Friday, February 2, 2018

Beard Power


I grew my first chin beard in tenth grade. Not the pinecone that it is today, a half-inch at most, but enough to change the game. Less emasculating sarcasm from peers. More attention from girls. Feeling closer to adulthood than childhood, seeing that manly little outgrowth in the side-view mirror as I cruised along with a newly acquired driver's license.

The hair and its effect have been growing ever since.

On a three-week road trip from Philly to L.A., my friends and I ended up along the same route as 50,000 hogs headed for the 60th Annual Sturgis Motorcycle Rally in South Dakota. Everywhere we went it was bikes, beer, and badasses. On the outside, from the neck up at least, I blended in and earned us a little cred in a subculture not known for its warmth (on the inside I'm too anxious to ride a ten-speed through town). Some years later I was in the Uygur city of Kashgar, where the Muslim men greeted my uncut bushiness with nods of approval, perhaps thinking that I was with Allah (when in fact I'm "spiritual but not religious," as my online dating profile would say). After that I took a teaching job at an urban Maryland high school, in which being a goat-like caricature of myself fast-tracked classroom rapport and greatly increased the number of completed homework assignments. 

Impressive, how a tuft of facial pubes can alter so many outcomes. How differently might events have unfolded had I shaved? Which triggered conversations and resulting relationships would never have occurred? Which ones would have in their place? Maybe I get carjacked or miss meeting the love of my life in the beardless version.

If nothing else, against my baldheadedness, it keeps me from looking like a crazed volleyball.

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