Beauty is in the eye of the beard holder

It is time to address the poo issue head on. A few weeks ago a study somewhere found faecal matter in facial hair. Actually, it wasn’t a study; it was a reporter who swabbed a few beards. And it wasn’t faecal matter, it was some bacteria that you can find in many places, faecal matter included.

But because it sounds so good, headlines around the world turned this into “there’s poo in your beard!”

Supporters of the close shave gleefully seized this anecdote as evidence that all beards are grotty, dirty things that should be razed from the unkempt face of mankind.

This much is true: some beards are grotty. But so are some people. A beard on its own does not dictate your level of hygiene.

For a quick study in paranoia you can search the internet for everyday objects that are potentially dirtier than your toilet. Cell phones, keyboards, playgrounds, shopping trolley handles and your toothbrush are apparently common collectors of rogue faecal matter.

To access a smorgasbord of other nasty bacteria you should also refer to TV remotes, kitchen sponges, chopping boards, petrol pump handles, restaurant menus and ATM buttons.

The whole world is squirming with filth and faecal terror. Fear not, because humanity has two primary weapons against this. The first defence is our immune system. It’s a pretty good system that has served us well for 50,000 years and beyond.

Our other defence is common sense. You don’t have to do anything drastic like shave off your identity. Just wash your hands. It’s not that hard.

So why do I have a beard? I ask this in response to my fellow columnist Annemarie Quill who lobbed a cheeky provocation in last Saturday’s paper.

“Men of the Bay,” she declared, “shave off the beards”.

What, all of us?

Yes, every single ugly one. Annemarie wrote: “A beard is no more attractive in a man than it would be a woman.” We bearers of beards are, apparently, the armpit-faces of humanity.

I agree with Annemarie. Women don’t suit beards.

But beauty is in the eye of the beard holder. I like my beard and so does my wife. In fact it was my wife who made me grow it in the first place. Right from the start she was my number one cheerleader. I hated the itchiness of the thing. She insisted I keep it. Over time it grew on me and I grew into my new look. Four years later I can’t imagine shaving it off, not even for fashion.

Fashion is something I have never fully understood. If I was ever in the vanguard of a beard revival it was entirely by accident. The current trend may pass and I will probably still keep my beard.

It has some very practical benefits. Number one is that my wife likes it. As a surprise bonus it also gives me more credibility with other people. Almost as soon as I grew it, I noticed a difference in the way people treated me, especially in professional situations. It was as though I finally deserved to be there. What had changed? Facial hair. I was at last a man to be reckoned with.

The time will come when I want to shave off a few years. Easy. The age-changing power of the beard is my secret weapon.

I also like my beard because it saves valuable shaving time. Quite seriously – and I’m not being pretentious here – I consider my beard to be a small contribution to the fight against climate change. As a global citizen I used to worry that I was sending too many disposable blades to landfill. Now I don’t have to throw away as many razors.

Take a bow, bearded men of the Bay. Not only do you look great, but you are helping to save the world.

First published in Bay of Plenty Times 22 May 2015. Reproduced with permission.

See also: Attractive persuasion of the rare beard