One of the few things that separates men from women is the ability to grow a beard — unless your lineage includes carnival folk (and whose doesn’t?).
Some men I know can grow a beard during a church service. I actually witnessed James Worthy, the former Los Angeles Lakers power forward, go from clean-shaven to fully-bearded during Game 7 of the 1988 NBA championship. In fact, he had a full beard by the third quarter and had to shave during a timeout.
I have no such follicles.
I’ve never grown a beard, and that absence of hairiness is a prickly issue, especially during the month of November.
In recent years, much to my chagrin, November has become “No Shave November” and also “Movember.” During “No Shave November,” men across the world don’t shave, and grow beards to celebrate, I don’t know, the ability to grow a beard, I guess. Movember is a movement in November where men grow mustaches in an effort to, I don’t know, taunt and belittle me.
I really wish I could grow a beard. A beard has so many advantages. It can hide double chins. If you commit a crime and are on the run, you can change your appearance by growing a beard or shaving it off. You never know when that will come in handy. If you have a beard and you don’t want to eat the rest of your peas, you can hide a few in there if need be, which would have been very valuable when I was in middle school.
Of course, there are disadvantages to a beard, like being mistaken for a member of the Taliban or a Civil War reenactor. But that’s a small price to pay for the rugged comfort of being able to conceal unsightly blemishes, jowls and unwanted vegetables. The thing is: I don’t know for certain if I can grow a beard or not.
For the bristle-challenged like myself, growing a beard is a commitment. It can’t be done, like the easily-bewhiskered James Worthy, in a matter of minutes. It takes weeks.
I’ve tried to grow a beard on numerous occasions. Recently, I made an attempt over a long weekend. I came back to work to screams of “Wolfman!” from fellow employees and frightened customers. I tried to grow one on our last vacation. The highfalutin lady at the seafood restaurant told my wife she couldn’t bring her “big, diseased dog” (me) inside.
Because I’ve never grown a full beard, my stubble grows unevenly, with patches of hair here and there, prompting the aforementioned fear of a half-man, half-wolf beast on the loose among those who see the beard in its early stages.
But I really think that if I had more than two weeks, I could grow a decent beard that wouldn’t cause children to cry hysterically or mangy dogs to want to mate me.
Here’s my suggestion for men who, like me, want to grow a beard but can’t quit their jobs to do it: A leave of absence. Women get them for having a baby. You can get one for being a drug addict. Why not growing a beard?
Since we’re already using November to celebrate growing beards, why not also make it the month where law-abiding men can take a leave of absence to grow a beard safely, away from public purview?
There’s got to be a baby-faced lawyer out there somewhere willing to take up this cause.