2004-07-28 - 11:06 a.m.
My grandfather didn’t have to shave until he was seventy-two. He had a stroke, and suddenly they all marched in. Nothing else seemed to have changed. After the stroke, and the necessary surgery that followed, the doctor asked my grandfather to list off the presidents who held office during his lifetime. Seeing as he’d been born in nineteen eleven this would be quite the list. Pop ran the gambit from Taft to Bush the first, before the doctor looked quizzically down at him.
“That’s very impressive, sir, but you missed President Nixon.”
Without pause, Pop threw up a hand.
“Oh, I never liked him.”
With full recollection of his political rivals, Pop went out and bought himself his first razor. Up until then, he’d simply plucked out the five stragglers hanging from his chin once a week. He was never embarrassed about it; fairly happy with the ease it brought to his life.
“In the army I was always first on the chow line. Every one else was too busy cutting up their faces.”
Up until I was twenty-one, I thought I’d be even more hairless than him, since my face remained baby-butt smooth. Then suddenly, as if sensing my move past twenty-one, five stragglers started growing out of my chin. At first, I was filled with the belated pride of suddenly being able to grow facial hair, and I let them come right on in. I probably would have had the thinnest Z-Z Top beard in the world, had my female roommates not begun referring to them as “chin pubies.”
Shaving is still not an expertise of mine. A few months after I started, working at a summer camp, one of the extremely hairy fifteen year olds in my ward took me aside on the dorm bathroom to instruct me in the proper use of the blade. Apparently, you’re supposed to shave up, not down. I don’t know how much of an authority I remained after the kid who played Metallica on his kazoo every night had to give me shaving tips.
The facial hair kept coming, but, at first, most of it matched the hair on my head most of my body: blond. Pale, reflective, unseeably blond. I might have had a bushy stash, but no one would have known, the hair was so light; my mother’s influence.
Both my sisters and I inherited our mother’s fine blond hair. Outside of the fact that it remains so thin that nothing can be done with it – like I’d really go with the spiked tips thing – this isn’t that much of a curse. Still both my sisters lament not earning my father’s red wisps.
Dad stands out in the family portraits. Surrounded on all sides by straight-laced toe-heads, my father has dark red curly hair, graying just slightly by the temples. As much as I am weak at the feet of carrot-topped ladies, I’ve never wished myself one. My sisters, however, with images of long flowing manes of auburn running down on perfects circles, seem a little drawn with envy. Proving once again that whatever spirits rule this plane, have a terrible sense of humor, I eventually got the much sought after red, but not in the place one would expect.
Before some disturbing images come crashing to mind, the red springs from my chin. After a few years shaving those five little bastards, my father’s genes kicked in beside my grandfather's and suddenly the five were not alone.
Desperately seeking something to keep me from being carded for cigarettes, liquor, or PG-13 movies, I let it grow in, and the farther it came, the redder it was. Three kids, and the only appearance of dad’s apple flavored hair ended up on my chin. Not on my upper lip, or on my sideburns, just my chin, as if it was too heavy and just sank to the bottom of my face.
Opinions differ on whether or not I should keep it. The long extended version does look a bit odd, and my manual fixation brings me to stroke it with great intensity all day long. Still, I like a little scruff, it only because it makes me look a little…well…scruffy. I need something to offset my boyish bad looks. The five hairs are still there, growing a little faster than the rest, occasionally needing a good plucking.
While I cannot guarantee that the family name will pass from me with a cavalcade of sons, it’s nice to know that the legacy of both my father and grandfather will live on…on my chin.
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