No, You May Not Touch My Testosterone


No, You May Not Touch My Testosterone

Illustration: Akshita Monga

In the last couple of years, I took a major fashion decision and inadvertently became a symbol of sorts for national integration. See, ever since I woke up one day and decided to stop shaving, which was about two years ago, I’ve managed to grow a pretty badass beard. Not those neatly trimmed odes to faux masculinity, but a full on, wild-man patch of facial fuzz. Since then, I’ve alternated between mumbling “Sat Sri Akal” and “Salam Alaikum” in return to greetings. (Weirdly, I have also been mistaken for a Mexican.) The answer has been right below my nose, literally.

I don’t mind being a poster boy for Hum Sab Ek Hai, but what I mind is how women have reacted to my beard. Some women called it sexy, but most called it sexist. I’ve been chided for it; some have requested, some have begged, and a few have even threatened me to shave or at least trim it. One chick asked, “Can I touch your testosterone?” My automated response to a question beginning with “can I touch” is, “Hell, yes!” But I checked my impulse and walked away with my beard untouched and dignity intact.

Sure there’s research that proves bearded men are sexist but the girl got me thinking. Why did I really join this movement to reclaim the lumberjack? Was it really a reaction to feminism?

The relationship between women and beards goes back in time. If historians are to be believed (and why shouldn’t they), men’s affinity to beards began to grow around the suffrage movement. There they were… all these women, occupying traditional male bastions like the street, making outrageous demands such as having the right to vote. A few decades later, the first-wave feminism rolled around and bras began to get burned.

I can imagine it now. Men, in their top hats, monocles, and with Victorian-era proclivity for subjugating women, gathered in their old boys’ clubs (with wondrous names like The Drones Club), stunned into a stoic English silence at the sight of all these burning bras. As they sipped their whiskies, they wondered what was to become of their hold over society. Women were slowly but surely winning, their world was about to change, who would save them? Who would stand up and fight the good fight for the slowly crumbling patriarchy?

Then he spoke, with a voice like booming thunder and the countenance of a bear, a man with a beard, who was earlier the laughing stock of the club for not shaving daily like the rest. “These women will not us spare, let us respond with facial hair!”

The gentlemen at The Drones Club agreed. Yes, they shouted, this could be the ultimate show of masculinity and good genetics. The rest, as they say, is history.

#Truestory. Or, maybe not.

My Tinder dates have lately begun to get on board with the beard. At least, none of them have testily requested “to touch my testosterone” again, so I take that as a good sign.

But in a world dominated by reactionary movements, the beard has become by far the greatest moment to reclaim masculinity (the next would be Dicks Out for Harambe) and got men super excited. So excited that they even created a movement famously called “Movember” to champion the cause of men’s health by not shaving for the entire month of November. Every November, some dude who has thrown away his razor on November 1 and Instagrammed the whole shebang with #Movember, would walk up to me and go, “Hey, are you observing Movember?” I would usually respond with, “Do I look like I stopped shaving yesterday?” if I was in a good mood, or “Yes, you oily douche, my two-year-old beard exists solely for Instagram in November, so that I can get rid of it in December,” if my disposition was a bit sunnier.

My Tinder dates have lately begun to get on board with the beard. At least, none of them have testily requested “to touch my testosterone” again, so I take that as a good sign. My beard and I are in a committed relationship and yes, whether it’s sexist or not, whether it was conceived in a session at The Drones Club or not, I can’t help but secretly feel a little macho, as it gains girth in its uninterrupted march toward my chest. No woman can ever know the joy of a beard flapping in the wind.

So, imagine my surprise, when on one of my internet binges, I came across a Sikh woman in the UK, who’d actually managed to grow a beard – not one of those Punjabi bebe-style overgrown sideburn thingies, but a nicely landscaped garden. My depression led me deeper into research. Turns out, there’s a bunch of women all around the world sporting beards, and slowly but surely, the idea of bearded beauties is gaining traction.

Man’s last claim to clear and absolute masculinity had poofed with the click of a mouse. I stroked my magnificent beard this morning and decided I shouldn’t be fucked with this whole masculinity vs femininity debate. My beard is my joy and while all you clean-shaven men and smooth-faced women try to brace life’s stormy weather, I will stand, against it, beard flapping gloriously in the wind.

I may not weather the storm, but I know it’ll make for a pretty epic pic.