Sunday 21 September 2014

First person: Beard that makes me look like a hipster

It was a present for my wife, says Pat Fitzpatrick, but now my beard puts me at risk of looking like a hipster

'I was a man without a beard who had ordered her a Christmas present on the internet that was due to arrive in early January. That would have been one icy Christmas. I stopped shaving.'

I can't stop looking at myself in the mirror. It's OK, I'm not what Cork people call 'septic'. It's just that I'm not sure about my beard. It wasn't always like this. I grew it five years ago as a Christmas present for the wife. She was always telling me how much she liked a man with a beard.

I was a man without a beard who had ordered her a Christmas present on the internet that was due to arrive in early January. That would have been one icy Christmas. I stopped shaving.

The beard has been part of my furniture in the last five years. And, now, I think it's time to go. The problem, as you have probably guessed, is bicycle polo. It's the new thing, apparently. As the name suggests, it's polo for people who aren't rich enough – or poor enough – to own a horse. There was a feature on it recently in some newspaper's weekend supplement. Even before I panned across the photo, I knew we would be talking wall-to-wall beards.

That was a tipping point for me. I never want to be mistaken for the kind of guy who plays polo on a bike. (I'm not the type to play it on a horse or in a pool, either. I'm against all polos, even the mints.)

I blame the hipsters. There might be only four of them operating out of a doer-upper in Stoneybatter. But they have taken over the country. Just as the wife got my beard for Christmas, it looks like every guy in Ireland gets a beard for his 21st. That's fine, except I haven't been 21 for quite a while. In short, my beard is age-inappropriate. It's like a hoodie on your granddad.

I reckon the beard cycle is about 40 years. Irish guys in their 20s and 60s can wear a beard without looking out of place. It doesn't work that way for my generation. For example, mine was one of three beards at our class reunion a few years ago. (I went to a boys' school, before you ask.)

Beards never took off with my lot because Gillette made some really good ads back in the Eighties. This was before Lynx Africa was guaranteed to get you the chicks. Back then, Gillette showed us a guy in a towel, getting felt up by a supermodel. We all took up shaving. Of course, a 1980s beard was also a bit Wolfe Tones, and we were keen to leave that behind. I bet you the rise of Sinn Fein among middle-class voters is linked to the return of the beard. Someone should write a paper about that. You might even get a book out of it.

Anyway, back to my beard. Hold on to it and I run the risk of looking like a sad, bicycle-polo-playing wannabe hipster in his late 40s. That's the case for shaving it off, and it's a pretty strong case.

The case for the defence is pretty strong, too. I like the sound my beard makes when I give it a scratch. I can't wait to get it trimmed once a fortnight.


Because of the Cookie Monster.

Our 18-month-old daughter is addicted to him. It's not like he is on 24/7 in our place. But his demented biscuit-eating has come to represent the chaos that goes with having a toddler around the house.

My beard-trim trip into town is a chance to escape all that. I enter a Zen-like state of relaxation when the Turkish barber is doing his thing. I need that in my life to balance out the Cookie Monster.

Another plus is my beard does great work on any sign of a double chin. On top of that, it makes me look a bit dodgy. That's handy because, without it, I look like a mild-mannered type with "doormat" written on his chest.

And then there's the wife. She still loves my beard. On the other hand, she's so distracted with our mad toddler that she probably wouldn't notice if I shaved it off.

I can't make up my mind. My guess is that I'll be clean-shaven in six months. There is just one thing that might stop me from pressing shave. And that's shaving.

The mad toddler means that, at 7am every morning, I'm like a zombie who has slept on a bed of Xanax. Taking a sharp implement to my throat at that hour isn't just a drag – it's dangerous. So I might bide my time for now.

But you can take this to the bank. If bearded bicycle polo becomes an actual thing, rather than a one-off in a weekend magazine, I'm going to reach for the razor.

I'll never be a part of that tribe.

Sunday Indo Life Magazine

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