For more than a year, I’ve been growing out my hair and beard.
This has been quite a process, as I’ve never kept my beard for more than two weeks, and my hair has always been about the length of James Bond’s. (Just thought I’d name drop there for good measure. And yeah, I didn’t even know my hair was curly before this.)
Several people have asked me what it’s like to have a longer beard (and even longer hair). Well, let me tell you…
When you first start growing your beard—we’re talking like two or three weeks into the process—you essentially feel like the most attractive guy ever. You feel like some sort of European soccer star or something.
Of course, all that changes when you get to the itchy phase, which feels like this:
That stage soon passes, however, and after about two months, you reach a pretty great phase. You have a nice normal beard. This means hipsters and artsy people say “hi” when they walk by. It’s like you’re one of the cool kids.
If you go hiking at all during this phase, you feel like a regular mountain man.
But about a month later, you start realizing some of the more complicated aspects of beard-ness. The sides of your mustache start creeping into your mouth. (You can trim them, but this looks really weird.)
And if you go outside in the wintry air, your face collects condensation like Sponge Bob.
And let’s not even mention what it’s like to eat this:
As your hair length increases, so do the difficulties. Things you never even considered start happening. For example, you know that feeling you get after you’ve been wearing a hat for a really long time—the feeling that your hair has been plastered on to your head all day? That’s exactly the feeling you get when you wake up in the morning.
That’s right. BEDHEAD ON YOUR FACE.
Let’s discuss some other difficulties. When you drink from a fountain, you get drops on your beard that you can’t feel, but that others can see. You converse with someone, and after several minutes, you put your hand on your mouth and realize you’ve had droplets of water on your face the whole time you’ve been talking. (Why don’t they tell you?!)
Remember that guy you used to walk past every morning? The scraggly-looking guy who you either said “hi” to just so he knew you weren’t scared of him, or who you avoided by crossing to the other side of the road? That guy? Well, now that guy crosses the street when he passes you.
Some think you’re more rebellious than you are. When my wife and I go to the store, people automatically assume we’re hippies or something. They’ll start swearing like sailors in their discussions with us (I kid you not). People have even gone so far as to guess our political persuasion based on our appearance—a slightly tenuous stretch.
There’s something about having a beard that makes you part of the club. I don’t know what it’s comparable to—maybe having a kid in a stroller?—but a beard gives you a certain status with other scruffians. People with weak stubble compliment you constantly. Women sometimes congratulate each other on their dresses, shoes, etc., in passing. But guys? They rarely grunt at each other, much less give praise. Grow a beard, though, and you’ll receive perpetual hombreric accolades. (I just invented this word. It’s an adjective that means “coming from men”.)
There’s a point at which the beard becomes socially awkward, however. It becomes so scraggly that people can’t help but wonder at your washed-up-ed-ness.
For example, my in-laws frequently apologize for my appearance when we’re with company. My boss does this, too, when introducing me to prospective students at our school. Before there can be any questions as to my demeanor, they’ll all say, “Sam’s in a movie right now. That’s why his face looks like this.” Awesome. Now, if my boss were at an accounting firm, I might understand the apology, but I teach at an art school. I should get paid to look like this! (On second thought, maybe that’s why they keep me on.) Even students talk about my beard like it’s an oddity. Go figure. I don’t do drugs or wear eyeliner, but a long beard is anathema.
And so, the beard adventures continue. It’s been almost a year and a half since I started my wooly-faced journey. Some days, it’s more difficult than others. I trudge on, knowing that what I’m doing with these films is worth it. It’s fun to do something different, and my wife treats me like I’m David Beckham. As an added bonus, I look about ten years older. So now I look 15.
If you’re contemplating growing a beard, hold your horses. I’ve warned you, it’s not all sunshine and roses. Children will curiously feel your facial hair only to later yank it and make you cry. (The horror! The horror!) Heretofore loyal family members will shake their heads in disgust at your literal flavor savors. (I could have sworn I ate that already!) The cynical ones might even start buying you eyeliner.
You’ll have ups and downs and severe bouts of FAOYFS (Fire Ants On Your Face Syndrome).
And though there are certain perks to looking like a mountain man, trust me when I say this: none of them satisfies like a nice, clean shave. Not even perpetual homberic accolades.