“Hey, where’s the beard?” I’ve been getting that question a lot lately as I show up at different events. It is usually followed by, “Why aren’t you wearing a bow tie?” Fear not, citizens. The bow tie is alive and well. I wear it when I teach and on Sundays. The beard, however, is gone.
Technically, it is still there, always growing underneath my pale Irish skin, pushing forward like Play-Doh slowly squeezed through a sieve. To understand the reason it is gone, one must understand the reason it began.
It was 2004 and I had just left youth ministry and began teaching at Franciscan University. It was an incredibly intimidating job, especially since many of my former teachers were now my professional colleagues! I was only 32 so I was one of the youngest members of the faculty at the time.
I walked into THE FACULTY LOUNGE—a secret place forbidden to students but now I could have access to. Actually, it took me about two months to raise my courage to walk in there. When I did, there was a grumpy professor (who shall remain nameless) who, without really looking at me, loudly put his book down on the table and said, “Students are not allowed in the faculty lounge.” So I said I was sorry and I left.
And that’s when I decided to grow the beard. I needed to look older, and fast, or I knew I’d keep getting mistaken for a student. So in the course of a month I went from this:
Those pictures were with my daughter Elliana, who is now 12! Amazing how time flies.
My mission was accomplished: I looked older. Over time, the beard added shades of grey, giving me a more distinguished look.
However, the last few years, I have felt betrayed by the beard. It went from “pepper” to “completely white”. I would tell people I was in my forties, and they’d say, “Wow! I thought you were older than that.” I’ve noticed that more people have been inquiring if any of the college musicians I play with were my children. This is me at an event in Fort Worth, TX… one of the last known pictures of the beard:
I confess I thought about coloring it darker. I even bought a Just For Men hair dye kit. But the instructions were way too complicated, and I didn’t want to head down that slippery slope. So I lathered up and took it off. And now I look younger.