The weird thing about growing a beard is that people make a point to inform me that I’m doing it, as if the product of the process isn’t extruding from my face. “You grew a beard!” one hyper-observant woman once explained to me. “Your beard is getting very long,” say others, often on a daily basis. Random strangers frequently approach me to comment on my beard, a few even with the gumption to ask if they can touch it (which, if you’re wondering, no, you may not). A vociferous number are on the warpath to get me to shave it all off, though I suppose this is because they are the ones who have to actually see the beard.
I did go clean-shaven for a few months in 2015, long enough to know that I won’t be doing that again for years. With my baby face and abiding acne, I was mistaken for a high school kid one too many times for me to take up the razor again soon. I am a grownup, after all, and I would really like to be perceived as such.
But there’s more to growing a beard than simply the practical reason that it makes me look my age, and the fact that it’s far more convenient than shaving every day. Growing a beard, for me at least, is this esoteric self-realization that I am a man. This is not to say that those who are unable or disinclined to grow a beard aren’t real men, but rather that when I see my beard in the mirror or stroke it thoughtfully I know that I have made it to the point I’ve always wanted to be. I’m not a boy anymore, with all the limitations that come along with childhood. I am a man, with all the capacity for doing good, noble, and worthwhile things. My beard is an external manifestation of what I hope are my gestating internal qualities.
Plus, let’s face it, aside from all the mysticism, beards are awesome. Not only does my beard consistently provide my nervous fingers something to fidget with, but it’s an instant rapport-builder with all sorts of people. I’m really not that cool or interesting of a person, but my beard has a way of suppressing the drabness of my personality. And if growing a beard was good enough for so many great men of history, then it must be good enough for me.
As the great smokin’-and-drinkin’ theologian Charles Spurgeon once said, growing a beard is “a habit most natural, scriptural, manly, and beneficial.” So for those of you wondering, I’m not shaving for awhile yet.