I did something yesterday I haven’t done in a few years. I shaved. That’s not entirely true. I shave every day but I have worn a goatee for years and I haven’t shaved my whole face for a long time.
Interesting the responses you get. I work as a school custodian and not a single teacher in whose rooms I work (21) either commented, or noticed, I am not certain which. It is pretty easy to accept that they didn’t really notice because I AM a custodian and as such not really on their radar. They are polite, as a group, but they are also mercenary. I am reminded that when I first took the job my teacher friends all bragged about how well they got to know the custodians at their schools because the custodians were the go-to guys for things they needed. They were proud of the fact that the primary reason they cultivated these relationships was for the good it did them. Not a single one of these educated people were moved to comment on the irony of their statements. I have one kindergarten teacher on my “route” who is more blatant than most. She will speak to me but never unless I speak to her. She will look up and have conversations in front of me with other teachers never acknowledging my presence and even go so far as to reveal in these conversations uncomfortable facts that I certainly do not need to know. But what’s the harm? Who guards their tongue in front of the furniture? But, should she need something in her room fixed or cleaned you would think we were kissin’ cousins! The other reason some might not have commented is they think I looked a hell of a lot better with parts of my face covered. And, really, who am I to argue? I did receive comment from the men on the staff, none of whom I work with directly. Polite but not really encouraging, if you know what I mean. That is to say, absolutely appropriate coming from them.
The question remains; why shave and why now? I have mentioned to some of my friends that I have had a less than easy time of it with this new employment. I had been self-employed for so long I am amazed at the drudgery people put up with for the distant chance to improve their lot. It is still months away for me to even drop the probationary title and potentially years from an improvement in shift or responsibilities. And, the emotional toll of changing my self-image from self-employed to school janitor has left me somewhat lacking in self-esteem. (Though, creating a sentence that properly contains three hyphenated words does buck up my morale a little.) As you can tell I have been living inside my own head a bit too much lately and it occurred to me that I might want to figure out why I am where I am and why I am tolerating the state of affairs. It also occurred to me that, perhaps, I am punishing myself a little for needing to take a job like this in the first place. So, I thought maybe I would take a look under the mask and see if I could still like the pudgy bastard who lives under there. It seemed a good time to remind “me” what “me” really looked like and decide whether “me” needed a little work.
I was struck by two things off the bat. First, I was most definitely hiding behind the beard. I feel exposed and unmasked. I look in the mirror and every thought seems writ large on my face. It seems to me that no amount of poker faced resolve can keep secret the thoughts lurking behind such a thin veneer. Second, I note that I have gotten old while hiding behind the veil of whiskers. Eyes that I had convinced myself were wise and knowing now simply look tired when surrounded by such a wrinkled and blank canvas. But, all in all, I think I could like the guy looking back at me from the bathroom mirror. He is after all the more real me. He is the guy I should be working to improve, not the beard that grants me distance from the world and its realities. I may grow the goatee back some time. I kind of like the way it looked, white hair and all. But, I am happy I shaved. I need to see the guy under the mask once in a while so I don’t fall victim to believing he is the real me.
Also, stripping off the pretense is a way of facing the serious work that needs to be done. I can’t live in these circumstances for years. At least, I won’t. Too much of what I want falls in conflict to this schedule and work. I need to figure out what to do about it. There is much to be done and “miles to go before I sleep”. Masks are for people who are about things like play and drama. I need to be about the work of creating the life I want and the time I need to spend with my wife and my children. I need to do some serious, grown up work and it is time, if for but a moment, to put away childish things. Things like masks.
We all wear masks. Mine was made of hair.