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So I let my beard grow to extreme lengths, and have a few observations to make.

Clearly, the beard is overcompensating for my male pattern baldness. Ages ago, I had an unruly mop of luxurious hair up there. This massive plume spouted as high as a geyser and as wide as the Panama Canal. Now, it’s a total wasteland; more arctic circle than Antarctica.

 I don’t know if it’s from the dyes I used as a foolish teen, or a gypsy curse, or a side effect of my boner meds, but I’ve been thinning since the early aughts. To make matters worse, it grows all patchy, like a poorly maintained rugby field. Think of my scalp as a desert – there are a few oasises here and there, but they don’t portend relief or rescue or renewal; only shame.

So recently I started to grow my remaining hair out on the sides and back. I’m naturally curly, so it kinda tuffs out at right angles instead of growing long or droopy. Whoever invented hats ought to have a town named after them, or a school, or at least a statue of themselves sporting wearing a hat (and nothing else). 

And so my experimentation continued. No stranger to beards (mine grow fairly quickly and thoroughly), I charted a course wherein I wouldn’t shave for 7 months or more. Honestly, none of this was planned at first; I was just being lazy. I saw a chance to save time in the morning by just letting it be, and only tidied it up here and there for, ahem, society… until the day that I didn’t.

My trimmer broke. Being the kind of cheapskate who never buys anything new, I still don’t have a replacement. Luckily, I don’t work for the police department, or the military, or pest control – any profession that requires a shorn chin-line. Ditto for food service, where you just can’t get away with looking like you woke up on a park bench. I had the luxury of letting my beard grow out at leisure, til it was a creature too powerful to be controlled.

Now, the “beast” as I call it is approximately two and a half inches long, nearly twice as long as my biggest erection. It’s truly unruly too, to the point that I’ve taken the unprecedented step of seeking out advice on how to groom it.

Folks look at you differently when you have a massive, unruly tangle of hair where your pie-hole should be. I’ve been mistaken for homeless, Muslim, orthodox Jew, homeless again, Seik, and skinny Zach Galafanakis.

The most eye-opening thing is how people react to you. It cuts two ways: people can think you're lazy, unmotivated, unkempt (guilty!) or they may compliment you on your devotion to a goal. Well, it didn’t begin as a goal, but it’s been an interesting journey nonetheless. How long will I keep it? Depends… I’m consulting doctors now on how to transplant my facial hair onto the top of my noggin. So far their projections are pretty encouraging!

Matt Stewart