There were a few unspoken but hoped-for benefits from attending my recent college reunion, none of which materialized. I didn’t find my watch from 1978. That guy who seriously still owes me 2 bucks? He doesn’t remember that at all.
And I thought I could conduct an arthropological survey, taking advantage of my cohort, something I’m always interested in. At the age of 30, I cleaned out my desk and took work home for good, becoming what I thought would be the front line of an imminent wave of telecommuters. This didn’t turn out, by the way; lots of people do some work from home, but less than 3% of us actually completely telecommute. And of course I’m not really a telecommuter, but I thought of myself that way back in the late 80s, when I had an “employer” and even a “job.”
But nearly a quarter-century of this has left me in stasis, only barely aware of how people my age are supposed to be. I developed habits based not on fashion but atrophy. I would relent and get a haircut when my wife suggested, in a kind way, that she was embarrassed to be seen with me. I wore clothes until the holes in them threatened to expose family secrets. I used slang that seemed hip when Jimmy Carter roamed the White House, at least until I mostly stopped talking.
So I welcomed a chance to hang around people my own age, see how they acted, reacted, spoke and dressed. I observed their hair. I listened for new, interesting words. I was prepared to take notes.
It was a bust. They all seemed pretty much the same, except some of them now wore glasses. Nobody talked much about their kids, or their jobs, or their latest toys. Actually, a lot of them drank a fair amount of the time, which is exactly what we did in college.
What I did notice, then, was me. As the pictures started popping up online, what shreds of vanity I still retain started to tremble and then fall off, culminating in two, not one but two, comments on a recent picture posted on Facebook from the reunion. I thought it was an OK picture, not goofy, not embarrassing, not showing that huge bald spot I have on the back of my head. And yet these two thoughtful commenters, one a family member and the other a family friend (so they should know better, you would think) mentioned that I have developed a startling resemblance to my grandfather.
Let’s be fair. They didn’t say, “You remember when Grandpa had a stroke and was in the rehab center and really sick and then he died? You look like that.” But of course that’s what I was thinking.
Hey, I enjoy seeing family resemblances, but mostly in other people. I want to look unique, as if I were dropped on this planet, an accidental delivery from a totally different gene pool, which frankly would explain a lot.
Mostly, though, it made me think it’s time to get rid of the beard.
I grew it last summer on a whim, urged on by most people of the double-x variety, who now I suspect had a secret agenda (Ha! We’re going to look great standing next to him with that white beard). I could be sensitive here.
I like beards. I like growing them, I like trimming them, I like that it’s an easy way to shake up the face in the mirror. I never intended for it to be a permanent look. I thought, what, a few months, have some fun, get into a few movies cheaper, then off with it and youth reappears!
Here’s what I think: I think youth is not going to reappear. I think youth is too busy with the young, and instead is going to send a substitute, which will be their good friend Aging Jawline, but still I’m shaving it.
I’m looking forward to being a grandparent, actually. I have no qualms, just anticipation, and no rules except no dumb names, no “Boo-Pa” or “Poo-Pappy” for me. These second-generation offspring can feel free to call me Grandpa, or Grandfather, or Dude. Mr. Chuck will also be fine.
But I want to look like me, not my grandfather, as much as I loved and admired him, and miss him still, and who, now I think about it, only rarely had a beard. It’s too late to change my mind, though. And I seriously need to start wearing a hat more.