Early stage beard that provoked the wrath of Facebook. Submitted photo

While I was on vacation a few weeks ago, I got stranded in the deep woods of Buckfield during a thunderstorm that seemed to be out to get me, personally. 

Sensing that I probably wouldn’t enjoy the feeling of a lightning strike straight up my tailpipe, I promptly pulled up next to the tallest, thickest tree I could find and parked the bike. The tree was big enough that it wouldn’t topple, I reasoned, and the canopy was thick enough that it would provide some shelter from the driving rain (it didn’t). 

My well-being and/or dry pants presumably assured, I did what all clear thinking people must do when they find themselves in a trying situation. 

I snapped a photograph with my phone and promptly uploaded it to social media. 

“Where am I?” I challenged the fine people of Facebook. 

We have a good time, those folks and I. 

As it happened, nobody wanted to talk about my putative location or about my rugged display of endurance in surviving extreme weather conditions. 

Mostly they wanted to talk about my facial hair. 

“Ew, gross,” wrote one lady, or words to that effect. “A beard!” 

“Who’s that Charlie Manson looking guy?” demanded a fellow whom I thought was my friend. 

“Looks like an evil Ted Cruz,” chimed in another wit. 

“For !#@%$ sake, shave off that beard,” suggested a nice young lady, who has clearly gotten on top of that problem she had with shyness. “You look like Jim Carey!” 

The crowd had turned on me and in my most desperate hour. All I had done was skipped shaving for a few days and now I was being compared to a murderous cult leader, a Texas politician and a somewhat deranged actor best known for being one half of the “Dumb and Dumber” duo. 

It was kind of awesome, actually. 

There is something about a beard that evokes strange passions in people. I’ve seen it before, but I’ve never been on the receiving end of it, mainly because I typically go clean shaven or, at most, maintain a rakish five o’clock shadow, which I think makes me look like Ray Milland at the tail end of his lost weekend. 

I’ve never put much effort into growing a beard because I tend toward the lean side and I’ve always been convinced, in an abstract way, that skinny guys shouldn’t sport beards — former Lewiston School Superintendant Bill Webster being the obvious exception, because his beard was AWESOME. 

To sport a beard, I always figured, a guy should be somewhat burly, at least loosely connected to lumberjacking, capable of rebuilding most parts of a combustion engine and/or part of an outlaw gang. 

Exceptions are made for aging rock stars who think they’re poets and for falsely accused fugitives who live deep in the forest with a  grizzly bear named Ben. 

So, with all that in mind, what was I doing out in the Buckfield badlands with this impressively thick shrub of pure testosterone pouring out of my face? 

I’ve already told you, bub. I was on vacation, and who wants to spend precious time with a razor and can of Barbasol when he could be doing something fun, like ducking lighting along the muddy trails of Buckfield? 

I’ve never in my life set out to grow a beard. I’ll never be one of those guys who owns his own beard kit, with specialized combs, brushes, balms and waxes, because as much as I admire a hirsute dude with carefully sculpted face fur, I wouldn’t have the patience to maintain such a thing. Let my face grow long and I’d end up looking like ZZ Top (or possibly Grigori Rasputin) after a three-week bender in the wilderness. 

Worse, with my aforementioned lean frame, I’d take on the appearance of a lollipop covered with hair. There would be name-calling, pointing in the streets and the cool kids would make up hurtful nicknames. 

“Hey, look everybody,” they would shout. “Here comes Shaggy Lollipop Face!” 

The cool kids were never very good at nicknames. 

The longer my beard grew, the more it seemed to antagonize people and I couldn’t go anywhere without enduring one snide remark or another. 

“Only an idiot grows a beard like that in summertime,” said one scoffing fellow. 

My oldest brother, that was. 

So, with all that in mind, I slunk home, grabbed my wife’s hedge trimmer and stood before the bathroom mirror, ready to shave it off to appease the critics. But instead of firing up the Ryobi, I found myself face-to-face with my scowling, angry-eyed and hairy reflection. 

“To hell with them all!” I declared to the mirror. “A beard is every man’s birthright, a gift of undiluted testosterone you give to your face! I am a man, flesh and blood! Let this grand display of hairiness be a symbol of that manliness! Socrates, da Vinci, Shakespeare, Bill Webster … These are great bearded men who went before me and I am their brother!” 

Then I stormed outside, hauled the engine block out of my truck and rebuilt the carburetor, using my face to absorb spilled fuel.  

Just kidding. None of that happened. 

I just didn’t feel like shaving again. 

Mark’s ugly beard. Submitted photo

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