I’m not sure what led me to it – perhaps some combination of mustacheod woodworker commercial and that one conversation with the aspiring barber at the bar – but after a stellar career of 14 years, my beard met oil.
The beard oil came in a small bottle and complimentary dropper, which I used to deposit three mounds of liquid on the tips of the index, middle, and ring fingers of my left hand, palm facing ceiling in ritualistic praise. It smelled good. Really good.
First contact [cue Close Encounters theme] changed everything. Time melted and I was sitting on my high school gymnasium stage, responding to the cute JW twins, “ya, I use conditioner because my hair is so curly.”
“You shouldn’t, it’s really nice the way it is,” one of the sisters says.
“Haha ya… I’m never sure how to take a compliment,” I somewhat nervously reply.
The other sister thinks for a moment and offers, “have you ever tried saying ‘thanks?’”
I spread the oil outward to my jawline and suddenly I’m in bed, my ex-wife doing that thing where she affectionately cups my chin and smooths my beard downward, smiling into my eyes.
And then I’m 13, watching with rapture as my older brother examines the first appearance of stubble in the mirror, his face no longer a velvety peach.
I massage into the densest parts of my beard and I twitch as babies pull on fistfuls — the faces of countless nieces and nephews contorting in laughter and curiosity.
When I reach my mustache I think, beside their memories of me, this beard is one of the few things likely to outpace my death. I picture the Tales from the Crypt host lying in a coffin, hair flowing.
It was too easy to abandon self-care. I would like to blame the church I grew up in, or social pressures, or maybe even early childhood trauma, but the truth is I simply forget to take care of myself. When you grow a beard, you don’t interact with the world as a bearded person. I don’t pick up a loaf of bread thinking “I’m picking up this bread like a person with a beard would.” In fact, I don’t think about my beard between trimmings hardly at all.
And yet, like any other living thing, this beard — this medium through which I encounter lovers, friends, children, and family — cannot escape the axiom binding us all:
You need a little nourishing for the flourishing.
I didn’t write this to advertise, but if you want to give it a shot yourself, I used “Beard Guyz” oil. Cheers.