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  • Ken Ilgunas

Reentering Civilization

Step 1: Shave off the beard.

I’m back in North Carolina and back in school. Because I have a part-time job working with kids at an elementary school, I decided that I needed to de-creepify myself a little bit.

It was either I get rid of the van or the beard. I went with the beard.

Shaving off a beard is like leaving a close friend. You don’t realize you’ll miss him until he’s gone. And now when I go to stroke my beard (as I frequently and lovingly did), I’m reminded of my rash decision and my lost friend.

Thoreau—the civil disobedient that he was—sported what can only be termed a “neckbeard”—a manly mane of hair sub-chin—that women, he claimed, found becoming.

This is contentious for several reasons. Firstly, Thoreau—according to some historians—was celibate. Alluring the opposite sex thus would have been of little importance to him. Secondly, Thoreau was—neckbeard aside—ugly. Nathanial Hawthorne claimed he was “ugly as sin, long-nosed, queer-mouthed, and with uncouth and rustic, though courteous manners, corresponding very well with such an exterior.” And Louisa May Alcott was reported to have said that his facial hair “will most assuredly deflect amorous advances and preserve the man’s virtue in perpetuity,” which is a fancy way of saying that Thoreau ain’t gettin’ any with that dead animal draped around his neck.

Maybe that’s the very reason why Thoreau grew-out his neckbeard. I wonder if I, too, would have been better off with the beard (or the 70’s porn ’stache). Perhaps it, like Thoreau’s neckbeard, would have deterred a-wooing females from breaking my rather prolonged streak of celibacy, which has enabled me, this past year, to focus my attentions more on the subjects of the mind and spirit than of the body.

But then again, living in a van, in itself, practically guarantees my continued celibacy. This, as I’ve hinted, isn’t necessarily a bad thing, yet I do fantasize about the day when I can ask some amorously-advancing someone, “so you wanna go back to my place?” and then savor her reaction when she sees my home-on-wheels.


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