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

ROSS MURRAY

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 www.townships.ca. He can be reached at ross_murray@sympatico.ca.

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