Back in high school, I started growing facial hair. Not necessarily good facial hair. I grew a couple of whiskers in my chin, and at the corners of my mouth. I would shave from time to time, but a lot of the time I let it grow for a few weeks before shaving, not because I was lazy to shave, but rather because to a certain extent I liked it. Everyone told me to shave, that it looked awful, and to a certain degree I agreed. But I still wouldn’t shave it.
We’ve all seen kids (or even adults) that do this. They let their beard grow even if it’s more along the lines of a set of whiskers than beard. It’s patchy, not like a normal beard which is bound to have some patches, but rather more patch than hair. To a lot of people it makes no sense, but to me it does, and a lot. I’m here to try and explain it the best i can.
While there is a good number of adults that do this kind of thing, it’s mostly young men who are just starting to get facial hair growing. we’re talking about an age where you’re most susceptible to feeling pressured by society’s standards of masculinity. And the beard stands as a symbol of that masculinity. Regardless of how bad that beard might look, its relationship to masculinity is undeniable (not that women are incapable of growing a beard, or all men need to grow a beard). It makes for a “rough” look. It makes you look, and feel, older. It stands on the chins of so many of the symbols of masculine culture (healthy or not). We see them from westerns to medieval fantasy to comic books and video games.
I feel this is something that’s got to be encouraged, rather than frowned upon. sure, it doesn’t look good; and most of us know it doesn’t look good, but this is not just an exploration of masculinity, it’s, rather, an exploration of constructive masculinity. It’s something you take care of, you groom, you style, maybe apply special products. It’s the type of masculinity that needs to be encouraged. Growing a beard is about patience, about accepting what your beard is, about not comparing your beard to others. It’s about learning to groom and take care of an extension of your body. those values you learn by growing a beard, can extend to your daily, non-fuzz related, life. Just as you learned that people grow different beards, you might learn to accept differences in other aspects of people. The whole experience of having something to take care of, might translate into taking your time to take care of other things, people or animals. You get the point.
I like to compare growing a beard with another staple of constructive masculinity: building a car.
Of course I don’t mean building a car from scratch, but rather the process of buying a car and adding to it. Maybe you bought a beat up car and now you’re not only fixing it, but improving on it. Maybe you bought a new, untarnished car but still feel like “pimping” it. Regardless, it’s something else that teaches important values. It’s another thing to take care of, it’s a thing that you build up with time, a sort of project that’s about personal identity and bonding, even if that bonding isn’t with a living being.
A lot of reactions are “it’s just a car” or “it’s just a beard”, and if that is your reaction, then great, that’s what it is for you, and those processes aren’t something you want to go through. But perhaps framing it in another way might make you understand it. Perhaps your house is your equivalent of Mad Max’s magnum opus. You want it to be perfect. You have a connection to it. You wouldn’t sell it unless they gave you enough money to rebuild the same house again and then some. Perhaps it’s your computer, having changed its components many times, spending your paychecks on it, learning about it.
Regardless of what it is, it’s about the experience, the process of planning and executing it, and then enjoying the result of the many months spent in building it; whatever that result may be, regardless of whether it’s a PC that runs ten times better than the one you had before, your dream house, or the facial hair you’ve always wanted.