I came across a website that is not really pretty but was captivating just the same. I ended up on http://www.beards.org. I was looking up goatees online deciding whether or not to get rid of mine. Since before Halloween I have had a goatee (just on the chin right now) and for much longer than that I have had a soul patch. I was looking at other goatees because I don't self identify with facial hair. I find it a little annoying most of the time. It doesn't itch or anything, but it is just that my self-image, how I imagine myself, is me with a clean shaven face.
So, the part that was most interesting to me is that every featured beard is presented with a long interview of the person wearing it. I particularly enjoyed the section about Michael, a man in his late fifties who has had a beard for the greater part of four decades now.
Here are some of his "random thoughts and observations on his bearded life" and in parentheses are some of my comments:
- When I see myself in a dream, I don't have a beard.
(This is from a guy who has had a beard for forty years? What does he see then? How else is he different in his dreams? Me, I am the same asleep as I am awake. What about you?)
- Most women I know don't like my beard.
- All the men I know really like my beard.
(I don't know what women think about beards or anything else but I can say that to a point beards are okay by me. But then there is that other point where I begin to think of you (bearded fellow) as a creepy homeless person.)
- If it's going to be a cold winter, my beard starts getting thicker in the fall.
- Underneath my beard, I have a short sub-beard of blonde hair.
(And you are sure you are not some sort of animal under that thing?)
- On many occasions throughout the years, while walking through the city, homeless people have called out to me saying, "Hey, Mister, you have a great beard!"
(He seems to share this thought with some sort of pride, which is confusing to me. If it were me at this point, after the first or possibly the second time this happens, I rush home and shave. I mean think about it, what if the homeless community (can you call the homeless a community?) starts complimenting you on other things... is this really the crowd you want to be 'in' with?)
- More times than not, I find that people react to me as a "man with a beard" and not as "just a person". When they get to know me better, they go through a lot of "re-thinking" of who I am.
(How much re-thinking could they really do? I mean if I carried a squirrel around with me everywhere I went people would (should) think of me as a man with a squirrel. Getting to know me better would not lead to re-thinking; it would just confirm people's previous thinking. Hmm, now that I know you better, I KNOW that you are a man with a beard.... (Oh, and by the way, for those curious, I have been considering carrying a squirrel with me everywhere I go, you know, because in my universe it is either that or grow a full beard.))
- I've found beards to be visually and socially "loaded" in both a positive and negative way.
- One time in a Philadelphia art gallery, the owner came up to me and said that she had to run an errand and asked if I would please mind the place while she was gone. I replied that she never saw me before and I could be a disreputable person. Her response was, "You have a beard, you have to be nice." I ended up watching the gallery and taking phone calls for about an hour.
- A person's car had broken down on the highway and I stopped to help. They asked me to leave, saying that they didn't trust me because I had a beard.
(A normal response to a beard. HELLO - you look like a pirate!!!)
There were other thoughts. You can go to www.beards.org to read them for yourself.