I am roughly forty-three and three-quarters years old. For roughly 25 of those years, I have had facial hair, and for the last, oh, 15 months or so it has been long enough to be notable.
Apparently, in all that time, I have not acquired the necessary skills that “let’s trim this mess back by a couple of inches” is something I am actually capable of doing. Believe me, it came as a surprise. I thought that was something I knew how to do! But I do not. I did not intend to do this terrible thing to my face when I began “trimming” my lovely beard earlier today. And it happened anyway. I am very sorry, particularly since the children will not want to discuss anything but my face on Monday.
I am probably going to go ahead and dye it now, because it’s not like I can fuck up any further than I have.
Guys, I totally recommend being an old white man if you can find a way to do it. Because I have been walking around looking like this since October and no one has said shit to me about it the whole entire time:
I tend to grow a full beard between October and March or April every year, right? It’s cold outside, Goddammit, and I’m already losing enough heat through my bald-ass head. This year for some reason I decided to throw any caution about, like, basic grooming completely to the wind and just let that bastard grow out however it wanted to. I kept my upper lip somewhat trimmed because otherwise it gets in my mouth when I’m trying to eat, but other than that? You do you, beard. I’m not getting in the way.
(And, okay, I hadn’t showered or really done much of anything when I took that. I usually don’t look that bad. But still.)
(This is utterly male privilege, by the way. I know nothing about grooming at all, despite having had some sort of beard for all but maybe two weeks since I went to college. I just let the shit completely go. And no one said boo the entire time. Let a woman go two days without brushing her hair and try to show up at work, I dare you.)
There is also the variant I call the Full Pappy. This is the Full Pappy:
To achieve the proper Full Pappy, you take your bushy-ass unkempt-ass beard and brush it against the grain for a couple of minutes until it looks even more ridiculous. Now, I never went out of the house looking like this, but still.
Anyway. It’s mid-March and the beard is starting to get annoying when I’m trying to sleep (that’s a thing!) so it was time for it to go. So now, because, again: white dude, I look like this:
I was in the bathroom killing off my cheeks and trying to figure out how in the fuck I wanted to shape this raggedy monster and it suddenly occured to me that I really like the feeling of the extended length on my chin, as I am an inverterate, unapologetic beard-stroker, and so I just stopped shearing the sides of the damn thing at a 45 degree angle and left all the length. So now I maybe look a little younger and a touch more in control of my face but I also look like I should be wearing a jean vest covered in patches and carrying some sort of flag.
I dunno. We’ll give it a couple of days and see if I decide to trim it back to something civilized or if it’s gonna be halfway to my nipples by summertime.
FIRST: I have been firmly on the Don’t Buy Me Anything train for Christmas for several years now, but this year my wife and I agreed to exchange one gift each. My wife won with this gift, which is an assortment of beard-grooming tools: a brush, which is gonna get used multiple times a day, beard-specific shampoo, which will get used as often as I need to use it, and beard balm and beard oil, which … well, we’ll see. This is actually just about the perfect Christmas gift, really– something that I would never have thought to buy for myself in a million years and would never have guessed that she’d gotten me in advance, but which I immediately realized upon receiving that it’s something I needed and am going to use all the time.
It is also a subtle dig at my hygiene, which a lesser person might choose to take as an insult but which I’m deciding I’m entertained by. 🙂
SECOND: My son received three different gifts that he already had. One was a set of Minecraft sheets, which both my wife and her sister bought him in a bit of a communications breakdown. Second was a Transformer. I’m kind of irritated about the Transformer; he got it because he brought it to me in the comic shop last week and announced that he wanted me to buy it. I reminded him that Christmas was in a couple of days and made him put it back, then immediately took it to the counter and asked them to hold onto it until I could come back without the boy and buy it. They did, and I did. The second he unwrapped it he announced he already had it and went and produced the original figure. Then he argued with me about whether he’d picked it out or not.
Like. Dude. Yes the fuck you did. That’s the only reason I bought the goddamn thing.
