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Hair Today, Gone Tomorrow

February 7th, 2022

I have a beard.

There's no getting around it. I stopped shaving in early October and although I do trim it, it's been a long time since I was without hair on my face.

This is also not the first time I've tried to grow one. Over the summer I had one, a ridiculous chinstrap thing I shaved as soon as I saw myself in a photo. Once, over a few weeks last spring, I didn't shave for a while and something beard-like began to grow. But I caved to the impulse to shave it off too.

The most interesting thing about the beard has been how people react when they see me with a beard, having previously been unshaved. These people were used to me clean shaven, a highschool kid. Then a few months later, I came back for thanksgiving with the beard and a bucket of stories from college. For all of us, I think, there's a sense of "now that college has started, my friends are going to become a little different" and I think for a lot of them the beard was a visible indicator of that. One of them said it took him a while to get used to—it made me look like some strange adult—but then it became normal.

It became normal.

That's so bizzare to me, because I still feel, even after 4 months and a now well-established trimming routine, like my beard isn't normal. Like I'm still in the test run. Like I could, on any given week, just shave it off and that would be normal. But it wouldn't. It would be a huge deal. I mean, I remember when someone drew a picture of me with a beard for the first time and I didn't quite understand why. Why is this an identifying feature? And in a way it felt flattering that people were acknowledging what for me was temporary—like a nice shirt or a new haircut—but for them was just normal, like drawing me with red hair.  

Not the first beard picture, but my favorite

I guess my point is that the way I think of my beard is not the way other people do. I'm less comfortable with its existence than you are—more inclined to see it as a passing thing I'm trying out without consequence.

Why?

I feel like it puts me out there so much—like it's the equivalent of dying my hair blue like I did back in highschool. This feels like a conscious enough choice to be judged for, especially as a young guy. Isn't there kind of a trope of teenager trying (but failing) to grow a sad, scraggly beard? I've always been very afraid of succumbing to that. Nobody can justifiably make fun of your chin when you're shaven—that's the default. But you can have a good laugh at a fellow who's got bad facial hair. So it's something I wonder about as well.

Honestly, it's kinda funny that I have it at all—like, if I'm this neurotic about it then why the heck am I bothering? Mostly, I think it makes me look slightly better.

But I really couldn't tell you. Perhaps I just like that it makes me look different.