I never take selfies. It’s a rule I have but, I confess, this FaceApp fad I’ve spotted on Twitter did make me wonder what I’d look like as a woman.

Yes, yes, I know. Stop the giggling at the back and don’t claim you’ve never wondered about the whole opposite-gender thing yourself. I didn’t exactly relish some aspects of doing this, but I still loaded the app on my phone and did the selfie bit which was every bit as painful as I expected. It looks like a bad science experiment thrown at a serious traffic accident.

Then I hit the “Female” option.

I have to say, I was hugely disappointed with the result. I really don’t want to post it here because it does look awful, with one eye distorted so it appears to have been badly poked. I look like something from that Australian show about female convicts. I’d have looked moderately better if it had added a tattooed crucifix under my eye.

Comparing my original selfie with the face they’d created, I can see there is little of the original remaining. My eyes and nose are in the right place, modified a touch to make them look softer and less like somebody who hasn’t seen sun in four months. But around that they’d just overlaid some kind of hair and face graphic that they’d blended in by doing a beauty filter, which you can tell has really struggled with the source material!

The difficultly, I guess, is that I’ve grown in beard, which is a bit of a story in itself…

I didn’t mean to keep it and I might get rid of it as early as Wednesday. But it all began in November or, as it was, Movember. I’d missed most of the month when men try to grow moustaches but I didn’t shave for the last couple of days, which ensured I was in the pre-beard stage already when we had the general election.

And the election is why I have a beard.

I hadn’t known who the hell to vote for. I disliked all the options. Nothing remotely viable for somebody like me who is centrist and loathed everything about Brexit. It would come down to tactical voting against Brexit, which I did, with my lip suitably bitten. Unfortunately, the rest of the country didn’t vote tactically and, as you know, a majority of the country voted against Brexit so, naturally, we got Brexit.

There was something about the vote that just pissed me off. I guess I started to loathe myself; hate my moderation, my belief in the essential goodness of people. I hated being so centrist, so dependable, always rational, stupidly level-headed… I also hated my life situation and the unfairness of being one of those folk who the government know will always look after relatives when they get old or ill. Fuck it, I thought. I’d grow a beard just to make me feel less “nice” and less like the boring middle-aged folk I utterly despise and (in my eyes) had just voted to make the world smaller. I might be a bit late to the party but I was engaging my inner Hunter S. Thompson. I was going bohemian. Hell, maybe I’d get my face tattooed and stick a dinner plate through my ear…

I didn’t do any of that but I did grow the beard.

And, to be honest, it was an interesting experiment while it lasted. Most men who haven’t grown beards (and I was one of them) don’t have any idea if it’s possible, though you always wonder. I don’t think my Dad every grew a beard. None of my relatives have beards (with the exception of one aunt… joke).

The first stage is learning if you have any of the dreaded patches, if it covers all your face, if the bit under your bottom lip will fill in (in the way that Ted Cruz’s hasn’t), as well as what colour it will be. Naturally, you start to read up on this stuff, learn what to do from the big beard community (which, I admit, put me off a bit… It was all getting a bit too male-grooming-products for my crude tastes).

The result was that I discovered I could grow a beard. Top lip and around my chin were long enough to call a beard within a month, very much “salt and pepper” as they say. Enough grey to make a man despair but not too much. I was mainly shocked that it grew so quickly. Where I wasn’t as lucky was on my cheeks, up to where it joined my hair. Six months on, it’s still not great and part of the reason I’ll probably get rid of it.

The only reason I haven’t is that around December, Liverpool started to run away with the league. I’m not at all superstitious, so, of course, I began to associate my beard with Liverpool winning. I decided that I’d shave it off when we won, expecting that would be around March or April. Then the virus arrived, I entered lockdown so nobody would see it, and… Well, here I am, six months later, with a proper beard, though suitably trimmed to avoid the mad “your face has exploded” look.

Part of me is tempted to keep it but I don’t know. It’s fun to play with when thinking and writing, but a royal pain in the arse the rest of the time. I think I look better with it – with my height and size, I give off more of the lumberjack/Dan Harmon vibe rather than just looking like a tall idiot – but my close relatives hate it but, then, they just hate the idea of beards. Friends say it suits me. The dreaded word “handsome” was used once but only once. I’ve seen the selfies.

Which brings me back to the FaceApp. It clearly ignores beards and guesses the shape of your mouth and chin. That’s probably why the female “me” looks almost nothing like me (although having looked at it for a while now, perhaps there’s more of me in there than I realise — I feel a bit of self-recognition). I also know I hate my real chin so perhaps a fake chin is better than the real thing. Perhaps that alone is a good reason to keep the beard.

[UPDATE. It suddenly struck me that I should try running the female “me” back through the FaceApp to see if it could recreate the male version of “me”. Let’s just say: it didn’t work. It made me look like Adam Lallana and absolutely nothing like the real me. I don’t even own that shirt.

Actually, this is beginning to get a bit depressing. This is slowly morphing me into some good looking type, with good hair and complexion. Maybe my eyes and nose still look like the real me but… Christ, it’s depressing. I should stop now before I start sobbing into my keyboard…]

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