As my dad, my grandfather and I walked through the grounds of Oshkosh for the EAA Annual Convention and Fly-in in 1984, my dad commented to me that it was easy to pick out the male pilots from the non-pilots in the crowd because most pilots tend to be clean shaven. I countered that at the time I knew a couple of pilots that had beards or mustaches. I don’t remember what his reply to my counterargument was but he said something about clean shaven men being disciplined. Our conversation that day kicked off something in my OCD ways and ever since then I’ve always noticed whether a pilot is clean shaven or not. All of the female pilots I have met fit the bill and about 90% of the male pilots have been clean shaven.
On the other hand, I know some bearded men that are damn fine pilots and I am very proud to call them good friends. I have fully established that facial hair has no factor on the depths of aviator talents and skill.
This all being said, I was going through some old blog entries and I noticed that I have been completely clean shaven for a whole year. No mustache, no goatee, no awesome beard, just smooth cheeked and baby-faced since October of last year when a barber wearing puka shells around his neck shaved off my mustache and cleaned up the rest of my face at a barbershop in Kansas City, Missouri.
I don’t think I have been clean shaven this long for as long as I have had the ability to grow facial hair.
For many years I was easily identified by my ginger beard or large mustache that went along with my bald head. Having cool facial hair can kind of be used like currency in the “gay” world; Instagram posts get more likes, blog entries get noticed. There are many that get gaga over an awesome beard or ‘stache and quite frankly, I enjoyed the ginger powers I had to command attention when I had a beard. People noticed when I walked into a room. It was a huge stroke of my ego. I was sort of like a peacock, strutting around with ginger awesomeness. Even when the gray came in strong, I enjoyed my cinnamon and spice prowess sprouting from my chin.
During the past year I have firmly established that I am more than the ginger powers that come along with growing a beard. I have always found the chore of shaving to be fascinating; the concentration required, the idea of holding a sharp blade at your throat. I have noticed that no two men shave the same way, some take quick, short strokes, some try to get through the process as quickly as possible, others grind away at their chin with an electric gizmo while driving into work (that seems dangerous to me).
I have to admit that I have enjoyed the taming of my ginger-fueled ego and vanity with my clean shaven face. I have other reasons to feel cocky, I defy gravity as a pilot after all, but more importantly, I feel comfortable as just another face in the crowd.
I feel like I’m putting more than just my best face forward.