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My Bearded Father This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

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   My father, like most, loves me dearly and feels a deep sense of paternalism. Go ahead and laugh, but I swear that I remember being brought into this world howling like a wolf who had just spotted the moon, and seeing my father's bearded face, his glistening eyes. I remember him whispering into my ear, "Now, here is a person I like." I think my dad felt the need to prove what an extraordinary father he was, and because of this need, he possessed a gnawing guilt. Most of the ice-cream cones obtained in my childhood were because of this guilt.

Such was the scenario when I was three and my brother was five. We were at a phase (no, come to think of it, we were always this way) where we felt that anything we said was law, and should anyone veto that law, a tantrum would be on the way. What bill did Ari and I want ratified? Dad's beard. We wanted his beard removed from the face of the earth. And we had an excellent argument as to why the hairy monster should be exterminated. We hated the scratchy feeling whenever Dad would kiss us. We threatened to boycott kissing him. And if it was any consolation, we said to him, "There will still plenty of hair on your legs."

Every morning we, the angry petitioners, would march into Dad's bathroom where he would be brushing his teeth and chant feverishly, "Shave it off! Shave it off!" All the while, my dad would meekly smile as if to say, "I love you, but I love my beard too," and then he would proceed to look from his shiny Bic to our protesting faces, wondering which force would prevail - his beard or the petitioners.

My mother is one of those people who tries to keep the peace no matter how strongly she feels toward an issue. For instance, the ice-cream cone situation. Whenever Ari and I and Dad come home with sticky faces and hands, wide smiles and chocolatey teeth, I can see the calorie counter in Mom's head adding up all that was consumed by her children and husband. And though my health-food zealous mother feels an eternal hatred toward ice cream, she says calmly, "You are all throwing away your future to the evils of ice cream." But if you knew us, you would know someone telling us that eating ice cream would place our future in turmoil will not stop us.

So my mother, the silent condoner, was standing by viewing the petitioners' scene and smiling, not disagreeing with her children, but still not willing to stand up to her God-given right to have a husband without facial hair. Ari and I desperately needed her on our side. I could already feel that we were getting the better of him, and that the fur on his face would soon be skinned. But with some extra help from Mom, the fur would come off faster ...

Ari and I devised a campaign to get Mom in our political camp. Feeling quite intelligent, we called Mom over while Dad was taking a shower. We put on our most serious expressions. My brother started, since he was good at it. Catching her off guard, he said, "Mom, I think Dad looks handsome in a beard."

It worked. My mother looked at Ari in puzzlement, and I also detected a twinge of disappointment. "I thought you didn't like his beard. After all, you tell him to shave it off every morning," my mom said, showing definite signs of disappointment. "I was starting to agree with the two of you."

Finally, my turn, "I like the scratchy feeling of the beard, Mommy!" My oration got the better of her. " That's it! Your father will shave off his beard!" she said, putting her fist down. "I've had enough!"

Our plan had worked. And as we argued over whose lines made her change her mind, we also listened to my mother yelling from behind the bathroom door, "Mark! As soon as you finish taking a shower, the beard will go!"

Was it my imagination, or did I hear a sob escape my dad's lips?

Mom would not let us watch the actual shaving. So, while my mother and teary-eyed father were in the bathroom, my brother and I celebrated by drinking champagne from goblets. Okay, more like seltzer water from Styrofoam. Whatever the beverage, we made a toast to our cleverness and Dad's soon-to-be-bare face.

Finally, the time arrived to see the naked-faced dad. The trumpets sounded, the red carpet was spread out, and the bathroom door opened. There was my mother with the same wide smile on her face that she wore when I was first potty trained and ... who's that? Who was that imposter? That can't be Dad. Where is Daddy? So, not realizing that this was my dad (and also not realizing that I was screaming so loudly that any second the police would be here asking us to turn down the music to our wild party), I continued on. "Where is Daddy? Where is Daddy?"

I stopped to catch my breath long enough to see my brother's gaping face, and the face of another man who looked somewhat familiar, maybe the milkman. But wait ... Daddy? No, this cannot be the dad who whispered in my ear at birth, the one who bought me an ice-cream cone yesterday, the one with the beard.

After I calmed down and the tears weren't streaming down my cheeks as hard, my brother and I started to chant, "Grow it back, grow it back ..."


This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.






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