Hello, stranger. That’s a mighty fine beard you got there. It’s all thick and full and with that suit and tie, it’s just wonderfully ironic. Congratulations on the facial flora, my friend. That’s remarkable growth for a 9-year-old.

Everybody’s got a beard these days. One recent day, my colleague Chris Williams came sauntering into the newsroom, his face an explosion of whitish hair I swear hadn’t been there the day before.

“Jeepers!” I cried. “Is that Chris Williams or Ernest Hemingway?”

It was Chris, but it also wasn’t Chris, if you get this lofty point. With a new beard comes a new attitude and suddenly the normally mild court reporter looks like he’s just blowing back from an African safari. You look at Chris now and you suspect he might have spent the weekend binge drinking on the Florida Keys with Faulkner, Kerouac and other famed drinkers who also happened to write books and stuff.

And while I was admiring the suddenly hirsute Williams, along comes Scott Taylor, who with the round face and bushy beard, reminds me of Sebastian Cabot, if Sebastian Cabot had been a grizzled beat reporter who drunkenly punches black bears just for looking at him funny. We’re talking the villainous Cabot here, not that mincing puffball of the TV show “Family Affair.” Taylor is one of the nicest guys you’ll ever meet, but with the beard, he looks like a man who will throw another man over the bar just to get the bartender’s attention.

I mean that as a compliment, you know.

And, hey, look at this! Over in the far corner, glowering over some raw images, sits Daryn Slover, a fellow who wasn’t able to glower until he grew his face long. Daryn might be bringing a casserole to a PTA meeting later on, but with the beard, he looks like a man who’s going to haul the engine out of a skidder and do it by hand. While chewing tobacco and skinning a deer.

On the other side of the room is seasoned editor Karen Kreworuka who, with testosterone oozing out of her face…

But I’m just playing now. Karen doesn’t have beard.

Yet.

And this brings us back to my original point, which is that everybody’s got a beard. Where facial hair was once the dominion of lumberjacks, elk hunters and wild-eyed lunatics, today it is socially acceptable to sport one if you’re an accountant, a school teacher, a florist, a student or an astrophysicist. The right of every post-pubescent male in the world, the beard is nearing ubiquity for the first time since cavemen roamed the frigid lands, wishing like hell someone would hurry up and invent the Bic razor.

Today, beards are like tattoos inasmuch as you stand out more if you DON’T have one than if you do.

I blame the Red Sox.

In offices everywhere, beards are growing from cubicle to cubicle like an infection. Morton in Accounts Receivable grows one so Evan in Acquisitions had to grow one, too. Once both Morton and Evan start flaunting their chin growth, Raymond and Carlton from Advertising see it as game on, and into the trash go their fancy electric razors, and who gives a damn what the wife thinks, anyway?

Suddenly, it’s wall to wall hair, from the CEO to the guy who changes the Coke machines and everyone in between. Some beards will be thick and full, some will be sparse and embarrassing. A few young executives, who have never attempted facial hair before, will be horrified to discover that when their beards grow out, they are nearly or completely white, as if the lower parts of their faces have aged at three times the rate of the rest of them. What’s to be done? Either accept that you’re a 20-something with a freakish white beard, or go out and buy a bottle of beard dye, at which point you become one of those vain weenies who actually dyes his beard.

It’s all very confusing. And hilarious! Because beards are like velcro, collecting things that you normally wouldn’t want to wear on your face – lint, corn chips, tobacco, bottle caps, the occasional small animal, hair from another guy’s beard, etc.

When you have a beard, you can stroke it and appear deep and brooding, even if all that’s going on inside your head is to wonder how they get those little plastic things on the end of shoelaces. When you have a beard, you look, by default, like a tortured artist or a woodsman, even if you happen to weigh 120 pounds soaking wet and the only art you’ve ever created was a cool looking tower-looking thing sculpted out of mashed potatoes.

When it comes to your outward persona, beards are game-changers and yet here I sit, my face as bald and unadorned as the butt of a newborn. When I go out in public people point, elbow their friends and shout: “Look everybody! It’s that guy who doesn’t have a beard!” It’s very hurtful.

At one time, I thought I might grow a beard just because I can. I’d let it grow wild and ungroomed so that I looked like Jim Morrison just before he crawled into the tub. But to get to that point, you have to go through the early beard phases, which include itchy and scratchy, ticklish and ugly and that midway point where one looks like he’s growing a Chia pet out of his nostrils.

I don’t have the patience for a beard and so I don’t get to go through life brooding, pontificating and making people wonder if I’m good Sebastian Cabot or bad Sebastian Cabot. No one will mistake me for a poet in exile or an eccentric loner with a shanty full of feral cats and a gin still in the backyard.

My name is Mark LaFlamme and I don’t have a beard. (Hi, Mark!)

The first step is admitting that your face is naked.


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