I don’t know how you do it, beard guys. I’m only on my third week and I can barely stand the alien face fungus overtaking my chin, jaw and upper lip. Notice I didn’t say cheeks, because my beard is apparently scared to venture north of the 15th parallel. It turns out I have a natural chin-strap situation, also known as “douche beard,” which means that I look like K-Fed or Turtle from Entourage. Worse, actually—I look like somebody who’s trying to look like K-Fed or Turtle. And yes, those are dated references, but that’s because nobody grows a beard like this anymore. Not intentionally, anyway. All I can hope is that it’ll get better once I move past the, “Missing hiker found near Tuckerman’s Ravine” stage of the beard game.

Like many beards, this one started by accident. My wife, Heather, was away for a week, and I decided, as one does, to revel in manginess. I skipped shaving for a couple of days. Then a couple more. I think my razor-avoidance record is five days, so I decided to let it ride and see what happened. And what happened is: not much. I’m not one of those guys who can start growing a mustache on Oct. 29 to get ready for a Super Mario costume on Halloween. In fact, one time I tried growing a mustache for two weeks and nobody noticed. At one point, my friend Dave and I were on the T and I thought he was eyeing my hilarious mustache, but instead he was preparing a comment on a zit that happened to be dead center on the back on my neck. “Hey dude,” he said, “Is that where you got unplugged from the Matrix?” The mustache went unnoticed. By everyone.

But I’ve stuck with this beard long enough that it’s starting to get some attention. My friend Louis said, “Very Duck Dynasty,” which tells me that he definitely never watched Duck Dynasty and also that we need some more contemporary celebrity beard references, since cultural anthropologists will place that show squarely in the Honey Boo Boo era.

In any case, my facial follicles are venturing into uncharted territory and they’re a ragtag bunch. If they were a band, they’d be the Skanky Tendrils. If they were a Robin Williams movie, they’d be Patchy Adams. And I waited so long to try to grow a beard that there’s a smattering of gray hairs mixed in with the predominant red. It’s a nice color palette for flannel, not a face.

Besides the aesthetic considerations, the beard is causing nonstop OCD chin-touching. I keep putting my hand to my face like, “What’s this? Who am I? Did I just wake from a coma?” The beard—which I’m now noticing that I resist referring to as “my beard”—is a wellspring of low-level body dysmorphia. I’m not a guy with a beard and never have been. And yet, there it is! Somebody fetch me my Blanton’s anti-dysmorphia elixir to help reconcile this strange reality.

Initially, I figured that growing a beard would curtail my grooming regimen. After all, shaving is tedious, and I tend to rush the job and end up looking like I got in a fight with an angry marmot. But as the face-hair grew out, I began to wonder if I needed to do anything besides shave my neck. In the shower, I started shampooing the beard while I was washing my hair. Is that what beard guys do? I have no idea, but it seems like you should wash this thing somehow, and my trusty two-in-one shampoo and conditioner did seem to make it softer. For real pro advice, I turned to my friend Murph, owner of a lush beard that he’s cultivated continuously for five years. If you saw a black-and-white photo of Murph, you’d think he was a respected 19th-century apothecary named Amos Snead. That’s how good his beard is.

“Shave your neck every other day,” Murph advised. “Don’t shave your cheeks unless you have to. Let your barber trim it, because you’ll eff it up. And comb it after all scrubbings.” Is this a beard or a champion lhasa apso? I thought the whole point of a beard was to cut down on personal grooming. At least, that’s what my friend Hobo Jack told me while we were cooking beans down by the train yard.

I guess I haven’t reached the point where I need a beard comb, assuming there is such a device. And I’m not sure I’ll make it that far. Among all the other unhappy revelations produced by this experiment, I apparently have very sensitive follicles. When I work out, I can somehow detect individual beads of sweat on individual follicles. Are these hairs or antennae? Either way: gross.

Ultimately, the fate of the beard is up to one person and one person alone: Heather. And so far, she likes it. Which surprises me, but maybe she has a lumberjack fetish or is thinking about developing one. Still, eventually it’ll be time to abandon the sketchy Federline fuzz and stop looking like a washed-up D-lister. I’ll dust off my Gillette and go back to being clean-shaven and sophisticated. Like The Situation. ◆

Think that’s funny? Send unbiased emails to ezra@improper.com.

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