I had Donna over for dinner last night. It was lovely night, warm and clear. We had a couple of glasses of new years bubbly and then I started on dinner. I had marinated some steaks and cooked them perfectly on the barbie. We sat in the front courtyard balancing the plates on our knees, chatting away about all sorts of intimate things while the sky slowly darkened and, like every night, a never-ending ribbon of bats made their pilgrimage to the Botanical gardens. We craned our necks watching this simple but wondrous sight.
As it cooled we went inside. I lit some candles and we talked with music playing in the background. It was easy and familiar – we have known each other for years and years.
I've barely shaved since Christmas. I've had no reason to, and shaving is hardly a favourite activity. And so I have developed a beard that I occasionally trim back into a cool half-goatee. Facial hair always suits me, though by now the grey absent from my head shows through in my beard. I look older then, as beards always make you, and more rugged. Donna commented on it, suits you she said.
A little before Christmas I browsed through the food hall of David Jones. I struck up a conversation with one of the shop assistants there, a very funky Asian girl with her hair bleached white. She initiated it and I joined in with my usual ease: I enjoy this.
Back then I was wearing a suit and was clean-shaven. I look like a beachcomber today; then I looked like a professional.
I wandered by DJ's again yesterday and once more that girl was there. When I tried to try to strike up a conversation with her she was polite, but reserved. I didn't persist. I realised that the man I appear today is far distant from the persona projected then. I look older, more grizzled. I don't think she even recognised me.
It didn't worry me. I thrive on being attractive to the opposite sex, but I accepted this as a simple fact of life. Notwithstanding Donna's comments on my appearance, I recognise that women much prefer clean shaven men. And I know with beard I look 5 years older than I do clean-shaven – that is, I look about my true age.
Trimming my beard this morning I realised I have got to that point in my life when vanity is less important. I have noticed this in other men, have noticed the outward signs of it at least. Gone are the days on tending to my appearance as if I was a male model about to step out onto the catwalk. My needs are much simpler these days, my expectations much less ambitious. My appearance has become plainer then – and by that I mean unfussed, more natural.
I have always been seen to have a masculine presence, more so than most. Even when I was preening myself most I was never pretty. My good looks were the simple construct of good bone structure, a clear gaze, and attitude. I was tall and well built, hard in body, and there was something of that in the self I projected. I looked masculine, and seemed masculine too. It was often a winner.
With the passage of time I can no longer claim to be the good looking man I was. If anything though that masculine look has become more pronounced. I often wonder how I manage to still pull so well, and have no definitive answer, but I am guessing that part of it is how I look. Not handsome anymore, but interesting, and strong.
And that was the face I saw looking back at me this morning. My hair style is pretty basic these days. The eyes are still clear and intelligent. And the present beard, which is only temporary, is cut close to the skin and makes me look like a no-nonsense, unflappable, self-reliant sort of character.
It's a look I've seen in many other men – and now it is mine too.