Keep starting blog entries and then dropping them because they’re not going the way I want them to and I can’t seem to fix them. So here’s a funny picture that sums up the burden of having a beard:
I like this music video for obvious reasons not the least of which is that it’s done using Team Fortress 2 characters:
It’s kinda weird how many things I’ve been fond of in my life that have become trendy. I got into computers back when they were a novelty. Nerd Culture has gone mainstream. Doctor Who is not only heard of, but popular in America. Shaving your head is in and now beards are back in a big way. Many of the things that used to make me feel like an outsider are now popular. Sure, otters as a favorite animal is still a niche thing, but I figure it’s only a matter of time before folks catch on to that as well.
If I didn’t know any better I could be forgiven for thinking I was a trend setter.
…since the last time my chin saw daylight, but an attempt at trimming up the beard that went wrong eventually resulted in my shaving it off completely. Though I did keep my pathetic excuse for a mustache. Yes, one of the more iconic things about my appearance is no more. For at least the next few weeks.
I have to admit, not having it makes me look all kinds of goofy:
It should be an interesting day at work today. We took a photo of me immediately after shaving when I still didn’t have a shirt on and I look like the comical stereotype of a circus strongman. The camera is all the way upstairs, however, and I wanted to get something on here quick before heading into work this morning. So I used the webcam, which has neither the ideal lighting or background, but what the hell. Probably shouldn’t have taken it first thing in the morning when my eyes are still puffy either. Oh well.
So feel free to leave me comments about how strange I look. Like most things in life, this is a temporary setback and the beard will return before you know it. Though for a couple of weeks I’m going to be looking even more ugly than normal.
This SEB mailbag entry is a little different from the norm as it comes from an SEB reader who we’ll call Dave and it is not a profane attempt at convincing me Jesus exists and loves me even though I’m a fucking idiot. Instead it asks a simple question about beards and employment. I thought it would be interesting to share it to see what other folks think. My reply will follow the letter itself:
Subject: Atheist Beard?
Hey Les, love the blog.
I have an issue that might deserve some pondering.
I recently got hired on at a job after several months of looking. It’s a call center type job, answering calls but for a funeral service business. On my first day I was informed that I would have to shave my beard to stay employed with them as apparently it’s the standard in the funeral industry (not mentioned at the interview, mind you). I don’t have a full beard like yours, more like Penn Jillette’s. I didn’t really want to part with my chin hairs and began googling which religions I could use as an excuse for it.
Is it silly that I just want to keep my beard, possibly more than a job, just to express my freedom to have one? Would you shave your face for your company? Why should God telling someone to have a beard be an acceptable reason?
And my reply was as follows:
That’s an interesting predicament and one I’ve not faced in years, if you’ll pardon the pun. It also seems odd that you’d have to shave your beard if you’re working in a call center where you’d be unlikely to deal with clients in any way except over the phone. Still it’s not like EDS didn’t have very specific grooming requirements for many years before finally relaxing them a bit (they used to forbid beards as well).
Is it silly to consider claiming to be a specific religion just to keep your chin hairs? It depends on how you look at it. If you feel that your beard is an important expression of who you are, as many of the folks who don’t shave for religious reasons do, then it’s not particularly silly. Of course it could also be argued that if you’re going to let a few chin hairs stand between you and a decent paying job in these economic times then you’re definitely being silly. Personally I think it’s silly that some companies think they need to control the grooming habits of their employees so strictly, but even then a reasonable argument about “presenting a consistent image” could be made.
If that’s not wishy washy enough for you then let me answer your question on if I would shave my beard for my company. Again the answer is that it would depend. If it were a crappy little job that I didn’t plan at staying at any longer than necessary then the answer is no, though I might trim it up to make them happy. If it were an excellent paying job that I was lucky to be considered for in the first place and the only thing keeping me from being hired was my chin hairs? I’d have severe razor burn from how fast they disappeared. My willingness to comply with stupid or silly requirements goes up in direct relation to how much I’m earning. Pay me enough money and I’d show up in a dress with pink bows in my beard if that’s what you want, but it’d have to be a LOT of money.
It’s not so much that God telling someone to have a beard is an acceptable reason as it is that the laws on religious accommodation that are on the books make getting sued over issues such as beards an expensive exercise so some places figure it’s not worth the hassle of forcing the issue on people who claim it’s part of their religious beliefs. Most of the time it’s a simple matter of economics. Would we end up paying out a lot of money if we fired this person for their beard when they claim it’s mandated by their religious convictions.
That’s one of the great things about being a Computer Support Technician or Systems Administrator or whatever you want to call what I do. We’re expected to be a bit odd and nerdy and beardy so it’s usually not a problem.
What do the rest of you think? Is it worth quitting a job just to keep your right to grow a beard? Would you go as far as to claim to be a member of a religion that mandates beards just to keep both your chin hairs and your job? Was my answer sufficiently wishy washy enough to qualify me as a real life Charlie Brown? Speak up, folks! Let’s hear your thoughts.
Folks often ask me how much work it is to grow out my beard and I tell them it’s easy as can be. Just don’t shave.
For the most part my beard tends to grow out in a relatively reasonable shape that often looks like I spend time grooming it, but I generally don’t mess with it much. Every now and then I’ll trim it up using the same electric sheers I use to shave my head and I usually just wing it freehand to catch straggly hairs. The last time I had it done professionally I noticed that the stylist seemed to just slap a hair guide onto her sheers and use that to make a nice uniform shape. It looked easy enough and my sheers have hair guides so this past weekend when I shaved my head for Courtney’s commencement I figured I should try out that beard trimming process as I was a bit more shaggy than usual.
You can guess what happened next. My attempt at trimming the way the stylist does it resulted in my taking off a lot more beard than I had planned to. I thought I might lose an inch, but my beard is the shortest it’s been in over 15 years. Here’s the result:
Jinkies! I shouldn’t be too surprised as I’m not a stylist and it’s not like I practice beard trimming that often. I’m told it makes me look younger, it certainly eliminated most of the gray that was showing up in my beard, and at least one of the ladies at work said I “no longer look like a terrorist.” Which could be a good or bad thing depending on the situation. Surprisingly she’s been the only one outside of my family to mention it so far. Everyone else must be too scared to bring it up or something.
In time it’ll grow back out again so I’m not too upset. By winter it’ll be halfway back to its usual length and by next spring I’ll probably have to try trimming it again. I’ll go back to the freehand method as that seems to work best for me.