Olan Suddeth

Dad. Computer geek.
Homebrewer. Disney nut.
Would-be crafty guy.

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Holiday Beards and Self Esteem

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I wear a beard. For most of the year, I keep it very short, but a couple of years ago, Donna made the mistake of showing me some online photos of guys decorating their beards with ornaments for Christmas. Now, I absolutely love the Christmas season; I love decorating, I love getting into the holiday spirit... and truth be told, I am certainly the biggest kid in our house. Much to my wife's surprise (and truth be told, dismay), I grew my beard out, bought some tiny ornaments, and hung them in and off of my glasses. It was a hit - I had people telling me how much they loved it, even stopping to take selfies with me at the mall on Black Friday. I even took them with us on our trip to Disney World, and when we attended the Christmas Party there, I wore them. That night, I had three different cast members in the parade stop and point me out, and got a ton positive feedback from people there. On our way back to the hotel, Donna looked at me and observed that it was over, that I was going to do this every year, wasn't I?

The answer was a resounding "of course!".

ornaments in beard
Who wouldn't want to look this festively awesome?


The thing is, Donna hates it when my beard is long, so I get up on December 26th and trim it back down to the normal short length.

Now, don't let me sell her as a bad guy or party pooper; last year, I had to do a job search in the fall, which prevented me from growing the beard out. After all, you have to put your best foot forward when you are interviewing!

To her credit, Donna knew that I would miss being able to do the ornaments, so she sent me a tutorial on glittering my beard instead. It was a hit again, allowed me to feel super festive. I even managed to get it barely long enough to hand a couple of ornaments in it by Christmas Day.

glitter in beard
Sparkling with holiday spirit...


Well, here we are in November, and the beard is of course nice and long (much to Donna's chagrin). It also happens to have an alarming amount of white in it.

Once upon a time, all of my hair was pretty intensely orange. As I have aged, the hair on my head has darkened to the point where it is more brown than anything, with just a touch of red highlighting. My beard however, has continued to be orange; I remember one particular day when Donna and I were at the drugstore, and a very... nice gentleman enthusiastically chatted me up, wanting to know what I did to make it a different color than my head hair. He was very clearly fishing for my phone number, much to Donna's amusement, but I disappointed him with the flat explanation of "that's just how it grows."

At any rate, the front of my beard has started collecting so many white hairs that it appears sort of blonde from a distance. Up close, you can see that the sides are still quite orange, but the front is heavily streaked with white. This isn't some sexy "salt and pepper" look that really dark haired men get; you can try to pass it off as "cinnamon and sugar", but the fact is, it just looks like an old man beard... to the point where I have heard more than one Kris Kringle reference. I have complained about it a few times, have remarked on just how white it is, but beyond that... I just go on with my life. It feels like I'm a little young (age forty-two) to look like this, but it is what it is.

white beard
Ho, ho, ho, ya'll.


Not too long ago, Donna asked me to dye the beard if I was planning to keep it long. I assured her that like every year, I would trim it short the day after Christmas... and I promptly forgot about the subject.

This past weekend, she and I were supposed to go out for the first time in a few months. Early in the week, she asked if I would dye the beard before we went out.

Well, shucks. I would never in a million years dreamed of doing such a thing, but this was the second time she had asked... and she almost never asks me for, well, for much of anything. So I decided to oblige her.

Naturally, the store was out of (or did not carry) any Just for Men in my color. I checked the root touch up section, and they had every color under the sun - except for red. So if I was going to do this, I was going to have to go with the classic Miss Clairol routine.

I won't lie, my enthusiasm level was pretty low about this, but was it going to actually hurt me? Obviously not.

When she realized that I had actually purchased hair dye, Donna tried to back off it the request a little, to play it off like she had been kidding. But I reminded her that this was the second such request, and she folded and admitted that she didn't like the old man effect that the white hair gave, and that she didn't like how wild the beard looked due to the various colors in it.

So Friday night, I put on the little plastic gloves (one of which promptly ripped, as they are designed for women with much smaller hands than mine), got a baby comb, laid down an old towel, and went to work.

Fun fact: hair dye contains ammonia. An ammonia solution applied to your face, directly under your nose, makes you seriously rethink your life choices. Maybe a clean shave and some holiday sharpipes were in order? I panted through my mouth in an effort to survive, and eventually, the smell got better (or my nose perhaps got chemically burned to the point that it didn't bother me anymore... I'm not really sure).

Eventually, it was time to wash it out. Holy cow, was the change ever noticeable! It felt incredibly drastic.

And you know what? It looked... really, really GOOD.

red beard
Who's that dashing young gentleman?


I have never been someone to trade on their looks. While I'm not a troll, I'm hardly the handsome guy that all of the ladies steal second glances at. And that's okay. Babies usually don't cry when they see me, people seldom cross the street to avoid me, so I figure that I'm okay. My beard going white wasn't exactly taking away a commodity that I relied on, so I just didn't worry about it.

So it's really surprising to me just how good it makes me feel about myself. I guess that even if you tell yourself that you don't care, you probably still do.

As for Donna - she really likes it. According to her, the beard now looks neat and kempt, even if it is long. Before, I had several colors going on, so even after a trim, it gave this real uneven appearance. That has gone away... and I don't look nearly as much like a grandpa as I did prior to the coloring.

I suppose that I'll have to build in a few bucks to the beard decorating budget to allot to keeping it my original color. Vanity, I suppose that thy name is me.

Tags for this post: Family Life


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