Monday, April 26, 2010

Why You Stuck-Up, Half-Witted, Scruffy-Looking (Insert Here)

We find ourselves in the days between Pesach and Shavuos, known to all at Sefiras HaOmer. Along with reflecting on how to improve ourselves in preparation for the celebration of matan Torah, we also observe the mourning practices that recall the loss of Rabbi Akiva’s 24,000 students. The most infamous of these indications of mourning with regard to the dating world is of course, the sefirah beard (at least for men).

Why are girls obsessed with sefirah beards!?

I’ve empirically experienced the almost obligatory adoration that goes along with the sudden, non-ephemeral appearance of facial hair, including one girl who requested I not shave for dates after Lag B’Omer. I’ve been told my sefirah beard, which has dramatically increased in coverage over the years, makes me look scholarly, rabbinical, and mature. If anything, the beard growth gives me something to actually grasp when I absentmindedly stroke my jaw in thought, which is a “bad habit” of mine (or so I’ve been told). At least the facial hair legitimizes the action.

One friend from yeshiva in Israel actually kept a photographic record, or "Sefirah-beard-o-meter" that he included in his weekly emails to his family.

What seems particularly funny to me is that the “sex-appeal” of sefirah beards drops from an all time high during dating/engagement to the negative range after the wedding. I’ve read on several blogs and heard from numerous married women during Shabbos table conversations (when this inevitably comes up for discussion) that they really don’t like sefirah beards at all on their normally clean shaven husbands.

A rebbe of mine told me a cute story about Sefirah beards. Apparently, he has a chassidish friend whose wife forbids him from growing a beard, and thus he goes without one for the majority of the year. Recently, as he began to take a liking to his sefirah beard as he does every year, he stroked the ill-fated beard in admiration and remarked to his wife, “You know, this sefirah beard actually looks becoming,” in a vain attempt to get her allow him to keep it.

She replied “It may be becoming, but it better be going.”

I think the key difference is that while beards may be visually appealing to dating girls because of their macho/manly factor that makes their gentlemen callers appear rugged and handsome, married women know the tactile difference that beards are no fun to come into prolonged contact with. The closest that any single girl can probably come to understand this is any encounter they may have had with their father kissing them on the cheek when he wasn’t clean shaven. It’s not quite sandpaper, but you get my drift.

Yes, for those female readers who are wondering, beards are itchy, as well as hot and bothersome to maintain. I somewhat experimentally kept a beard after the 3 weeks this past summer, and it was really difficult to keep it trim and even. Typical pre-Shabbos beard neatening took far longer than a typical shave. After another week or two, I gave up and went back to clean shaven.

The biggest perk about my sefirah beard is that my Shabbos and date prep time is reduced semi-substantially, since I typically only shave for those occasions (shaving roughly once a week makes the shaving process take longer). I also don't have to worry about missing a patch here or there and appearing half-unkempt in my attempt to look my best on dates.

Though I'll be somewhat sad to see it go, I still look forward to shaving once again. I much prefer the more minimal stubble look (and feel) to a fuller beard. That, and I will finally look more presentable, and less all-around scruffy.


  1. Sefira beards are great. I can't imagine not liking how my husband (to be) will look in a sefira beard.

    See post #1

  2. "Why are girls obsessed with sefira beards?"

    Maybe just because it's something different.

    Honestly, it looks good on a lot of guys, but on some guys, not so much. I also think sefira beards start off good, when it's just a little scruff, but by Lag Ba'omer, it gets to be too much.

    I hear what you're saying about them being itchy and annoying to take care of.

  3. "Why are girls obsessed with sefira beards?"

    Really which girls (other than Sefardi Girl and SternGrad). Beards are plain UGLY. Although 5 o'clock shadows are another story....

  4. I agree, 5 o'clock shadows, or preferably, a very light stubble - is, in my mind - infinitely more comfortable and attractive. Just having that dark haze on the skin that never goes away due to heavy facial hair isn't so great (I feel bad for guys who can never look fully clean shaven). But, a coverage of short stubble is definitely more manly and appealing, though I may be influenced by certain favorite fictional characters that sport that look.

  5. Some guys look better in beards as it covers ugly facial characteristics. We might admire the beards on such men as a way of encouraging them to keep it.

    Alternatively, if a guy is self conscious about his sefira beard, we might admire it to make him feel less uncomfortable.

    Usually, imho, they look scruffy. But as someone surrounded by 'sefira' beards on nerds who shave once every three weeks... you can get used to them.

  6. Bad4 - I had a similar experience this past summer when volunteering in a research lab. I was worried about not shaving during the three weeks and wrote this long email to my director explaining the religious observance, etc. Her reply was short and eloquent: "It's fine to look "scruffy" - in fact most labrats do ;-)"

  7. When I met my husband, he was beardless. (This was "in college.") He grew beard for sefirah, and asked me if I thought he should keep it. He shaved it off once (when we were still dating) because he had trimmed it unevenly, and I let him know that I prefer the beard. He grew it back.

    After almost 14 years of marriage, I still prefer the beard. Maybe my husband just has very thick stubble, or maybe it's the approved "kosher" shavers, but his beard is a lot less scratchy (to me) than his stubble. And he hates shaving, so it's a win-win for us.


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