In my previous life, I worked at a job that made growing a beard difficult. Every time I’d let it grow on vacation, I’d get close to an acceptable length, but still below the threshold of respectability. Naturally, when I learned I’d be working with Negros Women for Tomorrow and Kiva here in the Philippines, I looked at it as a great opportunity to reinvent myself as a man with a beard. On the street every day, people walk around with beards knowing that they are part of an exclusive fraternity, having chosen to distinguish themselves from the rest of the clean-shaven world. On this trip, I would not pass up the opportunity.
The process began on November 18th, two days before I left work. I had two weeks before work began in the Philippines, a narrow window for a full bloom. The above photo was taken on December 20th, showing a month of unchecked growth. In the first two weeks, I already had a nice base, extending from my sideburns, down my cheek, and underneath my chin. Halfway down my face, the pattern forms a right angle, before dropping precipitously past my mustache and down to the area below my chin.
By some cruel twist of fate, this is the pattern of facial hair I am stuck with. Coming to grips with the fact that never in my life will I be able to grow a respectable beard has been difficult. I’ve pointed out the key problem areas in this diagram. For one things, the barren patch is about 3 square inches – far too large for any serious attempt at a beard. It is like a defective Chia Pet. I contemplated growing out the sole patch (also shown) and using it as a comb-over, or using a sharpie to detail my chin – both terrible ideas. I inquired about a topical Rogaine for just the problem areas, but apparently none exists. Adding insult to injury, the facial hair above my upper lip does not connect to the rest of my beard, leaving me with a combination of the two worst patterns possible: an underdeveloped mustache and a chinstrap.
Despite these deficiencies, I am going to continue to grow this beard for the duration of my travels. I’ve gotten some positive feedback from people on the street in the Philippines, Vietnam, and now Cambodia, but that is mostly because no one else can grow anything close to a beard. I’ll try to update you, the reader, on my progress if and when any is made. Right now, the prognosis is grim, but I am still holding out for a miracle. While I am hoping for the best, here is my best guess of what I am going to look like a year from now:
Check back for more updates.