Can you be attracted to your own beard? Not the face it covers. Just the beard. My face is fine, I guess. It’s a nose and some eyes and a mouth, like most faces. I’m grateful for it. But I’m not, like, thinking about boning it, like the way I’d try to bone my Chewbacca pandemic beard, if such a thing were possible and socially acceptable.
But since it’s not, I’ll settle for running my fingers through it while deep in thought in Zoom meetings. When I close my eyes, it feels like it’s being massaged by an angel sitting on my chest. A beard angel. A bangel.
It sits on my face, this contouring collaboration of oils, honey, Pittsburgh Nigga, grit, Jack Black, and good funk, and I’m reminded sometimes of the first time I realized my beard could connect. I was 21. On a Greyhound from Buffalo to Pittsburgh. The bus smelled like Rice Krispie Treats. I had a window seat. And somewhere between Erie and Grove City, I noticed, in the window’s reflection, that the converging lines of hair that inched towards each other from my sideburns and my flaccid goatee had finally touched. And I smiled at myself before realizing that it smelled like Rice Krispie Treats because the person sitting behind me was eating them with a knife and fork.
Since then, I’ve experimented with how to style the hair on my face, but I’ve never, not once, considered cutting it off. I’ve heard people say disparaging things about men with beards, that we’re hiding behind them to obscure unremarkable faces and uninspiring chins, and my response to that is always the same. Duh, my nigga. Without my beard I look like I’m campaigning to be the mayor of a city with six people. I look like a man who changed his name to “Larry Lawrence Caldwell” just so his initials would be “LLC.” I look like a nigga who’s literally never been racially profiled. With my beard, however, I look like I eat grits everyday, and that brings me joy.