“The new normal,” “shelter-in-place,” “we’re in uncharted waters here;” just some of the many trending phrases in life right now. In the four decades I have lived through, I can honestly say I have never experienced anything quite like “the new normal.” I’d bet my life none of you have either. I can certainly say I never imaged I would find myself writing about why I chose to shave off my beard, but here we are, I guess.
So, how did we get here? I guess it all started 10 years ago during a “come-to-Jesus” talk with my newly appointed Dermatologist. As it turns out, like a lot of men, I had done a piss poor job of taking care of my skin, especially my face. As a result, I was facing two issues; one, I had exposed my face to way too much sun, damaging the absolute shite out of my face, and two, shaving was a painful ritual that left me looking like my face hand been attacked by a cheese grater. With that, my doctor suggested a simple solution, I should grow a beard. Simply put, it freed me of the torture that was shaving and would double as a natural sunscreen as well.
Little did I know that my beard, over time, would become a critical part of my identity. It led to modeling jobs and even partnerships with companies like Zeus. It even took me traveling to LA for photoshoots. What started off as attempt to save my face from further damage became a giant part of who I am.
And Then This Little Angel Came
Five years into my bearded life, I gained another identity: Dad. On January 28, 2015 I became a father to a beautiful little boy. My bearded identity deepened; I mean I own t-shirts that say, “bearded dads are the best,” “my dad’s beard is better than your dads,” or my personal favorite “they have a word for dads without beards, ‘Moms’.”
Alright, my beard was my identity feels a little dramatic, I own that, but I stand by it. That’s such a strange thing to say but I’m pretty sure that most of the guys reading this right now can relate to how that feels, especially after 10yrs of not seeing your chin. Worryingly, my own children only knew me with my beard, and I had no idea if they would even recognize me without one. Let’s be honest, I even forgot what I looked like without one, so the thought of shaving gave me anxiety.
Struggling with the Pandemic
Fast forward to two weeks ago, where we all suddenly became very aware of the reality of the word PANDEMIC. Our nation, along with the rest of the freaking world, suddenly became crippled by an enemy that did not discriminate in its targets and in the blink of an eye was everywhere. Suddenly everything changed. This hit particularly hard in my home.
You see, what I didn’t mention was that my son was born with and extremely rare genetic disorder called Prader Willi Syndrome. My son’s hypothalamus doesn’t function properly. As a result, he feels little to no pain, feels hungry 24/7, and also doesn’t run fevers like most kids. If he has a fever of 101, it’s not a spoon full of Tylenol to bring the fever down, it’s a trip to the Emergency Department at Children’s Hospital for blood work to check his CBC and his Cortisol levels. In other words, he’s immuno-compromised, which puts him in the high-risk category of this monster virus.
In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, the company I work for was deemed an essential business and I, in return, became an essential employee. This meant that I would be going to work each week, surrounded by way more people than recommended by the CDC and WHO. It was certainly far outside what the governor mandated in my home state of Ohio. This meant that every day I went to work, I ran the risk of bringing something home that could kill my son.
I’m lucky in some respects because I work for a company that acted swiftly to put safety procedures in place, and in the middle of a mask shortage was able to get me an N95 respirator. However, given my beard, my mask was a Band-Aid for a bullet wound. I was so grateful, but as I was being handed the mask, I was told that it wouldn’t work with my beard. My beard was too long and that the mask wouldn’t be effective unless I shaved or trimmed my beard way down.
Tristan's New RoutineAt the end of my shift, when I came home from work, I went through the new routine my wife and I had created to insulate my family from, well, me. I got undressed in the garage. I threw my dirty clothes straight into the washer, washed my hands thoroughly, sanitized the doorknobs, light switches, and anything else I touched when I came in. Want to talk exhausting after working the shifts I do and putting in the miles I walk every night? Putting in more effort when I come home is the last thing I want to do, but I don’t question it. It’s a simple decision, because it keeps my family safe.
So, here is where the story, and my beard, ends. I headed upstairs and took a 30 min shower. When I got out, I looked at my reflection and I realized that everything I just did was completely useless if I wasn’t being careful with the air I was breathing as well. In order to protect my son, and my family, I was faced with a choice. I could either be the bearded dad that brought home a virus that threatened his sons’ lives, or, I could “give up” my identity, trade it in for N95 mask and be the dad that sacrificed his vanity for his family.
Maybe you’ve had to face the same decision. Maybe you’ll have to down the line as this thing continues to play out. Whatever may come and whatever you decide, like with putting in all the extra work to protect my family at the end of an exhausting shift, choosing to shave the beard and trade it for a mask was one of the easiest things I’ve ever done. In the end, beards grow back, but sons don’t come back from the dead.
Comment below and share your story with our Zeus brotherhood. What have you given up? What have you learned so far? We want to hear from you.
Tristan is a Sr. Author and Resident Expert at The Arcuate, a denim, rugged wear and accessories lifestyle blog. He lives and thrives with his wife and two sons in Columbus, Ohio.