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The Beard

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The Beard (1979-2009) The Beard expired at home with his beloved Face at his side. He is survived by His Face. They had no Sideburns.

Cartoon character Snow Job, or Bearded Martian?

I had heard rumors that men were from Mars, women from Venus, but never truly felt there was so vast a divide that we could be born from opposing planets. To me the differences were far more subtle; say, men from the Big Bend region of Texas or Spunky Puddle, Ohio, whereas women might hail from Heavenly Valley, California or Sweet Lips, Tennessee. Well, that was until yesterday:

I was surprised to find my Old Lover (who shall be referred to as Ol) and his Newish Girlfriend (Ng) at my front door. She was bearing a brown paper bag smelling of warm pastries and a spreading grease stain, which is always a good sign.

Normally, friends would not indulge themselves in the "pop in" knowing that I work from home and Ol and I had had this understanding: In the past, he would call first so not to disrupt my writing schedule, I would not pop into his art studio knowing he might be at work on a canvas. But there they were, just back in town after a few days in Seattle for his art show, of which I had heard, he had done quite well and sold a few ridiculously large canvases.

"Sorry to disturb," he apologized, "but we were in the neighborhood and thought we'd drop off some chocolate filled croissants." We laughed good-naturedly and I figured they had read my latest piece.

We sat down at the wrought iron table in the overgrown patio garden, shaded by the rubber tree. It wasn't until I looked up from the contents of the goodie bag that I noticed Ol was no longer sporting a cascade of whiskers and in fact, was clean shaven. "Oh my God! You shaved your beard!" I laughed, as if he might not realize he was missing a face once covered with what appeared to be a small, unidentifiable mammal, much like the specie which hitches a ride atop Donald Trump's scalp.

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"I know, isn't it great!" said Ng, running her fingers across Ol's smooth jaw line. "After he read your essay he felt compelled to trim. Who would have known such a beautiful jaw was hiding under all that fur?" she laughed.

I liked Ng. Our paths had crossed long before and I always found her to have a fine sense of humor and so was rather pleased when Ol had told me some months before that they had become a couple. The problem now was that Ol seemed rather miffed and I had to assume the latest essay about my Expired Lover and loss of lust had not tapped into his funny bone but rather, had hit a nerve. Obviously, I had gained points with Ng and Ol was now her New Improved Lover (or Nil) but Ol looked as though I had just run over his dog.

"So, you thought my beard needed trimming?" he asked, helping himself to one of the three chocolate plumped croissants. Now, this is where I started to realize that he was indeed a Martian and not a Big Bender because if I had to guess, I would have thought that if anything struck an irksome chord in him from my latest piece, it might be that his ego was somewhat bruised when I said I no longer found him sexually attractive or worthy of knuckle dragging or Von Trapp yodeling, that he was a bit grayer and thinner on top, or that I was more intrigued by the tiny yellow bird perched on a nearby branch. But no, mentioning that his beard needed trimming seemed to have spurned a disturbing melancholy. Where was Dr. Phil when you really needed him?

"I heard your show did very well," I zigzagged.

"Surprisingly well, yes. You know, I always tried to keep my beard rather neat," he catapulted. "I had that beard for nearly 30 years. No one's ever mentioned it was unkempt before."

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I had never used the word unkempt and from his bizarre behavior, one would think I had suggested his unruly mop looked like the Uni-bomber. Ng and I exchanged nervous glances characteristic of Sweet Lippers.

"I hadn't planned on shaving it off it's just when I started trimming I got carried away, I guess. I'd trim one side a bit shorter, then would have to even out the other side, then I accidentally cut too much off leaving a baldish spot so had no choice but to shave the whole damn thing." He finished his croissant and went to tear off an end of the remaining pastry, mine. I wanted to kick him in the shins but refrained as I knew this would only exacerbate his grieving over his phantom beard.

It was obvious to me that in my many decades of dealing with what I now realized were indeed Martians and not the fun-loving Spunky Puddlers, I was no closer to understanding them than I was before. I had innocently mentioned a mass of hair, his face hamster, but in my naivete' had hit on something that was a bone of contention for irritable Martians.

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A native Californian, Jan Baumgartner is a writer and book editor. After many years along the coast of Maine, she now lives full time in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico. She's recently finished editing two books; one, a memoir for a non-profit in (more...)
 

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