I used to feel nothing but pity for those unable to grow a beard¹. I still do, but I used to, too. I’m talking about a real, full bush of a beard. These unfortunate men don’t get to choose how long their face is², and they need to spend an inordinate amount of time grooming their faces to make it appear somewhat presentable as smooth or strategically shaved patches of hair.
When I die, I’ll be donating my beard to some poor fella who can’t grow one, maybe even a guy with the alpaca syndrome.
To be honest, the main reason I have it is because I’m just too lazy to shave regularly. Oh, and because my girlfriend said she’ll break up with me if I ever get rid of it.
I’ll probably have my beard forever. Unless something funny happens that leads me to have to shave it, as a result of a stupid bet or something. I hide things in my beard to see how long someone who’s talking to me will go without noticing.
People always ask how long it took me to grow, but I don’t know what answer would satisfy them. And they know about trims, right? I guess it took 32 years to grow, with periodic shaves and buzzes.
Then there’s other people who are always picking food scraps out of my beard like I wasn’t saving them for later.
At a certain length I begin to play with it, pull on it, pluck individuals units of it. I appear nervous when I’m not, anxious when I don’t even understand the feeling. So that’s the only reason I need to keep it somewhat under control.
Ever since 9/11, I get secondary searched a lot at airports. Just once I want to be stopped at airport security not because I have a beard, but because Con Air is my favourite movie.
While getting ready for an evening on a town, I psych myself up by doing this thing in the mirror, where I growl at my reflection and say, “Weird beard countdown, 5-4-2-3-1.” It keeps me on my toes and readies me for any scenarios the night might present.
I was on a hike with my dog recently and a guy I saw gave me a greeting I’ve grown accustomed to. “Nice beard,” he said. I only nodded in acceptance, not fully prepared for a human interaction at that moment. Now he also had a decent thicket of black hairs on his face, and normally I would have reciprocated the acknowledgement. Over the next couple of hours, we would pass each other occasionally but the silence was never broken again. We both came out at the trail head at the same time, and before going our separate ways, I turned to him and said with a smile, “You too.”
I once considered a scenario in which I was the new president of the Beard and Moustache Club, local 431, in Savannah, Georgia, and in that role I had a confession to make, a little something like this:
“I do not have a strong, or even weak, affinity for facial hair. I am simply lazy. I am not the founder of the club, which by now has well over a hundred male and a handful of female members, but I was pretty good friends with the last president, Rich Beard, who had a heart attack last year and died while out for his morning jog. I am expected to further the proliferation of the adoration of face fur in my community, and I will, but not out of my own passion. It is out of respect for Beard. That’s what he changed his name to, years before the group was even a twinkle in his eye.”
‘Fun beard fact before half-touching story’ interlude
In television, “Growing the beard” refers to the moment a series gets way better, coming from when Riker finally grew one on Star Trek: The Next Generation.
I have this friend Mike who I’ve known for years, and I’d never seen his father without a full beard. Evidently, neither had Mike, until one day when his dad emerged from the bathroom clean-shaven, fresh-faced and with a glow Mike had never seen. Of course he was compelled to ask what prompted the sudden change, and boy, did he get the response he was looking for.
Dad: “Son, when I was in my early 20s, I fell in love with a woman and she fell in love with me. But we practiced different religions, and so we couldn’t be together. I started growing this beard to hide my loneliness. Eventually I met your mother, who is the finest woman I’ve ever met, and we connected on so many levels. We married in a Catholic church, under our shared Lord, and after trying for years to have a child, He gave us a beautiful baby boy, our little miracle. That’s you, Michael.”
Mike: “Okay. That’s a nice story. But why did you only shave now?”
Dad: “Well, this is the first time I can honestly say that I’m not lonely anymore.”
¹ [and not only because science says they’re homely.]
² [I’ve had a comprehensive beard for so long that I completely forgot how small my chin is, how round a head I have. I looked in the mirror and took a stab at the actual shape of my hairless face, and I was way off.]