I am a man, I am 28 years old, and I cannot grow a beard. Or a moustache. Or mutton chops. Or any kind of facial hair. And this bothers me. Why? For more reasons than you'd think. Follow me after the jump and listen to me talk of a hairless hell...
I wonder, if I was born in the Middle East, if I would be allowed to be a Muslim? I have never seen a Muslim, or an Orthodox Jew, without a beard. I understand that both religions are based on much more than beards, but the facial hair seems to be essential, like the cape is essential to Superman. Superman does amazing things that in no way require a cape, but without the cape he would not be Superman; he'd just be a freak with a penchant for wearing his underpants on the outside of his tights.
My friends say I'm lucky, not having to scrape something that is literally razor-sharp over my face everyday. But I think it would be a small price to pay to be able to alter your appearance at will. I will never know how I would look with a 5-O'Clock shadow, or a soul-patch, or any of the other myriad styles one can achieve with no effort whatsoever. All you need to do is not shave, and then you get to pick and choose which parts to keep, and which parts to get rid of, like a sculptor with a block of marble.
And there are other, bigger ways in which this concerns me. Sprouting hair from your face is a major milestone for men; it marks the transition from being a child to being a man. Further, all of us have a checklist imposed on us by society that we have to mark off, one by one. Go to primary school: Check. Go to high school: Check. Get your facial hair: Check. Get your first girlfriend: Check. Get your first after school job: Check. Move away from home: Check. Go to University: Check. Lose your virginity: Check. Get your first real job: Check. Enter your first serious relationship: Check, and so on and so on. Now, some of those are optional, but they're all expected of us as signifiers of our worth to society. But when that chain is broken, especially by something that's a given, that's supposed to happen automatically without any effort on your part, it makes that list incomplete. And no matter how many of those achievements you get, you always have that one glaring gap that means you are not, and never will be, complete. It's like a 5,000 piece jigsaw with a piece missing; you go to all the effort to assemble it, putting all the right pieces in all the right places, but because it's missing a part you really start to wonder if it even counts because it's always going to be incomplete. And I am really not sure how to feel about that.