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The French Pirate

Public officials generally do not engage in facial hair what-so-ever. Teddy Roosevelt - I think - was the last actual US president to have any whiskers at all. Maybe it was Taft. My point is that is hasn't happened recently and I think for a good reason. People judge very harshly on what you choose to have growing out of your face. Look at John Bolton. He got criticized more for that stupid white mustache under his nose then for the proven fact that he was thoroughly unqualified, either through experience or temperment, to be a US Ambassador. You just had to look at him to know that his judgement could not be sound. John Bolton believed that his big droopy walrus mustache looked good. How could Americans possibly trust his judgement on any other important matter, like nuclear disarmament?

I've got a huge confession to make: I've had silly facial hair. For most men facial hair appears in two epochs of their lives. The first is when we're adolescents and we discover that we can grow any at all, which is what we then attempt to do and not very well. This facial hair usually disappears when we realize that our sparse attempts at mustaches and beards make us look less manly - not more so. That's the first time.

The second great period of facial hair occurs when the hair on top starts to disappear. Then it's crucially important to show the world that we can still grow hair out of our head. Sure it's not where we want it to grow, but it's hair none-the-less and that's the critical thing. This, by the way, also explains hair growing out of noses and ears.

When I was on an airbase in Texas I noticed that a lot of the retired military would engage in bizarre facial hair. These guys would be shopping at the base exchange with hair-cuts that would be as high and tight as any active duty service member, but then they would add to it some weird beard, like huge curling mustaches, or a long Colonel Sanders, or giant sweeping side-burns. Something to let you know that they had made their twenty years, and don't you dare try and give them any orders.

I've sort of fallen into the Midwest habit of growing a beard in the colder months and going clean shaven during the warmer ones. The rationale is that the beard provides extra warmth for your face when you need it most. Which is really just baloney, because no one around here is outdoors so much that it really makes much of a difference. We have indoor heating and we use it.

The real reason, I admit, is just laziness. It's a drag to have to scrape your face with a sharp piece of metal every single day and those few minutes it takes to do so can be better used for other purposes. Usually TV. So, you just say it's your 'winter beard'- or around here it's your 'deer hunting beard' - and you get out of that tiny bit of work for the next six months.
I claim that I can grow a full beard if I want to. Maybe with a little help from an eyebrow pencil here and there to fill in, but that still counts. The beard I grew last Winter is what I call 'the French Pirate'. This is the kind of styling you see on a number of male celebrities like Jonny Depp, Colin Farrell, Leonardo Di Caprio, P. Diddy Et Al. The French Pirate consists of a mustache, a soul patch underneath your lips then a bit of fuzz on the chin. Think Basil Rathbone in Captain Blood.

I didn't get much of a positive reaction to that beard. A few people observed non-commitally that: "Oh. You're growing a beard." To which I was compelled to reply: "Um, no. It's fully grown. This is the whole thing."

Then the subject would be changed.

A couple of women told me that it looked 'cute' and I thanked them for the compliment while thinking to myself: "No. It's not supposed to look 'cute'. It's supposed to look dashing. Like a French Pirate."

About the Author: Steve Sommers is the author of Breakfast with the Antichrist. His new novel, Rexroi, along with the best of Australian Science Fiction - is available as an ebook at, OR if you ABSOLUTELY need to turn pages when you read - at

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