Me sans beardOur faces are an important part of who we are, it’s the first thing (we hope) someone looks at when they meet us. Like it or not, it’s the image we present to the world. On a man, very few other facial accessories are as important as facial hair (or lack thereof) it changes your apparent facial structure, accentuates or covers up other features. In short, a change to facial hair can really change a lot about how we look and therefore how we are perceived.

For years now, people have been bugging me to shave my beard off. None so outspoken as my friend & colleague Lara, who, when she first met me, decided she didn’t like me because of the beard. She soon warmed to my personality though, but has since been a stalwart advocate for a “clean shaven Witherden”.

I use that phrase “clean shaven Witherden” as an inside joke. Another friend, Ben, was once quoted (while under the influence of quite a lot of alchohol) as saying that he could “really go for a clean shaven Eberhard” (another friend). Since then everyone has claimed that they suddenly have a desire to grow a lot more facial hair so as to avoid Ben’s amorous attention.

Anyway, despite all this pressure, I have resisted shaving, for two main reasons. Firstly, I don’t respond well to peer pressure, I feel as though if I’m going to make a choice like this, it’s going to be for my own reasons, not to satisfy someone else’s curiosity. After all, they only have to look at me, not be me. The second, far more important, reason is the fact that over the last few years I have come to like myself a lot more than I ever did when I was younger. In many ways, the beard represented the “new me” and I didn’t want to change that and go back to the “old me”.

So, it was with these thoughts buzzing around in my brain that I took the razor and recklessly hacked through my beard. The razor stopped after a few seconds of course, because on the low American voltage it takes a day for my razor to pick up a 5 minute charge. I then went through 3 disposable razors to get the closeness of shave I needed. Incidentally, I have discovered that buying a pack of 8 disposable “3-blade” razors is far cheaper than buying only blades for the fancy “n-blade” razors. Here’s a little secret: if you want more blades cutting the hair off your chin, run the razor over the same spot twice.

Why did I do it, you may ask? Well, the primary reason is the heat. Many of you are blissfully ignorant of how itchy and uncomfortable a beard truly is. It doesn’t let up either. In the 38 degree (Celsius) heat we’ve been having recently, my beard had become quite an annoyance. Besides that I, like everyone else, wanted to see what I looked like without a beard and secretly wondered if, like Samson, I would feel less than who I really was without it.

It’s actually far less of a shock than one might imagine, because you can do it piecemeal, a little at a time. This allows you to get used to your new look in stages. As I scraped away the last few strands from my face, I looked in the mirror and smiled a little. Yes, I still liked myself just about as much as I did before. Self-esteem, as we all know, needs to come from within. You can’t get it from other people or from things you do external to yourself. I am glad I finally learnt that lesson for myself.

So, the next question is: how many times will I be stopped by security on my way in to work.