A Weekly Column
By Joseph Walker
FOLLICULARIZATION AND SIDEBURN THEOLOGY
Memo to my friends in the class of '73: I have important news. Once in a lifetime news. News you've waiting 27 years to hear.
I can finally grow sideburns.
I know how you have been waiting for this moment, so you can move on with your lives now. My facial hair has come in. Puberty, at long last, is over. I can do that Andy Gibb look we all coveted in the seventies. Too bad Andy has . . . you know . . . passed on. Not to mention his look.
You have no idea how hard I prayed for this day to come when we were in high school. Remember how you all would tease me about what a "smoothy" I was? I used to shave every month, whether I needed it or not. Mostly not. I wanted thick, full sideburns like Gary Malmrose had. Like Mark Nelson had. Like just about everybody had -- except me.
And now I have them. Well, sort of. Instead of thick and full, they're more thin and scraggly. And gray. Really gray. But I would have settled for thin, scraggly, gray sideburns back in 1973. I would have considered them an answer to prayer.
But God waited until now to answer my prayers. And boy, did He ever answer them. Not only did He give me sideburns, but now I've suddenly got hair growing on my ears, in my nose, on my back and all kinds of other places where I never had hair before. I thought about asking Him to slow down the follicularization of my body, but I'm afraid of what that would mean to my already receding hairline.
Of course, it's altogether possible that God's hesitation to answer my teenage prayers could have been a blessing in disguise. It could be that sideburns would have made me totally and completely . . . oh, I don't know . . . irresistible to the young ladies with whom I went to high school (hey, it could happen!). Who knows what sort of trouble that would've gotten me into. You're all painfully aware that I had a hard enough time staying out of trouble when I was totally and completely resistible.
Or maybe while I was asking for sideburns, God was too busy responding to my parents' pleas to keep me safe -- mostly from myself (like the time Dave and Jim and I took our respective beater cars and tried to see who could be the first to hit 100 mph driving down out of Mueller Park; we probably each killed off a couple of guardian angels that night -- or at least drove them to drink).
Or it could be that maybe -- just maybe -- God doesn't care all that much about sideburns. I know that's difficult to fathom. It's certainly a new concept with which I must now grapple. But maybe He's more interested in how we respond to the circumstances of our lives than in trying to manipulate those circumstances for us or against us. Like those athletes who are always thanking God for helping them make sensational plays to win ball games? Maybe God isn't interested in who wins and loses games as much as He is interested in how the winners and losers conduct themselves.
But then, what do I know? I'm no theologian. I just know that 27 years ago I wanted sideburns but couldn't have them, and now I have them but don't know what to do with them. Is there some sort of lesson in that for me? Some sort of punishment? Some sort of reward? Some sort of sign? Or is that just the way life is -- full of curious twists and turns that we must learn to navigate, with or without divine intervention?
God only knows. And so far, He's not telling.
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--- © Joseph Walker
Look for Joe's book,"How Can You Mend a Broken Spleen? Home Remedies for an Ailing World." It is available on-line through www.Amazon.com and barnesandnoble.com