Monday, April 18, 2011


I spoke with a lady last week who had a mustache. I forget what I was even talking to her about. All I remember was that my eyes kept following her upper lip, my mind paralyzed. Oh, I do remember now that we were talking about juvenile delinquents, but I cannot remember whether or not she was telling me that she helped them or ate them. 

I spent many of my impressionable years in Southwest Germany where it was rumored that German women had little conscience fashionably wearing hair where American women are not accustomed. An acquaintance of mine in Germany had a German girlfriend. Once while she was napping, he shaved a long strip of hair off her leg. As the story goes, they broke up soon after she awoke. Stories like these underscore the stereotypical sensitivity German women were to have about about their leg hair. I have since then learned that such rumors cannot be substantiated, especially by that demographic of airmen who rarely ventured off base except to hit a bar or strip club. 

I have been accused of wearing a neckbeard. Over the last fifteen years I have graduated from a goatee to a beard. With no mustache. However, I want to underscore that while I do not have a neckbeard, I will not argue with you about whether or not I actually have one (But here is a guideline). 

I learned, however, that though my beard is not below my neckline, there is so much of it below my chin-line that the fashion bigots find it easier to lump me in with that group of people who they say work at game stores or who spend the majority of their lives learning the ins and outs of the minutest trivia of the most insignificant subset of the digital world. Do I look like that?

I recently visited Ohio, venturing deep into the heart of Amish country. I found the Amish to be rather friendly, and I also found their men to be religiously committed to the neckbeard. I learned that they grow their beards at marriage: ideally, the longer the marriage, the longer the beard. However, I saw married men who were, shall we say, “neckbeard-challenged” so that their beards grew so sparingly that (no lie) I saw men who proudly sported just a few hairs several inches long.

My wife and I decided to observe a cattle auction at an Amish market. Walking into the barn where the auction took place felt like walking back into the 19th century. The barn was packed with Amish men (no women). The teenage boys sat in the back rows. The younger men had their boys in tow. Older Amish men were deep in conversation in groups of twos and threes, many of them stopping long enough to observe my wife, my six children, and me. A few men locked eyes with me. One man who was eating potato chips, stared vehemently at me. I was informed that aside from the fact that I brazenly brought my wife into a men’s-only event, the Amish men were not happy with the shape or length of my beard (Wow, two strikes). Evidently, my having six children warranted that my beard be at least twice as long, and the authenticity of my beard demanded it have a "natural" look (unkempt). But we "English" grow and trim our hair out of vanity, so I was considered a poser at best and a fornicator at worst.

With hair it is hard to fit in. I attended a college that took fundamentalistic relish in rooting out men who did not maintain an appropriate hairline or shape. The RA (Resident Assistant) would come through the dormitory hallways about once a month. The eighty or so men on my hall would "assume the position" which was to face the wall and bow their heads against the cinderblock to reveal their hairlines. The RA walked the gauntlet of men, putting a slip of paper on the shoulder of each man who did not pass hair check. I cannot recall any other campus tradition that caused such ardor amongst the guys. I also had a roommate who was always hounded for having a beard. He would shave in the morning and have a Homer Simpson beard by nighttime. I remember countless times seeing his face so inflamed it was painful to look at him. But hair was important to that campus-culture. 

Hairetics (hair + heretics) are often determined before they even get within earshot of the fashion tribunal. In my younger years I have heard many an asinine, homophobic sermon about the "clear-cut" hair distinction that should be had between men and women so as to easily determine sex from a distance. I never understood the importance of this value. Of course, many of the authors of those sermons have found themselves admiring the comely shape of a person from a distance only to realize upon closer inspection that they were admiring a man. Certainly these sermons were inspired by personal failure and developed during "prayer purges" and over the bathroom sink while vigorously brushing the sin out of their mouths.

At about sixteen I bought a hair straightener kit. My father, having two biracial parents (Black/German & Black/American White), inherited handsome, wavy hair. My mom straightened her hair. At sixteen I was tired of kinky hair, so I bought a straightener. Not reading the directions, I rubbed the conditioner and the relaxer into my scalp. By the time I had awakened that next morning, my scalp had been converted into goo, the result of a thorough, first-degree burn. Ah, time forbids me to speak of the mullet, the afro, the chonmage, the dreadlock, the jheri curl, the quiff, the bowl cut.

Insofar as my friend with the flokati shag on her upper lip, it is not like I wanted her human rights revoked. I just thought she might be better off with her hair trimmed. Or gone altogether. Who knows, she might score. A husband. But that is not for me to say. After all, I live in Tennessee. Where the feminine mustache is fine in some places. But still, I cannot successfully fight off the prejudice that she looks like she should be in juvenile hall instead of running it.


  1. Try visiting the Amish in Tennessee. Their women frequently develop beards shortly after their 25th birthdays.

  2. You should read this post on and listen to the sermon he links to in the post!

  3. @Nicholas, but I bet they have beautiful hearts.
    @Perry, I will!

  4. Below are 5 stories that will scare any man out of shaving his beard:

  5. @perryc A doctoral dissertation on Hairology? WTF

  6. This is good stuff! P.S. I like how you make "White American" an ethnic identity. :)

  7. @justjamey After doing "research" on that Neckbeards, I have learned that they are the lowest of the lowest subcultures. On par with vampires.

  8. This is funny shit. Thank you for making my day.

  9. Hahaha, WitchDoc. Glad to make your day.

  10. Robbie Grayson wrote:

    "I remember countless times seeing his face so inflamed it was painful to look at him."

    I have news for you: it's painful to look at me most any time.

    Also, a slight correction: I didn't "have a Homer Simpson beard by nighttime." As soon as I've shaved, I still look like I need to shave, and thus the "Homeric" nickname that was bestowed on me at college.

    Historically, many cultures associate beards with virility, dignity, wisdom, honor, intelligence, wisdom and even reverence. Nero and Horace Greeley both sported neckbeards, so you're among good company.

    ...okay, so maybe Nero is a bad example, but Abraham Lincoln's modified neckbeard is historic... iconic, even.

    So embrace your beardliness, my friend. It suits you.

    And thanks for referencing me on your blog, Robbie. It's nice to be remembered, especially by someone I consider to have been an ideal roommate.

  11. And so I shall reclaim my beardliness.


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