Bearded Markham

As a man who is, how shall I say, genetically endowed with the gift of growing facial hair at a fast and heavy pace, I had always been a little curious about beard-growing. Not just in one particular month, but in general. For various reasons, among them high school shave policies (yes, that’s a real thing), girlfriend discomfort (“it’s just too scratchy!”), and masked family disapproval (“we just hate for you to hide that handsome face behind so much hair”), I have never in my life really been able to experiment with this gift I have been given. Somehow, perhaps by divine intervention, about a month ago I found myself in a new and unique position to finally bring these dreams into fruition. And wouldn’t you know, November was just around the corner! The timing couldn’t have been more impeccable: an opportunity to partake in my first ever No Shave November.

As Halloween came and went, I took a razor to my cheeks for the last time, not really sure where I would end up mentally or facially in one month’s time. What I find now on the tail end of this hairy thirty days has been much deeper and much more profound than anything I could have imagined.

It occurred to me at some point during my beard odyssey that I needed to think about why exactly I was subjecting myself to such experimentation. I mean, it’s not like I hated my shaven self, and any time I’d forgotten to shave in the past, things just got itchy. So why now? What changed? What was my reason for partaking in No Shave November?

I can only conclude that my reasons were purely selfish, but that’s exactly the point. The brave men (and women) who partake in No Shave November do it only for themselves, to take a break from the pressures of social standards or comfort zones. They do it to be comfortable. They do it to prove something. They do it because they can. I certainly fell under all these various excuses. At a point in my life where I had no seriously binding interpersonal commitments—a crossroads, so to speak—I was ready to prove to myself that I could be comfortable with myself in whatever skin (and hair) happened to make up my person. A caveat: I must admit, blessed readers, that I did not strictly abide by the No in No Shave November. Indeed, I did and do still maintain a clean shave on a decent portion of my neck. In my hairy journey I saw no problem with making this decision, for No Shave November is not about obeying the rules. No, it is about just the opposite! Rules be damned! Let me be comfortable! The beard growing on my neck was incredibly itchy, so I shaved it, because that was the most comfortable. And onward I journeyed into the late weeks of November, as days grew shorter and Thanksgiving turkey dominated the aromatic world.

I had announced to my friends and family that I was partaking in the sacred ritual of No Shave November right at the beginning of the month, but it was only after about two weeks in that people began to notice. Two weeks is about as long as I had ever grown any sort of beard before, so it was a startling but welcome change when friends would raise their eyebrows in mild surprise upon seeing me or when strangers would mistake me for their twenty-five-year-old preceptor. Then Thanksgiving rolled around, and I returned home nearly a different person than I had left. At the airport there was ooh-ing and ahh-ing from sisters. At Thanksgiving dinner there were subtle jabs from ex-Marine uncles. There was even a firm but astute “You need to SHAVE” from an eight-year-old cousin.

Now I come back to campus, my beard ever full and growing still. As November the month wraps up, I find myself asking, “does the mentality have to stop just because the month is over?” Hopefully my friends and family will continue to love me no matter what grows or doesn’t grow on my face. Speaking practically, I don’t really have a means to shave the beard anyway unless I want to give it the old-fashioned scissor cut (I do not), so it might have to stay. But if there’s one takeaway I’ve gleaned from this blessed month, it is this: there’s a time and a place when one needs to fall in line just like everyone else, but if you can help it, don’t let November be that time. As cliché’d as a “just be yourself” message may sound, sometimes it needs to be reiterated. Who knows? Maybe a beard will look pretty good on that handsome face of yours.

Speaking practically, I don’t really have a means to shave the Nassau Weekly anyway unless I want to give it the old-fashioned Tom Markham (I do not).

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