bill-dagendesh mug

William J. Dagendesh

Devout “Life Happens” readers know I use my column to provide comic relief and encourage laughter. However, I never dreamed it would serve as a vehicle from which I had to explain my reasons for growing facial hair.

I admit, I occasionally let my whiskers grow between assignments — usually because I am busy with other projects and don’t take time to put a razor to my chiseled good looks. I recently learned an unshaven mug can provide amusing source material for the community and family.

While shopping for groceries one day last week, a boy about 12 asked if I belong to a biker gang. I figured my sporting a black denim jacket, compression glove, red CSU-Pueblo headband and 6-foot-1 frame added to the rough ‘n tough biker image this youngster saw in his head.

I told the boy I am not a biker and explained the reasons for my attire. “I wear a headband to keep my glasses from sliding off my face during hot weather. I occasionally wear a compression glove to decrease the arthritis pain in my hand,” I replied. Then he asked about my unshaven whiskers. I explained I hadn’t shaved in four days.

“Do you know your whiskers make you look old? You look almost as old as roaches and (Rolling Stones guitarist) Keith Richards (75),” the boy said. This is the part where I should reply, “Ouch!” Instead, I comforted myself with the knowledge I am not THE oldest living creature.

The following day a neighbor said she didn’t recognize me with my whiskers. “Your whiskers make you look so…, so…” she said, searching for the words to use next. I decided to help fill in the blanks.

“I believe the word you’re looking for is, ‘Distinguished,’” I cut in.

“Actually, the word, ‘Extinguished,’ comes to mind,” she replied.

Her response left the door open for what I thought was a brilliant comeback. “That’s because you need a fire retardant to douse my smokin’ hot body, right?” I asked. She rolled her eyes and walked away. I wonder if it was something I said.

According to my wife, Peggy, there was a time my once coal-black whiskers felt velvety soft to the touch, like caressing silk. I remember when my stubble-laden face tickled our daughter Rosemary’s cheek when I held her close. Welcome to 2019 where my coarse facial hair no longer tickles — but irritates — the flesh of loved ones.

One day not long ago Rosemary sported a pair of construction goggles she retrieved from my toolbox. “Dad, if you grow your whiskers any longer, they’ll poke my eyes out,” Rosemary said.

To prove her point, Rosemary dragged a balloon across my stubble-peppered cheek. The balloon burst with an ear-splitting “Bang,” sending my daughter into hysterics. “See?” she said in a smug, “I told you so” reply. In my defense, I said the balloon was defective. Rosemary shook her head, laughing.

It’s obvious people prefer a more clean-shaven me. However, how can I convince folks that whiskers don’t make the man, and that I am still the same sweet, sexy, Hollywood-handsome fella ‘neath the facial fungus?

Methinks comic writer Tim Siedell cornered the response market when he said, “I am not growing a beard this month in order to raise awareness for how lazy I am.”

William J. Dagendesh is an author, writer and retired U.S. Navy photojournalist and editor. He has lived in southern Colorado 20 years. Contact William with comments or ideas for his column at

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