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Shaving for Freshman Success: Tending Beards Interrupts Personal and Intellectual Growth

Anders Hove

The business of providing incoming students with advice about their new alma mater is a fiercely competitive one, and so I had intended to make the advice column I offered last year my final attempt to influence the younger generation. Yet I recently learned from some of my colleagues that others were attempting to usurp the particular snippet of wisdom which I formerly monopolized. Hence I have reemerged from my brief retirement to once more provide my column of simple advice for freshmen - and I mean men, exclusively, for most women will find this advice irrelevant, and perhaps insulting when offered after an exploratory glance at their chins.

The advice is as follows: don't grow a beard - you'll look like an idiot.

Young men, I tell you there is no time like the present to heed this counsel. Your first year in college is a chance to take risks, explore your interests, and gain fresh insight through intellectual discovery and social development. Growing a beard at a young age throws into jeopardy your chance to engage in any of these activities. Thin and unruly stubble carries with it a strong social stigma, particularly at the Institute, where the unkempt is equivalent to the anti-social. A furtive attempt at beard-growing suggests you have been worshipping the Goddess of the All Night Tool several evenings in a row, with all of the noisome and unhygienic implications that attend such activity.

Beards also stifle intellectual growth and personal discovery among young students. Tending a beard takes time and energy which otherwise would have been applied to study. And, in the evening, the mental fancy and imagination that would have fed pleasant and nourishing dreams is instead channeled into the follicles, from which it emanates into the nocturnal ether, where it dissipates. Instead of an intellectual giant, there emerges a hideous, hairy creature to whom only a single adjective can do proper justice: barbarous.

There is but one experience more awful than growing a beard: shaving. Most of our new arrivals will come to campus feeling they've had their fair share of this experience. After all, they have been tutored by their fathers and older siblings from an early age, and they know the humiliation of having missed spots of ungainly new growth on their cheeks, necks, backs, ears, lips, and inner nostrils.

To avoid shaving thus appears a consummation devoutly to be wished. Unfortunately, due to their lack of experience, freshmen are prone to repeat past experiments that have attempted, without notable success, to bypass the shaving process. Because of my reputation for five o'clock shadow, I have occasionally found myself acting in the undesirable capacity as repository for information related to beard-suppression techniques. Here I list a few of the most humorous experiments that have come to my attention.

Willpower: Only a few possess the peace and tranquility required for suppressing hair growth through thought. Some gurus even claim to have cowed whiskers right back into their follicles. Unfortunately, the vast majority discover that stubble has a mind of its own.

UNIX: This stable and versatile platform is renowned for its initially intimidating but ultimately endearing user interface. Man has long known the benefits of touching and fingering his beard, but only recently has he attempted to rm it from a UNIX shell. Unfortunately, the command is prone to return "no match" when executed from a remote directory.

Sportswear: Ever put a headband over a pimple? Ever wear a baseball cap over a bad haircut? Football helmets have a chin guard that could cover the goatee area nicely. Let it go any further, and you're left with a choice between a hockey mask and a baseball umpire's chin sheath.

Wearable Computers: Here's the classic MIT quick fix - distract them by donning a wearable computer. Although some slightly fashionable wearables are now seen on the streets of Cambridge, beard owners may prefer the more ungainly versions. The theory goes that people will be so busy pointing at your gadgets they won't notice the hairs protruding out from underneath.

It must be painfully apparent by now that there is no good way to be rid of unsightly growth. My advice, therefore, is to shave early and often. Otherwise one winds up like the Emperor Titus, who, after forgetting to do the deed for nearly 24 hours, is said to have sighed, "Diem perdidi" - I have lost a day.