Wednesday, August 4, 2010

To beard or not to beard

Since the ancient of times men have been concerned with the question of what it means to be a man. They have argued amongst themselves about the definition of manhood and the processes that should be undertaken in order to escape from boyhood. Cultures across time and space have created elaborate coming of age rituals in order to mark a young boy's entrance into the realm of manhood. Rites of passage range from the everyday mundane, like getting your driver's license to the bizarre and torturous. For example, the adolescent circumcision of several groups in Africa or the bullet ant glove wearing of one South American tribe. What most of these rituals have in common is that the young boys tend to experience them once they have hit puberty.


Doesn't it make you feel warm and fuzzy? The awkwardness. The acne.

The facial hair???
Ordinarily, once boys reach the age of puberty hair begins to sprout randomly and in excess all over their bodies. Or so I am told. Now, many of you may be wondering what manhood, facial hair, and unemployment have in common and exactly why in the world I am writing about them since I am a woman with a very limited amount of facial hair who has no interest in becoming a man.It happened about a week ago. My husband and I were sitting on the couch and I noticed that it seemed like he hadn't shaved in a while.

"You're looking pretty scruffy, " I commented.

"I know. I think I might have hit puberty finally, " He replied.

You see, my dear, sweet husband has been abnormally baby faced the entirety of our marriage, only able to grow facial hair in small randomly spaced patches. The fact that I had noticed the amount of hair on his face was a miracle of God.

Could it be?

Was my husband finally becoming a man?

I could only hope.

Philosophers, poets, and scholars alike have equated facial hair with manhood, virility, courage, and wisdom. Will Shakespeare wrote in his play Much Ado About Nothing "He that hath a bread is more than a youth and he that hath no bread is less than a man." Roman poet, Juvenal, agreed with Will and is quoted as saying "A hairy body, and arms stiff with bristles, give promise of a manly soul." Hair equaled power in the case of Samson. Could this sprouting of facial hair be a sign of maturity to come?

We took a moment to contemplate whether a shave was in order or whether we should embrace the new, manlier version of my husband. Then we made our decision. Unemployment had provided yet another golden opportunity. This time my husband would test drive growing a bread. Why not look like bum when you basically are a bum, we concluded. We grew giddy with the variety of facial hair growth pattern options that presented themselves once we punched in facial hair configurations into an internet search engine. What would the winner be?

The Van Dyke?
The Friendly Mutton Chops?
The Handlebar?
The Goatee?

Decisions. Decisions.

What do you think looks best?