THIRD: Okay, maybe technically this is two-and-a-half anecdotes, but whatever. He also got one of these two tumbler cars from my mom and dad. He already had one of these, too, but he immediately decided he was excited about having two because now we can race them. So, OK. No problem there. The punchline: I’m pretty sure they alsobought him the original one.
My mom just called a few minutes ago. My dad was in their office looking for something. He found a third bright red Sharper Image tumbler car in the office while he was looking for whatever he was looking for.
Apparently Mom and Dad really want my kid to have this toy.
I woke up the other day and consulted my watch to discover that it was thirteen degrees below zero outside. I feel like we were largely spared polar vortex horror last year, for the most part, but this year has definitely picked back up on the trend of the last several years, which is that the weather at the end of Winter Break is horrifying enough that school being cancelled and the break being extended is at least plausible if not guaranteed. The boy goes back on Monday, finally, and I think the weather will be back to winter-normal by then, mostly, but holy fuck has it been cold around here lately. There’s maybe, I dunno, fifteen inches of snow on top of the house, too, which means that we probably got eighteen to twenty since it tends to compress under its own weight after a while. On the plus side, the new car appears to handle pretty damn well on ice and snow, or at least the new tires I put on it not too long ago appear to have done their job.
IN OTHER NEWS: the Lumberjack Beard is dead; long live the Lumberjack Beard. I don’t normally shed my winter beard this early in the year, winter having just barely started, but apparently the answer to this year’s beard question, i.e. “How long can I let this fucker get before it starts to drive me insane?” is about nine weeks. Granted, I brushed it backward to make it easier to shave off for that picture, but this was easily the bushiest I’d ever let my beard get, and unexpected side effects were starting to crop up– like eating getting much messier and– and this one really surprised me– all that hair on my face actually making it harder to sleep. I think if I groomed it a bit better it wouldn’t have been as much of a thing, but I’m a novice at this and wasn’t super interested in putting in the research time. I’d intended to just dial it back but ended up going completely back to the vandyke that I keep on my face for the other eight months of the year. I may grow it back right away or I may not, but I won’t be doing Full Lumberjack again anytime soon.
My phone is starting to slowly fill up with pictures like this, and I’m starting to see grid shapes with arcane symbols and glowing lines on them every time I close my eyes. My buddy James Wylder posted a shot to Instagram of a bunch of notes and diagrams he was working with as he was playing through The Witness, and upon discovering that the PlayStation store had it for $15 and deciding I could use a more cerebral break from Horizon: Zero Dawn and Nioh, I was in. Two days later I’m hooked as fuck. I’d compare the game to Myst, but Myst had a genuine story to it and this really doesn’t; the reward for solving puzzles is more puzzles and occasional frustration and headaches. There have been a couple of puzzles where I’ve had to cheat to get through them and at least one where even when the answer is on the screen in front of me I’ve been unable to figure out why the right answer was the right answer, but for the most part it’s hitting a nice sweet spot for me– challenging enough that solving the puzzles isn’t automatic, but not so challenging that my rapidly-becoming-legendary lack of patience with video game bullshit kicks in. If noticing that some vines near you are a different color from the other vines and then figuring out how to get outside and line your screen up perfectly so that the vines trace the right path on the grid in front of you, and then taking a picture of it with your phone because fuck that, you don’t seriously expect me to memorize this, do you? sounds up your alley, check it out.
I had plans to write fiction this week, but they were burned to the ground once I realized that I’d have the boy with me all day yesterday and today for the last two non-weekend days of his break. I’ve been lazy as hell on hiatus since Tales came out but it’s time to get back on the horse. Next Thursday, then, I will either officially begin work on the latest version of the sequel to Skylights or start working on my entry for this anthology or both. Because battle poets.
Book sales have had a nice little spike lately too. After most of a year where if I was selling a book or two a month I was pretty happy with it, I’ve sold five books today, two yesterday, and twelve since Christmas Eve– and that absent any sales or any particular promotion on my part other than a few surprisingly well-received Tweets. In an absolute sense that doesn’t seem like much to brag about but I’m still in holy shit people are sending me money for stories mode, and I kinda hope I never break out of that.
