How I learned to love my beard
I never thought I’d grow a beard.
Well, when I was fifteen, I thought I’d definitely have something full and bushy by twenty, and when I was twenty, I thought, Huh.
By my mid-twenties I was well aware that my facial hair was no longer biding its time. What I saw in the mirror was what it was going to be, and I took that to mean that it wasn’t going to be. It wasn’t that there was nothing on my face; it’s that I only saw the places where there was nothing.
So I shaved my face nearly every day, allowing for the illusion that of course I could grow a decent beard. I was just choosing not to.
That’s the thing about hair or curves or other physical attributes that have had their most attractive iterations paraded on screen for all to see and believe that’s the way they’re supposed to look. These paragons make it seem like it’s all or none, but for a lot of us, it’s some, and not where you would have put it yourself.
It wasn’t until about a year ago—prompted by a breakup and a pandemic—that I started to imagine myself with a beard. I was making numerous life changes—questioning past decisions, future plans, and who was going to keep the cat. Facial hair wasn’t high on the list of existential topics and that’s probably why I stopped shaving altogether.
Early results were…not cute.
As before, the places it grew in thick only reinforced the visibility of the places it didn’t, but I stuck with it. I tried it at various lengths, sometimes trimming the neck a little shorter or letting the mustache grow longer, and eventually got it to a place where I was comfortable enough to let it ride.
In the past I’d rarely been able to go a week without reaching for shaving cream, but rather than the work needed to form a habit like a daily shave, this was all about letting go (a different kind of willpower to be sure). Once a few people saw my new face without requesting that I cease and desist, I stopped thinking about whether this was just an experiment or a diversion and accepted that this was my beard and I liked it.
It sounds crazy that I would just forget about what was happening with the most visible part of my body, but aside from spending some time in front of the mirror before leaving home, I spent most of my time looking out at the world than wondering who was looking back at me, and I was confident in that person and his abilities.
Eventually, my beard became part of that larger package—something I had been allowing myself to reimagine and consequently growing to love better—and once I recognized it as a part of myself, I couldn’t help but give it the same love.
Every once in awhile I’m tempted to shave it down to the skin, but I know it would shortly grow back to where it is now, and that’s comforting.