- The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others. Mahatma Gandhi
Grow a Beard
The internet is rife with reasons to grow a beard, so let’s just quickly acknowledge the obvious ones and move on.
Yes, a beard makes you look (and feel) manlier. Yes, a beard shaves down the time you spend shaving. Yes, most of the characters from Game of Thrones have a beard, and they are all badass.
But as I’ve grown a beard myself and live the bearded lifestyle, I’ve found that there are less obvious and more important reasons to grow a beard. Perhaps the addition of bristles on my face to stroke has made me more philosophical. Or the application of mustache wax has given me inspiration to wax poetic. (I mean, just look at all these fun literary opportunities!)
Why are beards really so popular right now? What is it about facial fur that is just so satisfying, and so discussion worthy?
Good questions. Let’s get right to it.
A beard will become your own personal peacock feathers
Like me, you probably read The Game many moons ago. You probably also read the sections about “peacocking” with the same amount of for real? that I did. I’ve never felt the desire to wear platform shoes, goggles, or wizard hats at a bar to get noticed or draw attention to myself.
But an accomplished beard is better than peacocking, because —
It’s a peacock growing on your face.
Mine, with shades of orange, brown, red, and black plumage, is like a party trick. I get comments and compliments from everyone from grocery store clerks to bartenders. When I go out for drinks, I can expect at least one request to “pet it,” and I’ve been in the not-wholly-undesirable position of having very attractive girls approach me to discuss my feathers.
Interestingly, I’ve found that while (some) girls love it, it’s guys who really respect it. Sporting a great beard is like being able to complete a triathlon or sing the entirety of “Bohemian Rhapsody” perfectly in tune. It seems to command respect. Why?
Because you can even
I don’t mean you “can,” as in you are physically able to. (Because you might in fact not be able to, in which case, my apologies. If it’s any consolation, the hair on the rest of my body is like a mobius strip — there is no beginning and there is no end.)
What I mean is that you actually can grow a beard, in that you can make a living without having to subscribe to a set of fabricated conformities — or you can easily get around those that exist.
I often hear, “I’d love to grow a beard, but I can’t, because of my job”. It’s how I felt too, when I worked in the corporate world. But the ubiquity of beards means that even if you’re in a more traditional job, a well-groomed/shaped beard might still fly. In fact, I have a few friends in very conservative jobs rocking neat beards and loving them. It could require some confidence to get past the awkward early stages (hint: start the weekend before an extended vacation) and perhaps a discussion with your superiors. But it is possible, especially if your work is excellent. The beard becomes just a standout element of your character.
Hemingway grew a beard
Okay, fine, this one is a bit obvious.
I don’t aim to replicate everything about Hemingway (and I certainly won’t approximate his genius through facial-hair mimicry). There are also certain habits and actions I’ll avoid. For example, developing an unhealthy reliance on alcohol to write. Or, you know, shooting myself in the face.
But there are others that I’m inspired by. A clear, concise, distinctive style of writing. Tales of courage, manliness, and strength. And a beard. A vicious, impressive beard. Hemingway was just one beard in a long tradition of scruffy literary geniuses. Growing my beard, as strange as it sounds, connects me with other great men who let their fur fly with ferocious abandon.
Beards require tenacity and self-discipline
I have to admit: There are moments when I think about getting rid of my beard.
For example, when I roll over in the middle of the night and think a squirrel is clawing at my cheeks. Or when I have to use surgical precision to fork a runny egg yolk into my mouth to avoid congealed clumps of food in my beard (that are difficult and painful to remove). I also imagine that the next time I go through airport security, the monotony of check-in will be spiced up by a little party called Additional Screening.
Yet despite these legitimate downsides and moments of self-doubt, I do not let my razor wander to the enchanted forest below my cheeks and above my neck. The benefits are simply too great. I’m in it to win it, and not even having to tilt my head back to drink from a cup without a straw is going to persuade me to shave my beard.
Because you give zero fucks
“You have enemies? Good. That means you’ve stood up for something, sometime in your life.”-Winston Churchill
I hate to dilute the power of Churchill, but replace “enemies” with “haters” and “stood up for something” with “stopped shaving,” and you’ll get an idea of what growing a beard feels like. (Churchill, interestingly, did not have a beard. He might not have been a fan of the facial hair, but I think he would have respected the scruffle.)
Which is why I can deal with the clean-shaven naysayers. Like everyone, I want my parents to be proud of me. But when I visit, they look at me the way a girl in Los Angeles stares at processed white bread: with total disgust. Some of my friends are less polite.
You look like a hipster. Beards aren’t cool anymore. Where’s your flannel / axe / pipe / rifle / eye-patch / fishing pole / Bible / yarmulke? Did you read that Buzzfeed article about being a lumbersexual? (No, I didn’t, because I don’t make love to trees.)
Growing a beard might eventually be the norm, but if you do something out of your norm, people are always going to hate.
Because beards, simply put, are spectacular. Try it out. If your beard is anything like mine, it will really grow on you.