When in the course of human events it becomes necessary for one person to dissolve the follicle bonds which have connected hair to face, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that he should declare the causes which impel them to separation… in other words, I have shaved off the beard, and this is why.
First let me say: it was a good run, beardy ole pal. I will miss how you made me look older, how you caused people in my journalism class to think for a short time I was a junior somehow forced to retake a freshman-level class. I will miss hearing people exclaim, “Oh, hey, beard man,” when they recognize me but don’t know my name. I will miss having something in common with some of the more interesting people at Northwestern. Not since The Lord of the Rings have I seen so many awesome beards. But most of all I will miss drawing undue comparisons to Burt Reynolds at parties.
I was sorry to see the beard go, but I had to break it up. Beard, it wasn’t you, it was me. I just wasn’t ready for a long-term relationship. Upon my arrival home, my little sister, who followed my progress on the Internet all winter, perhaps put it best: “I could take it from afar, but up close it’s just too much.” By the next day the beard was gone. Trust your family to keep you in check.
During my quest to not shave during Winter Quarter — one that lasted from January 9 to March 14 — I learned that a beard is a powerful thing. Chris Wade, a junior majoring in Radio/Television/Film, said that whenever he walks into a room, he checks to see if anyone has a better beard. Toward the end of my two bearded months, I unconsciously had begun doing the same thing. Now without the beard, I’ve caught myself staring at stubbly-faced people a few times, the way a rich man who has lost it all silently scorns every yuppie who whizzes by in a BMW. That a beard, and subsequent loss of it, could generate such feelings of elitism and envy only enforces my point about the pogonological potency.
Paula Russo, a history teacher at my alma mater, sent me something that lends credence to the apparent need both Wade and I felt to assert our superiority over our less hairy peers. The historian Diodorus, writing in the 1st century BC, describes a tribe of Celts:
“Their aspect is terrifying…They look like wood-demons, their hair thick and shaggy like a horse’s mane. Some of them are clean shaven, but others – especially those of high rank – shave their cheeks but leave a moustache that covers the whole mouth…”
Regardless of anything else I’ve written this year, Diodorus provides the only reason anyone could ever need to grow facial hair. Charles I might be my beard hero, but he never charged naked into battle.
Growing a beard is symbolic and powerful. If your friends or parents have qualms about your lazy tendencies or inability to follow through… grow a beard. If you wanted to be compared to a caveman, Burt Reynolds, and a Russian revolutionary over the course of one day… grow a beard. It shows dedication without taking work, while setting you apart from your peers and making you feel superior to those poor freshmen saps who can’t even eke out a whisker. So although I have shaved and readjusted to a clean-shaven lifestyle, we’ll always have Winter Quarter, beardy ole pal — you know that.