Getting Back to My Roots

I don't have a full beard. A few years ago, I threw fashion to the wind and decided to grow a goatee. For those of you who can easily do so -- screw you. It's hard. As it grew, I resisted the urge to whack it off for about a month. But I was strong. I watched, worried and coaxed the little scraggly hairs out, trying use-the-force-Luke. I orchestrated a scruffy comb-over to encourage thicker areas to help hide completely bald spots.

In the 1700's, one of my ancestors floated over to the colonies from England, refused to ask directions and ended up in Missouri. Luck had his back and he fell in love with a one-named Indian woman, Ishopnarta. Their love story fascinates me.

I imagine that Ishopnarta led a happy, peaceful life in Missouri. She roamed the mountains, canoed rivers, wove papooses for her more traditional girlfriends that had settled for fellow tribesmen. Yet she wanted more. She stood on the edge of the cliffs at night. She prayed to some eagle or forefather, possibly the same spirit, and chanted for true love. Her fantasies were verboten; dreams to dare not but speak -- even in smoke signals. She dreamed of a White man who would take her away from her nirvana-esque yet woodsy existence and show her off at parties. 

When she met my ancestor, aptly named 'White', she assumed she was meeting the main white guy. The Original Sin as her father screamed from the hills as she left the village with her new husband. 

She traded in her teepee for a tiara, and within weeks was the toast of Kauffman, Missouri. Did the town's glitterati accept her after she used her new wealth and old skills to generously build wings for their museums, hospitals and injured birds? I want to think so.

You need at least one sixteenth native American blood to reap the benefits offered by the U.S. government as restitution for killing the majority or Indians. I mean they not only took their land and abused the innocent but also twisted the life-saving corn lessons we received when we were fucking starving at Plymouth Rock into hateful GMO practices.

I can trace sixteen different ancestral lines back to the 1600's in the U.S.; however, I face constant worry that the pure lines are diluted. Who knows who sneaked in?  I feel pretty safe – all of the census reports contain names that are easy to spell. But my Native American blood is so weak that I got no college scholarship benefits and the closest I can get to owning a gambling operation are the tiny cash payments I make to the Palm Springs casinos

What do you get when ye olde English blood is lovingly mixed with Choctaw? Smooth skin. I hardly have any facial hair. From merely a stern look in the mirror each morning, I'm pretty much shaved. 

One wants what one doesn't have. I've always wanted a string of polo ponies and one of those lush Village People mustaches. But while my damned fine breeding gets me onto any social register on three continents, it prevents me from growing a decent Van Dyke.

As my attempted scruff emerged, I looked less like Andre Agassi and more like Scooby Doo’s Shaggy. The shocker was that it was mostly grey! At my age, if I donate sperm officially (after years of self-guided donating), I shoot blanks. The same with my whiskers. I obviously wasted my dark beard years.

A friend advised me to simply cover the grey with a cheap hair dye kit. I’d seen the ads – in five minutes my life of shame and embarrassment gets rinsed away like a Christian’s sins in a quick moving stream.

I perused the color selections on the boxes in the hair color aisle of Walgreen’s. The women’s hair color offerings caused me to pause and marvel at the wild swirly up-dos on the boxes that the crazies at Clairol used to lure balding, white-haired women into believing the hair fantasy would be their exact result. 

I asked myself, "Is this truly what I've become? A beard dyer?" as I ran my finger along the Just for Men boxes, considering all of the different colors.

Even though I hadn’t killed anyone, I knew this is how it starts. Testing beard dye on lab animals is the first step in a serial killer’s journey. I remembered that they took that Menendez brother’s toupee away. He had to face 20/20 as a barely twenty-five year old, bald murderer. For those not following Nancy Grace he must have looked like he’d been scalped in a wicked prison initiation.

I stopped at the ash brown color selection. That seemed like my head hair. But then I saw black. Well, of course my beard was black -- who has a brown beard? Whitney Houston? I stashed the box of black in my cart, hidden among the yogurt, Snapple and dozens of other items I didn’t need. I went home to regain my youth.

