One of the surest signs that I am a girl is that I have never really understood why guys grow beards. I am not anti-beard, mind you. I just don’t get how men suddenly know that it’s time to embark on a beard-growing project.
I understand it when it’s for a beard-growing competition (yes, these exist—sometimes they are even for charity, meaning you get sponsored for growing facial hair, like an adult male version of the elementary school read-a-thon). But when it’s not to win a competition, why do guys decide to stop shaving?
Some working theories:
• Their faces get cold, so they grow facial hair to insulate themselves against the bitter winter chill.
• They worry that they are ugly, so they grow beards to cover up as much of their faces as possible.
• They have recently started college or moved into their own apartment, and they want to grow a beard to indicate that they are a man now. Can a boy grow facial hair? No, he cannot! Only a true man can do that.
• They realize that they can sleep in an extra ten minutes every day if they don’t have to wake up to shave.
• Their significant other has broken up with them, or they have lost their job, and they are growing beards because they are “letting themselves go.” (When women let themselves go, it’s a more internal, less obvious process. A man can just let his chin develop shaggy growths and then everyone understands: Ah, yes, he has let himself go.)
• Their hairline is starting to recede, so they want to have beards to prove that at least they can grow hair somewhere.
• They want to play bass guitar and wear plaid shirts and vests, and, for reasons even they do not understand, this uniform cannot be complete without a full beard.
I asked my male friends who have at times grown beards, yet none of them were able to provide me with a really compelling explanation of why they did it, or why they stopped. My guess is that ultimately there’s not much of a reason. It’s like asking how a girl knows that it’s time to grow her hair out. Answer: She just decides that she’s kind of bored of having it the length that it is now, so she grows it out, knowing that she can always trim it later.
That’s probably why boys grow beards, too. But that’s just not as exciting an explanation as “they want to become psychoanalysts.”