The beard and the beautiful

Alex Ritman ignores financial woes and says ‘yes!’ to redundancy

The Knowledge

I’m newly unemployed and I’ve grown a beard to celebrate. It’s not the most impressive of facial accessories – a little too shabby at the sides perhaps and there’s no clear connection to the moustache, which seems to be amusing itself by growing at a far faster rate and in a slightly different shade. But it’s there, it’s mine and, if anything, it’s helped me get through this difficult period ‘between jobs’, a little like a dim-witted yet unshakably loyal dog that cuddles up to you on the sofa, but with slightly fewer ticks.

Now, whenever I’m faced with that increasingly popular question from those aware of my new work status, ‘And how are you, you know, getting on?’ (often said with head tilted slightly to the side), I point to the beard. Yes, that’s right, I’m unemployed, I’m doing fine and I’ve got a hairy chin to prove it.

Because becoming jobless isn’t like having an embarrassing or incurable disease any more. These days, it’s more popular than ever. It’s hip, it’s en vogue and it’s permanently gracing the covers of newspapers and magazines. If it were a song, it’d probably be something by Lady GaGa, but in cheaper sunglasses. And every single day there are thousands of new recruits to this movement.

As such, we don’t require that gently, gently eggshell tip-toeing nonsense around us. A friend recently started whinging about some office politics and then stopped mid sentence. ‘Oh, I’m so sorry, I wasn’t trying to rub it in.’ Don’t worry, you’re not. You have an ever increasing stack of deadlines, an ever decreasing window for lunch and a perpetually arm-flapping boss who hasn’t yet fathomed the all-important posterior/ elbow conundrum. I have a beard, a sofa and there’s a supermarket around the corner that does hilariously cheap noodles in nine different flavours. Nine. Steady income, credit rating and ability to make uplifting spontaneous purchases aside, what have you got to rub in?

Over here in Redundant Land (just south of International City), there’s very much a community spirit going on. We hang out together. We’ve got special handshakes. Yeah. And we’ve all got impressive tans. Tans, might I add, that have been picked up while relaxing outside reading books others don’t have time to. We’re all well versed in Sartre, Plato and Sophie Kinsella. A lot of high-fiving goes on.

And, yes, as those harbingers of misery-gutted doom may point out: obviously, there are vast financial ramifications that will have dramatic and potentially disastrous effects on our futures, our families’ futures and our families’ families’ futures. But, in the interest of keeping this column light-hearted and to length, let’s brush over them for now.

So really, and this is directed at the employed out there, I should ask the same question put to me. How are you, you know, getting on? How are you getting on in that badly lit and over-AC’d office? Not looking in the mirror stroking a rubbish beard, I bet.

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