Someone is waging a systematic war against beards. I don’t know who, but I suspect whoever is responsible is a pawn of global capitalism, which puts its machinery behind the elfin androgyny of a Miley Cyrus or a Justin Bieber, neither of whom could sport a beard if they wanted to. Granted, I know that beards aren’t popular with a lot of people. If I’m out with somebody and the topic of “hipster beards” comes up, it’s so they can be ridiculed. Personally, I don’t mind that men are sporting them, but I’ll admit: I’m surprised they’re “hip.” When I grew a beard like that, it was a clear sign that I was someone to be pitied. Perhaps that’s why I’m OK with them. I like to think I was way ahead of the curve on this one. Thirty years ahead of the curve.
But other than what sounded to me like old people being old people, I didn’t hear much serious pushback against full beards. Until last month, that is, when the whole thing escalated as headlines declaring that a study revealed beards contained an alarming amount of “fecal material” spread virulently through the internet. My favorite headline was from that Godiva of lurid headlines, the New York Post, which announced: “Bearded Men Have Poop on Their Faces.”
Before even looking into the matter, I was sure that studies hadn’t found poop or “fecal material” in beards. Odds are, I figured, scientists found in beards a bacteria associated with digesting food, a far cry from poop on faces. I also had little doubt that, ironically, the virulence of the story was fueled by America’s rabid germophobia. As a nation, we are terrified that bacteria swarm over everything, so we try to kill them. Every last one of them. We’re a bit like the odd friend I once had who wouldn’t allow herself to think that her friends went to the bathroom. If you even so much as asked, “Where are the restrooms in this place?” she would squeal with disgust, insisting you did NOT go to the bathroom, it was just too gross.
So I went to Snopes, the website that mercifully puts to sleep rumors of the “beards contain poop variety,” and they confirmed what I’d suspected. In fact, they revealed that the “study” was hardly scientific; it was a segment from a news program in New Mexico that was carried out with absolutely no scientific rigor at all. Snopes concluded their debunking by declaring, “It may be true that some beards may be less than rigorously hygienic, but proclaiming them to be ‘filthy’ and ‘dirty as a toilet’ based on a scant TV news survey is an alarmist exaggeration.” But as we know, once a story like this gets out there, it will be hard to retract and will keep reappearing like the symptoms of some recidivist disease.
Shortly after this shit storm, I couldn’t escape the headline “Sorry Hipsters, Beards Are SO Last Season …”. The headline seems to me to be less a description of fact than a desperate attempt to make them seem so last season in order to be rid of them for once and for all. Everyone will know when beards are “last season” when we notice how many people don’t grow them anymore. And I would be stunned if they vanished overnight.
Moreover, if I’m right about it, the headline is outright laughable. Look at those fucking beards people! Do you think the people growing them care about fashion? If you want young (and old) men to stop growing them, you’d be better off telling them that they are fashionable. If you did that, I might invest in Norelco. Before then, though, I’m going to enjoy the creative ends to which millennials put mustache wax to use.