A common question directed at men with facial hair is, “How long did it take you to grow your beard?” Some hirsute gentlemen might be able to grow a full, glorious beard in a just a few days. It may take others a few weeks for theirs to fill-in completely. In my case, the honest answer is forty-six years.

       Travis Naughton

In the late 1980s, several of my high school classmates and I made a wager to see who could grow a beard the fastest. Scott Straub won, as I recall, having produced a Grizzly Adams-esque beard in about ten days. Mine finished “filling-in” just last week.

To tell the truth, despite not shaving since last fall, my beard never actually filled-in. It seems that my face is plagued with more bald patches than a tee box at a driving range. Nevertheless, the beard I reluctantly shaved off last weekend was the fullest one I’ve ever managed to grow in my life.

I decided to ditch my beard for several reasons. For starters, it looked pathetic. It was so sparse that it made Keanu Reeves’ scraggly beard look like Hagrid the gamekeeper’s. Second, it felt like I was wearing an itchy wool sweater on my face. It also caught countless crumbs and virtually every molecule of yogurt, soup, and liquid intended for my mouth.

In addition, it became apparent to me that every red whisker I once had on my Scots-Irish face has turned whiter than the snow in the Highlands.

Maybe it’s for the best that I don’t hide my gorgeous mug behind a curtain of facial hair. Why should I deprive the world of my boyish good looks? That would be a disservice to humanity. It would also be a disservice to deprive humanity of the following poem I wrote to honor the memory of my recently removed facial follicles:

“My weird beard has at long last been sheared. For growing facial hair, I suppose I’m not geared.

My wife, to my scruff, became surprisingly endeared, while my friends unsurprisingly laughed and sneered.

Never before had I fulfilled my quest to grow a beard, because for weddings and funerals I always thought my stubble should be cleared.

At a recent visitation for someone I revered, I decided not to shave, and with that decision no one interfered.

But a few weeks later when in the mirror I peered, it was just as I had always feared—I didn’t like how my beard appeared.

Before I shaved it off, my thoughts veered, to sparing my mustache—but in another direction I then steered.

As the moment of truth neared, before weeks of growth disappeared, I thought I’d keep a goatee—the kind the beatniks pioneered.

But to my original plan I adhered, and when the job was done, I swear someone cheered.

The razor burn made my face feel pan-seared, but I hope it will be worth it when my new look has premiered.”