Day 186: Cleanliness day.

Two hundred years ago, I’d have been a pretty clean guy. Suspiciously clean, perhaps. But by our current mysophobic and anti-dirt standards, I’m not particularly clean.

I don’t shower daily. I come close to it during the summer, but I average three showers a week during the winter. I don’t wear deodorant.

You’re probably all squirming a bit; tell people you don’t shower every day and don’t wear deodorant, and this is what they picture:

I’m not that dirty. I’m not anywhere close to that dirty. When I get that dirty — which happens, on occasion — I take a fucking shower.

I wash my hands regularly. I wash my face in the morning, and after certain meals (those meals during which I get food in my beard). I brush my damned teeth.

I took a shower today, of course, because it’s cleanliness day. I’d vaguely intended to get excessively dirty beforehand, but the most difficult thing I did all day was read Clarissa, and that didn’t make me dirty — not physically dirty, anyway. I did some jumping-jacks before showering, in an attempt to work up a sweat, but it was only sort of successful.

I cleaned myself more thoroughly than I have in a while. I washed everywhere at least twice, and with Dr Bronner’s Liquid Peppermint Soap — I came out of the shower smelling like a candy cane, and tingling like … uh, something tingly.

I’m certainly not going to start cleaning myself this thoroughly all the time — I’m just going to get dirty again, and I can’t tell any difference between today’s super-clean and my normal sort-of-clean. I guess the problem is that I wasn’t dirty enough to start with, because my normal clean always feel amazingly clean if I get into the shower caked in mud and grass and feces, which happens more than you might expect.

The secret to happiness is, after all, being really miserable before and after, so the brief moment of happiness seems that much better in comparison.


Day 174: Body hair day.

I’m a moderately hairy guy, somewhere between a male underwear model and Robin Williams.

I’m comfortable with the amount of body hair I have — happy with it, even, even the hair on my feet and toes, though my feet aren’t as hairy (or as hardy) as hobbit feet. Mostly I ignore my hair, because I try to be as low-maintenance (at least with regards to my appearance) as possible. I get a haircut — the same haircut, as it were — every six to eight weeks. I trim my beard every three or four weeks. All the other hairs get left alone.

That’s not entirely true. I trim my nose hairs. I don’t do it for aesthetic reasons, but because longer nose hairs, especially during allergy season, which is all the time when what you’re allergic to is plant life — anyway, long nose hairs accumulate mucus (boogers), which impedes the flow of air. Honestly, I know it’s time to trim the inside of my nose when I have trouble breathing through it. Now you know.

I also trim my ear hairs: I have them in the valley between the tragus and the anti-tragus (and I’m not going to lie, I had to look that up), but I also get them on my goddamned earlobes. I’ve only recently noticed them, and I am not exaggerating at all when I say I had earlobe hairs that were four inches long.

Trimming my ear hairs is — and I can say this honestly — my one act of appearance-related vanity. I mean, I like to look good, and I put a minimum amount of effort into it, but not that much. On an average morning — including the mornings of the days on which I teach, an activity for which I have to look reasonably presentable — my rolling-out-of-bed-to-dressed-and-ready-to-leave time is five minutes, and that’s only because it takes me three minutes to find my shoes. I spend more time making my morning espresso than I do on my appearance, and I’m still the most attractive person in the department (as well as the most humble, as ought to be obvious — and I’m a bit ashamed of myself for making such an passé joke, but I’m going to let it stand).

Where was I? Right, right, body hair. I’m not sure I have anything else to say. Body hair is awesome, let it grow, embrace your inner primate, &c.

Also: don’t do a google image search for “hairy” — or “hairy [noun]” — and that includes “hairy noun,” for fuck’s sake — and yes, I did several a few —— don’t search for “hairy” and expect to get much besides porn.

Now you know.

Day 165: Develop your very own eccentricity!

In other words: become a hipster.

The problem is that this is a game that never ends. This dude wears crayons in his beard: for a while, he’s the only one — because it looks fucking stupid — and so he gets hipster cred for being the only one. But people see him, and people talk about him, and soon there are others: not people in his circle, but people who are strangers or, at best, very tenuously connected. For a while, each of them gets hipster points for the crayons-in-the-beard thing, though the above dude, as the “OCBG” (“original crayon-beard gangsta”), gets the most hipster points.

Then a terrible thing happens: a critical mass of crayon-bearded hipsters is reached, and suddenly it’s “mainstream.” There are a variety of factors that determine the critical mass: the size of the community, the geographical area in question, the rate of spread of the eccentricity, how quickly it is possible to “fake” the eccentricity (in this case, with handmade felt fake beards with old-school crayolas in them), the first appearance of the eccentricity on You Tube, &c, &c.

Once the critical mass is reached, however, there is no going back, and the originator(s) and early adopters will drop the eccentricity faster than Julia Roberts dropped Lyle Lovett. Some may go so far as to shave their beards completely. Then they have to do something new, like bring back the penny-farthing. Or, at this point, the velocipide.

