Sarah Foster

Why beards give me the screaming heebie-jeebies

I was a rather precocious child and I’m sure that it meant I was quite a handful when I was small. Undoubtedly I asked questions that had slightly awkward answers, which is why my mother brought me, aged nine or so, a book all about how bodies worked. I don’t remember a great deal about it, except that it was illustrated and told me what a tampon was, so obviously it played a huge role in my development. But I remember one thing above all things, even more than the cringeworthy description of sex that was considered suitable for nine year old girls. And this was the description of beards as a ‘secondary sexual characteristic’. ‘Beards’ and ‘sexual’ really ought not to ever be used in the same sentence.

I will admit that I am not an expert on beards. For one, I’ve never had a beard. Not even a little one. So I can’t really make sweeping statements concerning the possession of beards. For all I know, it could be a very fulfilling experience.

But I spent most of last weekend staring at beards, so I feel I can make some statements about them. Mainly that I, for some reason, don’t really trust beards. It’s an issue which has haunted my entire life. I used to cry every time I saw my bearded uncle. It made Christmases rather difficult. Christmases were always a bit of a problem, actually. Beards, in case you hadn’t noticed, play a fairly large role in a major Christmastime tradition. Because I obviously come from a family that enjoys reliving painful childhood memories, I am frequently reminded of the many times I was presented to a jolly Father Christmas and instead of hopping on his knee and informing him what piece of plastic crap I wanted that year, I ran away in terror.

Thankfully that fear has somewhat dissolved over the year, or as a Philosophy student I would never be able to step into a lecture theatre. But I have been left with this strange relationship with beards. Yes, I distrust them slightly (who knows what exists under there. God forbid it’s a weak chin) but I also have this strange fascination with them. Maybe it is because there is this part of me that is hoping that underneath the beard they actually have a very complex tattoo, which they’ve decided to hide under a thick beard for years, until surprising us all after a quick shave. This part of me is the part known for completely fanciful and stupid ideas.

But I have as yet not properly come to terms with beards, not really. I know that making claims about any dislike I have for them is somewhat unsubstantiated, and may make me sound like some sort of massive beard-ist. Probably, it would appear that the problem is with me, and not with the beards at all. It’s not beards’ fault that I paid too much attention to a book I was given when I was little.

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