On Christmas Day 2011, Santa Claus sat in my parents’ home eating a small piece of the last remaining bit of their wedding cake from 31 years ago. The cake tasted exactly like the hallway of an apartment building that hasn’t had its carpets changed or cleaned since the days when you could smoke inside.
Aside from the question of why anyone would voluntarily eat such a thing, you’re probably asking yourself why Santa was in my parents’ home. Let me try to explain:
On June 8th I left Canada, relatively clean-shaven. On June 18th I shaved again in Germany, then flew to Côte d’Ivoire the next day to work for Médecins Sans Frontières (Doctors Without Borders). A month later I decided to shave my head, but keep the facial hair. A month after that, I did the same.
At that point, seeing my beard and moustache in the mirror each morning, I had to laugh at how ridiculous I looked. Also, I had to come up with a legitimate excuse to keep this farcical facial hair. The first thing that popped into my head: a Santa Claus beard. So, every month thereafter I shaved my head but not my facial hair. From mid-October to the end of my contract in late December, I didn’t even both shaving my head anymore. I think many of my colleagues didn’t believe me when I told them about this Santa beard thing. With 6 months’ worth of facial hair, I think some of them were really starting to worry about me.
On December 23rd I landed in Vancouver. By 4pm the next day I was sitting in a comfy chair at Studio D Hair Salon in Vancouver.
Donna went to work on my beard, first bleaching it twice to get it to turn blonde:
After the two rounds of bleaching, it was time to shampoo the crap out of it, then putting purple toner in to remove the remaining bits of yellow and turn it as white as possible. Given that my beard was seriously dark brown, it was really impressive to see it change!
Once the toner was in, it was time to let Donna enjoy Christmas Eve, so I said goodbye and went home to let the toner sink in a bit longer:
When I got home, I shaved my head and washed the purple toner out, leaving me with a relatively white Santa beard with which to scare the next generation of my extended family at our family party on Boxing Day.
Of course, some members of the next generation saw past the beard (maybe the eyebrow piercings gave me away?) and knew I wasn’t Santa. That didn’t stop them from yanking on the beard, insisting it wasn’t real (or, in the case of one of them, insisting that while the beard was real, I had not grown it myself).