[Click on the youtube video for today's soundtrack.]
I have a thing for men’s beards. It’s a minor compulsion. I can deal with it if I want to.
I’m not exactly sure why. There’s the obvious nod to male virility, of course, but I’m not some cavewoman from a Geico commercial. Please — let’s not go there. But if you look on Pinterest (which I don’t, ever, because I’m too busy cooking and cleaning and darning socks and tending to the children, of course…ahem), you’ll find board after board devoted to beard love and admiration, most assuredly constructed by women of childbearing age. I birthed two babies. No more pitocin for me, thank you. I’ve had more than enough.
No, I tend to think that my predilection for beards stems from my first memories, which are deeply embedded in the early seventies. (Yes, I’m that old. Shut up.) Dear Lord — facial hair was just, everywhere then. Even priests had beards in the seventies. I think some nuns did, too, but let’s not go there, either.
Ironically enough, my first memory of my uncle involves facial hair. He’s my mother’s younger brother, and the first time that I remember seeing him, he was home on leave from the Navy in 1972. He’d been in the military for two years, out at sea in a submarine, which meant that we didn’t see him often.
I guess they let the military shave and a haircut bit get a little lax when you’re underwater for months at a time. On that Easter Sunday, my uncle arrived at my house with a cellophane-wrapped basket, a stuffed animal, and a shock of dark, long curls and a bushy, I ain’t-shaved-in-two-years-and-I-might-have-a-little-snack-hiding-in-here kind of a beard going on. A classic look from 1972. And I was petrified of him.
He looked wild, and nothing like my dad, who hadn’t even started working on his mutton chops and “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid” look yet. (That would come later in 1973, I believe.) He was a sharp contrast to my both of my grandfathers, who always appeared in suits, neatly shaven and combed, and were trusted with the offerings at church every Sunday. I wouldn’t even look at my uncle for at least an hour, and hid behind any piece of furniture I could find. He was that wild-looking. (I believe a chocolate bunny served as an eventual peace offering later in the visit, and he soon became “the fun uncle” who let me ride on the running boards of his VW Bug when he rolled it in neutral along my grandparents’ driveway.)
Once I got over the initial shock, I fell hard and fast for the bearded look. Not surprisingly, my husband can grow a beard in three seconds flat. (Oooof. Mercy. Just the thought of it makes me swoon.) He often engaged in beard-growing contests with his friends while we dated in college, and I believe he usually won. (He lost a few times to a guy nicknamed “Red” for his efforts. No one beats a guy nicknamed “Red” in a beard-growing contest.) For days afterwards, he’d emerge from the bathroom with cleverly crafted facial concoctions of goatees and sideburns. I would have married him right there and then if he’d asked me.
These days, he works on Wall Street, where facial hair is most assuredly frowned upon. On our honeymoon in Greece, he went full-on beard during our two-week trip, and got tan at the same time. I had to be revived with the pungent scent of ouzo to keep from forever fainting dead away. (At least that’s what I told him while I swigged it, hourly.) During the last few days of our trip, my man whittled it down to a goatee, and he held onto that look for a while after we got back. (Again with the mercy.) But after months of taunts and being called “Goat” by his disapproving co-workers, the facial hair was struck from the record. Oh, how I wept. And swigged whatever ouzo we had left over from the honeymoon.
Today, I live vicariously through old vinyl album covers and TMZ paparazzi shots of virile men who, like my husband, can sprout a facial forest overnight while they sleep. No wonder he likes the air conditioning way up at night. That’s hard labor while you’re snoozing, sister.
Let me share a few favorites from my personal collection.
When Jon Hamm grew a beard, even God said “Mercy!” while he checked out the pics on Perez Hilton. I’m absolutely sure of it.
Levon Helm defines beard for me. The hairline and the jawline meeting together perfectly, the untamed wilderness of it all while he’s hitting the snare and belting out “Yazoo Street Scandal” — quick, get me ouzo. Stat. Or I’ll start saying mercy again.
I’ll take the whole Band, actually. With the hats. Maybe Garth could dial it back a bit for my tastes, but otherwise, we’re good to go.
Anything that the Avett Brothers grow on their chins and heads is just dandy with me. Dandy.
Lest ye think I’m a whisker whore — what the hell did I just say? — let me state here that I am picky about my tonsorial preferences. While I appreciate the efforts of Crosby, Stills, Nash — and occasionally, Young — I can’t embrace all that facial hair wholeheartedly. Stephen Stills’ mutton chops get a thumbs-up. Neil Young’s just don’t. Sorry, Neil. Love your work, though. Seriously. Big fan.
As an aside, why has no one noticed that David Crosby and Gallagher were twins separated at birth? That’s for a separate blog post, I guess. I’ll let you know in advance so you can put on a poncho beforehand.
I can’t stand facial hair that looks like it’s been sponge-painted onto men’s faces with a stencil. Or that they’ve used several hand tools to achieve the look. Kanye West will completely call me out at the next Grammy Awards and say that Beyonce is a much better mommy blogger, but he’s just not working for me. Pictures like the one above make me think that his beard trimmer setting goes to 11, and that he spends more time in the bathroom than Kim Kardashian does.
Also — any kind of hair from “The Jersey Shore” is wrong. Just plum wrong. Let’s not even speak of it.
Then there are the follicular efforts of a celebrity like Zach Galifia…oh Jesus, who the hell can spell that freakin’ name? I mean no disrespect to the great country and people of Greece, of which Zach is a native son, and whose ouzo, as I’ve mentioned, I enjoy immensely. But I digress. As usual.
With Zach, not so much with the beard. Or the eyebrows. You’d think that I’d be a big supporter. But I’m not. That’s because I can smell his beard from here, and I’m detecting notes of bad shellfish, menthol cigarettes, and stale Miller High Life. As Yul Brynner so wisely said, “Is a puzzlement.”
Hipster boys with beards just don’t do it for me, either. If you’re wearing skinny jeans, a knit hat and a bow tie, don’t go growing a beard, too. There’s just too much going on. That’s like the old adage for ladies to remove one accessory before they go out on the town. Learn from this, gentlemen.
I also don’t believe that these furry hipster boys have earned their chops, so to speak. They don’t deserve the pride of follicularness. That’s because they’re only twenty, and from Syosset. Or Canton Heights, Ohio. Or Cranford, New Jersey. Your mother still does your laundry, you don’t know how to balance a checkbook, and you still haven’t been past the far side of Prospect Park in Brooklyn. Not to mention the fact that you’re skinnier than me and can wear the Size 4 jeans I can no longer fit into. Shave the beard off. Now. Birth a calf, join the Merchant Marine, and have a motorcycle accident on a hilly road in the Catskills, and then you can think about the beard again.
After I drop the kids off at camp this morning, I’ll be sitting alone in the basement with my vinyl record collection and a cup of coffee.
Don’t call me today. I won’t be answering the phone.