The trials of growing a beard

It may seem to anyone who has never grown a beard that doing so requires all the intelligence of a water buffalo. I would have thought so too until I accepted the challenge of the Westlake Bicentennial Beard Growing Contest in August. Beards, it seems, are far more complicated than one might imagine.

After learning of the contest, I scratched the short hair on my chin – part of my summer goatee – and decided to enter, especially since there were several categories, including one for “Worst Beard.” Grow baby grow, no more shaving for me (at least if my wife, Elaine, approved.)

With a little wining and dining Elaine approved – if I didn’t try to play Santa for Christmas. No problem, I would shave almost immediately after the contest ends on Nov. 9.

While the hair above my lips and on my chin grew well, my cheek hair was slow to show. (What had happened to the hair that used to be there when I had Elvis sideburns in the fifties?) I think a picture of Porter Library Director, Andrew Mangels, with his bushy cheek crop may have scared my follicles.

However, eventually some hair – gray, like my goatee, began to show, offering me hope for something that one day would look like a beard. But then I got a walk-on extra part as a German financier in the “Avengers” movie and the hair and makeup people gave me a trimming.

After that my hope was to have enough chin hair so I could play a favorite role of mine – Abraham Lincoln – with a real beard instead of the usual glued-on whiskers. I would play him twice the second week of September.

Of course Lincoln did not have a mustache, only chin hair, so I had to sacrifice my “stache” for the performances. Yes, this would put me behind the other contenders but I could make it up – maybe with some fertilizer. I also had to color my beard black. Then, with only black whiskers, I did look a bit like Lincoln but even more like an Amishman.

I immediately let my “stache” hair grow; scrubbed the rest of the hair to try to get out the black, and then trimmed it down trying to cut off the dyed section.

Now, despite three major setbacks, I’m back in the running again. My goal is to have enough of a beard so I can play my Bicentennial “Leonard Porter” character with a real beard. It looks like I will be able to accomplish that, if nothing else requires a shaving or a trimming, or if I don’t suddenly contract facial baldness.

My next scheduled appearance as Lincoln will be in January, in a one-act play, before he grew his signature facial hair. I’m looking forward to being clean shaven for that. (Elaine may even kiss me again).

Happy birthday, Westlake!

Mel Maurer

Mel Maurer lives in Westlake.

Read More on Readers' Opinions
Volume 3, Issue 21, Posted 4:58 PM, 10.18.2011