By E. Max Bonem, Esq.
As you might have heard, I was forced to perform one of my least favorite man-related tasks this past week by shaving off my beard. To many (actually most for that matter), this seems like no big deal, especially to those who shave on a daily basis, but let me tell you, going from grizzled man of the urban wilderness to Mr. Sweet 16 is not something to be taken lightly.
I went more than five months without shaving my face completely (note – when I say “shave completely,” I don’t mean with a straight razor down to the skin. 1/8 of an inch is about as “clean” as I’ll go, meaning that for the first few days post-shave, I look as though I’ve been on a week long bender) and since accidentally taking a chunk out of my beard on Wednesday, I’ve felt lost, significantly more self-conscious, and frankly empty. As my dear ass-hat of a roommate explained upon seeing me beardless for the first time in our friendship, “Holy shit man! You look six years younger and 60 pounds heavier!” Thanks bud.
You see, unlike most 24-year old guys that I know (minus just about every one that lives east of I-35 in Austin), I don’t see the value in a clean face, or as Sam Beam aka Mr. Iron & Wine put it after being asked about his MONOLITHIC beard for the one gazillionth time, “What’s fascinating about facial hair? It’s more fascinating that people shave it off every day.” Many “professionals” believe that facial hair makes people appear less trustworthy or possibly even malicious. I think beards just make people look awesome or if you’re pushing 60, like Santa Claus/Rip Van Winkle/Father Time (take your pick).
Since shaving a few days ago though, I’ve begun to think about how having a beard can change one’s own psyche and the ways in which you’re viewed by others after going from bear to bare. So with that in mind, let’s look at life with a beard vs. one sans-beard.
Chatting up fellow bikers at red lights
Grizzly: Hey dude, sweet Orbea! The Spaniards are always kicking ass with those during the Tour. Is that an 11 speed? Sweet man. Yeah I got my bike off Craigslist. It sort of looks like something Ronald McDonald would whip around in, but it’s whatevs. Anyway, have a good ride, keep your eyes open since you know car drivers aren’t (cue mutual laughter, a high five and recognition of knowledge).
Clean Shaven: It’s pretty hot out here… Who knew? Yeah I bought road biking shoes, but mountain biking pedals. Why? Uh, because someone told me to and I did absolutely no research to double-check their suggestion. At least they match m’bike! (Cue attempting to take off after the light goes green and falling after not being able to clip shoes onto pedals)
Ordering a drink
Grizzly: Do I want this complimentary bottle of Maker’s? Well, yes, yes I would. Thanks late-era Jim Morrison.
Clean Shaven: Can I get a gin’n’tonic? No, a Gin and Tonic! G-I-N A-N-D T-O-N-I-C. No, I do not want this previously opened bottle of Bud Light Platinum, who the f*ck do you think I am?
Talking to a girl
Grizzly: Hi, I’m Max, would you care to do unspeakable things to me atop that tree over there? Oh, you would? That’s fantastic! Bring your friends too? Sure, I guess I can support that suggestion.
Clean Shaven: Dude, I think that girl just looked at me. No seriously though, I think she gave me the up-down and then might have half-smiled at me. Nah I’m not gonna go talk to her, let me just indirectly stare at her for the next two hours and hope that she makes eye contact with me and just comes over so I don’t have to put in any effort. Let me just get like five more of these Bud Light Platinums in me and I’ll be fucking golden (Immediately falls off bar stool).
Taking the last bag of Baked Cheddar & Sour Cream Ruffles from the kitchen
Grizzly: Oh I’m so sorry 8-months pregnant woman who I work with! You can totally have these. When are you due? No way! I can barely even tell. Do you know the sex? Oh, well boys can be trouble, let me tell you. This one time when I was 8, I wrestled this Papa Bear atop Mt. Rushmore until he eventually tapped out after I put ‘em in a sleeper hold. No biggie though. Oh, you were so touched by my flattery and epic story telling that you want to name your unborn son after me? Well, may I make a suggestion? Max is a great, strong first name, but I think you should go all-out patriotic with his middle name. I know you want to carry out the memory of your recently deceased Vietnam Veteran/Juvenile Cancer-curing father, but rather than giving your son the name “Maxwell Neville,” I think you just go simple, “Max America.” It has an epic ring to it, much like my innate ability to dog whistle.
Clean Shaven: MY PRECIOUS!
Swimming at Barton Springs
Grizzly: Damn, the last 17 miles of this swim have been a bit rough compared to the previous 41. it’s good Poseidon let me borrow his trident or else the sea monsters that call this-here spring home might’ve feasted upon the completely of-age fair madens that have been parading around in, dare I say, skimpy swim attire all day. Don’t you fear ladies, the power of the gods is with us.
Clean Shaven: I’m (gasp) So (grunt) Tired (accidentally swallows some water). Holy shit this is terrible, how far have I gone? (Looks back to see he’s within 50 feet of his starting position) Fuck the world! Well at least the water’s warmer than normal (makes eye contact with a very guilty looking, plump boy between the ages of 8 and 11). Just give me another Platinum (begins to cry and vomit simultaneously).