Kelly Van De Walle: Growing into a man … beard and all

For many years, any beard-growing initiative looked like if Stevie Wonder opened a hair grooming salon for cats: a poorly-decorated business with fur in small patches all over the place.

It was as if during puberty my face had once seen a beard in a movie and was given the task but was woefully ill-equipped and unprepared, its immediate reaction being, “A beard? Us? When? You’re kidding.”

Face: “Alright troops, listen up!”

Whiskers: “No. Sleepy. Go away.”

Face: “Look, I’m not happy about this either but I’ve been given direct instructions from the pituitary gland and it’s time to start growing.”

Whiskers: “But you look so cute. It’ll be like putting hair on a pancake.”

Face: “Flattery will get you nowhere. This is happening.”

Whiskers: “UGGHHGHHHHH. Whhhhhy? Is this ALL hair or just us? What about body hair?”

Body hair: “Leave us out of this. Our plan is to be entirely non-existent except for some light, wispy areas on the thighs that look like an old man’s combover.”

Whiskers: “UGH. Can we at least do a terrible job?”

Face: “Sure. Whatever. I don’t care. Our instructions are just to ‘start growing.’ Plenty of room in there for interpretation. Wait until I tell you about the muscles that are supposed to come in.”

Whiskers: “Oh we heard about those guys. They decided to stay dormant. Lucky jerks.”

Face: “But we need a plan as well to ensure no girl will ever find him attractive.”

Whiskers: “You don’t want us to, like, grow all together do you?

Face: “Oh heck no. We wouldn’t want to give the impression this guy is becoming an actual man.”

Whiskers: “OK, good. What if to compensate we make a couple of us grow really fast and kind of curl up awkwardly?”

Face: “Perfect.”

Needless to say it was an experiment doomed from the start so I filed for early bankruptcy and closed up shop.

Now, it seems, beards are everywhere, though usually just on men. This has seemingly been a trend for a couple of years so I figured I’d give it another try. I’m usually on the forefront of trends so this is very much on #brand. For example, I just signed up to MySpace. It looks fun and will probably be incredibly popular for a long time.

Below are excerpts from my beard journal.

Day 1: 

Who are we kidding. On the bright side, it looks even.

Day 3: 

Good news: five-o’clock shadow is starting to come in. Does this happen to some guys every day? That can’t be right. Mine is snobbier and prefers to appear like a flower that only blooms during the winter solstice. With it being, technically, visible now the question becomes: Do I order special beard shampoo NOW?

Already starting to feel manlier. Whiskers are causing friendly fire as wife won’t come near it fearing stab wounds. Wow, it’s already scaring off womenfolk. Do I have to register this thing with local law enforcement?

Day 5: 

Probably can’t be called a beard yet by most MWBs (Men With Beards). More like a training beard. Check-out lady gave me a strange look, like when you see a dog walking around on its hind legs. Told her I shaved in an earthquake this morning. I think she bought it. Searched internet for spray-on hair to fill in barren areas.

Wife lovingly referring to it as “the ferret.” Woke her up by pressing it up against her belly as a “ferret attack.” After I regained consciousness I have decided not to do this again.

Day 6: 

Took my beard for a walk today. Introduced it to a lady passerby. She didn’t say anything, probably in complete awe and overcome with lust at my rapidly-growing face thatch. Likely won’t grow it out like ZZ Top, but thinking hard about doing the “Sexy Gandalf.” Thought about classic cars twice.

Day 8: 

Good to see random hairs on each side are still growing at different rates like they’re California redwood saplings fighting for sunlight. Not only that but they’re curling up on the ends. This is clearly a sign I should switch jobs and become a professional musketeer or get a monkey and begin selling pocket watches from a hi-wheel bicycle.

Day 10: 

Can of “Hair Illusion” arrived! Goodbye patchy areas. Was perhaps a little too liberal with the application and may now resemble a large six-year-old who dressed up like Abraham Lincoln for a school Presidents Day play by using a Sharpie.

Discovered I have so much more time now that I’m not spending so much shaving. I’ve played with my kids more than ever and actually learned the younger one’s name.

One big question looms: am I supposed to drive a big truck or a Subaru with outdoorsy wife and dog whose trust I need to earn?

Day 13:

Feeling super manly today. Hair Illusion spray smeared a bit during the night. Now I resemble the late Billy Mays. Googled “Renting horses and spears near me” and returned zero results. Small business opportunity?

Ridded dressers of all shirts. Obviously, I won’t be needing them again.

Got Captain Crunch crumbs caught in beard. Wore them like recently-presented medals.

Day 18: 

The beard grows stronger every day. Kelly ceases to exist. Now, there is only Krahl.


Kelly “The Beard” Van De Walle can be reached at vandkel@hotmail.com