Tis the Season to be Hairy

Biting wind and freezing temperatures forewarn me it’s going to happen, but when my husband decides to grow a beard, it takes me a while to warm up to the idea. I’m often resistant to the changes of his facial hair even though I like the end result.

By the time I get used to the feel of his face at a new beard-growing phase, I have to get used to his whiskers all over again when they grow to another new phase. The first stage of his beard growth is coarse, and sandpapery. Initially, I tell myself the upside to this rough stage is that I can skip exfoliating my face in the morning because my husband will do it for me every time he gives me a smooch. That is until it feels like a rash has developed on my beard-sensitive face. Within a week though, he outgrows that stage and his whiskers become more like a prickly cactus swiping my chin and cheeks instead.

By stage three, his beard hair has gotten longer but still doesn’t lie flat, so the whiskers on his upper lip collide with my nose when I try to start the day out with a quick kiss from him. I’m more accepting of my husband’s winter beard idea once his facial hair reaches what I call the “teddy bear face” stage, because his whiskers have grown out enough that it doesn’t scratch like a wire brush and scour my face raw anymore.

Beards aren’t my husband’s facial hairstyle preference, but rather a means for achieving big mustache status that resembles the mustaches actor, Sam Elliott grows. My husband doesn’t like the appearance of being clean-shaven except for emerging mustache whiskers, so he grows out a beard first. Once his mustache reaches a desired length, the rest of the beard comes off.

I appreciate that he makes an effort to keep his facial hair looking clean and orderly, except when he and I are vying for use of the bathroom mirror when we’re getting ready to go someplace. Besides getting reacquainted with my husband and his whiskers, I have to brush up on my sharing skills with the mirror in our only bathroom.

It wasn’t spoken in our wedding vows, but I’ve since learned that part of my promise to a man who occasionally grows facial hair is that I’m committed to letting him know if his beard or mustache needs attention. It takes me a while to get into the habit of remembering to notice these details the first few months of being around my husband with a beard or mustache. I act as a stand-in mirror for him if real mirrors aren’t available when he asks me if his mustache looks alright. It’s my duty as his trusted wife to warn him if his facial hair’s amiss or needs a napkin swipe, so I’ve developed a particular look without drawing attention to it that lets him know his whiskers need checked.

The one thing I have gotten used to, is once he’s made up his mind about something, he doesn’t change his decision and I just have to face it. More than pokey whiskers, any attempts I make to persuade him to do otherwise just get in the way.

column originally published January 25-31, 2009

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