A Life In Beards

The poet Donald Hall views his life through the prism of beards he has grown. His essay concludes:

When I turned eighty and rubbed testosterone onto my chest, my beard roared like a lion and lengthened four inches. The hair on my head grew longer and more jumbled, and with Linda’s encouragement I never restrained its fury. Linda wheelchaired me through airports as my eighties prolonged, and more than ever I enjoyed being grubby and noticeable. As I decline more swiftly toward the grave I have made certain that everyone knows—my children know, Linda knows, my undertaker knows—that no posthumous razor may scrape my blue face.

I know I’m a little obsessed here – but what’s a blog for? A simpler argument, it seems to me, is to defer to the default. Men – by virtue of having way more testosterone than women will grow beards if they do nothing. The case, it seems to me, has to be made by those who want them to scrape the constantly growing hair off their face every day with a metal edge. And beards do change over time. I grew one in my twenties which was far less dense than mine is now. And, of course, I’m whitening fast (graying is a misnomer). There is a beard for every season – and as long as it takes less time to maintain than the daily shave, I can see why the next generation has become so comfortable with it. It’s saner than clean-shaven as a practical element in life.