The face in the mirror keeps catching me by surprise.
“Hey, Scott! You … ” a co-worker called in the parking lot, patting his own chin.
“Yeah, I did.”
It’s the bare-faced truth: for the first time since early 2013, the beard is completely gone. Deforested. Clear-cut. Shaven.
The facial fur left for the same reason it came – to secure a part. When I first transformed into my more hirsute self (joking that I had hit my mid-life crisis), it was to play an Arthurian knight in “Camelot.” This time, an internal city spot was being created that needed a Sherlock Holmes type, and while Sherlock is known for his abundance of brains, there’s rarely been an abundance of hair to go with it. So, out came the razor.
The stage is funny that way. In a similar situation, to play the spear-bald agent Swifty Lazar, a friend erased a beard that had been in place for better than 40 years. We had performers in the cast that were younger than the exorcised adornment was.
It was a peculiar transformation then. It feels equally strange now.
I’m not entirely sure why, to be honest. After all, these last few years have held a lifetime’s worth of changes. Four years ago, my wife Heather and I began to take care of Missy, her physically and mentally disabled aunt. One year ago, I left newspapers (aside from this column) to do PR and pursue some writing of my own. Five months ago, Heather was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, prompting still more changes in response.
Compared to all that, what does a scraped face matter? Sure, it feels a bit cooler, maybe looks a bit younger. But set against everything else, is the re-summoning of a bygone visage so much?
Then again, maybe that’s it. With so much having changed, it seems … peculiar to look like I did before it all happened. It’s almost like turning back the clock, stepping back to an earlier time.
Silly, of course. You can’t undo change with a razor.
And yet … maybe it’s not a bad thing to have a symbolic reset.
Anyone who’s ever been a caregiver of any kind knows this: fatigue is real and rarely acknowledged. When you put much of your energy into keeping another person going for one more day, the last thing you want to do is worry anyone by revealing how low your own tank is. Sure, you know the caregiver has to be cared for, too, but that’s an intellectual knowledge rather than a visceral one, sort of like how one might have read about bears in the mountains without having any idea what to do when Smoky visits your campsite and rips open your car trunk.
And so, a level of background tired sets in. A level of tunnel vision, too, where you focus on taking care of what needs doing now, with the rest stored in a mental attic for later, if it isn’t just left behind as discarded baggage.
It’s easy to fall into cycles. Habits. Patterns.
Breaking that pattern, even in a small way, helps.
Suddenly, the world looks a little different. You have to come up for air, to pay attention, to see what else might have changed when you weren’t looking. It can be re-energizing, snapping you to attention like a glass of cold water to the face.
Come to think of it, that’s one reason I do theatre in the first place. The chance to step outside myself for a while, to be someone new and, in doing so, get a second wind for who I already am.
The stark state may not last. I do like the beard. So do Heather and Missy. (Actually, Heather likes any state that isn’t the in-between stubble.) But for now, with a few swipes of a Gillette, Mr. Holmes may have solved yet another situation.
Even if it does mean taking it on the chin.