BY MIKE CAMERLENGO
In case you haven’t noticed, beards are back in a big way. I can’t go online without seeing articles like “22 Reasons Bearded Men Are Better,” “Women Prefer Beards,” and “You’re More Effective and Awesome With a Beard.” Hell, there’s even a website called Real Men Have Beards. And there’s Dan Bilzerian, for chrissake.
What, I’m not a real man if I don’t have a beard? Sure, my father had two kids and owned a house at my age, whereas I live in a small Brooklyn apartment with two other grown adults and eat peanut butter sandwiches for more meals than I’d care to admit. But so what? I’m still a man! I know how to change a flat tire, can drink more than eight beers in one sitting, and have been punched in the head two or three times, depending on whom you ask.
But despite those very manly skills, the one thing I’m reminded of every day on this thing we call the Internet is that men have beards. Tall men, short men, fat men, rich men, athletes, artists, whoever. They all have beards.
Full disclosure: I never really wanted a beard before. Don’t get me wrong—I’ve seen some cool-ass beards. I’ve also seen some shitty ones, but they didn’t swing me either way, I just didn’t think I needed one. I wasn’t a beard guy, you know? It didn’t help that my DNA never really cooperated and I change razors about once a month. Regardless, the Internet has pushed me too far.
So I decided to grow a beard—and not just for me. I’d do it for every other guy out there who has read an article that told them they weren’t good enough because they were clean-shaven. I’d do it for that 20-year-old fresh-faced college kid in Kentucky who always wondered what it was like on the other side. I’d grow a beard and become part of this manly, cool society that the Internet told me about. Then I will find that kid in Kentucky, lend him my hand, and say, “Come with me if you want to live.”
This is my story.
Day 3: Days 1 and 2 I just looked like a regular clean-shaven man. Day 3? Well, let’s just say I’m doing pretty all right. I have some decent stubble on my chin and my upper lip is hovering between “got some dirt there” and “is that a shadow?” Not a bad start.
Day 4: My neck is growing hair at a faster rate than my face, which is a problem. I could shave my neck and just focus in on my face, but the last time I did that it merely accentuated the fact that my cheeks looked like an 80-year-old woman’s chin. Also, an article on wikihow.com titled “How to Grow a Beard Faster” says not to trim until the beard is full.
Speaking of chins, extra neck hair also makes you look like you have about 14 of them. I don’t need any help in that department, as I have been holding down a solid gobble-neck for years.
Day 5: I have to be honest, I look like shit. You know when you see an attractive woman with a guy who has an awful beard and a gut from drinking too many shitty light beers? Well, I’m just like that guy! Except I have been approached by zero attractive women. Scratch that, I have been approached by zero women.
Day 6: There seems to be little growth today. It’s almost like my hairs got together and said, “Fuck it, this guy’s face sucks, I’m staying in.” Which I totally get, by the way. I’m starting to think my face does suck. Hey face: you suck, bro!
Day 7: Itchy. That’s all I can think of. An article on Mensfitness.com tells me the itch is totally normal and nothing to worry about. I’m not worried, per se, but it’s horribly uncomfortable. My neck is covered in weird hairs growing all sorts of ways (razor burn, here I come!). My upper lip, though, is coming in decently, and I’m tempted to just shave everything but this mustache. I run a Google Image search for “Cool guys with mustaches,” and Tom Selleck pops up several times. I could never be Selleck with what I have growing here. It’s too weak!
Day 8: OK, time to take this thing right into the hornet’s nest and head to a bar. Usually I love going to bars by myself—posting up, making small talk, checking out whatever shitty game is on ESPN2 like a nervous father watching his daughter play softball. But tonight I’m getting a different vibe. The bartender even asks to see my ID. Normally I don’t have a babyface but somehow this facial hair is making me look younger. How is this possible? After some failed bit about how “we should put limes in everything,” I decide to bail. I’m not myself.
Day 9: I look like that substitute teacher you had in high school, the guy who was clearly hungover and seemingly always in the process of moving out of his girlfriend’s place because he couldn’t stop banging yoga instructors. Yeah, that guy. Except at least some senior girls thought he was mysterious in a way that only 18-year-old girls can describe. I am not mysterious. Creepy, maybe. Mysterious? No.
Day 10: Speaking of girls, I started talking to one at a party. Success! Although things turned quickly when she asked, “What’s going on here?” as she grabbed my face. I told her I was growing a beard, and she wished me luck. She then asked how long it’s been and I told her “around a week.” She laughed. We did not end up sleeping together. Also, why is it acceptable to ask how long I’ve been trying to grow a beard? You’re not allowed to ask how long someone has been trying to lose weight. This is beard-shaming! Hold on, let me to see if #stopbeardshaming is trending. Nope. The plight of the beardless wanderer continues.
Day 11: I’m starting to crack. Although the people at the coffee shop notice my face is different, they haven’t said things I thought they would, like, “Hey man cool beard!” and “Hey dude, is that a cool beard or what!?!” If society isn’t giving me props, then what’s the point of all this? Plus a small whitehead has formed on my cheek. Anytime I have tried to grow facial hair in the past, it always ends up with me getting a bunch of pimples. Maybe I’ll fight them off with some Proactiv and become a famous singer? Three weeks for delivery? As the great Kenny Fisher once said, “No thanks, no time!”
Day 12: It’s over. I decide I will not be going forward with my beard. It’s affecting my sleep, my mood, and my self-esteem. I started this a confident guy who could go to a bar by himself and take in the atmosphere, and I’m finishing as broken man. A man who makes jokes about fruit and says things like, “You should see the other guy!” when talking about a tiny scrape on his eyebrow. I do not like this man. I do not wish to become this man permanently, so I must do something. I must shave. It’s bittersweet, but I’d be lying if I said I didn’t feel great once the deed was done.
The battle is lost. Maybe in the future I’ll give growing a beard another go; the winter is always a good time to hate yourself. But for now, I live in the present, and the present for me is bright. I’m clean-shaven and I won’t apologize for anything!
So, 20-year-old kid in Kentucky, I’ve failed at reaching the Promised Land, but I’ve found through my journey that the destination wasn’t meant to be. To those with beards, I hope you continue to prosper in slideshows across the Internet, but that life is not for me. Now, if you need me, I’ll be alone at a bar watching fencing on ESPN2, smooth-faced and loving every minute of it.