The Whole Hairy Truth
The Jakarta Post -- WEEKENDER | Thu, 01/29/2009 5:24 PM |
By the time you read this, I will either look like the photo you usually see alongside this column. Or the one next to it.
Which would mean I’ve parted with one of the oldest adult friends I’ve ever had, a relationship that goes back more than 30 years.
Shaving off your mustache or beard takes a major act of courage.
To many males, facial hair is your passport to manhood. Before we could grow beans or bank accounts, we sprouted whiskers. It’s a puberty thing.
I started cultivating my growth the day after graduation from high school, my personal rite of passage. And it’s been part of my facial landscape ever since.
But in the past few months, there have been more than a few suggestions to lose the lip liner.
“Shave it. You’d look 10 years younger,” said one female colleague.
“Maybe we wouldn’t call you opa [grandfather] then,” said another.
Fair enough. But I’m not insecure about aging. So the reason would simply have to be because I wanted a fresh change for the new year.
It’s not so easy for some.
Take Jakarta geologist Jim Blevins. He began growing a full beard in 1967 as part of a military training exercise.
“I kept it because it became part of me. It has nothing to do with ‘flavor savers’,” he laughed.
“I would feel very different without it. Naked. And I’m not sure I’d like how I look without it,” he said.
Palembang native Kennedy Muslim says it helps him to look older for business purposes, so he sports a mustache and short beard.
“I’m kind of lucky,” said the 26-year-old stock trader. “Most of my friends can’t grow anything. I guess I have a hairy gene.”
In predominantly Muslim Indonesia, some are strict followers of the teachings of the Prophet Muhammad. He said that Muslim men should “grow their beards and trim their mustaches”.
But 44-year-old musician Ade Hamzah recently shaved off the mustache and beard he’s had since high school, to better fit in with a new band with a young lead singer. And he remains as devout as ever about Islam.
“It’s not about your appearance, but what’s inside. That’s what I feel,” he says.
Religion aside, asking a woman about her preference can also be a determining factor. Public relations manager Gina Desmeralda likes men with facial hair.
“A goatee is nice, fashionable, but not a full beard like Santa,” she says. “As long as it fits the face of the person, as long as it looks good.
“Should you shave yours off? It’s kind of your trademark, isn’t it? I have to imagine it first.
Hmm. My vote … shave it off! Let’s see.”
My visiting 10-year-old daughter took less time to cast her ballot.
“No way, Dad, you’d look weird,” said Dior, who’s only ever seen her father mustachioed, so her reaction is definitely understandable.
The person to whom I grant the most authority in this matter has to be the woman who began the whole hairy debate. And my mom back in Hawaii nearly shouted into the telephone.
“No, don’t you shave it off. Ugly,” said Elsie.
Okay, Mom, got it, thanks for the subtle opinion.
So it all comes down to weathering the likely post-shave storm. And conjuring up enough bravery to actually do it.
As someone pointed out, if it turns out to be a mistake, it’s a correctable one. But believe me, it really is a traumatic moment to pick up the razor and lather on the cream.
If you see me around, let me know what you think. Or maybe you won’t recognize me at all.
Either way, I’ll be at peace with my relatively minor decision. Because in my research I also read this about Islamic tradition:
“Allah commanded Abraham to keep his beard, shorten his mustache, clip his nails, shave the hair around his genitals, and pluck his armpit hair.”
Hawaii native Dalton Tanonaka is the co-anchor of Metro TV’s Indonesia Now program, seen on Saturday mornings at 7 a.m. and Sundays at 1 a.m. He can be reached at email@example.com.