Beards: A Love Story

I have a secret. Until I was 22, I hated beards. Hated them like some kids hate clowns. (I know. I know. How could I?)

The story of the time I screamed bloody murder at the sight of my bearded uncle (and refused to even look at him for the rest of his visit) is the stuff of family legend. It’s one of those stories that gets told so often you feel like you remember it yourself, but you can’t possibly because you were way too young.

Baby-Me thinks those side-burns are getting dangerously long, Grandpa.

Baby-Me thinks those side-burns are getting dangerously long, Grandpa.

Anyway. My uncle didn’t just have a beard. He had a big, bushy, mountain man beard. THE HORROR. Uncle Tom felt terrible that he’d frightened me and spent the rest of our visit trying to make friends. Toddler-Me would have none of it.

Eventually my aunt and uncle divorced—I assume it had nothing to do with his beard—and I lost track of him, but not my beard loathing.

Bewhiskered uncles, scruffy strangers, Santa Claus…they all received the same treatment. If not abject fear, at least the cold shoulder. No beard was safe.

Conversely, I was obsessed with shaving. That’s the other story trotted out at holiday dinners and family barbeques. Toddler-Me stumbling out of the bathroom with my upper lip nearly sliced off, grinning through a face-full of blood, lisping “Shabin. Shabin.”

I continued to dislike beards well into my teens. There was less screaming, but they still made my skin crawl. Ugh, beards. Scraggly and so gross. As if.

Except, suddenly, one day they weren’t so gross anymore. More accurately, one beard in particular wasn’t so gross.

It was the summer of 2002 and I, struck dumb by real life insta-lust, had fallen hard for a bearded man. How could this be? As Mary Ann would say, my lust was confused. HE HAD A BEARD. And I liked it. WHAT?

Soon-to-be-hubs didn’t have a little sexy stubble, or a neatly trimmed goatee. He had a full on grizzly. All my uncomfortable feelings where beards were concerned were turning into fascination. Preoccupation. Oh, scratchy kisses. I wanted them. Maybe.

I thought, perhaps, my attraction to him as a person was so great it overcame my beard-hate. He’d received a special dispensation for extreme awesomeness. But, when he showed up for work clean-shaven, a good three months into my crush, I knew this was not so. Disappointed—bereft, even—I missed that manly face-pelt.

He’d grown it back by the time we went on our first date in September, much to my delight.

Now, I can’t even remember what that fear and loathing felt like. It exists in my memory like those oft-repeated stories, hazy and non-specific. From phobia to philia, it was such a lusty hate.

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22 Responses to Beards: A Love Story

  1. Alexandra says:

    Confession: I might be a little bit in love with your grandpa.

  2. Ruthie says:

    This is such a happy post. It makes me think of one of my uncles, who had a big grizzly beard and always gave bear hugs too hard, TOO HARD! Except he was the most exciting one, and secretly my favorite, for this very reason. Those lusty hates are the best.

  3. Lammie says:

    This post has perfect timing – the Canadian Olympic bobsleigh team is channeling their beard power. (Search twitter for #beardmode). Not to mention, of course, the wonderful picture they tweeted out a few weeks ago, showing them in their underwear in their sled, beautiful beards on display.

  4. I’m from the midwest. Beards are for hunting weather! You grow them out in the fall and shave in the spring after turkey season is over.

    Also, I love confused lust. This is a thing.

    • Shari Slade says:

      My lust is very confused right now, imagining a whole community of grizzled beard-o’s freshly shorn for spring.


  5. syleegurl says:

    I was terrified of my older cousin’s mustache! :)

    Love this post! Fun!

  6. Fiona McGier says:

    Dad never grew a beard, though he did try a ‘stache a couple of times, but even when his hair was still dark, it came in red and looked weird. Since he was from Scotland, I figured it was fitting, but Mom didn’t like it and told him to go kiss himself. So off it went. But on his rare vacation days when he didn’t shave, he’d play-chase little me around and when he caught me, he’d rub his scratchy face on me, chanting, “beardy-beardy, me lassie!” When I got old enough that he stopped doing that, I told him hairy faces were gross. But as I got older, my tastes changed. It’s been many, many years since I thought men with long, straight hair down to their butts were sexy. And husband of 30 years has had a ‘stache for so long he even he has no idea what he’d look like without it. Now he has one of those beard-things on his chin also. I’m not a fan, but I love him. Also note, he’d like it if I stopped dying my hair red and went silver. I hate it. So he gets to keep the beard, I get to keep my hair red. Everyone’s happy.

  7. Rhyll Biest says:

    I never liked beards much until Cara McKenna persuaded me that lumberjack beards were the shiznits. Now I’m hooked.

  8. Jessi Gage says:

    My dad had a beard. He died of cancer in 2006, and it was the saddest thing when he lost his beard to the chemo. I have mad beard love!

  9. willaful says:

    “From phobia to philia, it was such a lusty hate.” Pretty much discribes my feelings towards vampires.

  10. Mollydee says:

    wow, that sounds exactly like me and my husband. But it was moustaches for me. But I fell in love at first site, something I did not believe in either. We have been married 13 years. Love is funny huh?

  11. Rachel C. says:

    I possess a deep, abiding love for beards and I think the free world knows it! Lumberjack beards are my favorite because they come in conjecture with plaid and muscles and the great outdoors…and *fans self* I lost my train of thought there. I love how versatile beards can be, too! Neat and tidy, burly and bushy, somewhere in between. I’ve been known to stop in my tracks in public, turn around and follow a beard just to keep looking at it.

    My name is Rachel, and I am a beard lover. :-)

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  13. I had a similar fear of beards when I was little, brought on by uncle’s full-on afro. He had hair that went all the way around his head, and it scared me so much that I’d cover my face with hands when he came over, even once falling asleep that way in my high chair. Oddly enough, since hitting college, every man I’ve been attracted to has had a beard of some kind, although I have to admit, I’m a fan of the goatee, not so much the total grizzly look. :P

  14. aurora says:

    i love beards… when i was 3-ish the family was at a church camping weekend and another little girl invited me to play barbies at her tent. of course i followed her up the hill. when we got there, i saw her uncles cooking out and they all had these great big beards like marty stouffer. i told the other girl i thought i heard my mama calling. and i ran away. i fell down and skint both my knees and both my palms and spent the rest of the camping lying on my back like a turtle.

    now i’m trying to convince my fiance to grow a beard… hard for me to explain to him exactly what it does to me… i guess the best i can come up with is “if you’re capable of growing a beard, you could be capable of anything…!”