Recently, I had a chance meeting with a friend on campus, and the brief conversation led her to comment on my budding growth of facial hair. When I mentioned that I was partaking in the (in)famous occasion of No-Shave November, she immediately gave a huff of dismissal — something I understand. Up until this year, I had never given it much thought, considering it to be a superficial display of masculine body chemistry: “Look what I can do!”
But on the morning of Nov. 1, I took a look at my two-day remnants and thought – hey, that’s not too shabby. Admittedly, I’ve always wanted to try a beard — full, but cleanly cropped. I suppose that’s my love of folk culture talking. My current experiment with a circle beard (encompassing the mouth and chin — think Kurt Cobain) was very-well received. Had the time finally come when more would be better? I put down my razor.
The episode with my friend was the first time someone had actually commented on sparse pencil lead dotting my cheek, and it got me to wonder how I could defend such a lackluster attempt.
The ability to grow facial hair is a rite of passage for men. To speak to biology, teenage boys glance into the mirror for years wondering when they’ll be able to sport the visual symbol of testosterone. Linguistically, we only have to look to the word itself — beard “growth” — to understand its desired effects.
In the social arena, the ever-prevalent media commonly correlates beards with manhood — think of all the masculine symbols in film (Aragorn, Tony Stark, the majority of male characters in “Game of Thrones” and “The Walking Dead”). Products aimed at exactly this idea — Just for Men beard dye comes to mind — also reinforce the idea while we watch targeted ads airing during football games. To be sure, not all symbols of masculinity carry facial hair, but the connection is undoubtedly there.
It is through this line of thinking (speaking nothing of the morality of them) that many college-age males seek to grow facial hair. The danger in everything, of course, is to risk and fail. The existence of No-Shave November trivializes the inherent uncertainty of testing out physical development. In any other month of the year, a guy might be put into the (admittedly rare) position to say “Oh, I’m trying to grow a beard out” — read: “I’m measuring my physical development.”
In November, we are allowed to put forth the simple excuse of arbitrarily not shaving. Our insecurities are protected by a veneer of masculinity. Silly? Yes. But effective. I’d rather my friend have dismissed me as temporarily machismo than in doubt. That’s what masculinity is, right?
UC Davis third-year