This post has been a long time in the making, although it actually took a relatively short amount of time to write. In fact, you could say I’ve been refining the idea behind it ever since 1998 — the year when I realised that I had turned a tremendous corner: I could grow a shoddy and pathetic but still very genuine man’s beard. My life had just dramatically changed. I was no longer a boy, I now had a man’s concerns.
If you are a man with a beard, embrace this post and pass it on to your girlfriend or girls you know who are others’ girlfriends (just not to angry looking female strangers…unless you’re in dire need of a good hard slap). Print it out, copy it, spread it far — I don’t care. Just don’t sit back and do nothing. Countless future man beards rely on you making a stand right now. This kind of debauchery just cannot go on any longer!
Note: this is going to offend some women out there who believe they are genuinely remarkable when it comes to cutting, trimming and carving beards. This post is 100% not aimed at them — well, unless they really are hopeless at beard cutting/trimming — or those who are truly talented individuals with portfolios bursting with humorous beard success stories. Instead, it is aimed very firmly at those women and girlfriends who believe they can cut a beard and yet can’t in any way that might be deemed acceptable. Someone needed to say it, and I suppose today it is me. And why shouldn’t I? There are endless female magazines which speak of the problems with men.
Second note: I don’t have a girlfriend right now. This post is made up of past memories which will remain firmly in the past!
A very serious announcement from the Worldwide Society For The Protection Of Beards (WSFTPOB):
Never, EVER let your girlfriend cut (maim, mutilate, TARNISH) your beard
There are variations, and sometimes it goes better than others, but it usually goes something like this:
“Can I cut your beard?” Your girlfriend says.
“Of course you fucking can’t,” you blurt back, instantly laughing at the sheer absurdity of the question (The fucking is optional, of course — you never really consciously think I have to say that but some deep man-reflex inside you, something right and smart enough to know what’s coming, makes you blurt this out: the bearded man’s primary defense mechanism — a very hairy manimal, backed tight into a corner.)
“Fine,” she says, in that classic it’s not fine, why am I with you? way. And she crosses her arms.
“Babe, I’m sorry, that just came out,” you say, and because you’re feeling hopeless. “Babe…”
She looks all offended now: the second Babe was a mistake. Bollocks. Not good — especially seeing as it’s getting near bed-time…it’s time for emergency tactics.
“I mean…” you say, floundering, trying to re-wind the moment. “…maybe. Just maybe.”
Her eyes — something crazy, magical, beautiful happens in them and then is gone. Feels a lot like love, except it also comes with a fair bit of pity for yourself. You need to somehow turn this around, get her to drop the subject, but also somehow not piss her off even more. It’s going to be a challenge.
“Maybe?” She’s smiling again. Makes you feel happy. “I like the sound of maybe.”
You look at her with your bestest most serious face. This? It’s an art-form. “Maybe as in maybe,” you say, and it’s optional, but if you’ve been through this before, you might come up with some really good excuse like a) I’m late for work or b) haven’t you had a couple of drinks? Shaky hands are not good for the beard. Be very careful how you say “haven’t you had a couple of drinks?”
She smiles. It’s not a full smile — she has her arms crossed even harder than before. This is just the start.
You look in the mirror. The both of you look good in the mirror together — opposite versions of your true happy selves. Opposites that look not quite right but in the best possible way. One of those moments. Sad that you’ll probably forget it because you are scared.
You say: “You’re never going to give up, are you?”
She giggles. Or maybe your girlfriend doesn’t giggle. Either way, it’s sinister.
Your girlfriend looking at you in the mirror with that look in her eye…that look somewhere between devious and angelic…that look that has you trapped, cornered, not quite frightened, yet, but numb and giddy…that look that says I love you. [or maybe just I like you; it all depends on how long you’ve been going out, where you’re both at, if you’ve recently had a fight and you’re in the dog house — that kind of thing] You can trust me. Nothing bad could ever come of this. All you have to do is trust me implicitly and it will be alright. Everything always is.
Do–not–believe–this. Try not to count the times it was not alright — such as the time that she said she’d be ready in 10 minutes to go to the airport (you very nearly missed your flight) and the time when a tramp asked you both for money and she said you should give the tramp that £5 you had because you got a bonus recently and he looked like he really badly needed it (as you walked away, he pulled a brand-new mobile phone out of his pocket and you noticed, horribly, that it was a much better mobile phone than either of you had).
