Saturday, May 16, 2020

Embracing the Beard

For years, my guy friends and boyfriends have sported facial scruff and beards. Some bushier than others like 70s' rockers. Others nice, neat, trim and professional.

Still, the idea of a beard or any type of facial scruff never appealed to me. I am not a beard snob. I always went for the clean cut look, even on my days off or on vacation when you shouldn't have to shave. (The photo below is of me in Islamorada in February before the coronavirus craziness began.)

I thought beards made guys look older, too mature, muy Hemingway-esque. Although my friends looked good in their fashionable beards and were proud of it, I didn't subscribe to that look. I wanted to look as young as I felt and a beard would not help with that, or so I thought.

Each morning as I embarked on my day, I enjoyed the simple act of shaving even if I worked mostly from home in recent years at the South Florida Sun Sentinel and had no where to go except the local Starbucks. Maybe it was something I got from my dad. Every day, he shaved his face, added moisturizer, combed and slicked back his dark black (and then gray hair and then less hair.)

Even at his nursing home two years ago before he passed away due to complications from Parkinson's disease, he insisted on having his face clean and shaven. (That job sometimes fell to me mine when a nurse or aide was tied up in the mornings and I happened to be there on a visit.) Also, my dad could be impatient and as soon as I walked in, he’d say "Afeitame, Yonny!" (Shave me, Johnny!) When I think of it now, all my uncles in Miami, like my dad, were clean shaven.

But ever since the coronavirus pandemic worsened in mid-March and I had to work remotely like the rest of my New York Times colleagues, something clicked for me. I knew I wouldn't be getting a haircut anytime soon. I knew I would not be in the newsroom for a few weeks (or months.) So I have let my hair down and my beard grow.

At first, the beard itched as a mix of salt and pepper hair began to sprinkle my face. (I was surprised by how much salt there was on the sides but anyways...)  After a while, the itching subsided; I got used to having an itch here and there. And the beard literally grew on me. (The above photo was from my first week of not shaving in mid-March.)

Once a week, I trim it so it doesn't appear too thick and bushy. I kinda like it even though I do look older with it (again, the gray and silver don't help.)  I do miss the fresh smooth skin of a post-shave.

But for now, this will do and that's okay. And since I wear a face mask when I go outside, no one has really noticed 🧔🏻

(The below is what two months of no hair cut or shaving look like.) I'm thinking a future blog post will likely be called "I'm Turning into a Bear."


  1. Wonderful, Johnny, thank you - great piece. As to beards during the emergency, not me. I keep shaving, even though my hair now resembles that of a nineteenth century savant or poet - they must have saved endless money that way! Roderick

  2. Closer to a Cuban Sean Connery/Errol Flynn