Men and beards

New Warhorn Media post by Tim Bayly:

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“There are two kinds of people without beards — boys and women. I am neither.”

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My beard is pretty ugly, which isn’t the point, I know, but my bosses made it clear they think it’s unprofessional. So I grew my mustache out and like that I look like my grandfather.

I agree with where I believe you’re going: men should have beards. I’m looking forward to this series.

I had a beard for months this year. I’m now clean-shaven again. My wife never liked it, and one day it started bothering me. But I could change my picture to one during that time-frame and everybody online could think of me as having a beard. :slight_smile:

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(That’s a Ruth Bell Graham quote regarding men with beards. ^ )

I think this is the “weird beard” stereotype. I suspect that this is most true when beards are out of fashion.

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I first grew a beard in the early 1990s and have always had one ever since, with the single exception of shaving it off the day after I defended my Ph.D. dissertation (I had felt like a Nazarite). The next week I started growing it back. My wife of sixteen years has never seen me clean shaven, except in college photos. A couple years ago I stopped trimming my beard short and let it grow as long as it would go – which sadly was not as long as I hoped. One of the elders at my church likens the look of my current beard to that of B.B. Warfield.

Prior to getting married, I told my wife-to-be that I had three non-negotiables – I wanted at least four children, I wanted to homeschool, and I would keep my beard. Perhaps the last might sound like vanity, but it was an important principle to me. A beard is a secondary male sexual characteristic, and it is no more right for a woman to expect a man to shave it off as it would be for a man to expect a woman to cut her hair short or bind her breasts.

And if you think beards aren’t an important symbol, take a look at the Bearded Lady Project – women scientists protest by donning artificial beards.

https://thebeardedladyproject.com/

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Same here, I did it in 2017 and again in 2018 for a few months. It became so scratchy and my wife also didn’t like it either. I liked not having to shave in the morning, but the prospect of having to trim didn’t thrill me, just get rid of it altogether and be done with it, there is more important stuff to do.

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At first, I thought to simply sit this topic out. Why? Because I’ve worn facial hair for the past 54 years, with two exceptions: (1) a six-month period during Marine Corps boot camp and infantry training thereafter, and (2) a four month period in 2018 when chemotherapy and radiation for lymphoma in my neck caused so much of my head hair to fall out that maintaining it was out of the question.

So, I’m pretty much an outlier within this community. But, a couple of reports on my facial-hair history might be of passing interest.

First, facial hair has been an “issue” for me since I was nine years old. That was when my voice cracked, my beard sprang out, and all the other bodily secondary male characteristics “bloomed.” I was shaving daily in the fifth grade. My voice was deep at the same time. Gang-showers in the sixth grade were an occasion for social trauma. No other boy had had an adult man’s body.

Strangers, not knowing my biological history, would couple my appearance with my grade level and deduce that i had been held back several grades.

Facial hair was prohibited in the school district. I was very tired of shaving by the end of high school, and so I stopped the day after graduation. My beardedness dates from the early summer of 1965.

Had I entered the Navy instead of the Marine Corps, I could have kept my beard. The Marines mandated clean shaven inductees, but they permitted mustaches once out of training. So, photos of me while in Viet Nam show me sporting a bushy handle-bar. Once out of the Corps, the rest of the beard returned.

My wife has never (until last year) seen me sans beard. My children also. I have a photo-book from Marine Boot Camp with several photos of me without a beard. My children - at first attempt - could never pick me out of any of the photos, even ones where I was the solitary figure.

Why did I wear facial hair? It had nothing to do with the Christian faith (not overtly, anyway), as I was not a Christian until after the Corps. So far as I can recall, I was the only student in a 400-member seminary student body with any facial hair at all. In general, the beard seems to have added about a decade to what others supposed to be my true age. It always made me look older, that is. And, perhaps this was a factor.

Mom used to tease me about the beard. I don’t recall any girls doing that, or guys either. Nor do I recall Christian women of any age doing so (as Pr. Tim recalls, for example). My head hair was always kept short, usually very short; so, nothing about my appearance listed in the direction of hippy hirsute fashion.

My beard was usually kept short - thick, covering the skin, but otherwise close to the face and head. That changed as I grew older and my body became more corpulent and my beard began to turn white. The more I began to resemble Santa, the longer I let the bear grow, until the effect was complete enough that I was snagging Santa jobs with no need for an artificial beard or wig.

The bout of lymphoma last year pretty well wrecked my beard. The chemo caused it all to fall out, but a lot of that returned. But, the radiation into my neck, diffracted into many directions by various bits of metal in my mouth, fried bald spots onto my cheeks. Today, I’m left with a passable Van Dyke, and I’m back to shaving the ruined remnants of my beard on my cheeks and neck. Maybe in the Resurrection it’ll all be restored?

