I saw a man and what a man he was.
He was in mid-20, a slender fellow, wearing skinny jeans, slim-fitting leather jacket and a red scarf. Hardly the archetype of alpha-masculinity.
But he had a beard. And not just any beard. A luxuriant beard, thick as the fur on an orangutan's hide. It was rich in colour as well, chestnut brown tinged with scarlet. Oh! How I envied that man.
I have a beard, see, but it's patchy in places, blond in others. It feels wispy and weak like pubic hair when it gets too long. Some might say it's a decent enough beard, but decent is simply not enough. I see some men, the same age as I, with lustrous manes of fur starting just below their eyeballs - as if every facial pore were a follicle, each one clutching like scepters one glorious hair! - And I long to be one of them.
Beards are, for all practical purposes, the mask by which we hide our emotions, for each downturned corner of the lips, each tremble of the chin betrays our weaknesses! It eradicates our manhood! They are as utilitarian as a safety net, catchy morsels of food that we can store and snack on later. They are intimacy screening systems that aids us in selecting potential partners, weeding out those who can't deal with this testosteronic mug, for men- real men - need only women who understand what a sign of virility this beard truly is.
See, the ancient Greeks regarded beards as a sign of virility. A smooth face was a sign of effeminacy...until Alexander the Great, that baby-faced pollywock, introduced the idea of the clean-shaven face, fearing that beards would serve as a handle for enemies to grab on to. The custom then migrated to Macedonians and, eventually, the ancient Romans, who used it to distinguish themselves from the Greeks.
But much time has passed between then and now, as have the customs by which to signify ones manliness. It seems we have returned the age of the Greeks, for now facial is perhaps the single greatest signifier of masculinity for men of my generation. Fashion alone no longer does the trick. It has become androgynous, sometimes subtly (skinny jeans), sometimes overtly (jewel encrusted T-shirts, purses slung around biceps).
In the early 20th century, male fashion was the key indicator of status and masculinity but from the 1960s onward -between long hair, bell-bottoms, short-shorts in the early 1980s and the appropriation of metrosexuality - a manly man can also be as prim as a beauty queen.
For us (or maybe just for me, whatever), a full beard is the penultimate symbol of machismo. Penises are secondary. I prove my manhood by flaunting an untamed forest of virility - on my face. It's one of the few common bonds we share with our simian brothers.
If a man can grow a beard, he should. There are men who'd love to grow a bountiful bush upon their face but must settle for wimpy moustaches, or even less, instead. We, the bearded, owe it to our balder brethren to flaunt what we have. Those who deny their ample facial hair are, a) wasting precious sleeping minutes every morning taking razors to their faces and b) denying themselves the true essence of what means to be a man - to be as untamed and unruly as a jungle.
The same has to go for body hair, particularly chest hair. Let it grow! Be free and wild. Back hair is a touchier issue but we must stand by what our bodies produce. Nurture it! Love it like you would the hair of a beloved pet Labrador. Ignore the images hawked to us by men's magazines and ad agencies of a hyper-sexualized version of ourselves - toned, smooth and nubile - because that, evidently, is what sells body wash and what, apparently, is what women desire.
Well, it's what they think they desire until they run their fingers through this Cowichan sweater I sport beneath my t-shirt. Only then will they understand what it must have been like to nestle up to a Neanderthal, uninhibited, defiant and aggressively masculine. To be with a man who is a man; who may or may not wrestle a bear to win their lady's affections; who may or may not celebrate by dining on a salmon taken straight from the river.
So I see this dude walking down the street, with the wildest bush of primordial manhood covering most of his face, skinny jeans and all, and I stand in awe. Blessed be that beard.