Over the last couple weeks I've been growing a beard. Typically I sport a small goatee to show everyone else how cool I am, but the full beard is only a recent undertaking. I was inspired by two things: first, Baron Davis. Even though he's no longer playing for the Warriors, his mighty beard speaks to me. It says, "Hey. I'm pretty awesome. I give this guy an air of gravitas he might not have commanded as a mere NBA player." I'm a fan of gravitas, it being one of the universe's most primal forces, and I defy anyone to look at King Baronidas' whiskers and not be impressed. They cling to his face like a dense thicket of kudzu. They give him strength beyond that of any ordinary man. I'm not sure what I'd do with superhuman strength, but it seems cool and besides I think I'd need it to withstand all the extra gravitas.
The second inspiration is the awful facial hair I find myself confronted with every day. My roommates can't grow anything beyond depressing patches and my co-workers are no better. A few of them manage mustaches, but let's be real: we're talking about completely different things there. In some societies, you'd have a point. India? Sure. Mexico? It's actually illegal for anyone without a mustache to own property in Mexico. I didn't make that up. Frieda Kahlo kept hers because she wanted to remain financially independent from her husband. When election season rolls around in Mexico, every single square inch of public space is occupied by an obnoxious poster of a grinning mustachio'd man. I'm not sure whether he wants to be my elected representative, or tie me to railroad tracks. You can never tell with mustaches, and that's why you shouldn't trust anybody sporting one.
The dearth of credible facial hair at work is a tragedy. Among the many things beloved by dorks is facial hair; it affords them a more mature attitude when they're arguing with their mothers pursuant to bedtime. Also, growing a beard is an excellent way to remove a personal-hygiene activity from your daily regimen--always a big coup if you're a QA dork. The ideal uniform includes a leather jacket, shorts, waist-length hair and as much hair as can possibly be grown on one's face. Whether the hair is scraggly, uneven, patchy, stringy or otherwise pathetic is irrelevant. It's there; that's the point. I'm surrounded by pathetic facial hair every day, grown by simpering man-children who know nothing of hair that doesn't grow in great greasy locks from their own heads. I am Silverback; hear me roar! Or rather, watch me grow hair out of my skin.
I decided to grow the beard while shaving my neck and most of my cheeks (hair grows basically up to my eyeballs and down to my chest, where it merges with my Man-Suit). The neckbeard wasn't an option. Realize that the dork bearding process is essentially to just stop shaving. It's similar to starting a garden by dumping a bag of dirt on the ground and walking away for a few months. Why shape, plan or cultivate? Them shits grow out the ground, bro! Because of this, they routinely rock neckbeards. In fact, "neckbeard" is a great way to obliquely refer to a dork without him realizing. So some shaving had to be done, including my upper lip. Mighty though my follicles are, they don't exert much effort on the mustache front. It's for the best.
The beard started out as an endeavor of pride. It worked pretty damn well--so well, in fact, that pride ceased to be a motivating factor. After the first week of not shaving (in an office full of guys who had, for the most part, also not been shaving) I had a heavy enough coat of scruff that co-workers actually commented on it. At that point, this whole operation became a fact-finding mission. How much strength could I ultimately project from my face? Would it fill in nicely like Baron's or just turn nasty like Joaquin Phoenix's? Three weeks in, I've been pretty happy with the results. The scratching has been minimal. I haven't gotten any really large pieces of food stuck in it (if you know me well, you are impressed by this). There's nice volume, though Baron's got me (and everyone on the planet who isn't some kind of mythical Spartan warrior) beat. I grow thick dark hair at a prodigious rate, so it's nice to save time and real estate when shaving. How do the ladies feel about it? Well, I don't have a girlfriend and all my co-workers are male and in social situations I am basically a sea urchin (quiet, cold and prickly). So I have no idea how they feel about it and they're not lining up to tell me. Let's just assume they find it roughly as unappealing as the rest of my being--a beard shouldn't move the needle too much in either direction. But generally, women despise beards because they're jealous. If they had some personal feature that could be so easily grown, disposed of, modified and accessorized they'd go crazy and expend huge amounts of money and effort doing all the things to it I just listed. But they can't, so they hatin'. See the picture at right? That dude's beard is fucking awesome, but I guarantee his wife hates it. She didn't even come to the beard competition and she tells her man every year that it's a stupid idea. But she knows. She knows.
Sadly, it's time for this adventure to end. Soon I'll take the shears and razor to the virile hedge I've erected. I've accomplished everything I set out to: I've shamed my fellow dorks and taken for myself the metaphorical conch shell that is the best beard in the QA department. I've learned that I can, in the space of 2-3 weeks, grow a convincing Amish beard and blend in with those simple people. They have Comcast high-speed over in Pennsylvania, right?