A recurrent theme for those who criticize beards is to trot out a long list of historic bad guys with beards. Obviously, that must PROVE that beards are somehow bad, right? It does not take, however, too much effort to compile a similar list of historic bad guys without beards. So, don’t blame it on the beard!
Recently I’ve fallen behind on the beard blogging. I’ve also got a backlog of email awaiting attention. I will be catching up on the email over the next few days. I’ll also get back to posting here on the blog. For now, my posting objective is to have at least a post each week.
A while ago, I received a terrific essay from a site visitor. It was titled Ode to Not Having The Whisker Gene. The piece conveys a sense of some of the anxiety and disappointment experienced by so many. Yet the author has the right attitude. The best that anyone can do is to accept themselves, make the most of what they’ve got, and be happy with that. The author gave permission to share his essay on this site. This is what he wrote:
Ode to Not Having The Whisker Gene
At age 14 I noticed some fuzz on my lip. I was ecstatic!! I immediately told my dad who promptly bought me my own razor and shave cream!
I shaved each day for nearly a month, then at the urging from dad I stopped for a few days to await the results. I was devastated. I was disappointed. I was hairless.
Dad said, “Just wait, give it time.”
I put away the razor.
At age 15 I noticed more hair on “other” parts of my body and tried the shaving thing again… nothing! I was so despondent… some of my junior high pals were showing signs of wispy mustaches and shadows on the chin. “What about me?” I asked.
I put away the razor.
For my 18th birthday I was determined to have some whiskers. I shaved every day for a month prior to my birthday, then stopped a week before that fateful morning…. there was something there! an ever so light dusting of the faintest of dark hairs filling the space between my lips and nose. Rapture! I was so excited! It was working! I was growing my much sought after mustache! I was now a man!
Much to my dismay, it didn’t get much darker or heavier as the days progressed. …sigh…
I then looked at my dad and older brothers and realized they didn’t have much brush growing on their faces either. Was it a family curse? What was up?!?
After high school, I enlisted in the Air Force. I had to shave EVERY day, whether I needed it or not! Well, at least I felt like the other guys, of course my shaving took all of 10 minutes while some of the Neanderthals in my flight took half-an-hour or more to scrape the pelts off their faces.
When I got a point in my military career where I didn’t have to shave everyday… guess what!?!?! I had a mustache! A real, honest-to-goodness, respectable, noticeable-from-a-distance, mustache. I didn’t even realize it until I went home and my sister said, “Hey, nice mustache!”
Alas, I have never been able to grow much more than that. At 30 I finally accepted the fact that I would never grow a beard or even a goatee, oh well… I’m still a man and I feel good about it.
Now at 47, I have no problem with my masculinity and don’t fret about trying to prove my manliness by growing a beard. In fact, I shaved my mustache and got incredible compliments! I was told I look younger and more handsome (they said!).
Still, it would be nice to watch the transformation of my face, from smooth to hirsute, but I don’t lose any sleep over it.
Countless times I have heard from guys who are all pumped up and enthusiastic about growing their beards, then later they report with a whimper that they unceremoniously abandoned the effort. What was the common element that destroyed all this beard growth, optimism, and enthusiasm? Harsh, negative comments from naysayers.
What empowers the naysayers to burst the bubbles of so many budding beard growers? What gives them the authority to rain on someone else’s parade, so to speak? Why do they feel entitled to harshly criticize another’s appearance so thoughtlessly, simply because of a new beard? Such blatant criticism would likely be deemed inappropriate or unacceptable if directed at some other physical aspect, but the naysayers seem to think it’s a right — even a duty — to put the new beard grower “in his place” with a verbal bashing.
A new beard grower usually could use as many confidence boosts as possible. He’s taking a risk, stepping out of the comfort zone. He doesn’t really know how the beard will turn out, how it will finally look. In the early stages of growth, it can frequently be difficult to predict how good the fully-grown beard will look. It’s a delicate stage of the game and confidence can be extremely shaky. One good attack from a naysayer may be all it takes to convince someone to completely give up the effort of growing a beard — usually before the beard growth had progressed sufficiently for the grower to make a fair assessment of it himself.
New beard growers, take heart and stand firm! Don’t hand the naysayers another victory. Take a stand that you will not abandon the beard as a reaction to a naysayer. Before rushing for the clippers or razor, come back to “all about beards” for some confidence building and don’t give up!
Of all the tired arguments hauled out by beard critics, perhaps the most irritating is the assertion that a man with a beard is hiding behind it. Rather than serving as a cover behind which the sheepish may cower, a beard draws attention to its owner, making him stand out from the beardless crowd. For those who are shy and self-conscious, and those who are lacking in self-confidence, growing a beard requires genuine courage and determination. Growing a beard is the opposite of hiding.
Whenever someone asks which beard style they should grow, based on what’s trendy and fashionable, I always recommend ignoring fashion trends altogether. Fashions come and go all the time. Beards are better than that. Beards transcend fashion. Grow the beard that you want.
Why should a man let the whims of fashion and trendiness dictate his choice of beard style — or whether to even grow a beard or not? I guess the willingness to ignore fashion trends is one of the reasons that bearded men tend to be “rugged individualists” and independent thinkers who don’t follow the crowd for the sake of conformity. They honor and uphold the innate desire to be bearded, regardless of what others may think.
This has nothing to do with a lack of concern about personal appearance, however. A well-groomed beard accentuates a man’s appearance. Most men take pride in their beards. If they did not, they might as well shave. The decision to shave, of course, should not be based on current fashion trends!
Whenever I would see someone who obviously had profuse beard-growing potential, but always kept the beard shaved off, leaving an appearance of perpetual five o’clock — or much later — shadow, I would think, “hmm, another ‘beard waster'”. I would wonder, “Why fight it? Why not give in to it and grow the beard, just to see how it turns out?” Ironically, in many cases, those blessed with plentiful beard development don’t want it or have little interest in growing a beard while so many others with scant beard potential would trade for it in an instant.
While I was in graduate school, I remember frequently seeing an undergraduate around campus who was a particularly striking example of a beard waster. One day when I was visiting a professor at the professor’s office, he mentioned that he wanted me to meet his assistant. He took me down the hall to another office to meet the assistant. I was stunned to see that the assistant was none other than the famous beard waster, and he had been wasting no more! The full beard and mustache that he had sprouted were industrial strength and could be categorized surely as “world class”. Months later, the beard was gone. I did not get a chance to ask why.
In the early days of “all about beards”, I stated on the home page that beards did not always get the respect and appreciation that they deserve. With that, the site had set out on a long-term mission of beard advocacy. A central idea was to create a place on the web to provide helpful information on growing a beard along with plenty of encouragement and some inspiration. Another objective was to provoke some thought on the subject of beards, to challenge the negative attitudes and stereotypes, and to have some fun in the process. In that regard, the site has met with quite a bit of success in the first ten years. However, there’s a lot more to be done. I’m taking the site into its second decade with lots of optimism and new ideas for enhancements and for strengthening the commitment to the mission of “all about beards”.
Welcome to the all about beards blog, the place on the site for sharing thoughts on the site itself as well as thoughts on a variety of topics related to beards. The blog is just one of many enhancements planned for the site in 2006, all about beards’ tenth anniversary year. Welcome aboard.