New Haven’s magnolia trees blossom.
Under these aesthetic petals, a friend and I eat lunch. The sudden heat of spring invites rosy talk of summer. Time away will cultivate growth. Literally.
I notice his five o’clock shadow. I ask for his plan. “This?” He laughs. “I just didn’t shave today. But I’m thinking about growing it out.” He is not the first to entertain the idea. I suspect that many first-year boys will return as sophomore men.
The college beard entices prospective wearers with its perks. But he who considers it must know the consequences before he sheathes his razor. Here I lay both bare. Literally.
Growing it out
The intermediate value theorem tells us that you cannot metamorphose from clean shaven to bearded without a middle stage. For some it looks good. For others it passes quickly. For many it is a trial not for the faint of heart.
“The beard is rough to grow in college,” another friend reviews. “You have to get through that rough middle period in public.”
Here the dangers are numerous. Unevenness. Patchiness. That time with just the mustache and sideburns. Aversion to the middle stage is the most common justification that I have heard from the clean shaven. But note the qualification: “in public.”
If the middle stage puts you off, you can grow it out over a break. Winter or spring for the particularly pilarly inclined. Else summer. Hopefully your internship director does not care.
Breaks are also perfect opportunities for experimentation. If you have yet to consider a beard or want to try a new style, go for it! You may be pleasantly surprised — but you also have plenty of time to shave.
How devious are you? Looking older unlocks a treasure trove of potential for the college man. I know what you are thinking, and yes — you can buy R-rated movie tickets without ID because you look over 25. Facial hair will not prompt anyone to ask for your AARP number. But I could easily overestimate any bearded friend’s age by a few years.
The Yale Law School’s Lillian Goldman Law Library is a beautiful study space. After nearly a year of habitual entry, I have only recently learned that it is not open to the wider Yale community on weekends. Oops. No one ever accosted me as an undercover undergraduate. I have to think that the beard assisted. On an unrelated note, I hear that the restricted McDougal Graduate Student Center has the nicest little common room and coffee lounge.
Then there is the obvious one. I do not advocate for underage drinking. But just to have the wine list offered to you at a fancy restaurant is a real power move for your next date. Not that I could actually pronounce “Châteauneuf-du-Pape” anyway.
The quest to find any new barber is difficult. The quest to find any that does beards, especially so. Because you have to shave your neck and above the cheeks daily anyway, most bearded friends — and myself — have opted to trim it themselves.
The trim itself is fine. Sure I butcher the jawline like every other day. The real cost is the time. Bearded friends average maybe half an hour per morning on upkeep. Those three or four hours per week are enough time for another extracurricular. This one does not get on your C.V.
Then there are the little things. You have to buy a trimmer. You have to crane your neck to get behind the sideburns. Your suitemate adorably gifts you beard oil for your birthday, but you misuse it and apply far too much. The usual.
Protection against the cold
New to New Haven, at least for this Californian boy. Coats cover your torso. Gloves cover your hands. They even offer pants and socks with extra insulation. For your face there is… nothing. Until now.
Unless you are the most requested artist for Spring Fling, you have probably not felt the top of your head in a New England snowstorm. So it is with your face, if you have a beard. You could wear a mask. But that is another thing to wash or trash.
You do not need much hair either. My beard is not particularly full, yet it protected my face against December’s onslaught of winter snowflakes. Have it protect you against enough of them, and you get a Santa costume too. Very thematically appropriate.
At last, you have made it. No more unevenness. No more patchiness. No more time with just the mustache and sideburns. Yet here, too, the dangers are numerous.
I ask another bearded friend for comment:
“I have martyred my dignity for my beard — my grandma makes sure to remind me every day that it makes me look homeless, that no one will ever marry me like this. Thus, my beard is an act of rebellion: ‘beauty, no doubt, does not make revolutions. But a day will come when revolutions will have need of beauty.’ – Albert Camus”
Inspiring. My pros and cons notwithstanding, beards are subjective. You may like yours. You may not. But the formalities of yesteryear should not dictate one’s face. As many others notice and prefer a beard as prefer a clean shave. Most probably do not care. Here beauty is not in the eye of the beholder.
It is on the chin of the beheld.