Up With Beards: On Trend and Scary Good

“I grew my beard out a little bit just to show that, indeed, I am a man.” –Johnny Weir


Guest-blogger Kelli O’Dell joins iParent today…


Larry Benaske was my dad’s friend. Nicknamed  “Nasty”, he was an iconic figure of my childhood.

He looked–and acted–like Mr. Edwards from Little House on the Prairie; hairy, jovial, and candy-bringing. Part Santa, part Harley rider, he was that manly blend of good and scary that makes life exciting.

A huge part of the scary-Larry-goodness was his trophy beard; emblematically male:

“There’s nothing manlier than facial hair. No matter how much we advance in the equality of the sexes, growing a thick beard or mustache is something that only men will be able to do (Okay, so some women can grow impressive facial hair, but they end up in sideshows).” –The Art of Manliness

We come to count on those external symbols of masculinity; they’re reassuring and even helpful cues for how to relate…


Conversely, it can be unsettling to interact with someone without  “gender symbols”.  Saturday Night Live’s “It’s Pat” sketch was funny, but only because Pat seemed impervious to the confusion his/her androgyny caused; no one got hurt.

Last week, thrifting at Goodwill (my home away from home) I was two feet away from an employee of the store whose gender was absolutely indiscernible.

I was compassionately drawn to this person who seemed to have taken great care to erase any clues of gender. My attempt at small talk was rebuffed. Robotically so.

This brief connection had a poignant impact on me. I don’t understand the underpinnings of androgyny. But I want to…

Before we get back to the beard-love, you might want to take some time to read the soul-window of a blog post I found valuable here regarding androgyny; in church.

Back To Beards

A quick Internet search reveals women to be surprisingly hirsute-friendly…initially. Note how quickly girlfriend here starts offering to rule and subdue the wild look that first drew her:

Of course some exceptions exist:

  • Some women prefer their man clean-shaven and some men don’t want or can’t grow facial hair
  • Focusing exclusively on physical attractiveness can be a slippery slope. Case in point: “Lumbersexuality” 
  • Masculinity is not ultimately or exclusively defined by externals


Living as the only female among six males (one husband, four sons and a very-hairy dog named Charlie), I am privy (most days) to a spectrum of admirable maleness.

Uniquely expressed, but seemingly dude-linked, I enjoy these recurring blessings from the men in my life:

  • Forgiveness. Quick and complete when I screw up (they rarely if ever bring up past offenses)
  • Easy to please (i.e.: give ’em food and respect and I’m instantly Queen of Everything)
  • Bravery. Killing bugs and bats and that sort of thing. They relish both my terror and the rescuing me from it

And there you have it. We’re back to the hairy-Larry place we started: scary goodness.

Do you think we do more good or bad to focus on gender-specific traits?


Cheat Sheet On Marriage

When “Marriage” hits the fan, as it appears scripted to do, when the U.S. Supreme Court hands down the decision in June or July, when the predictable reconfiguration occurs to adopt same-sex unions, you’re going to need a cheat sheet.

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The avalanche of data- historical, civil, judicial and practical definitions of marriage- seems to be exceeded only by the cultural forces against traditional marriage. Into this sophisticated mess, you better have your answer well-thought-out. Simple, short, powerful. Let me offer a sticky note, from which you can edit and create your own:

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P – Pleasure has been surgically removed from procreation and repackaged by itself. This has led to an endless drop-down menu of sexually deviant options. Once removed, pleasure has no generational future because it avoids procreation. Porn, masturbation, contraception, hook-up, abortion, same-sex. They all create a work-around to God’s original design.

2 – “God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.” (Genesis 1:27). The intentional blurring of gender (male and female) has produced a wild menu of over 50 categories to choose from. But the beginning was very, very simple. It involved 2

P – Procreation is the inseparable result of a conjugal relationship between husband and wife, providing the future and structure of society and ensuring the stability of child-rearing.

Robby P. George says it this way:

Do you believe, as I believe, that the core social function of marriage is to unite a man and woman as husband and wife to be mother and father to children born of their union? Do you hold, as I hold, that the norms that shape marriage as a truly conjugal partnership are grounded in its procreative nature- its singular aptness for the project of child-rearing? Do you understand marriage as the uniquely comprehensive type of bond- comprehensive in that it unites spouses in a bodily way and not merely at the level of hearts and minds- that is oriented to and would naturally be fulfilled by their conceiving and rearing children together?

To think that we’ve arrived at a place of societal suspension, where we actually have to think through what marriage is, where we must define, defend and demand it, is almost in itself….unthinkable. But so it is.

What does your cheat sheet say?



It wasn’t all that complicated. Just check one or the other right?

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Then, a lot happened within a short time:

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Now it’s complicated.

When gender was distinctively masculine and feminine, the rules of engagement were finely tuned and everyone operated within those boundaries and expectations.  But take a 20-year-old girl and put her on a college campus today where she literally crosses paths with guys all day long:

  • Is she to live expectantly, in awareness of her femininity?
  • Should she dumb down her gender until casual becomes….really casual?
  • With marriage and dating out of favor, should she defer vulnerability until she’s a senior?
  • How should she navigate the two preferred girl options for self protection: 1) hook-up target or 2) man-hater?

What isn’t complicated is that you’re needed more than ever. Call it customized coaching: 

I’m hearing from several girls, either outright or implied, the desire for focused female identity development, relational mentorship from older & wiser female “sexperts” if you will. Especially those females who’ve navigated the single/dating/engaged community in their mid-to-late 20s. (29-yr-old Audrey)

What is a Sexpert? Are they charged with staying up to date on Facebook’s custom gender options (currently over 50 to choose from)? Do they carry around a small booklet of definitions and characteristics so as to always appear relevant?

“…at the beginning, the Creator made them male and female” (Matthew 19:4)

Sexperts understand something about masculinity and femininity.



They promote God by exploring the created expressions of being made in His image: male and female. When sexperts cross paths with those who are younger, they forge the type of relationship that allows the learner to gaze into the mystery. They enter the eye of the storm together where motion stops, where knowing God is risky business, where spiritual life is transferred in gender flavors.

They hang out.

They rub off.