To Beard or Not to Beard

Winter is upon us and, along with the snow-capped mountains and frozen waters of the Deschutes, many other delightful accoutrements of the season are now cropping up in Central Oregon. People are pulling out their snowboards, their ski lift passes and—perhaps most notably—the men of Central Oregon are pulling out their winter beards.

Beards are fairly ubiquitous in our region to begin with. (So are dogs, beer and Subaru Foresters, but who’s counting?) However, no beard is quite as majestic as the one that sprouts on the chilled chins of winter. Indeed, winter beards are like babies; babies that grow on a man’s face. As such, they have trimesters just like any other pregnancy.

In the first winter beard trimester, we can’t be certain the man in question is even growing one on purpose. It’s merely a thin sheen of stubble, a whisper of whiskers. Just as the initial pounds of a new pregnancy might be mistaken as arbitrary weight gain, so, too, can the first fuzz of face fur be innocently misconstrued. Quite simply, we don’t know—is he riding the beard bus or is he hung-over? Now is the time to proceed with caution to avoid any potentially embarrassing moments. For example: Oh, Michael, you’re growing a beard?” “No, I have swine flu.” (Side note: this is an actual conversation I had with a co-worker.) Take it from me, if you suspect a man is in the first trimester of the winter beard, let him make the announcement on his own time when he and his facial hair feel ready.

During the second trimester, the stubble hasn’t flourished into a full whisker show, but there is definitely formidable growth. Still, don’t get cocky and assume you know what’s happening on a man’s face. As objective observers we can’t be sure—is he growing out a beard or did he just break up with his girlfriend and go on a week-long bender in Vegas? (I’d like to take this moment to say “I’m sorry, James, I really thought you were just growing a beard. I didn’t even know you and Ashley were having problems, or that you like to gamble.”) The best way to deal with a man in his second trimester is to sidestep direct labels altogether. Avoid specific terms like “beard,” “Beardy McBeard-a-lot” or “Grizzly Adams.” If you feel compelled to comment, say something general such as “Nice growth, bro.” Don’t do what I did with my former dentist, which is praise him for his lush beard only to be told, “My wife left me.” (Trust me, you don’t want to upset a man holding a tartar scraper in your mouth.)

This leads us to the third and final trimester, where the man undoubtedly has a bouncing, baby beard. It might even require some neck grooming to establish clear boundaries. Happily, we have reached the definitive point where we can safely say he really has a beard. (This is also the definitive point where we can safely say he really SHOULDN’T have a beard.)

Published: March 3, 2016

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