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OUTDOORS COLUMN: The man in the mirror

Bob Kornegay

Bob Kornegay

A couple of days ago I stood at the mirror perusing and contemplating my long hair and beard. I know, I know. I promise I’ll get a life as soon as I finish this.

My whiskers and long locks, impressive and distinctive as they are, have begun to bother me a bit. No, it’s not the inherent occasional discomfort of facial hair or the inconvenience of a flowing mane on a windy day, but rather a mental and emotional discomfort regarding why I have long hair and a beard in the first place. We great philosophers do that, you know. Sooner or later we ponder the whys and wherefores of everything.

I’ve had my present growth about four years now, my first beard since the 1970s. Back then I fancied myself a songwriter and was afflicted with a serious Kris Kristofferson complex. I shaved that one at the behest of my mother-in-law and the realization that there was no “Me and Bobby McGee” or “Sunday Morning Coming Down” waiting to burst forth from my poetic reservoir. Except for a mustache, I was clean-shaven for the next 34 years.

So why this desire to be bearded and long-tressed now? I’m 60 years old and if I have some kind of “statement” to make I’ve forgotten it. I once thought I was merely curious to see what my beard looks like in the salt-and-pepper stage. Now that I know and still have it, that can’t be the reason.

Perhaps, in deeper consideration, I harbor a desire to look like those great outdoorsmen of old, the mountain men of the untamed West, who not only stalked and bested the ferocious grizzly, but bore a striking resemblance to him as well. Or, maybe, since I’ve unsuccessfully sought to write as well as Ernest Hemingway for the past three decades, I now find I must be satisfied with merely resembling him. God knows that’s easier. Wait. Maybe it’s just plain sexy. Oops! There’s that mirror again. Forget that.

My fellow philosopher Cletus Monroe says it’s simply a midlife crisis spilling over into old age.

“Folks our age just do weird stuff for no good reason,” said Clete.”Some of ‘em grow long hair and beards, some start chasin’ younger women, and some buy high-priced sports cars and start takin’ them Niagra pills. Shoot, Hoss, it’s natural. At least that’s what them head shrinkers on TV say.”

Hmm. Clete better darn well hope it’s natural. If not, that new thong bathing suit of his just might get him arrested. All things considered, my grizzled whiskers and gray-streaked locks might be a comparatively painless way to adjust to growing old.

As for Clete’s specific opinion of hair and beards, mine in particular, he doesn’t have a lot to say on the subject. Just that I now bear an uncanny resemblance to a man “swallerin’ a live squirrel” or one who has contracted a terminal case of face fungus. So much for a best friend’s compassion and consideration.

But, hey, who cares for his or anyone else’s thoughts on this highly personal matter. It’s my beard and my hair and I’m not growing it for anyone other than myself. Actually, I think it lends an air of sagacity and dignity to my overall appearance. You know, like a Civil War general or a dead president. Not to mention that rugged, old-style-outdoorsman demeanor alluded to earlier. Why, old Jim Bridger himself would be impressed with the grizzled growth that now adorns these sagging cheeks and jowls.

In short, I’m pretty doggone comfortable with it and will appreciate all of you withholding your honest assessments. Just tell me I’m even handsomer now than usual. You can snicker and guffaw after my back is turned.

Besides, I’m pretty sure I’m coping with my crisis a whole lot better than my wife with hers. As far as I know, she’s the only 50-something woman in Southwest Georgia who’s taken to smoking those skinny French cigarettes and wearing knickers.

We make a really cute couple.