Retrospective To-Do Lists  ·  April Skies


So having run out of shaving soap—and being of a somewhat lazy disposition, not having bought any more—I’ve gone unshaved for the last few days. I doubt coverage is good enough to really try for a beard, so I’ll be shaving it off in the next week, but until then any mirror-gazing will reveal a more hirsute face than usual.

Both sides of my family have a tendency to look young for their age; I have perennial problems with people asking for ID when I’m trying to buy alcohol. My dad’s no exception, and many years ago he grew a beard in an attempt to look older when he was presenting a paper at a conference.

He’s still got it, and I honestly can’t remember what he looked like without it (if I was even born then—not sure about that). The idea that he might one day shave it off scares me slightly—in my mind the beard is tied so closely to his identity that a part of me feels that without it, he would literally be a different person.

The thought has set me wondering: what other ephemeral, contingent characteristics have become so bound up with our idea of a person that, if taken away, would shatter our conception of who that person was? The ability to imagine how things might have been different is a foundational part of our nature as imaginative, intellectually-endowed beings, but still we find it hard to let go of realities we have lived with, and which have become a part of us.

5 responses

you’ve also pointed out a intensely important component of political rights claims, i.e. the notion of recognition. Identities are based in part on how we expect others to recognize us, and using the example of minority groups who seek some sort of recognition, for the state to deny these claims is in part to deny a part of their identity, which is a reason why it can be so damaging. Charles Taylor, one of Canada’s best thinkers on multi-culturalism elaborates this in way much more eloquent than mine.

good post; but can we get a picture?

I am bearded just for the winter. Last March when I decided to get rid of it all at once, people did double-takes and one said “You look like a totally different person.” Indeed, I was, because the beard contained my magickal power. This year I’m just trimming it shorter and shorter until my face disappears. But my hair is always this afro-puff of wavy dark brown, although it’s been infiltrated by white.

I had a professor that had one haircut a year– a buzzcut, and throughout the year he would let it regrow until it was long. However, he had an abnormal number of teeth and he was short.

I think there are other characteristics that provide the canvas which, now and then, gets painted over.

My Dad always had a beard until one day he decided to shave it off. He looked 20 years younger and like a totally new person but a week later I was used to it. A week later I couldn’t remember what he looked like with a beard and I still can’t.

Right now the thought of it disapearing might scare you but really you’d very soon forget what he looked like.

On an unrelated note, I love that you’ve taken the time to change this textarea’s font to verdana over the default courier. Also, the small changes on your theme are beautiful. I instantly noticed a massive difference. I think this is the best Wordpress theme out there.

I met a beautiful girl while sipping a delicious cranberry herbal tea on the veranda of a chill-out club in my town. We talked for hours that night as the drinks changed to vodka and the venue changed to my place. Ultimately, it turns out she was not shaven and I wasn’t about to become entangled, so things ended awkwardly.

Days later, I felt bad for my reaction to the unkempt furrows and rang her mobile. She was glad to hear from me and we decided to get together for some shoe shopping downtown. We had a marvelous time selecting some gorgeous leather boots (on sale!) and it was while we had waffle cones that she let slip her secret of having shaved for the first time. As it turned out, we exchanged whispers much later that night…

That’s a brilliant story!