It's the middle of a summer morning that I suppose a really talented writer would describe as "desultory," not to mention "sultry," which even a marginally talented writer would point out is a word that can be formed from letters in "desultory."
It's quite quiet in the house. My wife is getting a mani-pedi; No. 4 son (age 15) is at summer camp somewhere in the Adirondack wilderness; No. 5 son (age 12) is watching that dolt-y (another word, or sort-of word, that can be formed from letters in "desultory") "iCarly" show on Nickelodeon (I think it's the classic "iCarly iNsults Your iNtelligence" episode); and No. 5 son (age 17) is continuing his summer-long experiment of determining whether he can out-sleep the cat.
For my part, this quietude gives me an exquisite opportunity to contemplate my latest quantum leap forward in my development as an artist. It's an even greater advancement than my uncanny ability to find words that can be formed from letters in "desultory," although that's not a bad story (another word that can be formed [etc.]): It's my new goatee.
It's hard to describe how very distinguished and learned my goatee makes me look, mainly because it doesn't make me look very distinguished and learned. This is in part because it hasn't filled in real well yet, leading some of my friends and acquaintances to think, especially from a distance, that I just need to wash my face a bit more thoroughly.
My recent ancestors do not have a history of sporting beards ‰Û" you might say I have no facial hair-itage. As far as I know, neither of my grandfathers was ever bewhiskered, and my dad has shaved every day of his life. Well, every day of my life, anyway.
(My dad always seemed very anti-hair when I was a kid. He wore a buzz haircut, and made sure all three of his sons wore Ôem too. It was the kind of haircut that exposed every unattractive knot and anomaly on our little skulls. I wore my hair that way until at least 1972, well into the "Age of Aquarius," when fuzz was slang for law enforcement, and not what I wanted on my noggin.)
Back to facial hair (which should never be grown on the back). My older brothers each went through mustache phases. In the case of my oldest brother, it was a particularly lengthy phase, during which I could never successfully goad him to grow one of those droopy extra-long Ôstaches, the kind that was worn by, say, Wyatt Earp. Turns out this was due to his wife's fear that she'd kiss him and ingest some days-old food that got stuck in it, thereby making her earp.
Based on extensive research (which I plan to undertake as soon as I finish writing this column), goatees used to make very specific fashion and lifestyle statements, particularly for projecting the air of an intellectual or artiste. Think college professor, or beat poet, or Peter, Paul and Mary (Mary's goatees are always difficult to make out in photos, due to her very pale blond whiskers).
Nowadays, any schmo can put the razor away for a few days and sprout some chin growth to change his look. Although hardly anyone ‰Û" even me ‰Û" is sporting the dictionary definition of a goatee; my trusty Webster's says it's "a small pointed or tufted beard on a man's chin."
It's very unlikely I'll get my goatee sculpted into points or tufts, since even my mundane everyday version isn't getting the reactions I'd hoped for. My kids don't like it; No. 4 and No. 5 think I should grow a full beard (what No. 4 refers to as a "fat-beard"), and No. 3 says I should quit trying to look cool (he says this while he's fussing with his faux-hawk haircut and his earrings).
As for my wife, I can't tell whether she likes it, dislikes it, or is even aware of it. One thing's for sure, it hasn't delivered on my ultimate goal for growing it in the first place: That my hirsute-ness would make her more (a five-letter word - starts with "l" and ends in "y" - that can be formed from letters in "desultory").