BY C. L. BOTHWELL III
I have sported a beard for most of the past 25 years. Doesn't that sound like fun? Sort of like playing tennis or softball. Let's shoot baskets, paddle a canoe, climb mountains and sport a beard.
You'd have to say I have supported a beard as well, tensing the muscles in the back of my neck to keep my chin from falling in my food. If I occasionally nod off after supper, it isn't the years, the day's work or the wine catching up with me, it is the Sisyphean task of lofting my shaggy jaw that wears me down. But it is worth it, I tell you, worth every ounce of effort, worth every moment of neck aerobics. For I have saved that most precious of gifts: time.
Consider: 25 years is 1,300 weeks. Suppose I had shaved six times a week over that period. That's 7,800 shaves at five minutes a pop, or a total of 39,000 minutes which is about 650 hours, or something more than 27 days. Even if we subtract a few minutes a month for trimming, which I avoid, we are looking at well over three weeks of my life that has been freed for other pursuits.
At the same time, I have saved at least $30 per year on shaving tools, creams, lotions and styptics, for an estimated total of $750. So I have earned three weeks off with pay, and a couple of sick days thrown in to boot! All of this, mind you, with no special effort on my part, other than flexing the musculature of my nape.
Consideration of this astonishing turn of events has led me to ponder where I should spend this paid vacation I have garnered. Somehow, I think it should be appropriate to its source.
Attending cooking classes with James Beard comes to mind, of course, as does a workshop delving into Aubrey Beardsley's art. I could plant Bearded Iris amidst the wild Greybeard's Tongue in my garden and perhaps plan a short tour with Z.Z. Top. A visit to Abraham Lincoln's boyhood home, or museum hopping in Washington, D.C., might suit the occasion: lots of bearded statues and portraits there.
off with pay, and a
couple of sick days thrown
in to boot! All of
this, mind you, with no
special effort on my part,
other than flexing the musculature
of my nape.
An ur-alternative might involve tours of razor and shaving gel factories, or a bicycle expedition along the old Burma Shave routes of the heartland. I could listen to Barber Shop quartets in Barberton, Ohio, or go highbrow and hunt up a performance of the Barber of Seville. And then there's the Immortal Bard, whose deathless verse includes this line (my favorite) from Much Ado About Nothing: "He that hath a beard is more than a youth, and he that hath no beard is less than a man."
Clearly this whisker business could all go straight to my head, which reminds me of another famous chin. When Sir Thomas More lost his head in a little squabble with the king, his last words were, "Wait until I put aside my beard, for that never committed treason." Afterward there must have been whiskers with no man attached. I wonder if Shakespeare would have thought that made it more or less than a beard? "Ah, youthless beard, wherefore dost thou linger?"
Maybe I could take a cruise along the Barbary Coast, famous in another century for all the bearded pirates who made a living cutting merchant vessels loose from their goods with a keen-edged blade. Indeed a sunny Mediterranean vacation would be just the ticket before quitting the company of barbers and sailing off to Beardmore Glacier in chilly Antarctica. There I could hike along the Ross Ice Shelf, talk to penguins and remember all the bearded men who tried and failed to reach the South Pole. Even those who finally succeeded must have brought back some harrowing stories of all the times they missed drowning or freezing by a whisker. I suppose you could say they had some pretty close shaves.
C.L. Bothwell III hails from the other Carolina. Duck Soup is served up twice every Tuesday on WNCW-88.7FM.