Fur Sure

As midlife changes go, this isn’t a bad one.

There’s no hot sports car sitting off the curb of Casa Rochat, attached to a huge bank loan and a running tab at the garage.

There’s no blonde or redhead on the side, no sudden resignation of my job to hike the Andes, no purple mohawk with an accompanying earring.

Instead, there’s just a bit more facial fungus  than there used to be.

Yep. The head shot on Rochat, Can You See is now inaccurate. Scott’s sporting a beard.

It’s not the first time I’ve flirted with the idea. The trouble is, there’s at least three stages to wearing a beard and Heather only likes two of them – smooth and smelling of shaving cream, or soft and fully-grown. The rough, scratchy, in-between stage that resembles my lawn during a Colorado summer isn’t comfortable for either of us, and that’s usually when I call retreat.

I made an exception once, back in Kansas, and let it keep growing. And by “keep growing,” I mean “Did nothing whatsoever to trim, thin or otherwise tame it.” All I was missing was a cardboard sign and a spot in the supermarket parking lot.

When people look at your face and ask if things are going all right at home, that’s not a good sign.

I knew it could be done better. I’d seen so on Sean Connery, on Dan Simmons, on my own Dad before he opted to return to a clear-cut. It just seemed like more of a hassle than I wanted.

But when I auditioned for and got a part in “Camelot,” the director had one question. “Do you think you can grow a beard by opening night?”

And thus the wildland restoration effort began anew.

As it happens, there’s a few advantages to going furry. You save a lot of money on razor blades. (You know, the ones they seem to alloy with platinum these days?) You pass the initial hurdle for any opening of “Fiddler on the Roof.” You get instant portable climate control, providing insulation in the winter and a handy sun screen in the summer.

Most of all, you create an instant conversation piece, once you’re far enough along for people to see that you didn’t just oversleep the alarm.

“Hey, what’s this?”

“You’re going to keep it, right?”

“I don’t usually like beards.” (Pause) “But this one suits you.”

Between this and some springtime weight loss, it’s even made me take a fresh look at myself. Usually, studying the mirror means a grudging acknowledgement of the Growing Thin Spot atop my head (which is a little like saying Jupiter has a reddish area somewhere in its middle). Now, it’s like meeting a new neighbor.

Besides, it’s quite the novelty to see hair advance instead of retreat.

Maybe this is the real reason – or at least a real reason – for the stereotypical midlife crisis. After so long of creating an identity, even the smallest change looks huge. It’s intriguing. Even exciting. And it makes you wonder what else can lie beneath the surface.

And really, that doesn’t have to be a crisis at all. Not when it can be an opportunity.

Learn an instrument? Why not?

Take the trip you’ve always put off? Go for it.

Start that book that’s been “someday” for 15 years? Sure.

I’ve known people who did all the above, or variations of it. Sometimes the experiment didn’t work so well. Sometimes it blossomed into something beautiful. In all cases, the self-portrait expanded, not so much changing who they were, but discovering more of it.

Funny thing about discovery. It’s addictive. There’s always more to find.

Just one thing. Be careful about discovering the Maserati.

Some situations, after all, are hairier than even Gillette can handle.