teased in front of my three year old grand-daughter about having no hair. They asked her what she thought had happened to it. She stared at me clinically, then told them: “The wind blew it away!” As if to compensate, she added: “But he does have some hair on the sides”.
My friend and I reminisced as most of the people at this reunion of sorts were doing. It wasn’t so much about stories we had covered ages ago. It was about beards and the impact of the full bodied beard I’d grown on a European holiday.
In 1988 our family was going home and on the way, landed at Rome’s Fiumicino International Airport. The era of the threat posed by ‘the other’ had dawned and I was clearly one of those. As I walked into the screening area, an armed policeman glared at me – then reached for his holster, though he didn’t draw his gun.
I passed through the screening without problems but the incident shook me as much as the Police officer. The first thing I did when we reached the hotel was shave off my beard, though for old time’s sake I left on my moustache. Who could possibly object to that? Indeed.
Our next stop was Athens. There, one of the Security officers saluted me… then another. First thing I did after I checked into the hotel was to shave off my moustache.
Moral of the story: Not all beards are equal. But mos, well, they not only get the nod, but also a salute!