My wife often tells me that I overanalyze things and that my tormented soul would be less so if I did not.
I tell her that I like to overanalyze things, that it gives me satisfaction although in such musings do I encounter uncertainty and confusion. Nevertheless, it is due to my exaggerated enjoyment that I have been endeavoring to make a career of it, that is of writing down my over analytical ponderings in the profession of writer.
And yet it is often just when I do not want to analyze that she makes effort to force me to explain my innermost reasoning, logic and motivation, in short, to do exactly what she tells me I do too much.
It was that way in the case of the beard, which I will now relate:
You see, the notion has struck me from time to time, before and also after I met Gloria, my wife, to grow a beard. Before I met her I had one on two occasions, and it is also true that I have rarely been of frame of mind to partake of blade to face on a daily schedule, except when forced by requirements of employment to do so. It was during one of those periods of employment that I met my now wife. In fact it was not only during but at said employment, since she worked there also. That was at one of the most prestigious accounting firms, located, of course, in midtown Manhattan, where I grew up, but where Gloria didn’t. Her rearing took place in South Carolina and she jokes now that she came to New York to get me, but of course that was impossible, since she didn’t know me but for our chance meeting on the day that we were both interviewed at the same firm, that, while she still resided down south, but I digress.
The point is that she got to know me as a very well dressed well groomed man, but I’m afraid without intention she was deceived. Not that I am a slob, by any means, I always place a fair emphasis on cleanliness, though my tastes in style lean towards the appearance, not fact, of neglect: wild uncombed hair, loose, worn clothing, sneakers; and of course my trademark among those who have known me any length of time, the Met cap, a baseball cap proclaiming my allegiance to and, properly stated, membership in (as the tenth player – the fan) the Metropolitan Baseball Club of New York.
Gloria didn’t know any of this when we met, and yet she fell in love, and once that happened, it was too late.
But concerning beards, it was not until we went on vacation together the first time, for a month, to travel across Europe in November, that she had to contend with my reluctance to shave. I bet you are wondering why November? There were many reasons, not the least of which was finding a time not inconvenient for being absent from work. Another rationale might have been that the scarcity of other tourists at that time might have increased the likelihood of actually experiencing the people and charm of these foreign places without the interference of others like ourselves nosing around and generally making themselves a nuisance. In any case, it tended to be cold, which provided me with yet another excellent reason, if I even needed one, to sport facial hair.
As it turned out, I met only mild opposition that time from my then girlfriend. At first she complained that it scratched her when we kissed, but then as it grew it became soft, she said. Perhaps because she knew that at the end of a months time it would be gone, she didn’t complain. I don’t really know, but the next time I contemplated growing one, right after I had quit accounting to do this sort of thing, what you are reading, create such and the like, the idea was met with hostile rejection and subtle but strong pressure. It was the type that only a woman can give a man, or a man can give a woman, but a man can not give it to a man or a woman, woman, except in certain instances. I am not talking about the withholding of sexual favors. I am simply talking about that emotional pressure that a loved one can impose, to make you feel bad, as if you have taken this beard out of it’s holster, pointing it threateningly, until finally when asked how you could do it, you realize that you have hurt someone very dear to you, the last person in the world you wanted to hurt. Oh, how could you have done it.
This for a beard.
Unprepared, I gave in.
But then after months and months of attempting to maintain the same respectable outward composure that previously I had maintained for pay, while struggling to be true to myself, and write my heart and soul, alas the truth, all the while maintaining this outward lie, which was never me, I determined that my month to month failures must somehow be linked to this propensity to shave.
I dismissed these thoughts, at first because it didn’t seem to make sense. Besides, I would have to make do with the way it was, for I was marrying this woman, who I loved so that I would shave my face for her, and I certainly would not defile my wedding pictures with the black scraggly growth which never grew too long and always looked incomplete anyway. If only I could grow that shunned facial hair on the top of my head, at least just for the pictures, to keep that shine away, that was sometimes apparent through my thinning egg, but no matter. That is also of little use to reflect upon, and it is an entirely different story.