The urgency to get this done on this exact day was driven by a black tie event that night. I'd bought a table to save something or wipe something off the planet with a check. I read the directions o the dye box almost all the way through, then heavily slathered the black goop on my face and neck. Oh -- since my beard was so skimpy, I hadn’t shaved my entire face and neck for that month so that I could take full advantage of whatever did grow.

I looked like a hillbilly who had won the lottery but only fixed his teeth.

I was concerned about the directions. It said five minutes; but my beard was as white as Ishopnarta’s bastard baby that probably led to my ancestor’s bow-and-arrow wedding. Five minutes?! This was no longer Just for Men – it was Just for ME. What could this company know about me? How much research was done to back up this bizarre, wild claim?!  I left it on for a good hour. Then I looked in the mirror as I ran the hot water in the sink. My plan was to shave off whatever I didn’t need from my neck and face (which was 90% of what I had working).

I should also let you know that no one taught me to shave; no one saw the need. I have no blade shaving game. By the time I'm finished I look like a murder victim. I don’t know whether to call a cop or the Red Cross.

I rinsed my face and looked in the mirror. My skin looked stained black under my scraggly facial hair, too. Not to worry.  I applied the shaving cream, braced myself as usual and shaved my neck. I carefully shaved the sides of my face, which was like licking whipped cream off a girl’s belly, the razor met no resistance since it was whisker free naturally. I was careful to not shave my chin, and carved the little Van Dyke goatee. I stiffened my upper lip for the first time ever for actual purpose, and shaved off the tiny hairs that dared to invade the “bow” so desirable in a man’s lip line, if that man is Goldie Hawn. I rinsed my face free of the remaining cream, and looked back in the mirror. My perfectly sculpted jaw, probably a gift from Ishopnarth herself, dropped.

I now looked like the love child of Shaggy and Bluto from Popeye. I had a black stained face. It looked like I was in blackface, not in a hilarious Ted Danson/Whoopi Goldberg way, more like I chickened out halfway through.

I scrubbed my face with soap. Nothing came off except my perma-smirk. I hopped in the shower, and stayed in the steam a long time. I clasped my pruny hands together and tried to pray the black away. I dried off with my towel, slowly rising to check my reflection in the mirror. Still Bluto. I ran around the house and grabbed Comet from under the kitchen sink. I rubbed it on my face furiously, knowing my skin would regenerate, and if it came back smoother then I could start an unprecedented three way bidding war on my patented treatment between Elizabeth Arden, Georgette Klinger and Burke Williams. 

Raw, panicked and black. This is what Michael Jackson must have felt like during sex.  My head jerked around as my eyes shot looks from my tickets for the charity ball, to my tux hanging on the back of the closet door, to my new Ferragamo tux slipper shoes with the little grosgrain bows that were anxious to make their debut, and back to my dyed face. 

I didn’t use the tickets, or go to the ball.  I stayed home that night and the three following. I sat in an uncomfortable chair and ate a frozen dinner not completely thawed just to drive the point home that I was a stupid dye box directions violator.  Although a fairy might have popped by later, no godmother swooped in and waved a wand to remove my temporary mark of Cain. 

The dye wore off in about three days, along with my desire to have a beard of any kind. I used that time to be grateful for the hair on my head and not covet that which my ancestors carefully bred out of me. If I cut myself, do I not bleed blue? Yes, with just a little red, thanks to Ishopnarth.


  1. So you are too far removed from Ishopnart to get a monthly beef allotment. What about your Mother? Any chance i can use her to set up a gaming table at the next Texas State Fair? Can family historian, Brad, juggle the dates a little like a Barclay's banker calculating LIPOR and make it work?
    Meanwhile, I am working on a casino name, something catchy like "Craps and Corny Dogs" or "Crap out Here".

  2. "Raw, panicked and black. This is what Michael Jackson must have felt like during sex."
    Still laughing. The whole thing - hysterical...


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