Few of the men in my family have beards, but they can all at least get substantial stubble. That’s something I can only aspire to. A lot of my physical aspects are prototypical male. I’m tall, broad shouldered, and I have square features. The only thing I can’t do is grow a beard. Or a goatee. Or a mustache. Or more facial fair than the average middle school boy.
As someone who largely rejects traditional masculinity with pride, I don’t know if I would even want to have a beard. As people continually remind me, I’m lucky that I don’t need to shave every day. That may be true, but I really, really don’t care. It would be nice to at least have the option to move to Portland without being chased out by people on fixed-gear bicycles.
When I was 13, my dad handed me down his old electric shaver thinking that I’d need it soon. He was wrong. I used it a grand total of twice in middle school. Just wait to high school, right? Sure, I was physically mature for my age, but most guys don’t start really growing facial hair until their late teens. In early high school, I shaved maybe every three months, by the end of high school I was up to once a month, but that was mostly for my self esteem. Seriously, I could easily have gone longer, I just felt better about myself when I’d occasionally shave more.
I’m sure some people reading this think I’m exaggerating, let me give you an example of how incapable I am. Everyone is familiar with the tradition of No-Shave November, a means of showing support for prostate cancer. My great-grandfather is a survivor of multiple rounds of prostate cancer, and it was always a thing in my group of friends. Here’s the thing: every year, someone thinks I quit halfway through, but I never have. People just assume that there’s no way a young man my age could have grown so little facial hair over the course of a month. Turns out, they can, and I’m proof.
On top of the slow pace at which my hair grows, it is also a very light color. It’s the kind of blonde that you can only see in certain lighting at remarkably close distances. Most of my hair is on the light side, but not that light.
I guess what really bothers me is that it doesn’t match up with the rest of my body. I’m a man, I should be able to grow something resembling a beard. And if that fails, what I get really should be visible. That isn’t the end of my frustrations.
One of my oldest and closest friends is a transgender man. Whenever I say something about being unable to grow facial hair, he expresses genuine sympathy. I appreciate it, but he at least has an excuse, namely being born without a Y gene, the portion of DNA responsible for growing a mustache on men. He has a genetic disadvantage, I just can’t.
Is this actually a big deal? No, not at all. I just want to have the option that I really should have by this point in my life. If nothing else, I really want all the guys around me to stop complaining about the need to shave.