“I’m still not sure,” you say, holding back on the strength of the words so she won’t be offended. “I can’t help it. Us men are programmed to be like this.”
Yet you are sure. Jesus Christ, if there’s anything you were ever sure about, it’s damnwell this! Deep within you, you know you’ve never been sure of anything quite as much in your whole entire life.
This is your face. More than that, if you’re anything like me, within your beard lies much of your male identity. It being messed with, tampered with, mutilated or approached with naive beginner hands, is not a good thing for you, the world, your job or your relationship or your soul. But you don’t know this right now — like a fish with a spear through it, you’re just existing and coming to your senses and trying to feel your way towards safety. A safety that you know isn’t going to come, but what the hell, there’s not enough time to debate this and the words won’t come out right.
You look in the mirror and your girlfriend has now moved to the other side of you. She’s the ghostly whisper in your left ear, and with the way she has her hands on your shoulders — and she has the scissors in her amateur possession now, you notice out of your disturbed peripheral vision — it’s as if she’s always been there. Waiting. Watching. Ready.
Yes. You are indeed screwed.
“I’m still really not sure,” you say. This time there is a much more obvious sense of woe and negativity in your voice — us men, we’d call it heartache, but we’d never admit it out loud. This emotion, it couldn’t be more deliberate and obvious. This, my friend, is your inner self reaching out desperately in a fight it’s never going to win, in a state of play so deluded that it almost makes you laugh. You know this was only ever going to go one way.
For a split-second, you genuinely wish you were single.
“But you don’t need to be sure, because I am,” girlfriend says, kissing you on the cheek. The way she messes with your head in this precise moment of time, it blinds and confuses you…like you’ve been bitten by one of those snake’s you always see infamous fearless Australian dude Steve Irwin (RIP) toying with on re-runs on Dave. The assurance surrounds you both, and you remember why you love her — or like her; I mean…you really should have decided this by now — and it’s fading, fast. That security blanket of insane paranoia that you once had is fading fast like a dream. You remember and recall the urgency of its calling, but it doesn’t feel the same. The grip is lesser. You almost don’t feel scared. I said almost…
Now, when she takes the scissors and holds them up near your face — that playful look in the mirror, that bribe of love handed down through the generations — you don’t flinch quite as much as you did before. You know you should, but the struggle is done. It’s over. It’s not that you’ve given up, it’s more that you’ve simply been disarmed.
“Do you promise to stop when I say so?”
This is you: your voice, getting you deeper into trouble and you don’t even know it.
Girlfriend, she nods.
“And do you promise that you’ll follow my instructions?” you say. “It’s important. I need you to follow my instructions…or–”
“Ssshh,” says girlfriend, and she’s already started cutting. The weird thing? It’s not as bad as you feared. There is actually something really nice about being taken care of in this way (and the fact that she also whispered in your ear something naughty also does not hurt — bribery, but what the hell. You are in this now, and as a man with a beard to lose, it’s wise or at least ethical to take everything you can get. That doesn’t sound particularly ethical, reading it back, but I think you catch my drift).
YOU SHOULD HAVE BEEN WATCHING EVERY SECOND AND YOU WEREN’T.
NOW YOU WILL PAY THE MAXIMUM PRICE.
I SAID MAXIMUM.
Your girlfriend, she’s gotten a little carried away — she just took too much hair off the side of your face. But she kisses you, and the feeling of terror dissolves and returns, dissolves and returns. You start to relax again. You promise yourself that if this happens again, you will stop her. You have to stop her. You will end this (the beard cutting, not the relationship — but then, it all depends on how much she just cut off. I have heard some horror stories…).
Before she goes to cut your beard, you stop her. Grab her wrist gently, hold the scissors away and kiss her.
This is your good sense surfacing very briefly.
Ushe crushes you with her eyes, again.
“Be careful,” you beg her, but smiling and laughing and playing this all down. “There’s a lot at stake here…I mean, I know it’s just a beard to you, but to me…to me…I can’t explain…to me…to me…”
Just give up. You’ll never find the words.
“Seriously,” she says, going in for the kill again but not looking properly as the scissors hack off a massive chunk which falls lifelessly to the floor like some huge Bigfoot shaving. You protest, but she silences you with a kiss. “Don’t make such a big deal out of it.”
“It’ll grow back, and besides, how hard can it be if you can do it?”
TEN MINUTES LATER
You are very angry.