Wednesday, April 2, 2008

On Facial Hair

I'm a big fan of the stuff: since 1982, I've pretty much always had a beard, mustache or goatee. A few things I haven't tried: muttonchops; the really long, thick sideburns so popular in the late 19th century and with Neil Young; the pencil-thin mustache of William Powell and John Waters (Powell made it seem debonair, and Waters just makes it seem... appropriate, maybe?... but I think I'd look stupid); or the full Grizzly Adams.

I'm not sure when or why I decided to grow a beard. I was a big Lincoln admirer as a child (possibly the last time I admired a Republican... and fortunately, I never went the beard-with-no-mustache route—I don't see myself being successful with the Amish look). It's not to hide a weak chin—but that's just the gene pool from which I emerged. And I don't think it's a macho-thing, otherwise I wouldn't have opted for the "Get me: I'm a Shakespearean" jawline beard for my first attempt (I can be pretty self-deluding, but somehow, even then, I didn't try to fool myself into believing that that's a look that 'the chicks dig').

Last year, I decided I ought to get a new headshot made: I think my last one was from 1988, when I had hair past my shoulders and a relatively full beard (yeah, that's me—always on the cutting edge of fashion in every era). I don't know if I'm going to be acting any time soon, but I should be prepared, right? So since I'm now sporting the mustache and patch, I figured I ought to have some of the shots with no facial hair—when you start getting as gray as I am, they're gonna be looking at you to play someone's dad... if not their granddad. I'm glad I did it and, as director Robert Dahdah reminded me every time he saw me before I grew it all back, I did look younger. But ultimately, it's just not how I see myself anymore... unless there's a role involved, of course (we've already determined what you are: now we're just haggling over the price).

So where is this post headed? I'm curious what other people think about facial hair. I'm not aware enough of style to say whether I think it's in vogue now or not—if it is, are you glad? If it isn't, do you wish it was? Like it, love it, hate it, couldn't care less—now's your chance to sound off. You probably won't change anyone's mind, but I'm offering you a forum to rant about men's personal grooming.

P.S., I am, of course, aware that facial hair is not exclusive to men. As many NYC artists know, there's a very talented theater artist here who is also a bearded woman at Coney Island. However, when I tried to include her in this post, it felt like I was being a little exploitive. This merely illustrates my shortcomings as a writer and not my opinions about gender. As long as your comments are not of the juvenile "Ooooo gross" variety, I'm open to including women in the discussion.


Anonymous said...

I grew facial hair very early...I think 18 or 19...because I wanted to look older, and my hirsutely-oriented hormones were already kicking in.

Twenty years later, however, that beard is rapidly becoming more salt than pepper, and I wonder if it's still a good thing to look older. There's a certain distinguishing feature to it, but "distinguishing" isn't the same as "sexy" or "interesting", now is it? ;-)

Of course, it's really all a moot point, really. My husband likes it, which means I'm keeping it. For the time being, at least. ;-)

Nick said...

Hi Barry,

Jennifer Miller wouldn't have felt exploited by you mentioning her as bearded lady. That night years ago at Coney Island when we did Tirza's Wine Bath, we had planned the finale to be Bucci, the playwright being tied in a chair having his seven year old Elvis sideburns shaved off. Jennifer was working the sideshow downstairs but she was going to try make it up between acts. She had planned to do a striptease reciting passages from a Camille Paglia book as she shaved Bucci. She never made it so Lisa D'Amour did the deed on Bucci, then lifted the Elvis bust over her head in punk rock dance. Scary cool. But I still wish Jennifer had made the cue.

Anonymous said...

Um, your wife likes your facial hair...