A friend is growing a beard. I’d never seen him with a beard, sideburns or facial hair, so I asked him what was up.

“My wife is letting her hair go gray and I wanted to give her my support.”

That’s a solid husband move. His wife was doing something that might involve a measure of personal trauma and he wanted her to know that he was with her all the way to the beauty shop.

Many have written about this: Women unable to visit their hairdressers are choosing to let their hair run its colorful course no matter where the rainbow takes them.

Letting go fits the moment. People are second-guessing everything else in their lives — roommates, spouses, jobs, fealty to professional sports, why not hair color?

Look at it like farming. For 20 years, you’ve grown wheat and one season you decide to let the land go fallow. The hope is that rather than foxtails, sedge and chickweed, the bloom will reveal blazing star, sugarbush and canyon coral bells.

•••

Hair color is not something men and women normally discuss with one another. Most men, even those with the lowest social IQs, realize that the best approach when it comes to matters of fashion, grooming and anything to do with hair (the most delicate of the three) is caution.

If not “caution,” cheer, sunshine and support. Finish all sentences with “great.” “Your hair looks great, that dress looks great, those shoes look great.”

Beyond that, it is not profitable to pursue the matter. Asking questions in service of offering an opinion or a nugget of fashion advice brings to mind the line from “A River Runs Through It”: “I wanted to help but my help was not wanted.”

•••

For the last 30 years at weddings, parties and meet-and-greets, I have been hearing comments about Sue like, “Is she your daughter? Your niece? She looks so much younger than you do.”

Some people are kidding but most aren’t. These are not bad people, merely honest people blessed with the gift of sight.

"No, she is not my daughter,” I say. “This is the person to whom I am married. We went to college together. Although appearances may indicate otherwise, we are about the same age.”

Some of it is genetics. Mine aren’t bad, but her genes may be livelier, prettier and less likely to let her down under the glare of fluorescent lighting.

Nice hair doesn’t hurt women either. Rich blond, vibrant black, warm brown. They all say, “Grandpa, you may be getting older but not me. I’m looking good.”

Yes, you are and by choosing to go gray you may be doing good, too. Performing a kindness for those of us who have gone around the bend and aren’t coming back soon. This probably will not make us look better, we’re just hoping to look less bad and less bad is almost good.

Should I be asked my opinion, and there is no reason for that to happen, I would say: “Gray looks good. Foxy. Think Helen Mirren and I do, often.”

There is a color for every season. That color, however, does not include the beard I will not be growing because a peppery/gray-white/silver beard doesn’t make either one of us look good either by comparison or in its stand-aloneness.

I’m ready. Full of compliments that end with the word “great” and start with the word “you.” Feel free to fill in the rest.

Contact The Californian’s Herb Benham at 661-395-7279 or hbenham@bakersfield.com. His column appears on Sundays, Tuesdays and Fridays; the views expressed are his own.

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