The theological/spiritual dimensions of masculine facial hair is something I have opinions about, but I’ll reserve them for later, depending on which way the discussion tracks. The trouble with my opinions is this: if they cohere with The Truth, then there are implications in other areas of Christian doctrine and piety that have nothing to do with beards, nothing to do with hair at all.

So, I want to be cautious where I put down a foot, lest I tread on toes made tender by footwear that constrains them in ways that mine are free to wiggle without a care.

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Since @Fr_Bill brought up his radiation experience, I’ll add my own tale of woe. My nascent dreams of bearded glory were clipped short in my 16th year, just as the first shoots of promise began to appear (no early bloomer, I). A cancerous tumor in my salivary gland led to surgery and radiation. The bull’s-eye was painted right on my left jaw-line. A field of follicles was laid waste.

On the bright side, here I am 20 years later and only shaving twice a week, whether I need it or not. Mostly the stunted stragglers on the right side and chin. At this rate I might be able to try for a species of goatee by the time I’m 70 or 80. Until then, I mustache those of you of pileous visage to bear patiently with your bare-faced brethren.

Love this discussion. Carry-on.

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I’ve never been bearded for any length of time until this past month. It doesn’t come in very full and, to my surprise, is almost fully grey (I’m 43). This past deer hunting season, as many men around these parts do, I let my beard grow out for about a month. It was striking to me how many women felt comfortable speaking about their dislike of it to me.

After a month it was itching like mad, my wife really didn’t like it (because of how grey it was it made me age a couple of decades) and so I shaved it.

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I’ve always been blessed with side burns and in High School I wore 'em near to my jaw line. I didn’t think much of it until I got a job at the grocery store. Rules were no facial hair below the ear lobes. “And mess with my 'burns?” thought I, and lo! rebellion was in full swing.

I’d trim 'em up, but by-gum I’d keep 'em a half inch, at least, below the ears. Every day I got away with it was a victory. Shoot, maybe more of a victory when the boss made mention of it. But that was my first realization (more felt than understood) that facial hair communicated something.

The day I left that job I started growing a ‘beard’. In High School it was a Shaggy-esque tuft of chin fur. And I wore that, off and on, mostly on, until I got married at the ripe old age of 21. No beard for the wedding (the 'burns remained), but soon after we were hitched the beard kicked into full gear. I remember the first time I shaved it clean my eldest (then a baby) didn’t recognize me. I didn’t shave clean again until the second baby and I only did it to see him just as confused as his sister was. I haven’t shaved clean since then.

Funny thing is that when you sport a beard for so long, you can spot the trends. There was a time when nearly everyone I knew or came into contact with was clean shaven and I was the lone beard crying out in (and looking as if I lived in) the wilderness. But now seemingly every other man I see has a beard twice as long as my own. And I’m glad for it.

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I for one would love to read those thoughts, and if the conversation expands, so be it. We can always split the topic if necessary. Or if you prefer, you can start a topic in Hrothgar’s Hall.

I had both positive and negative comments. I laughed and pitted them against each other. :slight_smile:

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Hear, hear!

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That’s three!

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The generational divide on beard like/dislike is very real. When I worked in a nursing home, I regularly had elderly ladies tell me they didn’t like my beard.

This is a very important factor for me, but my problem sounds like the opposite of yours. I look very young without a beard and having one protects my dignity. When I shaved entirely a few Summers back, I saw myself in the mirror and burst out laughing. Then my wife walked into the bathroom and burst out laughing. I decided to grow it back ASAP. Now it’s important since I’m going to start rotations in the Spring. I don’t want to walk into the room to start a medical interview and have patients ask, “Where are your parents?”

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I think Pr. Bayly will himself offer some nascent thoughts about the spiritual significance of facial hair in men. Indeed, he’s already begun to do so. But, I sense there’s more percolating below the surface, soon to emerge.

I’ll await his further thoughts in this area.

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Dear Bill,

No, please write yourself. I’m waiting with braided beard.

Love,

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That’s metal.

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Being active duty military I am not allowed to grow a beard, which makes taking leave even sweeter since I get more than two days off from shaving.

I’ve never had longer than three weeks to grow a beard, but even then my wife loves it and, like others mentioned concerning themselves, it helps me to look older. I look about 17 without a beard and 35 with one.

This November I tried the mustache on for size to participate in a mustache growing contest at work. I actually really digged it and received a number of good comments. My wife wasn’t feeling it though so it is gone - but I am thinking of testing the limits this Christmas and letting it make a come back.

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I consider my beard a Spurgeon Jr. :slight_smile:

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