Saturday, January 7, 2012

Going Gandalf...

I collect old yearbooks from my hometown.  It’s mostly in the interest of genealogy but it also captures my  inner curiosity and sometimes overwhelming sentimentality. Most of  them I donate to that urban public library  in an effort to bolster its historical collection.  Years of underfunding and  neglect have taken their toll. But sometimes I keep the ones that are duplicates.

My sister was visiting recently to help me with the overwhelming contents of my late Dad’s house.  Days we spent traveling back and forth to donation sites, used furniture stores and the local recycling center to try to get rid of the material contents of his life.  No easy task and I have so much more to go.

She shares my interest in genealogy but also stealthy curiosity.  I just happened to have a yearbook of the corresponding boy’s Catholic high school to her girl’s Catholic high school.

“You knew him, “ she said as she pointed to a handsome young man who I found out later she had a crush on.  “He went out with so and so…and Mommy thought he was charming.”  Apparently my mother wasn’t the only one.  “I wonder what he looks like now.”  I had to admit the young gentleman in the book was handsome and the name was familiar too.  A cross between the late Marc Bolan and Michael Flatley of the "Lord of the Dance."  You have to be a certain age to recognize those names. “I think his sister went to my high school, “ I said as I  recalled a similar yet more feminine face and curly hair.

Curiosity got the best of us and we googled his name.  We came across a picture of the gentleman posing with his son at an alumni affair.

“Oh my God, he went Gandalf!”  She exclaimed as I recognized immediately what she meant and nearly fell off the chair with laughter.

Her high school crush had white hair and a corresponding white beard similar to the Lord of the Rings character.

Wikipedia tells me Gandalf was a Lord of the Rings character in The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings.  His character was a king of the Dwarfs and considered a wise mentor. Thank Goodness for Wikipedia.  I could never get through The Hobbit  nor any of the Lord of the Rings books or movies.  Fantasy that elaborate borders on delusion. Same with the Star Wars Trilogy.

Men’s facial hair was also the topic in carpool line the other day.  My daughter was describing a teacher that I hadn’t met.  “You know him Mom,” she started, “He wears jeans and a soul patch.”   “A what?” I wasn’t sure I heard her correctly.  My children think I need a hearing aide.  I think I need to just get out more. “You know, some hair on his chin.”  “You mean a goatee?” “No, no.” You know, just a small patch right here.”

I had trouble visualizing what exactly she meant.  In my circles, I am not sure I have ever seen a “soul patch.”  Again I bow to the Internet gods of Google images and the Urban Dictionary.

You cross a certain level of maturity when you start to notice men’s facial hair.  I guess my daughter was at that point. Yikes.  Same with me I guess.

Middle aged men and facial hair.  What’s the deal?

I see it with male friends who are brave enough to put their faces on Facebook.  I see it in shopping malls, supermarkets and at parent meetings. Men of a certain age who you wouldn't expect to have facial hair.

I equate it with my late father’s Members’ Only jacket ( circa 1970) with epaulets or my wearing scarves tied loosely around my neck. 

We reach a certain age, don’t really feel it but admit it nonetheless, and still want to look cool, distinguished and “with it.” Women of a certain age (hmmmm...) start with the hair dyes, the extra strength moisturizers, expensive and sparkly handbags, dark jeans with boots, or the wonderfully flashy jewelry.  We accept the age but not the reality. Too young for the “grandma” sweatshirts with embroidery and way too old for the “Forever 21” garb.

I am afraid a double standard applies.  Most men I think would look funny with hair dyes, expensive and sparkly handbags, dark jeans with boots and flashy jewelry regardless of sexual preferences.  So I guess the goatees, soul patches, beards of varying shades of dark to white are the female equivalent  of an outward mid-life crisis. A testosterone fueled later parallel to all those gentleman in college who grew their first beards. A masculine coming of age. Do I dare say a male menopause?

Sometimes we need outward signs to show how we feel.  Nature knows it well with plumage, teeth bearing, puffed up tails and fur colorations.   Socially, it's not polite to stoop to that level but those primitive feelings can't be denied. Yes, us humans are the more subtle creatures but basic instincts are there.   Let's face it we all dress to convey a certain image.  Some of us are more obsessed than others.  Even those who profess to not care about clothes convey a certain message.

So start out with “Gandalf the Grey” and then proceed with ‘Gandalf the White.”  The ladies are watching.  Don't kid yourselves the other men are too, regardless of sexual preferences.  And never underestimate outward appearances.  It’s natural, you know.

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