Braving the Shave
It started with the lockdown beard. After a couple of months of the Covid-19 lockdown, when we were all looking for projects and interests to alleviate the boredom of being shut in, I decided to stop shaving. And not only to keep my beard short and tidy, as I've usually done in the past, but to see what it would look like if I grew it longer than I ever have before.
You might imagine that growing a beard as a hobby is much like watching paint dry. It doesn't offer quick returns. But on the other hand, it cultivates a deal of patience and fortitude. There are days when you want to give it all up and take up the razor again. But there are days, too, when you can enjoy looking in the mirror to see how it's coming on. When it's every bit as comforting as having a pet you can stroke for hours on end, only this one never needs taking for a walk, or having you clean up its mess after it.
Like most hobbies, there are many ways you can study your new hobby and learn more about how to practise it and gain better results. You wouldn't believe the number of videos you can find on YouTube about how to grow and cultivate and tend a beard. I flirted with the idea of growing a yeard: a beard you grow for a year with no trimming — or only the most minimal, to maybe stop your moustache getting in your mouth at every mealtime.
I started using beard oil, and when I didn't like the fragrance of the one I bought in Superdrug, I bought some essential oils and carrier oils and mixed my own. I brushed it several times a day with a boar bristle brush. And kept on stroking it.
And next, I noticed the number of bearded men on those YouTube videos who also shaved their heads completely bald. Most of the were much younger than me, men losing their hair in their twenties or even their teens, who cope with their hair loss by shaving it all off. 'Embracing their baldness', it's called. I lost most of my hair by my early 30s, but I coped with it just by coping with it. But now I grew curious about what I would look like if I shaved my head completely. When I hinted to the women in my life what I had in mind, the response was not welcoming. Clearly, I would need to work at bringing them round to the idea.
Then on the Internet I found the Macmillan Cancer Support challenge 'Brave the Shave'. When I was diagnosed with prostate cancer four years ago, it was good to know that Macmillan were there to provide support if I needed it. Fortunately I haven't needed it, but I've had lots of occasions to see the wonderful help given by Macmillan nurses to cancer sufferers, most recently to another retired priest in the parish here, who died of prostate cancer earlier this year.
Many people undergoing radiotherapy or chemotherapy for cancer lose their hair, so the grand idea of Brave the Shave was that volunteers wanting to take part in the challenge would have their hair shaved in solidarity, but also, and chiefly, to seek sponsorship from family and friends. Signing up to the challenge looked like the ideal way to meet the objectives of satisfying my curiosity about shaving my head, honourably finding a use for my beard (after five months I was sure enough that I didn't want to continue growing it out for a whole year), and also raising money for a very good cause.
I set the date for the shave: Monday October the 19th, and publicised it through the Macmillan website, social media, and whatever else I could think of. The big day came, the shave happened, and (so far) I have raised £530 in sponsorship. You can judge the Before and After here:
I think it's an improvement.
And, because it's 'a Thing' to film this kind of adventure, I filmed it too.
Just in case you read this and would like to donate to Macmillan Cancer Support, here's the link to sponsor me.