Last weekend I was enjoying a cold, delightful, batch-limited Yazoo 10-Year Anniversary White India Pale Ale with my lovely wife and two friends when I overheard an unavoidable conversation at the next table.
A group of young men and women were rising from their seats and moving toward the door while engaged in an animated discussion on the joy of sandwiches. Any sandwiches. It didn't seem to matter where these sandwiches were found or what their components may have been been. It didn't sound as though the group was debating favorites or listing the merits of particulars.
It was as though they were enthralled by the general concept of the sandwich itself, and, arriving at the unspoken, collective agreement that they should depart immediately in pursuit of said sandwiches--any sandwiches--they stood and headed in our direction.
Moved to respond due to their enthusiasm, proximity and my own agreement with their rather rudimentary yet undeniable conclusion, as they passed by I offered, "I like sandwiches!" With a friendly smile, a young lady in the group then seized my shoulder and shouted in my face, "your BEARD is better than a sandwich!"
What could I say but thank you? I've had quite a few comments on my beard, like the guy on the hiking trail the next day who said "that is one solid beard, man" as we passed on the ridge, or "awesome beard, dude, I mean really" uttered by a passing student on the street, or whatever that one person said--whoever got me started on the whole Ben Kenobi Halloween costume idea three years ago--when he or she noticed my beard and noted my apparent Obi-Wan potential.
Not everyone loves a big gnarly beard, though I've never been stopped on the street for beard-based insults. Anti-beard folks usually just look away quickly and avoid eye (or beard) contact. No one has referred to my beard as "luxuriant" thus far, as the Pirate Captain's beard is so often described in Gideon Defoe's brilliant book The Pirates! In an Adventure With Scientists. That's okay.
This assertion of beard over sandwich is my favorite interjection from a random stranger (on the topic of my beard) yet, and it will be difficult to improve upon. And still, I remain unworthy off all this beard praise, in a bearderific city among so many beardtastic, competitive beards cultivated well beyond my mere amateur mane.
I have been approached by more than one member of the Metropolitan Pogonotrophy Society, a beard and mustache club full of friendly dudes with opulent facial hair who compete with other friendly dudes with opulent facial hair for Best Beard trophies and accolades. One fellow approached me at a beer festival, handed me the society's card and disappeared without a word. While I am indeed flattered by these hirsute gentlemen and honored by their kindly appeals, I have never been much of a club-joining dude.
Also, I must reiterate that my beard is by no means worthy of the epic hair that encases the faces of this award-winning society of the bearded. Though my beard has expanded its girth and steadily accumulated more Gandalfian gray, I've had it for most of the last several years, and I'm seeing a lot more beards around of late. We must be in the midst of some sort of woolly beardaissance. What once flourished on the well-coiffed chins of eras long past now appears to be roaring back with a curly vengeance. There is even a world championship.
Some folks refer to bearded young men as hipsters. But what is a hipster, really? According to Boston-based writer Luke O'Neil, it's okay to be a hipster. I have never self-identified as a hipster, and I don't feel very hip, but looking at O'Neil's criteria, I find myself doing a double-take.
Am I really "culturally reviled?" I hope not; however, in addition to my beard, I have tattoos, a decades-long interest in underground rock music and a 20-year-old Volvo. I drink local craft beers poured from 64-ounce growlers (no glass or aluminum to trash or recycle), and though my jeans are not tight, I do tend to wear hoodies and old sneakers pretty often. Do these tendencies make me a hipster?
All of this depends on who is writing the definitions. For example, I only do exactly one of the 28 things on Charlotte Green's list of supposed "signs you're a hipster," which O'Neil links to in his article. That would be her number three. Yes, I judge people for bad driving. Guilty. You got me there. But the other things on her list? Nope, Charlotte. That's not me.
I guess a hipster is only a hipster in the eye of the person who scrunches up his or her face and yells/thinks/mumbles/shrieks/snarls "hipster!" while pointing and jumping on one foot. Well, I like what I like. And in solidarity with O'Neil, I feel no need to apologize. Call me what you will. Hipster or not, my beard is better than a sandwich. And shaving still sucks.