For the first time in a long while, I have short hair and not much beard.
While I have a vague notion that beards are ‘in’ at the moment, I have worn mine for far too long to even try to claim trend-setter status. Except that I’ve had a beard since before it was not cool to do something before it was cool…
Anyway, while people (myself included) have had long hair and beards for many reasons – including trying to look older, more manly, or similar to how particular members or particular bands look – my main reason was definitely to hide my face. Because I didn’t like being looked at.
This might seem odd for a person who’s been a singer – and indeed a ‘front man’ – for most of his life but I’ve always focused on the ‘playing pretend’ aspect of performing and have tended to want to get straight on stage and then to leave right after the gig. As part of this I have begrudgingly accepted that ‘looking the part’ is an important aspect of rock’n’roll, the blues and even children’s entertainment but it (grooming) has always felt like a chore and not something I’ve taken pride in.
My friend, mentor and former occassional manager, Paddy O’Driscoll (R.I.P.); my band mates; and especially my amazing wife, Rachel – the fabulous head florist behind The Posy Co – have long worked hard to at least get me to focus as much of my hair and clothes as I would any other prop. But the idea of caring for one’s own personal appearance as an element of self respect – far removed from vanity or narcissism – has never sunk in, despite Rach’s patient explanations. Until now.
And like most revelations I’ve had over the last few years – such as finally grasping the truths behind sayings like ‘it’s the thought that counts’ – it all comes down to the kids.
I want my boy to feel comfortable, with himself and around other people. I want my daughter to feel in control of how she feels about herself. I want my students to not be afraid of new experiences and of trying new things, and that includes public interactions.
While I was studying my dip. Ed, I was struck by the number of my fellow mature age students who were nervous, scared even, about the idea of teaching Science or Art or Maths or Spelling or whatever subject area it was they were least confident in to primary school students, to the point of hoping they wouldn’t have to. It felt obvious to me that part of what we have to teach kids is that it’s ok, excellent even, to attempt and indeed struggled with activities we might not ‘naturally’ excel at. I’m not a great speller, but here are strategies I use to help myself remember words. I get confused with ‘facts’ too, but here’s a way we can approach thinking scientifically to help us figure out how things work…But that this same attitude of doing it – facing up to fears because we’re all in this together and that you get the best from both yourself and those around you by putting proper, diligent effort into everything – didn’t translate to ‘personal appearance’ to me until basically this week.
It is important to care about yourself and the world and how you oresent yourself to the world. It’s not about fassion or style or fitting in, it’s about respect. Both for yourself and those around you. I love my family and I love my job and – while I’ll still grow my beard occasionally because I think it suits me sonetimes – I don’t want to hide anymore.