Metaphor of the Beard

by Ololade Adewuyi

I remember growing up and wanting to have beard. At fifteen, all I ever dreamt of was having a face covered with hair. Why? Just so I could be respected by everybody around, most especially by the other kids in school.

As a teenage boy growing up in Akure, Nigeria in the middle of the tumultuous Abacha years, a hairy face and a baritone got you some measure of respect from the little boys. Plus you were exempted from the big bully’s whipping list. A lot of other perks went along with it; you would be looked upon by the teachers as mature enough to be placed in a position of authority. There goes the Class Captaincy!

The Senior Prefect, if you ever attended Aquinas College, was usually the most brilliant boy in school. And he also had a lot working for him if he possessed a chin full of hair. This would ensure he gets the necessary measure of respect from the other ‘big’ boys in school.

I never wanted to be class captain though. Why I wanted beards was so as to be able to fit into the clique of the older boys. I wanted to be able to ‘ride’ with them and share jokes in their company. I wanted to be in the mix with the big boys. It was the greatest honour anyone my age could ask for. You could talk freely in their midst about life, boy love, and any other thing that was in vogue; fashion, music, parties, clubbing, etc. Plus you still get exempted from the bully’s list!

Looking back, I’m not sure if they did ever talk about life, as I know it now. When you talk about life I guess it includes girls, love, fashion, music, clubbing and all the rest. But now I know that life is more than all that.

Sure life is a bunch of so many seeming incongruities. It all depends on what phase in life a man is. Life is the dew that drops on the grass at dawn; the scorching sun that sucks the dew up at daybreak; the cool breeze that blows in from the Atlantic at eventide, and the sweet sleep that sets in to caress one’s eyelids at night.

Life is the smooth feeling you get when a mother smears powder on the buttocks of a baby after bathing it and seeing the baby smile, while watching herself unfold in its eyes. O what great affection between mother and child!

Life is also that piercing scream that upturns silvery fountains when the child’s buttocks encounter heat rash. That unsightly fellow that brings pain and anguish to a mother’s heart while watching her baby writhe in pain.

O Life!

Life it is that crawls on fours at the break of a new day when the cock crows the household awake. Crawling fours are aided by time to tottering twos. Twos stagger and swagger and wobble to rise up strong and healthy to run around and play football. Twos become grown with beards, gets a good job, a good girl, plans a great home as the babies start coming. Life lurks around in the shadows and goads twos on, cheering, clapping, laughing and generally making merry.

It’s been a few years hence my first beard and I have come to learn so many different lessons about life. I now realize that life is not only about riding with the big boys because you have a jut of hair on your chin. I know now that to be a big player myself entails lots of responsibility. You must be able to take care of your beards. It must be well groomed. And if one decides to leave it bushy, it’s their cup of tea.

But the greatest lesson I have come to appreciate is that when you have A beard, you must be able to handle the bumps that come with it.

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