The only way to win this game is to not play, to strip oneself of all affectations and eccentricities. Of course, this is its own form of hipsterism, if done in a deliberate and conscious manner, with the goal of not being a hipster, which is why I’d be doing it.

My only option is to come up with something that most hipsters wouldn’t want to adopt, so that I can avoid the suddenly-fucking-everyone-has-crayons-in-their-beard problem: that something is manual labor.

Not just “manual labor” generally, but something specific, like laundry or deck construction or post removal. Everybody does laundry; deck construction takes too long; post removal is more work than I want to do, especially when the posts are in concrete. So I’m going to go into artisanal tree-trimming: to make it hipster I’ll be wearing cutoff shorts, too-small t-shirts, a fedora, and I’ll be drinking PBR out of a can, and I’m going to haul my tools — all of which I’ll acquire at thrift stores, garage sales, or on the side of the highway — on my xtracycle. I’m also only going to trim trees in small batches, whatever that means, though I’m going to charge a lot for it, probably twice what it would cost to hire actual professionals to do four times as much trimming.

Let’s see you do that, hipsters. Check and mate.

Day 160: Avoid all mirrors.

There is a full-length mirror on the wall of our bedroom; I walked past it, on my way to the kitchen, eyes averted, looking at the bookshelves that line the opposite wall.

In the kitchen, I made myself an espresso, a piece of toast, another espresso.

I sat in thought for several long minutes, though mostly I thought about whether I should have a third espresso. I decided against it, not having a good reason to over-caffeinate myself so early in the day. I heard the dogs at the back door — which, due to the odd layout of our house, is in our bedroom — and got up to go let them in. I passed the mirror, but forgot to avert my eyes.

I realized my mistake, and a fraction of a second later noticed something unsettling: I wasn’t in the mirror.

I stopped, and looked directly at it, at the place where my reflection should have been. I wasn’t there. I stepped closer, so close I was practically touching the mirror, and all I could see was the books behind me: Neuromancer,  Jude the Obscure, The Unconsoled.

I took a step back, then another, and stopped. I stood there for an indefinite amount of time, in shock, unable to look away from the thing I wasn’t seeing.

The dogs kept barking, more and more insistently. I could hardly hear them.

My wife walked past, shot me a what-the-fuck-are-you-doing look, let the dogs in, and started walking back to wherever it was she’d come from. I stopped her. Look at the mirror, I said. “What am I looking at?” she asked, in an exasperated tone. What aren’t you looking at, is the question, I said. My wife paused, looked at me like I was an idiot, and walked away, shaking her head.

I watched her walk away, looked at the mirror a last time, and went into the back yard.

I spent the morning out there, pacing aimlessly and occasionally frantically, muttering to myself, running into things. Sometime around noon I came inside, hot, feverish, sweaty, stinking, anxious. I came inside a few steps, but stopped before I got to the mirror. It wasn’t voluntary, exactly, but I couldn’t make myself go any further into the house. I didn’t want to go any further into the house. I just stood there, swaying slightly, still muttering to myself.

My beard itched. I reached up to scratch it. Holy mother of God, I thought, what the fuck has happened to my beard?! It had gone from (mostly) neatly trimmed to Tom-Hanks-at-the-end-of-Castaway while I was outside. I completely lost my shit at this point, and ran, panicked, into my bathroom, thinking about nothing but shaving off whatever ungodly abomination was on my face. I had forgotten about not having a reflection until I rounded the corner, and didn’t see myself in the mirror.

The full weight, the gravity and the horror, of my situation came crashing down on me; I knew, then, that I was lost. I am standing there still.

I have no reflection, and I must shave.

Day 68: Choose one hair on your body…

“…that you will let grow 1 yard long.” According to the Book, this should only take about 8 years.

I don’t know how this is supposed to work. I mean, I can tell you all that I’ve chosen a hair, and call it done – but that seems unsatisfying, somehow.

The issue, I think, is in the choosing of the hair: I have plenty of hairs on my body – even on the knuckles of my toes, like a hobbit – and most of them never get cut, and none of the ones that never get cut are a yard long, and they never will be.

The only hairs that have a chance are those growing from my scalp – maybe those growing in my beard, but I don’t think any of them would make it to a yard. I’m no Dumbledore.

So, really, the only way I’m going to get a yard-long hair is to let one of my scalp hairs go to … town? To seed? Out to pasture? Go nuts? Go wild?

Well, whatever —— to let one of my scalp hairs grow for the next seven or eight years without cutting it. But the only way I’d let one hair get away with that is to let all the hairs on my scalp get away with it. I don’t want to have just one long hair, because that would look stupid.

And I’m not going to let all my hair get long, either – when it gets long enough that I can’t just roll out of bed, run my fingers through it, and call it done, my hair is too long. I like my hair short not (only) because I like how it looks, but because it’s lower maintenance, and I like low maintenance. Part of the reason I have a beard is so I don’t have to shave every day (the other part is that beards are awesome).

I’ll never be able to do this, or this, or this, or sculpt a Mona Lisa out of my single hair – and I don’t really care. I also never have to use a brush, and I think that’s a pretty good trade.