There I was, eating my breakfast and trying to enjoy a quiet moment of stuffing my face while my daughter concentrated on her own meal. But I couldn’t. The beard I’d been growing on and off for the last 2.5 years kept getting in my mouth and disrupting my breakfast.
I sat there thinking, “What the fuck, beard? Why can’t you just let me eat?”
It never answered me. It is just facial hair, but there I was anthropomorphizing it.
When I’d finished my breakfast, I threw my plate down and promptly went into the bathroom to grab the mini scissors, so I could liberate my mouth from its annoying upper lip hair.
Exiting the bathroom, I saw something out of the corner my eye that gave me pause. The face I had come to accept and expect when looking into a mirror, or even at photographs, had changed over the last few years. The change was subtle and hard to catch, yet, there it was just staring at me from underneath the surface of my beard.
I realized I could no longer draw up an image of my face pre-beard. I’d become as comfortable with this version of me as the one I saw with the two black ear studs and various tattoos. Along with other familiar features, the beard had become an inseparable part of me, and the thought of me without it seemed odd.
The thought of shearing it off brought up a visceral disgust that hadn’t existed pre-beard. My facial hair had insidiously become an integral part of my persona.
At first, I thought this annoying. I’ve never had any problem shaving my head or beard. It’s just fucking hair. In fact, like dumping a lover, sometimes cutting off a whole bunch of head and facial hair is liberating. Like, “Woohoo! Look at the new me -- I’m gonna go out and do something!”
But over the last few years, the facial hair has become more than just a beard. It’s become an identifying mark by which friends and family knew me and strangers greet me. From time to time, they even compliment the beard first.
Imagine being greeted in such a manner. It’s… Nice.
While I wouldn’t go so far as to say that my beard defines me, it has become something by which other people define me. To others, my bearded face is probably the mental image they draw up when I’m absent. In this sense, we are, for the time being, an inseparable mental value, but this is not the full extent of my new social reality. There are more, far-reaching implications.
By growing and maintaining my beard, I’ve uncovered new avenues for social interaction. Including, to my surprise, negative social interactions and disapproving looks.
Outwardly, I scoff at the criticism, spurred on by my wife, who says the beard is sexy. Inside I look for flaws in hater’s arguments, though. I find myself wanting to engage them in a lively debate about why beards disgust them. If only they would give me the chance, I would expose their shoddy arguments and prevent them from such shortsighted outbursts.
I would ask them, “Why do you care? Can’t you accept me for who I am? There is no reason to insult my beard. Instead, let’s talk about your disgust.”
I begin to wonder if they’re angry about something else. Maybe they are broken inside. Lost. Seeking something more out of life but haven’t found it. Maybe facial hair stirs up an intrinsic cultural disgust in them. Or, maybe they just lack the specific hormones to grow facial hair. The poor fools! Whatever their issues, I won’t let negativity disrupt the brotherhood I’ve found and the deeper personal connection I’ve made with myself.
Hold on. What am I saying? It’s just a fucking beard. Why bother? I never intended to grow a beard such as I have now.
In the beginning, it was more about being lazy and hopefully offensive than anything else. After I’d passed all previous beard limits, it became a test with myself to see how long I would let it grow- how gnarly I’d let it get.
Then, I decided to keep a certain length of it in order not to frighten my infant daughter (the first time I cut it after she was born, she screamed at me for several minutes because she didn’t recognize me), but now she’s much older and doesn’t care. So in the spirit of parental utilitarianism, I no longer need to maintain a beard.
If I were regularly employed, would my hypothetical coworkers take me seriously with a big beard? Would society?
Were I to capitulate to the social pressures of professional realm and other naysayers, would it belie a greater emotional and psychological weakness getting rid of the damn thing?
Once the “dirty” facial hair was gone, I’d convince myself that there are good reasons for not having a beard. Really, I didn’t need it; it was just facial hair. There is no objective value in having and maintaining a luxuriously grown and sculpted beard.
None at all!
No. Forget that other voice. Don’t listen to it. I can’t let the rampant shallow mores of a shifting culture have existential control over my self-actualization.
I looked back into the mirror, and something else struck me.
It had become unruly, unkempt, and wild, a hindrance to food entering my mouth. It had no direction or form and had become truly gnarly. Yet, it was all talk and no refinement ― simply drunk off of self-destructive individuality and nihilism.
After talking to other insiders and getting feedback, I knew the beard could be something more. Instead of it just being a static thing that occasionally made me look menacing, I could turn it into a catalyzing component of my persona.
It would become a useful tool in my arsenal of superficial conversation starters. A way of seeking out other like-minded individuals in unknown situations. This thing that had started out as an expression of laziness and minor aesthetic intrigue had taken on a life of its own. If I were going to use its power correctly, I had to guide it.
As I stepped from the bathroom, I felt a connection to something deeper, a movement perhaps. A movement guided by men who view the world from beneath magnificent beards.
Even it I cut the damn thing off, my life will never be the same and melancholy nostalgia will follow memories of my beard. I will never forget the truth I gleaned through the process of cultivating it. Namely that people are willing to turn any mundane thing, like growing a beard, into a trend and create a community of like-minded sheep around it.
No. Maybe that wasn’t the right truth.
The point is that beards are bitching and if you don’t think so, you know, fuck it. It’s just facial hair.
Originally published at https://goodmenproject.com/guy-talk/the-beardview-bbab/