I'd had a beard since my early twenties. It was composed of a lush, dark growth and fitted the 1970's. My first attempt at a moustache at the age of 19 had been a thin, blond affair. An attempt at the Mexican, 'Zapata' shape, which I'd tried to make more impressive by adding a little black, shoe polish.
Last year I shaved off the beard I'd had for 40 years, because I was convinced people made the assumption that men with grey beards were old men - at the margins - to be ignored. Am I right ? Do I have any evidence that I have become 'more prominent' and 'less invisible', without my beard ? This is difficult to measure. Perhaps the answer lies in the fact that I 'think' I am less invisible.
When I was a student at university over 40 years ago, at 18, I grew my first beard. It was a thin, wispy affair, a pale imitation of the beard of the singer Manfred Mann. I very much admired the thick, black beard of a 17 year old student who, like me, was studying History. He came from Wales and after we became friends, he rather cruelly told me in his deep, Welsh voice : " John, that(pause), is(pause),a sad (pause), bad (pause), little beard" and he was right.
He was a radical in those days and took part in the Grosvenor Square demo directed at the American Embassy, in protest against the Vietnam War. Recently, I saw a photo of him on the University 'Alumni' website. He is now the 61 year old Vice-Chancellor of a Welsh University. When I saw his photo I noted that he looked nicely tanned and no longer had a beard. I suspect he hasn't had one for some time.
Beyond the beard, I reflect on how 'yesterday's rebels have become today's Establishment'. Maggie was right : it is (pause), a funny (pause), old (pause), world.