The Beard StoryShilpa Godbole
“What kind of bread?” asked the guy behind the sandwich counter. Displaying concentration of deliberating over the choice, I said “white”. My mind was already made-up. You see, for somebody who is on a diet, the act of deliberating over a meal on a cheat meal day is as intoxicating as listening to your crush tell you things you already know, but you don’t mind acting like you are hearing it for the first time. On cheat meal days, my crush is food. So, I smile and nod at my success of presenting deliberation and wait for my date to be plated up.
If you have been on a romantic date you would also know the feeling that starts creeping up upon you when you know that things aren’t going exactly as planned and that you are heading for a fall. The same sorta premonition crept up on me when noticed the sandwich guy. His hands were hygienically gloved, head covered in a shower cap like thing, measures to keep hair getting into the food but, but, there was the stache and a rather longish stubble that literally was hovering over my food.Turn off! Hello, wasn’t Movember and all the glory of not shaving, done with already? It’s September for heaven’s sake! but I look around me and see most men with beards and mustaches in different styles. Male facial hair has taken firm roots in the calendar, the months of the year can be renamed as, Manuary, Manbruary, March, Mapril, May, Mane, Muly, Mogust, Moptember, Moctober, Movember, Mecember.
Last week I was on parent pick-up duty for science project. I enjoy driving my kids around especially when they have company of their friends, It gives me an unique opportunity to listen in on the back-seat conversations, I pretend to look in the rear view mirror for traffic but secretly notice their secret eye contact jokes. On Tuesday afternoon while we were on the road, the air in my car thick with teenage talk and teenage smell, the latter being rather strong which had me occasionally swing my head out of the window to gasp for fresh air. Thankfully the boys took no notice of my intolerance were discussing how unfair their school is in hair hygiene department, “I can’t wait to get out of school to grow my hair into a man-bun” said one “and a swag beard to go with it” added the other boy. When I was in 9th grade I couldn’t wait to get out of school, because my mom had told me that I could get rid of my upper lip hair only and only after I finish school. It took a considerable strength on my part to not turn my head and let my panic show.
Maybe some of you are genuinely disinterested in this whole chunk of beard talk but I must admit that as a woman and a mother of a teenage boy, it genuinely concerns me that facial hair has acquired the “it” accessory status for men. I want to be above such superficial interests, I want to be having a opinion about the merits/ demerits of Demonetization, about the state of the world, not about smelly (?) unkempt beards.
It used to be that only the certain kind of men grew beard, the seriously strong kind or the ones whose heart was broken, the ‘Devdas’ kind, it used to be easy to put them in a box, then came the 'bearded terrorist’ look that should have been a signal for the beard action to recede. I don’t know if women would choose to have an accessory which brought with itself an extra hour or so at the airport security questioning. And lastly what do all the baba’s who are currently cooling their heels behind bars have in common? That’s right, the beard. It’s a calling card or sorts to say that “I am hiding under this fuzz a whole bunch of fraudulent acts”.
I don’t want to hurt the feelings of men who think letting your facial hair grow as and when you want is a sign of liberation but guys, imagine if us ladies got around to letting our staches and chin fuzz grow, like back when body hair was considered a natural body temperature insulator, when men went out to hunt and the ladies stayed inside the cave? That won’t look cool at all, right? It’s telling that us ladies have gotten around to keeping our hair off the public viewing areas and yet manage to show our stance on strength, feminism, and other outwardly symbols of female machoism and here you all are, still dabbling into if growing whiskers is a sign of masculinity or not.
For many of us women, machoism is best represented in a strong gaze, it is preserved in humor, stacked up in charm, and if there is something to be said on “growing” anything that the ladies find alluring in long run, it if not your beard, it is your bank-balance. So, stick to the script, stand-up for all the valiant Movember endeavor if you must but please leave the rest of the months alone, reach for the razor, come out into the light and show us your face.