My wedding day gone, and honeymoon too, the thoughts and feelings came back to me, and this time I felt a liberating freedom to actually consider them. My money was running short; and relaxing, so that I could write and succeed in this noble effort, to the cheers of all those lost lamb (the accountants I left behind) who watched with interest, so that if I achieved my dreams, then they too could take risks (which would be no longer risks, I guess, because if I can do it anyone can?), was of utmost importance. The feeling must be right, I thought to myself. Relax. Grow a beard. It would give me outward truth. It felt good.
I resolved that it would be, and so commenced to cease and desist in my previous face whitening activities.
Much to the chagrin of my wife.
“No!” she exclaimed to me when I told her, which is what I had to do, since going a few days was my usual habit, and she might not have realized my intention for quite a while if I did not tell her, so tell her I did, at one convenient opportunity after she made a comment about my gruff, and she wasn’t happy. I managed my way through that encounter though, reasoning to her that it was my right and explaining that it was important to my writing that I follow my feelings on this matter.
For every day since, one didn’t slip past without her telling me how much she wanted me to shave, about how it hurt her face, with comments about it’s look thrown in for good measure, those comments not flattering.
It was on the fourth day that she began to insist that I overanalyze the problem, obviously hoping that the illogic of a beard helping me write would weigh itself upon my resolve and topple me. She said:
“How much more work have you got done since you started growing it?”
She knew the answer, my efforts have been for long, not so fruitful, and yet, I felt that the beard had not had a chance as a plan, and so I stared back, but for a long time had nothing to say. At last I decided to defend a single day.
“The fact that I was at the automechanic’s all day today would not have been avoided if I didn’t have a beard.”
“What about the last four days?”
I didn’t want to analyze it. It didn’t make sense, it just felt good. She didn’t buy that, she’d just say it didn’t feel good to her, it scratched her. I could have analyzed it if I wanted to. In my heart I knew there was a good reason, I just felt it didn’t matter and that it was detrimental to have to defend it. Perhaps it served as a symbol of my freedom, or a symbol of truth, both of which are important to a writer. They are a writer’s allies, they are a writer’s lovers. They share parenthood with every written work of art. Without them the birth is impossible. Or perhaps I just wanted to feel good about myself, and the beard helped. What I knew was that I didn’t want to be so rational about it. I went with the irrational defense.
“You’re not supporting me.” She looked at me with surprise. “You don’t want me to do the things that help me to write.”
“Fine,” she said. “Just don’t expect me to make love to you while that beard is there to scratch me.”
And with that came finally the threat of withholding sexual favors. I wondered what the real reason was that she wanted me to shave. Vanity? “That’s my husband the one with the scraggly face.” I was beginning to think that she just wanted to win, and that she meant to do it. I wasn’t sure I could withstand the coming romantic assault, but for the moment, I was o.k.
“Two can play at that game,” I told her, and with an added smile, we made it through one more day.
If a woman can have the right to choose whether or not to have an abortion, shouldn’t a man own his own body to the extent of having the right to choose whether or not to have a beard? If this became a fight over who had rights to control my body, it could get ugly.
She told me that I could grow a beard after I sold a couple of teleplays. I countered, sticking to my position that it would help me write, that I would shave after I sold a couple of teleplays.
And at this point the story is still without conclusion, but with this writing I can now attribute something to my beard, for you see, it is still on my face, and it has most certainly, unquestionably and undeniably contributed to this writing.
One thought on “A Beard Story”
The story is fraught with those power play struggles between a man and woman. Being of the female persuasion, I have also been known to try various methods of coercion to avoid the beard. Painful, scratchy as it is. Women can grow beards too; I’ve seen them, however, I seriously doubt any aged male wants to support his wife in doing so. Nonetheless, I commend Mr. Glasser’s sensitive rendering of beard thoughts and I applaud his efforts to bring these relationship struggles to light!