The Love and Lies of the Lumbersexual

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Beards are sexy! It’s no wonder I can’t grow one.

Ever since puberty, I’ve tried growing a beard. Because the latter hasn’t happened, I’m still unsure of whether the former ever took place.

Now at 25, the situation has become urgent. All of my male role models have some form of facial hair and may or may not use the CONAIR Stubble Trim™ 14-Piece Grooming System. I’ve never wanted to spend $36.99 so badly in my life. I’m even willing to spend more if they make a Viagra for facial hair.

I’d say I feel a lot like Sisyphus, but then he probably had a beard, too.

I attribute my desperation to the zeitgeist of masculinity: the Lumbersexual. Having no experience with either part of the word, I knew I needed to educate myself in his ways before it was too late. Even I—not just the women I meet—was beginning to identify myself more with Short Round from Temple of Doom than with Indiana Jones.

I’ve realized we live in a Lumbersexual world, one replete with beardy David Beckhams, beardier Justin Timberlakes and beardiest Kanye Wests. Men now have a built-in excuse not to shave; it’s not just culturally accepted, it’s considered sexy. Lumbersexuals read poetry in down vests, slipping out a pair of reading glasses from their flannel shirt pocket. They can do this while still giving off the image of rugged independence. Ladies, you need some firewood chopped while being read Byron? The Lumbersexual is your guy.

It’s also a lie. The scientific journal MORE THAN 2000 YEARS OF MALE-FEMALE RELATIONSHIPS proved the “honesty” gene and the “virile” gene are mutually exclusive. Lumbersexuals can’t fell a tree or build a fire. They just look like they can. Their beards are carry-on wingmen.

And if anyone needs a wingman—especially a cute, fuzzy one you can pet—it’s me.

“It’s been a conversation-starter at points,” Kyle Salaga said. “There’s been a few times when I’ve been at a bar, and women will come up and say, ‘I really like your beard,’ and then it will just kind of go from there.”

Salaga counseled me on various ways I, too, could gain the hirsute heritage of his Slovak roots. He told me I should try shaving everything, and then letting it grow back. If that didn’t work, he said exposure to cold weather usually prompted more growth. In my experience, exposure to cold weather usually prompts the opposite of growth.

And because we were on the phone, I didn’t have the heart to tell him I can’t shave what’s not there. Nonetheless, it seemed like Salaga, a junior at Penn State, was rubbing his beard in my beardless face.

“It will tend to catch anything that’s starting to drip down my beard,” he said of his beard’s practical uses. “So anything that might stain my shirt or anything like that typically gets caught up in my beard.”

John DeRosier, a senior, also commented on facial hair’s utility. “I grew a goatee starting last fall and it was mostly because I had gained a bunch of weight and had started getting a double-chin,” he said. “And the goatee kind of covered that up.”

Even scientists agree that beards are growing on them. According to a 2013 Australian study, facial hair is associated with higher maturity and masculinity. In other studies, women have rated bearded men as “better providers” and better parents overall. My genes probably won’t let me grow a beard because they know it would only help me deceive women. Getting the “honesty” gene is a bummer. I’d rather have the one that gives me the integrated bib and chick magnet.

I spoke with Mark Dyreson, a professor in the kinesiology department, hoping he would provide some perspective Salaga and DeRosier hadn’t. As a husband and father, he remarked about his beard’s uses in facilitating everyday interactions. He said his wife likes his beard not so much for its attractiveness, but for its ability to help save time at restaurants and malls.

“My wife likes it because if I’m not there with her, and they ask ‘what does your husband look like?’ she can just say ‘he’s the one that looks like the Viking,’” Dyreson said. “That combined with not having to shave everyday has probably added years to my life.”

With his kids, keeping the beard isn’t a question of masculinity. It’s a question of familiarity.

“’Dad, you look like an idiot without a beard,’” he said, referring to what his kids told him after the last time he shaved. “That’s a direct quote.”

Dyreson’s story gave me hope. Even though he does look like a Viking, it wasn’t his Nordic aesthetic that earned him his job, helped him win the love of his wife or be a responsible parent to his children. He did OK before the dawn of the Lumbersexual, and he may outlive the species’ extinction. Especially, since he doesn’t waste time shaving every day.

I don’t have that problem. Maybe being beardless will actually save me time and money, two things every man, bearded or otherwise, enjoys doing. And if the beard never comes, Dyreson did say I could look forward to growing ear hair.

Roger is a Penn State grad student studying journalism besides how to write in the third-person. So far, he’s succeeding at one of them.

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