February 26, 2012

Van Dyked

It was about ten minutes before eight on a Monday, and I was wedged into the commuter train with the other passengers so tightly I literally could not move my arms. I had navigated sleety roads to the train station--cold out, no coffee yet--and I was heading into the office facing a tough week ahead. I made a colossal mistake in my iPod choice for the train ride: a Johnny Cash cover of Nine InchNails’ “Hurt”:

I hurt myself today
To see if I still feel
I focus on the pain
The only thing that's real

It was that kind of morning.

Stay with me here, people. We all face these bleak early mornings like this from time-to-time, and I know I ride the same philosophical train that billions of others do. My point?  It’s what happened next.

I disembarked the train and elbowed my way through the jostling crowd, cutting through the streams of passengers blocking my path, and distractedly stroked my goatee. The bristles reminded me that my way of clearing the dark clouds of February was growing a goatee for the month. I’ve been doing this for the past few years, and it’s become a habit. The question is why? The first time I grew it prompted repeated comments from co-workers and friends, and I suppose I like(d) the attention. But I also enjoy the temporary nature of my goatee: I shave it off, without fail, at the end of February. The finality of the act puts February behind me, signaling the end of winter.

Plus, a little hair on the face seems to give men a little predator chic. Rougher. Meaner? I’m unsure as to the sociological origins of not shaving a part of my face. I have been striving to leech a little badass, an evil-Mr.-Spock vibe, but I suspect I come off more like Pres. Lincoln the day after a bender. Regardless, I still feel the addition of a goatee adds a bit of spice to an otherwise bland month.

As I was mulling over the words for this post, I did some trolling on the Net and discovered that my “goatee” is technically called a Van Dyke. This means I have been mistakenly defining the hair on my face for years. A fit allegory for the past couple of weeks.

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