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Imminent Collapse Don...t Fear the Beard

By Bill Andrews
CAMPUS LIFE EDITOR

Like many of my fellow students, I saw this last IAP as a time of opportunity. Indeed, there was a plethora of options should I take some cool job, some neato internship? Or perhaps spend all my new and fleeting free time going to the gym, eating lite, and buffing up? There’s the new 2-hour-a-day sleeping schedule I’ve heard so much about, entire seasons of great TV shows to watch, great literature … How’s a guy to choose?

In the end, you’ll be happy to know that, like so many of my classmates, I watched daytime TV (don’t worry, it still sucks) and played video games. But I was left with a by-product other than lowered intelligence and better hand-eye coordination: a shiny new beard. (Well, actually, it was more fuzzy than shiny, but whatever.)

Nor was I the only one. Upon my semi-triumphant return to mit.edu, I saw that many of my brethren (and, alas, some sistren) had also adopted the shaggy look. Now, I don’t want to be mean or anything, so I’ll just state without naming names that not everyone can grow a beard — just ask my cousin Dave. Alas, what some men grow is not a beard, just some of the component parts; they can still go on to live fruitful lives, of course, perhaps with subtle variations on the beardly theme (like mustaches, soul patches, goatees, mutton chops). But even with the true beards, things can get a little hairy if you don’t watch out.

After all, there’s a subtle but noticeable difference between having a nicely cultivated, full fledged beard and a free-for-all growth that merely tries. It’s a big decision to make, because up till that moment you can go either way: “oh, uh, no I’m not sporting a beard, it’s just been a while since I’ve shaved, that’s all. But, y’know, maybe if I like how it looks …” In fact, I would guess that at least half of all beards, and three quarters of those grown during IAP, were unintentional, unplanned, and (in that loving description typically reserved for children) accidents.

I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t great having a beard. Weeks without shaving, taking only a minute or two to touch up, extra warmth in the winter, the list goes on and on. And for the most part, I benefited; I suddenly looked older, more sophisticated, more artistic, more collegiate. In fact, in all my bearded glory, only one person didn’t really like the change, and unfortunately (for my beard), that one person was my fianc e. After our IAP-long separation, her first words were, “I don’t like it.”

So off it went, as have so many of my beard’s friends since term began, presumably to greener pastures, bigger faces, or whatever. After all, IAP’s over, and it’s time to put childish things (so to speak) behind us. I took some pictures, played a final game of “shampoo my face,” and bade it a fond farewell.

But the memory of it lives on in me. For you see, my mental self-image (or as I call it, my Matrix image) has changed. Before, my Matrix image was totally clean-shaven; thus, the disparity between my expected reflection and my actual reflection would alert me to the need. Now, apparently, I’d always need a shave in the Matrix, because I can never tell when I need a shave in real life. Lucky for me, though, I happen to know someone more than willing to take over the task.

So, while my IAP may seem like wasted time to some, I say they are the ones who wasted their time (unless they also grew beards). I mean, fellas, how much do you really know about yourself if you don’t even know how you look in a beard? Or even if you can grow one, should the need arise? The unexamined life is not worth living, says Socrates, but I say the ungrown beard is not worth wearing. Or, you know, the less gross equivalent.