That said, if anybody else wants to keep the ride going, that would be awesome. Reviews would be cool, too, especially of the three that aren’t even at 10 yet. Wanna help me out?
If we were having coffee, it’s pretty likely that my inner misanthrope (who is not always as “inner” as he should be, let’s be honest here) would be on full display. This has been a flatulent, flabby nothing of a week for me, and I’ve either been lazy as hell after an extremely busy Thanksgiving week and Black Friday weekend or showing symptoms of clinical depression or very possibly both. There’s been a panic attack or two, and oh, I managed to get turned down for like seven different jobs this week. One job turned me down twice! One of the two “nope, not you” emails specifically referenced that they were looking for candidates who more closely fit the job requirements.
The job: mortgage closing agent. The requirements: no experience, associate’s degree. I am deep into a trap here, kids; I am not (on paper) qualified to do anything other than teach, despite being a versatile motherfucker with a ton of different skills who would be perfectly cromulent at a wide variety of different jobs. So most jobs that are roughly equivalent to my current level of responsibility and pay require years of experience doing shit that I know how to do and I am capable of doing but do not have because I’ve been teaching instead. For other jobs, they look at my resume and see someone who is clearly pushing forty if not there already and highly educated to boot (I have two Master’s degrees) and refuse to even talk to me because they assume, hell, I don’t know what they assume, but I’m unclear on the reason why someone would think I couldn’t do a job that asks for no experience and an associate’s degree. The pay was even good! What the hell?
So, yeah. I’m at the point where I really need someone I know to go “hire this guy.” The problem is everyone I know in town is a teacher, and I love y’all but teaching jobs is not what I need right now. I did have one guy recommend me to his boss, and I applied for an open job, and he emailed me about salary requirements, but upon seeing what he was offering and realizing that there was absolutely no way I was going to make it through an interview where I’d need to pretend to be enthusiastic about training people to use insurance software we sort of both mutually declined to interview.
Which is probably desperately stupid on my part, because broke. But that really was a job that I would be likely to flee at the earliest opportunity.
And I haven’t figured out how I get through the part of the job-search process where they contact my current employer and he says “Oh, that guy? We forgot he existed, he hasn’t been at work since September.” And, believe me, I had a couple reminders this week about why.
I might change the conversation to beards after a while. I’m growing my winter beard in at the moment, and it entertains me how every time I shave a beard off the next one grows in different. This one– also something that won’t help me during a job interview, I suspect– is coming in Full Hobo, and my current look is not one that’s going to make “no, he’s not diagnosable with depression at all” be a thing people say about me.
It actually looks a lot cleaner than it is in that photo. I’d get the camera closer but then WordPress would probably shut the blog down for obscenity and this is really my only lifeline at the moment. I can’t pull off that mid-twenties pretty guy 5 o’clock shadow look, so my only hope is to let it grow until it’s long enough to not look shabby, and we are in Utter Shabby at the moment.
After all that fun shit if you were still bothering to sit near me I might start discussing stories. I had this weird half-hallucinatory falling asleep process last night– not drug-induced, I promise; this was created by comfy— and I came up with like a dozen new stories to write, several of which I still remember and have dutifully dumped into my Loose Ideas folder in Wunderlist. Other than the #FridayFictioneers piece I got no fiction of any kind written last week, and I’ve legitimately got more on my plate than I can handle at the moment, so it was kind of weird that my brain spent a couple hours tossing “This! And this! And THIS!” at me. Maybe, brain, when I’m sitting in front of a computer websurfing forhours and pretending to write, you let me work on one of those several stories?
Crazy. I know.
No one’s ever having coffee with me again, are they?
Also: I love you guys, but do me a favor and refrain from trying to cheer me up/offering messages of support in comments. My brain is weird. Venting about this shit on my blog is how I deal with it, and heartfelt “It’s going to get better, we promise!” types of messages, for some reason, frequently somehow actually make the depression and anxiety worse, for reasons that are not at all clear to me. Make fun of me. Yell at me for being whiny. Believe it or not, the way my brain works, that’ll actually be BETTER.
Oh, and if you happen to be in northern Indiana and need an employee, maybe tell me that too.