A fuzzy-faced look at a failed masculinity experiment

Bearded man
By David Leibowitz
Let history show that my attempt to grow one of humankind’s epic beards ended on Day 17, when I couldn’t take the itching or the fact that I looked like a cross between hobo Adam Sandler and dishonest Abe Lincoln.
Hipsters everywhere, this beardless wonder salutes you. I will forever be the few-days-stubble “Miami Vice” extra to your “Duck Dynasty” impersonation. Minus the $12 craft beers, skinny jeans and the “man bun.” 
As many beard experiments do, mine began with a looming vacation and a casual aside from my wife: “You know, you would look really good with a beard.” Because most of Mrs. Leibowitz’s casual asides involve things like remodeling the master bedroom or sweeping the back patio until it’s clean enough to host surgical procedures, this aside seemed like an easy way to get in her good graces. I mean, if you can make your spouse happy by the mere act of growing hair – which you can do literally in your sleep – hey, that sounds like a job for yours truly.
Sadly, growing a beard is more work than it appears. For starters, there’s the onslaught of questions that begin around Day Five. With my vacation coming up, I decided to skip shaving despite having a bunch of meetings, each which began with someone asking, “Leibo, are you growing a beard?” Maybe these queries were innocent, but they sounded to me like either an accusation of sloth – “Gee, look who can’t be bothered to shave for the meeting” or a smirky crack about the onset of a midlife crisis – “Uh, what’s next, David, a convertible red Corvette and a ponytail?”
The other problem? My burgeoning beard was mostly gray. While George Clooney can pull off the “silver fox” look, all signs pointed to me instead looking like Gandalf’s less wizardly brother, Cletus of Elder. For a guy already dreading junk mail from the AARP, this was not a positive development, even given the vast trove of scientific research pointing toward beards as enhancing the owner’s masculinity in the eyes of both men and women. 
Incidentally, who knew beard research was a thing? Personally, I recommend Barnaby Dixson and Robert Brooks’ 2013 classic, “The role of facial hair in women’s perceptions of men’s attractiveness, health, masculinity and parenting abilities” from the journal Evolution and Human Behavior. The verdict? “Women judged faces with heavy stubble as most attractive and heavy beards, light stubble and clean-shaven faces as similarly less attractive. … Men and women rated full beards highest for parenting ability and healthiness.”
Of course, as with all research, there’s a flipside: A May 2016 study in the Archives of Sexual Behavior reports that men with beards are more sexist than the rest of us. “Hostile sexism was a significant predictor of facial hair status … and facial hair was more frequent among ambivalent and hostile sexists than among benevolent and nonsexists. It is suggested that sexist men choose to grow facial hair because it maximizes … perceived masculinity and dominance.”
To think I was just trying to make my wife happy, even if that meant looking a little bit like a wookiee.
In mid-shave, I briefly considered leaving a goatee or maybe a Tom Selleck mustache, but hair anywhere near my mouth always makes me worry I’m walking around with stray breadcrumbs or chowder droplets on my face. No, better shaven than sorry. That’s my motto from here on out. Leave the bushy beards to coffeehouse baristas and those two dudes from ZZ Top. I’m moving on to my next masculinity enhancement project.
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