By Ben Wannamaker
I don’t want to isolate the ladies in the crowd, but before both sexes go any further, it should be noted that this is an article about being emotionally attached to one’s beard. If there are ways that ladies a) want to relate to this relatively male-specific experience or b) want to personalize the subject with their own example of aggregating hair follicle growth and it’s sadly required destruction, I welcome anyone in the audience to substitute whatever physical real estate they’d like in place of the word / concept that I implore through the use of ‘my beard.’
Spring is an absolute: the one season which seems incapable of laying bare new births without accompanying them with the timely death of others. Simply, spring must kill – even to ‘be’ – as it paves the way for new life, the old must obviously move on or be absorbed; but all seasons kill really, and while spring also creates, summer also maintains, fall also considers and winter also sleeps: all seasons kill. Exposing the throat while the shears come close to it, I tepidly take down centimeter by centimeter of winter warmth in my bathroom. The last aspects of what can be known as ‘distinctly definable spring’ are conducting themselves outside my thick window: spring-time warm-rain, spring-time brisk winter wind at noon, spring-time smelling like a pregnancy blooming, spring-time teaspoons of moistened dirt; the scent of wet mud, wet sun after gray rain on your gray porch… so soon it will be too hot to wear a beard and so, off it had to come. But the beard hairs would not go without a fight, they proved to have emotionally rooted defense mechanisms that made me think twice – three times, four times – about showing them the blade. Because coaxing the long-reared soldiers out of the depths of my face, to begin with, was a labour of real need.
As a young boy, I felt destined, nay, instructed by God herself – weather I had the genetic makeup to back it up or not – to move to Whistler and foster a beard with enough breadth and weight that I could hang icicles off of it while skiing off pillows and through deep coastal powder, just like the ski heroes of my youth did. But be careful what you wish for and keep an eye on your identity, folks. Like superstitious Superbowl socks, the hard-earned beard had to be taken off. It’s no longer winter, but spring. Spring the mother, spring the executioner. I wondered in the mirror – as I watched my once fertile crop falling like a falling-leaf in the swarm of black flies collecting in the pit of my white sink: would I have a tan underneath when it all came off? Would I be left with some sort of shameless ‘Farmer’s balaclava’ about my cheeks and chin to be ostracized about? It was coming off and nothing mattered now. I’m far past the point of conceivable retreat and I promised myself to live with no regrets long ago. Besides, I’d already been trimming for nearly fifteen minutes, waxing thoughtfully alone, preparing for the final bris; straining my neck back and forth and making faces like a monkey, I started to reveal soon to be wind-affected cheekbones that previously had the plushest of protection. How can I explain what it feels like to tear the razor edge across a full field – across a whole family – you raised for months and months on end? In the harshest of mountain conditions, no less; every day, each memory that we shared together indeed gets torn out; ripped with the root. The memories of finding ‘beard-brother’s’ in the bar, getting props on your bristly, bustling community from a baby-faced stranger underneath the bus stop one night, swooshing together – me and my beard, together – dipping a little deeper whilst tree skiing to accentuate the intended icicle affect. All the memories plummet toward my ever-clogged-up plumbing and I choke backed teary condolences while simultaneously trying to celebrate each strand, each corn stalk and every adult beard hair, excavated and seemingly executed before their time. When is one’s appropriate time to go? No. It can’t be named. The universe is all chaos, vagueness, striving and human attempts at making sense. I had to focus on the final swipes of my task and as my eyes widened in the mirror, I felt the need to regain motive and strength: anything to continue with my regretfully obligated slaughter. Summer is too hot to wear a beard; life is a tragedy. Staring then, at my strangely skin-covered face, the feeling of emptiness and loss was palpable – perhaps going hand-in-hand with my disenchanted attempts at ski-bum emulation, youthful utopianism and the assortment of realizations that one comes to after spending an inordinate amount of time in front of the mirror. After all, winter was over and I did end up having a farmer’s balaclava on underneath it all. Nothing a Yowie can’t fix!
Thanks Outdoor Technology!
-Ben Wannamaker (who rides for Liberty Skis, Trew Outerwear, Outdoor Technology® and TMC Freeriderz; his writing has been published in SBC Skier, The Ski Journal, Concrete Wave, SNAP and more.