porcelainandporcupines

in which we remember the glories of living in a post- peak beard era

Posted on: April 27, 2014

The Smithsonian reported earlier this week that we’re approaching “Peak Beard”. Which is to say that we’ve reached a cultural saturation point with regards to  facial hair; beards, their infinite varieties and configurations, are indeed everywhere. And while there will always be a need for the beard in our society – how else a  silver fox make himself even more distinguished? or a sports team win the playoffs? –  right now, that necessity has become commonplace. Through their very numbers, any individual beard has dissolved into the vast sea of beard that has washed over us all. The beard, in short, has sold out.

That being said, the dawn of Peak Beard reminds me of the one and only beard story I have. At least, it’s the only one I remember in its entirety; I do have a vague recollection of an apartment search that  involved a bearded lady, but I couldn’t tell you how. That story may not have had a punchline, or not one beyond “bearded lady”; that makes things harder to remember.

But, I digress. Anyway  – several years ago, I was having  lunch with some friends; our table was crowded, but the only two people I remember specifically as being present were Debbie and Scott, though not because that was unusual. We were deeply involved in your standard lunchtime conversation, filling what would otherwise be silent in an unremarkable manner, when by our table passed a guy with a beard.

“Hey,” I interjected. “Who’s that guy with the beard?”
“Which one?” Debbie asked.

The table paused, as everyone stopped to focus on Debbie. Debbie had a habit for malaprop, most famously declaring her tendency to “eat several guys under a table” in a discussion of how much she enjoyed food. The  beard question did not, on its face, have quite that level of humor inherent; it was the context in which the question was posed that elevated it into the annals of Stories We’d Tell, and the context was this : we were in high school at the time.

Specifically, we were Sophomores. And, while puberty comes to different people at different times, facial hair is scarce enough as a whole, and then patchy enough in its initial expression on the faces of youth, that anything robust enough to be fully and properly referred to as “beard” on the face of anyone other than a teacher, is noticeable. This was not like the time Heath had burst out in frustration “Petunia Pig, dammit!” in his effort to call  attention to a particularly unattractive floral top; this being the ’80s, particularly unattractive was the norm, floral or otherwise. In high school – which, in many ways, is the opposite of peak beard – “the guy with the beard” should have been description enough.

And so we paused, briefly, until it became clear that the only possible response to Debbie’s question was for all of us to raise our voices in unison to reiterate “THE ONE. WITH. THE BEARD.”*

It turns out Debbie didn’t know who that guy was; no one did. He remains a mystery to this day. Possibly, he was a narc of some kind. But, more than anyone, I hope for his sake that the transition back to post peak beard is swift. Because if he couldn’t reliably be recognized for having a beard in high school, then the past few years must have truly been torture.

 

*And this, even though we did not yet have sarcastic punctuation in the Eighties.

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