The Curse of the Big Bad Beard

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The Curse of the Big Bad Beard

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very man, at some point in his life, has felt the call of the beard. It begins during the most tumultuous period, the onset of puberty. A row of wispy hair, resembling a permanent smear of dirt, takes up residence on your upper lip, and suddenly your sideburns seem to be descending lower and lower every time you get a haircut. Then come the long-drawn spells of contemplation in front of the bathroom mirror, where you inspect your jawline for new growth and dream of beards to come.

The beard is to men what the hairdo is to women. Leaving aside the man-bun and the undercut-sporting hipsters of the urban metropolis, haircuts for men usually come in two varieties: the scraggly, unkempt Jesus do, and the closely cropped, no-fuss haircut. No bangs, fringes, perms, and extensions for us. Instead, what we have is our beards. I might have taken the delusions of bearded grandeur too far while growing up – the photos on each of my school ID cards have different styles of facial hair doodled on them in ball-pen ink.

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In retrospect though, I don’t blame the schoolboy me. My grandfather, father, and uncles have all sported fierce Rajput handlebar moochis. “Yeh humaari pehchaan hai,” my uncle would say to me, giving his mooch a twirl with both hands. Even my teen idols were proud owners of the amazing fuzz – from the rock-and-roll mutton chops of Motörhead’s frontman, Lemmy, to the no-nonsense, anti-authority goatee of WWF’s Stone Cold Steve Austin. One of the first Google searches I ever made was to see portraits from the World Beard and Moustache Championships. I couldn’t wait to join this league of extraordinarily hairy gentlemen.

So I greeted the first few hairs on my chin like they were Santa Claus coming to town. Every week, I feverishly traced how many more square centimetres of my face had come under my burgeoning beard. In my enthusiasm, I made a novice mistake. I thought that beards were all about quantity over quality, and decided to let mine sprout unhindered by any razors or scissors.

A very important thing that every beard proprietor needs to remember is that having a big beard is not an achievement. If your scraggly chin curtain is a source of pride for you, then please also start taking pride in your morning dump and start posting #PoopGoals on your Instagram feed. Jokes apart, your beard grows a few millimetres every day. It is simple biology, something as mundane as the sun rising every morning.

By the time I left school and reached college, I measured myself against other guys using the thickness of their beard as a yardstick.

Of course, if everyone can do it, that doesn’t mean everyone should. That’s a news bulletin that never reached the general public – look out at the street and you will see a sea of bearded clones. The untamed, bushy beard has become so popular that corporate offices now resemble a caveman convention.

Being a beard greenhorn, this is not knowledge that I possessed at the time. By the time I left school and reached college, I measured myself against other guys using the thickness of their beard as a yardstick. I was jealous of the dudes who could grow a full beard with no fallow patches, and looked down on the Justin Bieber clones, who were desperately trying to make the baby-face look work, even as they crept closer to the age of 20.

Thankfully, my testosterone glands did not fail me, and by time I was 20, I sported a growth on my face that even the legendary pirate Blackbeard would have appreciated. I took care of the beard like it was a beloved pet. I bought special nourishing oils for it, rinsed it with shampoo every day, and derived great pleasure from stroking it and feeling wise. Here it was, the beard that I had been dreaming of since school, in all its glory.

Careful what you wish for, kid.

The daily upkeep of the beard went from being a labour of love to a pain in my ass. Where it was once a source of pride to step out with each hair of my beard in place, the same fastidiousness didn’t serve me when I was running late for dates. Even on the dates that I managed to be on time for, Brutus, the Beard, was there to stab me in the back. I’ve had girls get up and leave the table because they couldn’t handle the sight of shredded tuna and mayonnaise dangling from the end of my goatee, and I don’t blame them.

Even when they aren’t demanding your complete attention, or stealing food from your plate and tasting everything you’re drinking by taking a dip in the glass before your lips can get there, beards are actively working to reduce the quality of your life. They have an uncanny ability to attract a very specific type of girl. Let’s call her the Platonic Pogonophile. This poor girl has suffered some damage at an early juncture in her life because she continually confuses your beard with a puppy and pets it, with or without your consent. She cares not for your personality, or even your looks. She just wants to get her hands on the B, and will forget about you once she’s had her fill.

The last straw for me came on the occasion of my birthday. That’s the one day I had the time to groom myself properly, and I arrived at the party looking pretty sharp, if I may say so myself. Sadly, no one got the opportunity to bask in my radiance for long because I was welcomed with the traditional cake to the face. With a face full of Black Forest, I rushed to the washroom for some damage control.

I found myself in the same position I was in when in school. Staring into the bathroom mirror, scrutinising my jawline, and reflecting on the state of my beard. Only this time, my views were diametrically opposed to the ones I held as a teenager. I desperately wanted to secede from the tribe of clueless beardos, but I hadn’t found the right tool to make my escape. And then, in a serendipitous moment, I clapped eyes on a brand-new red Gillette razor in the bathroom cabinet. Ten minutes later, I was back at the party with just a smart handlebar moustache in place of the Hagrid cosplay I was attempting earlier.

The cool night breeze on my freshly shaved face felt like the breath of angels. Right then, I knew I had I had achieved moksha. I had finally broken the curse of the beard.

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