Biting wind and freezing temperatures forewarn me itâ€™s going to happen, but when my husband decides to grow a beard, it takes me a while to warm up to the idea. Iâ€™m often resistant to the changes of his facial hair even though I like the end result.
By the time I get used to the feel of his face at a new beard-growing phase, I have to get used to his whiskers all over again when they grow to another new phase. The first stage of his beard growth is coarse, and sandpapery. Initially, I tell myself the upside to this rough stage is that I can skip exfoliating my face in the morning because my husband will do it for me every time he gives me a smooch. That is until it feels like a rash has developed on my beard-sensitive face. Within a week though, he outgrows that stage and his whiskers become more like a prickly cactus swiping my chin and cheeks instead.
By stage three, his beard hair has gotten longer but still doesnâ€™t lie flat, so the whiskers on his upper lip collide with my nose when I try to start the day out with a quick kiss from him. Iâ€™m more accepting of my husbandâ€™s winter beard idea once his facial hair reaches what I call the â€œteddy bear faceâ€ stage, because his whiskers have grown out enough that it doesnâ€™t scratch like a wire brush and scour my face raw anymore.
Beards arenâ€™t my husbandâ€™s facial hairstyle preference, but rather a means for achieving big mustache status that resembles the mustaches actor, Sam Elliott grows. My husband doesnâ€™t like the appearance of being clean-shaven except for emerging mustache whiskers, so he grows out a beard first. Once his mustache reaches a desired length, the rest of the beard comes off.
I appreciate that he makes an effort to keep his facial hair looking clean and orderly, except when he and I are vying for use of the bathroom mirror when weâ€™re getting ready to go someplace. Besides getting reacquainted with my husband and his whiskers, I have to brush up on my sharing skills with the mirror in our only bathroom.
It wasnâ€™t spoken in our wedding vows, but Iâ€™ve since learned that part of my promise to a man who occasionally grows facial hair is that Iâ€™m committed to letting him know if his beard or mustache needs attention. It takes me a while to get into the habit of remembering to notice these details the first few months of being around my husband with a beard or mustache. I act as a stand-in mirror for him if real mirrors arenâ€™t available when he asks me if his mustache looks alright. Itâ€™s my duty as his trusted wife to warn him if his facial hairâ€™s amiss or needs a napkin swipe, so Iâ€™ve developed a particular look without drawing attention to it that lets him know his whiskers need checked.
The one thing I have gotten used to, is once heâ€™s made up his mind about something, he doesnâ€™t change his decision and I just have to face it. More than pokey whiskers, any attempts I make to persuade him to do otherwise just get in the way.
This column was originally published January 25-31, 2009