Ross Murray's Border Report
Ross Murray
is a freelance writer living in Stanstead, Quebec. You can reach him at
Posted 07.28.11
Stanstead, Quebec


Summer beard (makes me feel fine)

"It's a preemptive beard," I tell people. "We're camping for most of August and I don't know how often I'll be able to shave, so this way I get the awful, itchy stage over with now instead of on the road."

That's as good a reason to grow a beard as any, I guess.

I could just as easily say I'm growing a beard to raise awareness, the way men grow moustaches for prostate cancer in November and call it "Movember," which is a good cause, but leave it to men to embrace an initiative that takes zero effort: growing hair. It would be more impressive if men could stop growing hair for a month. The only lasting awareness Movember raises is the awareness of how creepy most men look with moustaches.

So what would you call growing a beard in July? Jubeardly? And what would it raise awareness for? Poorly considered decisions, perhaps. I've got a theme song already picked out: "Careless Whisker."

Maybe Jubeardly could raise awareness for inappropriate public scratching, with messages like, "Scratch beards, not butts," or "Unless you're about to throw a pitch, go inside to scratch that itch," or "You, with your hand in your pocket: you're not fooling anyone!"

At times over the past month, I've told people I'm growing a beard because everyone needs a hobby. I've declared that it's my way of saying my head is at work but my body's on vacation. Or that I plan to rob a bank and then shave it off in the getaway car, which is a pretty shrewd strategy, you have to admit.

I could say the beard is my rallying cry against straight-laced conformity ("Wooo! Play 'Free Beard!'")

Maybe I'm trying to alter my look from the failed attempt at wry-and-dashing to the more easily attained pathetic-and-unkempt.

Or maybe I want something else for food to get caught in.

And who doesn't enjoy face Velcro(r)?

Really, though, I don't know why I'm growing a beard. A beard serves no practical purpose other than to stick it to the powerful shaving cream lobby.

Nor can I say I'm really pulling off this beard, not yet anyway. It looks like the parts of my front lawn the dog can reach on its chain: healthy growth interrupted by hideous bald patches, except in my case the bald patches aren't caused by urine -- as far as I know. I'm hoping that these hairless patches will eventually start producing out of sheer embarrassment. If not, I may be forced to attempt the beard comb-over.

It looks like the beard they show in the movies to indicate that the hero has been wandering through the desert for several days.

I had to get a new passport photo taken the other day, and whereas the old pose was standard-issue terrorist, the new bearded one was full-on zombie.

The beard's showing more grey than I expected; I have salt and pepper in my beard (and bread and parsley in my teeth).

So, with no real reason to grow it and not being much to look at, I have to wonder, is this my mid-life crisis?

Certainly there have been other indicators that my life is in some kind of flux. I suddenly prefer my coffee black. I have no patience for Hollywood films. The boys who handle the empties at the grocery store are wondering where all the work went. And I've recently switched from who-are-you-trying-to-kid boxer-briefs to regular boxers, because, honestly, life is constricting enough (so sayeth the Friends of Jubeardly).

If this is my mid-life crisis, at least it's not something irreversible like a tattoo or a sex change or a tattoo of a sex change. And no one's likely to get hurt -- except when I kiss my kids and they complain about "the pickies." Plus, as mid-life crises go, my beard is way cheaper than a corvette, though not nearly as pretty.

So much to ponder. Luckily, I have this beard to stroke thoughtfully as I do so. Hey! A practical purpose after all!

Ross Murray's collection, You're Not Going to Eat That, Are You?, is available in Quebec in area book stores and through He can be reached at