Shortly after the New Year, under the high-altitude sun of the mountains, the snow was wet with its own perspiration, and precious banks of white receded to betray hidden stumps and dark rocks. On the eve before returning to my four day work week as a lifty, I took out the electric trimmer and mowed down my beard to mere stubble. I then put a new blade on my razor, neglected for five months now, and erased any remaining growth. What I saw in the mirror was exactly what I had hoped. A jaw line, lips, youthful charm...I had expression, I had a face again!
I should point out that the decision to shave was no simple matter. In fact, it took great deliberation. I stood before the mirror imagining what wasn’t and feeling what was for an hour or so. The temptation bounced around my head for days. It was months since I had seen any bare portion of my face below my cheek bones and even longer since my upper lip had felt a breeze of fresh air! Ultimately though, woman would prove to be the great motivator that led me down such a terrible path. I speak of no woman in particular, but all women in all their glory, all their alluring and fatalistic power.
A good beard can go a long way for a man, but it's usefulness comes to a peak in winter when howling winds, sub-zero temperatures and frozen precipitation bombard man and woman alike, forcing retreat to the indoors. A bearded man, however, can face the coldest of winter nights, chin set strongly against the bitter conditions and trudge on in triumphant silence. The beard is truly a shield against the elements. As a snowboarder and lift operator, this isn't just a commodity, it's a necessity.
Sun-burn and goggle tan are thwarted by a dense forest of follicles. Wind is deflected by the burly wall. And most importantly, snowflakes that attempt to shock the skin by aerial bombardment or the occasional faceplant become harmlessly entangled in the razor wire of facial defense. The beard becomes even more effective at this stage, creating an impenetrable barrier as snow freezes into an icy shell.
As I made my decision to shave however, I overlooked all of this. Instead, I focused on how many women I know who prefer a clean shaven man. And how much younger I looked with a baby-smooth face. Sure, I've met some rare women who enjoy my beard, but they all agree; preference falls to the unbearded.
The next day at work, I learned the error of my decision. Sub-zero temperatures had returned and brought with them winds from the North. It was as if God had unleashed a great fury upon my indifference to the Beard. Riding the lift, my chair bounced in 30 mile per hour winds. Blowing snow reduced visibility to 40 feet at the most. Like a scared child crying for a blankie, I just wanted my beard back to make things "all better". After getting off the lift, I strapped into my board and dreaded the run to come.
As I made my way down to the lift shack, the wind hit my body like a sail and pushed me across the slope regardless of what direction I steered. Even at reduced speeds, the point between my lower lip and chin burned with the cold lashing of the wind. Normally soft, floating flakes were condensed into sleet, and pelted me relentlessly like an endless swarm of angry wasps. I flinched at every stony speck that slammed onto my bare, vulnerable cheeks. From the warmth and safety of my lift shack, I vowed not to venture out for the rest of the day unless the weather let up. I had learned my lesson.
So put down the razor and step back for a moment. Consider the consequences of your actions. While you may not look charming or appealing to the opposite sex, you will have a certain ruggedness that comes with the utility of a beard. But more important than looks is warmth. Sure, a lady-friend will keep you plenty warm on those long, cold Montana nights, but come morning, when you must go out (and we must go out eventually), a beard is sure to keep you far warmer than any companion. Why have a woman who can only warm you in bed, when a beard will keep you cozy through the worst winter has to offer?