Down With Bearded Bros


Down With Bearded Bros

Illustration: Akshita Monga

It was at the Bengaluru airport, in transit, bleary-eyed and fuzzy-brained, that the epiphany hit me like a truck. I thought I was in a movie about unreasonably well-groomed clones, because whether I looked left, right, or centre, I saw only one kind of a man. A manicured beard, hair shaved from their sides to give the illusion of a faux-hawk (that’s a Mohawk without the commitment), and shirts which were one size too small so that the middle button is as overworked as they probably are at their investment-banking, fintech, number-crunching jobs.

At 5 am, perhaps due to sleep-deprivation-induced paranoia, I was about 60 per cent sure that I’d found myself in the middle of a Stormtrooper uprising, and that their Lord and saviour Darth Vader would descend upon us all at any time and annihilate our race. Or more accurately and honestly speaking, my system went into an anaphylactic shock over why I could not tell one man apart from another.

We live in the time of rampant beards and man buns, a testosterone-displaying trait where a man’s purported fertility is literally on the nose. On his as well as mine, if I choose to overlook the hair and make out with the proto-hipster. But beards are to me what Donald Trump is to factual information, incompatible. I’ve tried to make my peace with them, but I have one too many unsavoury anecdotes up my sleeve to be able to move on like it ain’t no thing.

For instance, one of the longest and most fulfilling relationships I’ve ever had ended when my significant other decided to give up on trying to be a functional and tax-paying member of the society and decided to pursue his hobby of getting stoned full-time as a passion. For six months after that harrowing break up, I could only associate the sight of beards with the lingering acrid smell of marijuana. But that swiftly changed for the worse, when I decided to date again. I met several specimens and their prized facial hair for dinner and drinks.

Now I wouldn’t know how it works for non-army-background-holding, non-Catholic, convent-conditioned people, but for some strange reason, discipline is sexy to me.

As per my limited, anecdotal experience, dinner and drinks usually went well, which gave me the emotional confidence to say, “Let’s get dessert”, because I learnt all my sexual innuendo from Sex and the City. On the way to said dessert, the bearded man would pull me close for a kiss and that’s when I’d have the sensory assault that would kill all the appetite for dessert or more. Because beards smell. And get stuck in your teeth. And scratch your cheeks. It is like chomping down on garlic-scented grass without getting the benefits of chlorophyll. And you can’t even see what’s beneath that grass. Why would I do that to myself?

In a nutshell, that is the one-point allure of bearded men. That their faces smell of over-the- counter aftershave, and you will not come out of that exchange looking like you fought a coyote for shelter. Of course, the lack of a beard to me signifies a presence of so much more. It takes a certain amount of discipline to wake up in the morning, grab the Gillette razor, and shave off the remnants of yesterday from your face in perpetuity. Now I wouldn’t know how it works for non-army-background-holding, non-Catholic, convent-conditioned people, but for some strange reason, discipline is sexy to me. And so are the men who display it. There’s also the added layer of confidence that comes from a man who’s willing to let his face go into our highly judgmental times unaided by the aesthetics of a beard, which is designed to fill the gaps in your looks that genetics could not. Again, not to generalise like a un-peer-reviewed scientific study, but confidence is sexy.  

Going beardless now has a certain take-me-as-I-come quality, which is very appealing in the age of Tinder, Instagram filters, and catfishing. It is that sub-textual portrayal of honesty that is as well-received as it is refreshing. That is not to say that a person who is clean-shaven cannot be a pathological liar, but they don’t give the appearance of the same, which, if you know anything of the crazy, stupid, love-laden ecosystem of modern dating, is a big win. Another big win is the fact that the lack of a beard is often indicative of a stable job, which, as a stable job-holder myself, is a relief because then I wouldn’t have the privilege of paying for this guy everywhere and becoming a single-handed champion of the feminist narrative in his life.

Speaking of feminism, the beard is the greatest enemy of the female gaze, which is thriving in the throes of the third-wave feminist movement. If I put in the effort to shave my legs, wear a push-up bra that jacks my breasts up to my chin, and contour my jawline to conform to the standards of beauty, then any man I like should at least shave so that I can ascertain whether or not he has a jawline to begin with. You’re not going into this blind, buddy, all my assets are right there and decorated for effect. I will not buy into a deal where I don’t even know, behind beard, what your face really looks like. I’ve watched too much Shark Tank to make mistakes like this.

If your male gaze is satiated but my female gaze is not, then what is even the point of this exercise? If I need to buy the whole pig for the sausage, I should at least get to pick the pig I want. And that pig better be clean-shaven.