I have had a beard for as long as puberty has allowed, a commitment that is closing in on two decades. Much to my disappointment, the beard-I’m talking about the long beard, in particular-has been appropriated in recent years by the hip young masses, joining skinny jeans and ironic indifference as elements in the uniform of cool. However, this past April, researchers at the University of New South Wales (where apparently they have nothing else to study) posited that the beard trend is nearing its end. They concluded that hipsters had taken facial hair to “peak beard.” My family members, who unequivocally despise a hirsute mug, tried to use the academia to get me to shave, to no avail.
My beard was not born of style, nor is it part of an affected aesthetic. It was born of laziness. Shaving takes me seven to 10 minutes, and I’d rather have that time for sleeping, or watching a third of a sitcom, or considering my mortality. And yet, I could easily be confused with an extra from Girls.
Over the course of my almost 20 years of beard-dom, I have been clean-shaven just once, at my sister’s wedding, reluctantly and at her request. When faced with a clutch of competitive bridesmaids, my sibling chose me as her maid of honour; being smooth-faced seemed only logical. My sister persists in her belief that my beard keeps me from my own nuptials-and not my fear of commitment or insistence upon listing “poet” as my occupation.
The last time I saw my late paternal grandmother, who enjoyed Scotch and controversy, was Christmas dinner 2004. I had recently returned from living on the beaches of Costa Rica, where mirrors and razors were rare and beards most welcome. With her tumbler of Grant’s in one hand, Nana nodded toward me and asked, “Who’s that?” “That’s Michael,” my sister replied. “He’s just so… unattractive,” my grandmother concluded, to the delight of the table. And still the beard remained.
My own parents believe I reached a personal peak beard some time ago. Rarely do they miss an opportunity to offer shaving as a solution:
Got dumped again? Maybe if you shaved your beard…
Another manuscript rejected? Maybe if you shaved your beard…
Habs lost in six games to the Rangers? Maybe if you just shaved your beard!
If only they knew its true dangers. When I have the occasional cigarette, the lighter’s flame hovers perilously close to the beard. As if the shame of smoking weren’t enough, the humiliation of third-degree burns as a result of a hair fire would certainly make me the emergency room’s punchline. Occasionally, while eating, the beard gets pulled into my mouth, which is frightening when alone and embarrassing in public. I worry I’ll be the first person to choke to death on his own face locks. And though saddened by my passing, my family would take comfort in the fact that my death proved them right.
But I remain committed to my whiskers, and no Australian pogonological study or disapproving relative will deter me. Should I be found dead in my apartment, a singed elf-lock wedged in my throat and the ghost of my grandmother laughing in the background, know that I do not regret eschewing the razor. My beard will never peak.