There’s something on your face…

Beard Okanagan Writer Silver Star manly manliness growing a beard
Hanging in the chairlift at Silver Star Mountain near Vernon, a true ‘mountain man’

There comes a time in every man’s life when he must transition from boyhood to manhood. A time when he is whiskered away into a future fuelled by testosterone. A period in which he endures irritating growing pains; a hair-raising experience. You could even describe it as a spiritual journey — a soul patch.

If you haven’t yet guessed, I’m talking about the act of growing a beard. It’s a manly ritual I’ve recently suffered through.

I’ve never had an easy time growing beards. In my work life, I usually go through a two-year itch, where I desperately feel the need to simply move on to the next career challenge. In my beard-growing experience, I often give in to something similar. It’s a two-week itch, the most awful portion of time when I spend my nights violently scratching my face and my days resisting the urge to stop at the nearest store to buy a razor and dry-shave in my car.

This time though, I was compelled to persist. If I give up, I’d be reduced to a five o’clock shadow of a man.

I’ll admit that at first I was uncertain about the idea, but it has definitely grown on me.

Early on, I was encouraged in my decision when a random woman in a bar overheard my conversation about growing a beard and exclaimed, “Beards are SO in right now!” I guess some people just like big beards and cannot lie.

However, not being happy to only take her word for it, I turned to the Internet to find more encouragement to grow a manly mane.

Here’s what I found:

  • Beards are sexy: Studies have found that men with beards are generally perceived as more attractive, more masculine and healthier looking.
  • Beards are stylish: I’m in good company with celebrity men — Johnny Depp, Drake, Chris Pratt, Hugh Jackman, Ben Affleck, Brad Pitt, Kit Harington, George Clooney and Donald Glover have all had beards. The list goes on.
  • Beards can help science: Researchers have recently discovered the bacteria found in beards has antibiotic properties, and may lead to the discovery of new antibiotics.
  • Beards make excellent winter wear: A downy beard can protect you from windburn and keep your face warm and safe from the elements.
  • Beards are spiritual: From prophets to saints, gurus to yogis, poets to philosophers, some of the most spiritually in-tune men ever to walk the Earth stroked their beards in contemplation of the universe.

Sadly, the feedback on growing a beard hasn’t been all positive.

I was one of the first kids in school to grow facial hair. I had a little peach fuzz mustache that became noticeable near the end of elementary school.

“What’s that on your face?” came the first innocent question. Followed closely by the smart-aleck comment “Why don’t you get a cat to lick it off?” It was probably uttered by some kid actually named Aleck who likely stole the cliché line from some outdated joke book.

The first time I truly tried to grow a beard was in college. It was a scraggly thing and I ended up looking more like Grizzly Adams than Brad Pitt. I inherited the nickname Mountain Man. Yeah that went over great with the ladies.

Thankfully, I’ve since learned how to properly groom myself.

More recently, there have been a few facial hair haters out there who have given me the gears for sullying my smooth baby face with a sprinkling of salt and pepper.

Why bother? they ask.

Beards are gross, they balk.

They criticize beards as a catch-all for crumbs, unwelcomingly rough and scratchy to the touch, and even downright creepy looking.

One of the lessons I’ve learned in life is that it’s impossible to please everyone. So to those who are downers on beards, I say make like a hair trimmer and buzz off.

Frankly, the case is pretty solid that beards are awesome.

They’re sexy, manly, spiritual and useful.

If you’re not yet convinced, look to the great Canadian symbol of manliness: the lumberjack. Can you even picture one without a beard? In fact, my plan this weekend is simple: I’m going to buy an axe and chop down a tree. Just for fun.

Bonus: What do you call a man who shaves 10 times a day and still retains a fulsome beard? A barber.

Note: This is the speech I delivered for project 2 on the Toastmasters Competent Communication manual — organize your speech.

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