“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.