That’s Life

First of all, I stand by my long-held claim that I originated the modern-day, unshaven look.

Tony Bender


They should erect a statue to me at the Hipster Museum. Right next to the espresso stand. They won’t credit anyone who doesn’t fit into skinny jeans, I suppose.

Long before there were hipsters and lumbersexuals and other frauds, I was out there looking like a bum. I’m not saying I was trying to set a trend, it’s just I got home late and had to get up early. But give credit where credit is due.

Even when I was dutifully shaving back in high school, my trimming skills were uncertain. Over time, my sideburns expanded, growing longer and fatter, until I looked like a Civil War general in my senior portrait.

In my 20s, I lapsed into what I realize now must have been a passive-aggressive boycott of barbers. My hair went shoulder-length and my beard was close behind. One Christmas, I wore a sweater with Santa and his reindeer on it. That confounded people: Hippie Jesus believes in Santa.

These days, I still let my hair grow too long. I promise I have nothing against Chellie and the fine establishment she runs there at Perfextion. She is the only person I completely trust to clean up the mess, after I’ve waited six weeks too long. If she reads this, I’m betting the price just went up.

I now understand how my parents felt about my hair rebellion because, in high school, Dylan began to rebel in the worst way possible. He started getting his hair cut really short. I was mortified.

“No, son of mine is going out looking like that!”

“Like what?”

“Ummm. Uhhh. Like… like a member of… of… The Establishment!”

“See ya, Dad.”

“You’re breaking my heart!”

It reminds me of the time in Hettinger when a guy fresh out of barber college came to town. As a newspaperman, I like to support local businesses, so I went to see him. He was so shaky and wrecked the job so badly, there was nothing he could do but buzz cut it all off. I looked like a member of the Sex Pistols.

One can be emotionally scarred by such events. For instance, my kids had really never seen me without whiskers of some kind—from a goatee to a full-fledged beard. When Ashley had its quasquicentennial (125th) in 2013, I didn’t want to get into the beard-growing contest, because I didn’t want to shave and start all over. (A gal from Ipswich was ultimately declared the winner.)

One day, not long after that, though, I decided to trim my beard. Not surprisingly, I couldn’t get the sides even. Eventually, my goatee got so ridiculously small—about the right size for a Ken doll—I was forced shave the whole thing off. Yikes.

There is a phenomena to which all men who have shaved a beard will attest. When your mustache comes off, you’ll find your upper lip has virtually wasted away. Because for so long it was completely unnecessary, it has become a thin, weak-looking thing even peach fuzz would be embarrassed to be seen upon.

When India got home from school, she glanced over, gasped, dropped her books and started to tear up. I think because she was seeing my face for the first time. When she finally emerged, after barricading herself in her room, she told me in all seriousness, “Dad, don’t ever shave your beard off again.”

That’s what she said. What I heard was, “Don’t ever show your face around here again.”

With the gift of a precision beard trimmer, I have managed to rein in my facial hair uneventfully. A few months back, Dylan prevailed upon me to give him my beard trimmer, since his wasn’t cutting it anymore. I bought a new one and sent the old one back with him to college.

A couple weekends ago, when he was back home, he apologized for accidentally dropping my new trimmer in the water when he was using it.

I told him I would try to dry it out. He thought I should put it in some rice, but I didn’t want to waste a bunch of Basmati. That’s stuff’s like buying gold. Well, despite a week of air-drying and a contribution to Kenneth Copeland, the thing never came back to life.

I got a third trimmer this week and just in the nick of time, too. I nearly burned my mustache off trying to light a cigar stub. I had to tuck and roll.

Then, last night over dinner, the confession. It turns out, the defunct trimmer hadn’t just been dropped into the sink as I had imagined, but into an unflushed commode.

I give Dylan credit for fishing it out, but, had it worked again, “You were going to let me run that thing all over my face!?”

Dylan cracked up. Spit goulash across the table. Laughed so hard his face turned red. Almost fell out of his chair.

He’s a terrible child.

© Tony Bender, 2016