I was at a party t’other night when a lady approached and asked what I was hiding. It was such an arresting opener I wondered if maybe she was coming on to me. This in itself shouldn’t be too shocking. I’m relatively attractive, have excellent personal hygiene and am apparently quite a natty dresser. I am also gay, something that’s apparently very “detectable”, so it’s rare that women come on to me. And by that, I mean it’s unheard of.
“I don’t know; what am I hiding?” I replied/blushed//twinkled.
“Well, you’re hiding something. You’re a very handsome man but everything about you screams hiding: the cap, the glasses and then the beard. What’s with the beard?”
“Oh, he’s just trying to be a hipster,” a friend interrupted.
For the record, I’m not trying to be a hipster. Nor am I hiding. Well, not that I know of, but ever since that ruddy party this woman has got me thinking. I concede the hat is some sort of cover up. I went bald a decade ago and only started to get used to it maybe three years ago. For a long time I did indeed hide behind a hat. Shame. Embarrassment. They’re both there when baldness creeps up. But as those two feelings subsided the main thing I struggled with was the simple aesthetic of my face without hair. Nowadays I can comfortably be seen in public without a hat. But sometimes, sometimes, I just think my face needs framing. It used to be framed by thick blonde curls (which I never appreciated at the time). That’s no longer an option and so some days I just like to frame my face with a hat rather than leave it to its own devices.
The glasses? I dunno what her problem is. I need them to see and the frames are tiny. Confession: they’re actually kids’ frames. I don’t mean I stole them from a reception class; I mean they’re from the children’s section of my opticians, as the adults’ frames were just too big for my little pea-shaped head. Trust me, you would think I was hiding if you saw me wearing adults’ frames.
So then…the beard. Well, it did only appear once the top portion of hair had upped and gone but I don’t think it’s a case of hiding. I think it’s very much about aesthetics and proportions. I have a small head and without hair on top or bottom, as I said, it looks like a pea. So, I have two options: embrace the pea or bedazzle the pea.
Sometimes my work requires I shave off my beard. On these occasions I proudly show my pea head off to the world. In other words, I’ve learned to embrace the pea. Took me a while but the point is I can do it; I just CHOOSE to bedazzle it as well; to frame it; to decorate it. People frame and enhance their proportions in all sorts of ways: make up, tailoring, lighting. And people decorate in all sorts of ways; just as this woman was decorated with earrings, a necklace, 4 rings and at least one (as far as I could see) tattoo.
Why do beards have such a bad rap?
Do people get freaked out by beards? Maybe. I sometimes get a bit wary of a full head of hair unless I know that it’s clean. I need to be able to smell the Herbal Essence. There are lots of dirty beards out there and beards matted with this morning’s breakfast. But let’s not blame the guiltless beard: blame the owner and their poor hygiene.
Let’s also not forget that there are thousands of men and women out there attracted to and turned on by beards. This probably doesn’t help the lowly beard’s cause. We humans have a very complicated relationship with the things that turn us on. All too often we turn on them.
Many people are jealous of those with beards. Not everyone can grow one. I meet all sorts of men who are envious of my mad follicular skills. They usually have excellent heads of hair so they should probably just be grateful. My friend Jakob is Norwegian and can’t grow a beard for love nor kroner. He’s in his 40s but his chin still hasn’t made it past 14. He’d love to grow a beard and honour his Viking tradition but he can’t.
I don’t know what the answer is but I say if you’ve got it, flaunt it. Do it for the lads; do it for the ladies; do it for Jakob.
In fact, whilst writing this, I’ve grown my beard to my waist, dyed it orange and bedazzled it with sequinned buttercups. Now tell me I’m hiding.
Well, maybe I’m hiding my chin, I’ll give you that. But we hide our elbows more often than not. We frequently cover our knees, our shoulders; so why not our chins? After all, it’s getting cold out there. Maybe you like a naked chin. That’s fine; you do you. But just keep your perversions to yourself, yeah? I’ll keep the beard.