Wednesday, 23 January 2019

The problem with beards

I feel privileged that once a year, I can step into a world which I never knew existed. This is the world of beard owners. It is a strange world where a significant group of people have no idea what it is like to grow a beard and some of the trials and tribulations that can follow. By 'significant group of people' I mean women. I know it's unpopular these days to highlight differences between men and women, but I'm going to based on what women do not know about our facial hair. This for all the women out there who didn't know this world exists in a bid to help educate, create understanding and hopefully bring some much needed humour to the situation.

Every year, I do what I have now titled ‘Christmas beard’. It is the time of the year where I let my facial hair grow and shave less. All throughout the year, I keep my facial hair pretty low. My hair is coarse and thick so I suffer from quite bad in grown hairs. If I were to shave over these, I can scar the skin. This is the blight for many Afro Caribbean people, hence why there are numerous 'no bumps' skin products on the market. The 2 golden rules for anyone who suffers from razor bumps are:

1. Don't shave the hair too close to the skin, otherwise the hair will grow back into itself before it clears the skin.

2. Always shave with the hair. Never shave up!

There are lots of other tips and tricks which i've picked up from barbers, but this isn't the reason for writing this blog.

Most boys during puberty check daily to see if they have facial hair (to be honest, most hair...). It becomes a talking point of, "when you start shaving." After years of incessant scraping, the novelty wears off. However, there is still something really satisfying about shaving which I can't get my head around. There was definitely a sense of 'manly superiority' about the 3 boys who are early shavers when I was at school. As was the broken voice, (but funnily enough, not body odour). While the rest of us nursed our bum-fluff.   You couldn't wait to shave and to buy shaving products. However, what this early experience taught me, was we were not operating on a level playing field. I think we all thought one day we would all be able to grow thick vi king-like beards, when the opposite is the case. If I look back at the 'beard distribution' amongst my school friends, this disparity is probably reflective of the general population of today's beard owners. There weren't many who could grow full beards. Some were patchy. Some had thick hair. Some had thin hair. Even as we got older, there weren't many who could grow thick beards. Many were still scraggly and stubbly. Yet it wasn’t really pointed out.. This was the case until I became an adult and women started pointing out all the inadequacies which were never pointed out amongst young men. I used to let this wash over me but the frequency of being in a conversation about your facial hair, which you hadn't instigated, was mind blowing. I wondered if the subject changed, whether people would notice what they were doing? For example, a women who decided to not shave her body hair, would never find herself at the centre of conversation about how she needs to "shave it off." Would you tell a Sikh, "nah, I don't really like beards.."? Or if someone is trying to hide a skin condition, would you start touching it? I then heard a comedian mention this as his sister-in-law said she didn't like how the beard made him look. His reply was, "my face is still underneath the insult!!"

Most men who get comments about their beards from other women don't really care because if one woman (usually your wife or girlfriend) says it's ok and most of your mates agree, you're good to go.

The problem with beards is growth. They grow in their own time and people see you trying to grow one. It would be great if it was an overnight thing. You could wake up and your beard of choice is done without people highlighting your inadequacies.

Trust me, I'm not hypersensitive about this. I'm laughing while I write this. What I really like is the inconsistency and in some areas double standard. Imagine if as a woman, you had decided to have your hair done for hours (of which I still have no idea how) and you then find yourself in the middle of a conversation of men who are discussing whether they like it or not. Comments include, “I really don’t like blonde hair...” or, “I’m not sure if I like it.”

Beard Checklist. 

Not all men can grow full beards.
Not all men can grown thick beards.
Many men have patchy beards.
We have no choice whatsoever over what kind of beard we have.

This last point is my central argument. To comment (negatively)without asking is one of the weirdest social norms I have witnessed, and for this, I thank you beard community. I have witnessed your pain. To ensure there's balance, one man has commented on my beard, saying, "I don't trust people with beards."  The overwhelming number of negative comments have come from women. I do apprecaite the women who either don't comment or say, "nice beard,"  either side of the barbed comments. Some of the gems include , "urgh, I don't like beards.." and "hmm, I'm not sure." Again, this is only by simply walking into a room of women. The situation isn't helped by the current hipster thing going on as these beards are incredibly high maintenance and unachievable for the average person. So when a man decides to ditch his blades for a while, let's embrace the good and the bad as we have not control over it. It grows where it wants to.

Yours, Beardy Mcbeard face.

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