Back some years ago I was playing a part in the outdoor drama in Radford that required that I wear a beard. This soon became a problem when I had to face some of my friends and acquaintances who had never seen me with facial hair. It became more of a problem when I appeared in church with that awful thing. Fellow worshipers couldn’t quite go along with one of the flock showing up at services with such a thing. Most of them went along with it, but some wasted little time letting me know that such a thing was very out of place in the house of worship, and they didn’t hold back their burning comments.
In show business the first person to act the part of a character is known as the creator of the part, and I was able to claim that I was the creator of the part of Captain O’Hara, a British officer, which I acted out proudly with my self-taught Irish Brogue. I felt that it was important that I have a heavy head of hair, a mustache, and a beard to give proper credit to the part. That was when I found out how very many people hated beards, and how easy it was for them to make their feelings known. One would have thought I had joined a band of hippies, or something else people thought was bad.
You’d be surprised how honest some people can be on the subject. Good friends who would not dream of telling a person he has a spot on his tie, or an unzipped zipper walked right up and looked the “beardo” in the eye, and make one of the following remarks: “When are you gonna get that mess off your face?” “Who let you in the church with that crop on your face?” ”I’ll be glad to take up a collection to buy you some razor blades.” “I remember back when you were decent looking.” “If you knew how ugly you look …,” and on and on.
Telling them that Jesus had a beard did no good. They came back with the same rebuttal. “Yes, but they didn’t have razors in the time of Jesus.” I happened to know that they knew not what they were talking about. There were razors in the time of Ezekiel, but they didn’t care to hear such talk. Why try to prove them wrong? It just made me a smart aleck hippy. I can truthfully say that most of the insulting remarks were easy to take. In fact, some of the names they called me were complimentary. Such names as Ezekiel, Jeremiah, General Lee, Moses, Uncle Jessie on the Dukes of Hazzard, and occasionally they threw in a Kenny Rogers. I was not always sure if they were complimenting or making fun. If they looked pale, like my old maid aunt, as she searched my face for a safe place to kiss me goodbye it bothered me some, but I lived through it.
Several years ago I shaved off my beard, and hardly anyone noticed. The purpose of all of this rambling is to say that this week I started letting the facial hair grow again, and by Christmas I hope to have a beard that will compare with the one Santa Claus has.
Lloyd Mathews is a retired land surveyor and a historian who lives in Pulaski.