An Open Letter to My Bearded Self

Dear Chris,

It’s Thursday night, the kids just went to sleep, and you’re writing this to yourself because you know that the first thing you do in the morning after getting a cup of coffee is to read your own blog — and you need to see this advice right away:

Shave. The. Beard.

You’ve been telling yourself that it’s your “grading beard” — kind of like how hockey players grow “playoff beards” until their postseason run finishes.

Okay, two things. First, hockey players look like this after a week of playing off:

Paul Mara
Licensed by Creative Commons (Michael Miller)

Here’s what you look like after a week of grading:

Bearded Me

And yet, two: look at the look on your patchy face. You’re proud of yourself, you fool!

It couldn’t be plainer: some deluded corner of your grading-addled mind has convinced itself that the beard is starting to look good. Ben Affleck-in-Argo good.

It’s whispering that maybe you should let it go — “Sure, grades were turned in today, but it’s only going to get better with time…”

Wrong. No, it’s not.

At best you’ll look like you spent 1942 on a U-boat:

Scene from Das Boot

But you’ve been through this before. Remember the three months you lived in France doing dissertation research? When you decided you’d “look more European” if you’d stop shaving? You were so worried that customs at JFK wouldn’t recognize you from your passport photo… No problem with the government, your dad didn’t even notice anything was different, and your sister couldn’t stop laughing.

So no telling yourself that you’re “laying a foundation” for another European adventure next month. Your students don’t need to see that: learning about World War I for three weeks is horrifying enough. And even if you somehow get through customs without being mistaken for a Dutch hashish importer, your wife will take one look at you coming into baggage claim and head for the parking lot. You’ll spend the night at an airport hotel eating airplane pretzels for supper and wondering where it all went wrong.

No, let’s nip this thing in the bud. Set down your Folgers and go fire up the Norelco before the kids wake up. Because you know that you’re not beneath using them as an excuse: “Oh, we were in a rush to get everyone to school — no time to shave,” you’ll shrug.

There’s time. Go now, and make yourself presentable again.



7 thoughts on “An Open Letter to My Bearded Self

  1. The first problem is here that you are brewing Folgers coffee…the second problem is that you don;t have a problem, beards are totally in this year.

  2. I, too, have been trying to grow a beard. Every morning and evening I stand in front of the mirror for several minutes trying to decide if it is awesome or terrible.

  3. Chris:

    Just a reminder that during the 18th century in Russia beards were the symbol of Orthodoxy. According to the leaders of the church: “Shaving the beard is a sin the blood of all martyrs will not wash away. It would mean blemishing the image of man as God had created him.”

    Patriarch Adrian had verbalized only recently: “God created man beardless, only dogs and cats have beards. Shaving is not just a stupid thing to do, it is a capital sin.” Hence, all people living in close contact with the Tsar were forced to renounce their faith in favour of the so-called progress.

    So instead of being coopted by modernity to express the decadent modernism you should revert to the beard as a symbol of your orthodox Christian pietism. It may also be a requirement of male history department chair persons after they have taught at Bethel a certain (unnamed) number of years.


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