262. Am I a Man?

Not long ago, I grew a beard. It was horrible, an utter disgrace and an affront to anyone unfortunate enough to gaze upon it. To put it in biblical terms, it was an abomination that caused desolation.

It’s a pity, because I like beards. I wish I could manage a better one. This one made me look like a stoner. In fact, a coworker went so far as to remark, “If I’d never met you before, I’d have assumed you smoked marijuana.”

The Abomination That Causes Desolation

I’m sorry you have to see this. I’m so, so sorry.

In the end, a couple of weeks ago, I euthanized my stoner-beard and got a haircut, restoring my deceptive resemblance to a civilized human male.

I grew a beard for two reasons. First, it was a rebellion against shaving. Shaving is tedious and painful. My beard was the symbol of a revolution, and a remind that rebellion can be an ugly thing. My second reason was a little more serious. A beard—even a hideous stoner-beard—was a reminder that I was a man.

At least, I’m supposed to be a man.

There are certainly times I feel old. The jungles, mountains and beaches of my youth seem very, very far from the quiet town of Berne, Indiana. Much of the time, however, I feel pretty young. I occasionally feel like a kid playing at being a grownup.

I’ve spent nearly a quarter-century knocking about God’s green earth, but I sometimes don’t feel it—and I hardly ever look it. Heck, I was often mistaken for a high school kid during my student teaching. (I was even told by fellow teachers to leave the office or teachers’ lounge because students weren’t allowed!) Many people want to look younger. I want to look older. At the very least, I want a proper beard.

Many of my high school and college chums are getting married, having kids, building careers and watching Breaking Bad. As I play video games, watch cartoons and write silly blog posts about exploding tomatoes, it’s a little scary for me to see how effortlessly responsible and grown-up everyone else seems to be.

I tried watching Breaking Bad once. (It was recommended to me by the same coworker who told me I looked like a weed addict.) The show was brilliant, but also painful to watch. My life was dysfunctional enough without watching Walter White lie to his wife and scream at his boss.

Right about the time [spoiler alert?] Walter and his accomplice tried dissolving a corpse in acid, I realized I wasn’t enjoying the show. It was too grown-up—by which I mean, rife with grown-up problems like lies, unfaithfulness, greed, murder, drug use and nihilistic hedonism. I gave up watching Breaking Bad and went back to the Edenic innocence of My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic.

Am I some sort of man child, refusing to grow up and take responsibility, chasing fading gleams of childhood simplicity?

Am I… dare I say it… a Peter Pantheist?

I think I am a man.

Admittedly, I am a man who enjoys the wit and silliness of Phineas and Ferb over the gore and drama of The Walking Dead, but still. I would like to think I’m childlike, not childish. There’s a difference. At least, I’m pretty sure there’s a difference.

“When I was a child,” wrote the Apostle Paul, “I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put childish ways behind me.”

I talk like a man, I think like a man, I reason like a man—most of the time, anyway. I would like to think I’ve followed Paul’s good example and left behind childish ways.

All the same, I want to hope like a child, to trust like a child, to dream like a child. After all, the Lord Jesus himself said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.”

8 thoughts on “262. Am I a Man?

  1. This was interesting. 1) Beards are awesome, make us feel more rugged (manly) and also look disgracefully horrid on most men when unkempt (sometimes even when groomed). 2) Adulthood is overated, and wrongly schismed from childhood. 3) Seriously, people, stop getting married and having kids so soon! 4) I completely identify with this post 5) my english grammar has been suffering since high school graduation.

    Keep it up, I read your blog on and off and I’ve enjoyed it each time!

    Hope you’re well, friend.

    • My dad has quite a neat little beard, leading me to hope I might be able to manage one of my own. I was wrong: horribly, horribly wrong.

      On a more serious note: Now that I’m an adult, I believe I’ve earned the privilege of occasionally not acting like one. 🙂

      Your grammar seems just fine, by the way. I would expect nothing less from the legendary Bard-finder of the AAI. 😉 I hope you, and your Bard, are well!

      • I think my biggest problem is it takes me a whole week before anyone even realizes I’m trying to grow anything and a whole month before it actually looks like anything. Part of it is my facial hair grows slowly and part is it’s very blonde. I guess it’s a blessing in disguise, though, because I only have to shave every 3 or 4 days.

  2. Beards can be tough. And as you have noticed, you have a pretty young-looking face. I think you could make a beard work, but it would probably have to be something short, and scrupulously trim. Less Zach Galifianakis, more Leonardo DiCaprio. You would also, if going this route, probably want to do something a bit more specific with your hair. Unfortunately, all this would negate the advantage of being less work than being clean shaven.

    Apologies for any awkwardness caused by my musing re: your appearance. I’ve been trying to pay greater attention to my own appearance this past year or so, and as a result I’ve become slightly more opinionated.

    What kind of razor do you use?

    • You make astute observations. These thoughts had crossed my mind as well: I wanted a neat, short beard. (This is a fine reference, minus the mullet.) I went so far as to purchase a beard trimmer to keep my facial scruff neat.

      In the end, the problem wasn’t the length or bushiness of my beard — it was its fullness, or lack thereof. No amount of trimming can salvage a patchy beard. The simplest solution was simply to shave off the dashed thing. My beard trimmer is now mostly useless, though it may be handy in keeping my sideburns under control.

      As for shaving, well, I just use an ordinary safety razor. I consider shaving a necessary evil, like taxes or country music.

      May your beard (should you ever grow one) meet with great success, my friend.

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