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The more Pete Gavin loses his hair on the top of his head, the more he plays with growing it on his face.

When Dave Letterman retired from the Late Show, he grew a long grey beard and for a while slipped into relative obscurity. Since my mid-30s, when I first started losing hair on my head, and instead began growing it in new and interesting places, I have flirted around with my facial hair. Almost yearly, I mix it up; mustache, goatee, shadow, full-on beard, handle-bar. You name it, I’ve tried it.

I suppose I have always thought about my face, but I confess, since I semi-retired not long ago, I now think about it more. Do I want to be like Dave? Throw my arms up in the air and say, “Screw it!” Or, do I want to craft something to clip and maintain daily? There are many options, and now that I’m completely bald on my chrome dome, those options are more seductive.

So I flit around, and in time, my mug reveals salt and pepper – admittedly, more salt these days – and I glance in the mirror and see a middle-aged, soft-in-the-middle, Berkeley-born, worn-out hippie who reminds me of any number of men from my past. And I realize a beard can’t change the fact I’m getting old.

I know people who lost their hair early in life and went to great lengths to get it back. Or conceal it. Or dye it. Me, I like to mess around with my facial hair.


Look at Dave Letterman with his Moses-like whiskers. Dave could not care less about getting old. In fact, it’s the opposite. He’s on display, an eccentric late-night-celebrity turned mountain-man-in-retirement celebrating his golden years. I think I want to be like Dave … well, minus the long whiskers.

I stroke my beard and taste the spicy sauce from tonight’s dinner. Hmm, maybe this time, I’ll see it through.

With a Perspective, I’m Pete Gavin.

Pete Gavin is a retired teacher living in Sonoma County.