The Big White Beard
When I have a beard in the past it has generally meant one thing: I was depressed, and no longer had the energy or inclination to participate in self-care or self-grooming. My shaggy depression beard was an external manifestation of the profound emotional funk I felt inside. When people would compliment me on my beard, which, honestly, happened very infrequently, I was always tempted to respond, “Really? Wow. That is very kind of you to say, considering that the only reason I have a beard is because I have lost the will to live, let alone shave regularly.”
My depression beard was partially a sign of having given up on at least some crucial aspects of life, partially the product of gloomy apathy and partially a silent cry for help.
I have a big old beard now and I am pleased to report that for once it is not a distressing symbol of existential ennui or world-weary exhaustion. No, I have a beard now because my wife thinks I look good with one.
I’ve grown beards before but I always shaved them off at a certain point because they became itchy and uncomfortable. Then I realized that I can just shave around my lips and suddenly my big beard isn't so itchy or scratchy or uncomfortable.
Here’s the thing about my beard: it is white as fuck. Snow white. I mean, sure, there’s some black in it but for the most part it’s as white as you would imagine God’s beard would be.
My wife thinks I look best with a closely shaved head and a beard. These are both looks that make a statement. That statement is “I am old.”
That is generally not a statement folks want to make, even if they are old. Heck, that’s a statement they particularly do not want to make if they are old. Instead, most folks do whatever they can to make themselves look as young and vibrant as possible.
That’s why people dye their hair black once it starts to go gray. That’s why people wear toupees or get hair implants or transplants. The whole cosmetic industry is predicated on people wanting to look substantially younger than they are, even if they’re only in their mid twenties. The same is true of cosmetic surgery.
Then again, as with pretty much everything, women have it infinitely harder than men do. It’s a whole lot easier for a 42 year old married straight white man like myself, who is seemingly never judged on the basis of his looks, to make like Mr. Natural and embrace signs of aging like grey hair and baldness as healthy and normal than it is for women who are judged by their looks every day, in an inconceivably vast number of different ways. I have the luxury of not having to care about how I look or how I might seem. Many people, particularly women, do not. I wish that was not the case but society hasn’t exactly been making a lot of progress on that front, beyond more and more men being unhealthily obsessed with their appearance due to ever-mounting cultural pressure as well.
I’ve come to like the way I look with a big gray beard because it makes me look old and wizened, like an old testament prophet or Civil War general. I no longer feel the need to try to look younger than I am. Of course it helps that I started to go bald in my mid-twenties, so I no longer even really remember what it’s like to look in the mirror and see a thick head of black hair, instead of the curious follicular patterns of the prematurely bald. I’ve had a lot of time to come to terms with being bald and having grey hair and being old.
You can fight aging or you can accept it. I stopped fighting it long ago. Now I’ve started to embrace it. I’ve got the kind of big white beard that is associated with both wisdom and insanity, which seems fitting, since I’ve been around long enough to have attained my share of each.
I make my living largely through crowd-funding and sure aren’t getting any younger, so if you would be kind enough to consider pledging even a single dollar over at https://www.patreon.com/nathanrabinshappyplace it’d be