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apologising for who I am not

June 18, 2014

I want to apologise for the photo. That is not how I usually look.

I have had a beard barchie_photoefore – but I was much younger then and it seemed an appropriately unapologetic way to announce that I had just returned from hitch-hiking around southern Africa. Today I have a beard and I find myself fighting the urge to apologise to everyone.

I also have the longest hair I have ever had. Ever. Never before have I had hair this long. I have curls! I have never had curls.

I have grown my beard and my hair so that I can portray someone else. When I am on stage it feels right. My long hair falls annoyingly across my eyes and it makes him grumpier. But unlike the costume and the makeup, the beard and the long hair stay on me when I leave the theatre. At home I look in the mirror and I am not familiar with the face that looks back at me.

It isn’t my usual face so I feel the urge to apologise for showing it.  I say “It is for a role I am playing…” as I apologise for who I am not.

To baristas. To the people I have worked with for years. To people I Skype with for the first time. Even to other people with beards. (I feel like they take their beards very seriously because they don’t need to grow it like I do. I don’t want them to think I am mocking them … or that I am emulating them. If I was I would be coming late to the trend of wearing a beard – and I don’t like the thought that I am past any peak. That is not part of my identity.)

Don’t judge me for having a beard…” I think that is what I want to say. “Don’t misunderstand my long hair. I am not usually this way.

But I can only be afraid of being judged or misunderstood if I can conceive that who I believe I am is diminished in some way by having a beard and long hair. That I will be judged negatively because I have a beard and long hair.

Precisely the same way I must spend my life judging and misunderstanding others who have beards. I can’t yet put words to how I do that, to exactly how I judge but I will be listening to myself a little closer now. To see who I really am. And maybe that is the fact of it.

The beard isn’t obscuring my face in the mirror – it is holding a mirror to my real face. It is a looking glass that is helping me to see how I see. How distorted and prejudiced my view of the world can be. Rather than showing me who I am not, it is showing me glimpses of who I really am.

Which provokes further uncomfortable questions. What if instead of a beard it was a scar? Instead of long hair it was no teeth? Or psoriasis?  Or tattoos? Or no arms? Or breasts? Or all of them or none of them? How distorted and prejudiced can my view of the world we share be? That might be what I need to apologise for…

***

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6 Comments leave one →
  1. meganbtw permalink
    June 18, 2014 8:04 am

    I love this reflection.

    It is one that I surprise myself with sometimes too. I hope that the people who really need to understand this perspective are subscribers to your blog, but somehow I feel this may not be he case.

    Thank you.

  2. June 18, 2014 8:50 am

    I like your beard, and the barista guy with the really cool moustache that I stopped calling him “moustache guy” and finally found out his name. So now he is Alex the moustache guy.
    Funny how the way we look changes how people perceive us..

  3. Gavin permalink
    June 25, 2014 10:06 am

    Awesome blog and reflection! Wanting to change something but being unable to, means living with what you wanted to change. What massive unexpected life lessons and personal lessons are then learnt. Thank you Paul. You put yourself out there and we all learn and experience so much more with you. Your reflection is deep, it is scary, it is honest. Please keep taking us there.

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