Opinion | Sexuality

Beards: A Hairy Topic in My Household

The cultural and religious significance of the manly mane.

Every year about this time, when the petunias wither, the horse coats thicken, and the dogs have to be coaxed outside in the morning, a certain delicate debate returns to the Prior household. Each year, as if for the first time ever, I inquire of Mr. Prior if he has forgotten to shave. And Mr. Prior answers, without elaboration, in the negative. After a few more unshaven days pass, I ask, as though I don't already know: "Are you growing a beard?" And Mr. Prior again offers a noncommittal sort of non-response. Finally, after a week or so goes by, I state rather than ask, "You're growing a beard." And Mr. Prior, as though we hadn't discussed this once or twice or twenty times before, responds, "I thought you said you liked my beard," referring, of course, to last year's battle of the beard. "Yes, I like how it looks …" I explain, trailing off, unconsciously brushing my sensitive cheek with my hand.

Sometimes our facial hair skirmish goes on for a week, sometimes a month. Happily, it ...

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