Dazed & confused: A critical look at our pop life

So what if my face is a little colder than yours? I’ll admit it: I’m a little jealous.

So what if my face is a little colder than yours? I’ll admit it: I’m a little jealous.

You have a beard and your face is warm. Mine is bare and frigid. When I shave every other day, it is not to stave off the look of Vikings, but rather to halt the forgetful grime of pubescent 13-year-olds. I don’t have the willpower to grow a beard, to walk that epic months-long slope from disheveled to rangy to homeless to manly.
But I really want to.

Why? Not sure. I guess it’s the cool thing to do, which is the worst, yet most assuredly common, reason for doing all sorts of “things.” It’s just that beards are in.

Look at our new wave of folk rockers: bearded, almost all of them. In this town, a beard is a sign of certain type of cachet. It says, “I look lazy, but possibly I’m not!” I want that type of freedom. Instead, I am stuck in Squaresville.

One of my current favorite weirdo beardos is Zach Galifianakis. He pretty much sums up the reason for the full beard’s current resurgence. The characters he plays are almost always at a weird crossroad of stereotypical manliness. Consider his current work in the HBO show, Bored to Death.

He’s inept, unsure and desperately seeking to project an image of just the opposite. Hence the beard. It’s an outward sign of what he thinks a man should be.

It doesn’t take a genius to see that our generation—let’s say, between the ages of 18 and 35—is defining its gender roles in a largely unique way. Men are often good friends with women, there’s less emphasis on tradition and there is more openness to non-binary gender ideals. But this, too, is confusing and imperfect. As we’re changing our deeds and our actions, we’re responding in kind with big, bushy facial hair, even if we don’t put that together in our minds.

One would argue that, in Oregon, part of the reason for beards comes from tradition. We are, after all, descended from mountain men, pillagers of the earth and takers of timber. You know, masculine dudes.

But I reject this connection as little more than flimflam for the weak-willed. Growing a beard is not about history (unless you partake in Civil War reenactments), but rather about wanting to look a certain way. Beards made sense back then: It was cold, rainy and there was no heat. Things leaked a lot more. Having a built-in scarf would’ve come in handy.

Today, it’s a matter of aesthetic and masculine confusion. Example? The squeak ‘n’ bristle, or when men lacking masculine locks on their heads decide to grow hair on their faces. This is a look I can get behind, as it is a literal evening out of fate’s punitive fury.

And if anything needs a little evening out, like frosting on a cake, it is definitely fate’s punitive fury.

But back to me and my beard envy. In my inelegant world, it means I am confused about my masculinity. To be clear, I don’t think it’s that simple. I think our move towards beard growing, as a culture, is generally indicative of gender-role confusion. But sometimes it’s nothing more than someone wanting to look just a little bit strange to themselves.

I want to grow a beard. But I can’t. And that’s less confusing than it seems.