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November 27, 2000

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August 27, 2000
I mentioned my face in the last entry. No, I haven't fallen into an industrial press or had a tree fall on me or anything, though if I had at this point you'd likely just accept it, won't you? It's certainly been that kind of a year. No, my facial problems are neither painful nor permanent.

It's just... embarrassing.

You see, I've had a beard for most of my adult life. It started when I was 19 years old and decided to grow a mustache. Why? Simple. My father had a mustache. He had always had a mustache. The one time he shaved it off I literally didn't recognize him. I loved my father's mustache. It made me feel warm, and made him look distinctive and scholarly and friendly. It was like Captain Kangaroo's mustache, that way, only not so goofy.

Besides. Most boys decide to grow a mustache at some point. They need to try on adult faces and see what fits them the best. The mustache is just one of those.

So, I decided to grow a mustache. And it worked out pretty well. I felt it made me look jaunty and Errol Flynnish. This was born out by friends and (more importantly) women. Two of the most beautiful women I've ever known (Karen, who I've talked about at length, and Christy, who I haven't but as I wasn't ever involved with Christy, you can safely just assume "beautiful woman" and move on from here) both described me as roguish and rakish with the mustache. And that's what I wanted to look like.

We all have our ideal, heroic images of ourselves. I think sometimes it's the opposite of what we're good at. I'm a big guy, hefty, and if I worked at it I could look large and imposing with little problem. As a result, I fantasize about being small and quick and wiry -- faster than my opponents and always one step ahead of them physically and mentally. My cousin Cory (the Black Belt, and by far the best dresser and bon vivant of our generation of Burnses) kind of grew up to be what I'd love to be. So to have two different beautiful blondes see me that way... well, the mustache stayed.

(That desire to be Errol Flynn led me to take fencing and to use the pseudonym "Sabre" for way too many years of my life, but that really is another story.)

The one picture I have of me in a mustache was an old driver's license, and it's not a good picture. In fact, I look like a 45 year old Italian Hot Dog Vendor in it. Not exactly the model of panache I was going for. But I'm assured it wasn't the way I normally looked.

The mustache stayed through my twenty-first year, in Ithaca, and went away when I sneezed while shaving and discovered I was missing the left half of it. I'm just glad I don't have a hideous scar in its place. So I went barefaced for a while, as Karen liked that too and that was all the reason I needed.

When I went on a two week vacation, things changed. I decided not to bother shaving, and found myself with two weeks of hair growth. When I was back in Ithaca and ready to move on with life, I experimented with shaving just the areas that weren't filling in, leaving me with a jawline beard and mustache. I liked it. It felt right to me. So I kept it.

For years. Oh, I'd experiment with shaving it off, but I got so used to the man with the beard in the mirror that any time I shaved I hated what was left. So I didn't. I'd trim (using various methods, culminating in a beard trimmer I got for Christmas) and I'd shape, but I left the beard intact.

Until last Monday.

I didn't sneeze. No no, that would be simple. No, I trimmed my beard as normal, setting my beard trimmer to a conservative "4." I didn't know the cat had knocked it on the floor on one of her trips up onto the sink. (Mason says he picked it up at least once.) I didn't know the blades were no longer aligned.

The furrow that got cut into my beard was... interesting, to say the least. I threw the trimmer away, and looked at the horror that was my beard. My boon companion.

I did the only possible thing. I used scissors to cut most of it off, then shaved three times with three different razor blades. The last left a nice smooth face. A round, nice smooth face.


I'd need to lose a hundred pounds for my bare face to be a good look for me, minimum. Beyond the weight, I also end up looking about ten years younger, which in ten years I'll probably appreciate, but right now I'm not too enthused about. I'm management in a technical field. A certain appearance of maturity is definitely helpful in my position. And I think the beard actually looks pretty darn good.

On the other hand... there's a preponderance of overweight bearded men in Science Fiction creation and fandom, so that self-image may be genetic. Who knows?

A week later, I have a pattern of hair on my face that looks intentional, having shaved the parts that aren't. In another week or so, it'll look like an actual beard, albeit a very short one. The week after that I'll start feeling comfortable again.

In Thanksgiving news, I had one and it was very nice, with my parents and my grandmother. We had a chicken dinner -- Mom didn't find a Turkey breast she liked. It was interesting -- without the various chemicals that make Turkey a sedative, especially in the volume consumed on Thanksgiving, the meal and its aftermath were far perkier than they've been in years past. And then, we drove Grammie home and decided to drive to Freeport and shop at L.L. Bean's. What the heck? I love having parents like that.

Mom had found a good deal on a larger television for me, which turned out not to have S-Video on it, so I decided against it. But, I found a slightly better television that was only ten bucks more that did have S-Video, so I picked it up in Portsmouth on Friday. I was out with Mason and Van, doing a local version of Thanksgiving (not that we had Turkey) and watching the massive holiday crowd for the Friday after. Van helped me move the massive thing (the weight wasn't bad, but it cut into our hands as we walked because of a bad lip on the bottom of the set -- the box being too big to fit in my car.)

We got it in and set it up, finally. Wow. Now that's a television.

I get brainwashed at the end of the week. More on that later.

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