It's not just because I am on Scruff. It's not just because, spending much time in Asia, I sometimes get a craving for thick chest hair. It's a genuinely objective observation: Beards are back in fashion around the world. I've been to 18 countries in the last year, and everywhere I see hair sprouting on boyish cheeks.
There was hardly a beardless hunk at the big London dance party I went to in December. At the universities where I teach, young men are growing mustaches, goatees, full beards and every conceivable creation in between. The new computer game that my boyfriend is playing features seven avatars with facial hair out of a total of 10 avatars! Beards are the new tattoos. Beards are statements.
To be sure, beards have gone through many fashions. Just think of the handlebar mustaches of the 19th century, the clone look of the 1970s or the permanent growth fancied by the bear community. But I think this time is different.
I know you've heard that before, especially if you are a stock market investor. But even my broker, who is a mere 28 and a beautiful twink, is running around with stubble -- beautifully groomed, yes, but a beard nonetheless. It is different this time.
So here is my theory: Beards are a cultural response to the feminization of the world. I've written a lot about feminization and how much I love it (and dislike the term itself). Feminine values make for a better world, a world of dialog and a world without war.
Feminization pushes men toward a cultural masculinity. Suddenly, donning an apron and doing the dishes, pushing the pram and changing diapers, being sensible and sensitive to other people's needs and favoring dialog over the clenched fist are a sign of a responsible, grownup male. Fists and guns are for wimps. Real men discuss and analyze.
So what does the culturally masculine but somehow now de-virilized man do in response? He grows a beard.
Beards and muscles are so popular because men use them as symbols to assert the vestiges of the tribal masculinity that once allowed us to bludgeon our neighbors and rape the other tribe's women. It is sublimated masculinity, expressed in beautiful shapes and lines. Ingrown hair? The better! Suffering pain is also a sign of masculinity.
No, I am not entirely serious. Of course not. But the proliferation of facial adornments (much like bulging muscles) are startling. They are men's high heels; they are our way of saying, "Yes, I do the dishes; yes, I change diapers; yes, I prefer dialog over war mongering; but I am still a man."
And in that sense, they are most, most welcome. I'd rather have a society full of bearded diaper changers than a society of clean-shaven war heroes. It is no coincidence that some of the worst regimes in history -- the Nazis, the Italian fascists, etc. -- prescribed beards. It is no coincidence that most powerful men in politics and church are clean-shaven.
You can wear your violent male traits in your heart, or you can display them on your face. I prefer the latter. I am entirely in favor of bearded, gentle giants.
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