Ask a fifth-year:

Drew Baumgartner

Dear Drew,
I’d like a girlfriend, but I’d also
like to grow a beard. Which should
come first?
-Clean-shaven in Colman
Dear Clean-shaven,
I’d like to offer you advice, Cleanshaven
– that is, ostensibly, what
this column is for – but I’m afraid
I first have to clarify your question.
You’d like a girlfriend? Any old girlfriend?
I suppose I can understand
the appeal of a relationship, but you
make it sound like ordering a pizza.
Now, I’m not going to lecture
you about how starting a relationship
should be about the two people
involved, not the label put on it –
that’s what girlfriends are for – but
I will say that I would need more
specifics to answer the question. Are
you interested in the preppy-type
with incredibly sensitive face-skin,
or the hippie wearing the “I heart
Beards” t-shirt? Seeing as you’ve
been rather general, I think I’ll back
up the question to broader terms:
Should we do things that we think
people will like, or the things that
please us?
I think we’ve all seen enough
“very special episodes” of family sitcoms
to know that doing only the
former is unfulfilling, and anyone
whose ever had a conversation with
a self-identified objectivist and/or
hedonist knows that doing only the
latter makes you a selfish jerk. Most
of society has agreed to occupy a
middle ground, which makes sense
in most cases, but not yours, Cleanshaven.
Let’s say there is a specific someone
you are interested in, but this
person just happens to hate beards.
Obviously you two would be at odds
in regard to your facial hair. Would
this be a big problem? That really
depends on how strongly either of
you felt about it, but I think we’ve
ignored a bigger problem.
Your question implies that having
a beard would somehow affect
how appealing girls find you. Is this
true? But I don’t think it makes any
kind of difference in terms of actually
finding someone who likes you.
Anyone whose interest in you is correlated
to your beard-dom is shallow
to the point of absurdity, which is a
deal breaker for me. I’d recommend
against trying to appeal to this group
of people. Instead, you could appeal
directly to people who would actually
like you by simply being yourself.
I know, I know, the sappy music
is swelling, but this is just plain
logical. If you want a beard and a
girlfriend, wouldn’t it make sense
for that girlfriend to like beards,
too? What better way to appeal to
someone pro-beard than to have a
beard yourself? That’s really the only
way to be sure that you don’t end up
with someone who will secretly – or
vocally – resent the fact that you
grew a beard.
If we need a historical example
of why this would be bad, we
need look no further than Abraham
Lincoln, one of the world’s most
famous beardies. It was a cleanshaven
Lincoln that met and married
Mary Todd. Several years later,
at the behest of an 11-year-old girl,
he decided to grow the renowned
chinstrap, and then what happened?
Mary Todd went crazy – If I say
there were thrown potatoes at Abe’s
bearded face involved, I think you’ll
get the picture and I can assure you
that the timeline is spot on.
It probably wouldn’t be that bad
if you sprung a beard on a non-beard
person, but why would you want to
be with someone who doesn’t like
the way you look? I understand the
desire to put your best foot forward,
but be sure that foot is yours. Grow
your beard, become the person you
want, and you’ll attract exactly the
kind of people who are into you.
Have a question? Send it to Drew at