In the perfect illumination of the strip-light above my shaving-point (Swedish efficiency again), I squint skeptically at my reflection and attend to my facial hair.
My facial hair has fascinated me since the first isolated strands poked out of my chin like tree-clippings through a plastic sack, when I was 14 or 15 (yes, I came somewhat late to the puberty party). I do like the way my appearance can be transformed in so many ways, by mucking about with those tussocks on my phizog.
In fact, I'm just as fascinated by how many of the blokes I've known have never seemed to share my urge to experiment with appearances. Most have found a style that pleased them, and stuck with it for decades: to me, that's like discovering that you enjoy black pudding, and having it with every single meal for the rest of your life --- which probably wouldn't be very long!
Of course, the luxury of turning one's face into a Fuzzy Felt board is fairly modern, i.e. since the advent of safety razors and electric shavers. And if we go way back before the Bronze Age -- according to this Wikipedia article -- people were tweezing their beards out with pairs of shells. Shells! The wispy beardy look must have been all the go as a result.
Mind you, they probably had complexions like pumice in those days; imagine trying the shells on your own 21st-century, cavity-wall-insulated, mollycoddled skin. I don't think even I would be too keen on follicular frivolity if pinching and tugging was the only method open.
Staying with that Wikipedia article, apparently Alexander the Great was a fervent advocate of the clean-shaven look, and I quote, "because he believed it looked tidier". Now there's a man who never had anything on his desk. I wouldn't trust a chap like that with the stationery cabinet, let alone the Achaemenid Empire of Persia.
Over the years, the fuzz on my face has run a near-gamut of style-possibilities: apart from periods of smooth shininess that would have gladdened the heart of any megalomaniac, I've had big sideburns and no frontal whiskers (the 1970s football manager look), moustache only (in shapes ranging from apprentice 'Zapata' to 'Elgar' the plankton-sieve), sculpted moustache-beard combination (TV conjuror with chauvinist patter), heavy beard with trimmed moustache and sideburns (DeMille's idea of Moses, or a man with a swarm of bees on his lower lip), and the full Ben Gunn shagginess thing.
The only permutations I haven't tried are the Burnsides (bald chin, big soup-strainer meeting sideburns, the sort of style you'd go for if you wanted to be mistaken for Jacques Offenbach) and the 'tacheless beard-&-sideburns configuration that looks as if one's wig comes with a hairy chin-strap (incidentally, this style is unaccountably popular with many Swedes of my acquaintance; it suggests they shave by the glow of a fairy-light glued to their nose).
Today (Day 13991) the look I'm maintaining is a fairly emphatic moustache on a bed of will-he-won't-he stubble, garnished with a drizzle of cold tap-water (to rinse away the dander, of course). Alexander the Great would not approve.
But then again, if that young go-getter was eating black pudding with every meal, it's no wonder he thought more of empire-building than a snazzy goatee.