Saturday, December 14, 2013

Lawn Mower Face


Ten day's stubble, that's what women want to see on a guy's face, according to a recent study. Full beards mean good daddy material; heavy stubble makes us look like men. Personally, I wonder whether the female study participants (males in the study responded similarly) really want to snuggle up with Mr. Scratchy or they simply like "the look." 

Marketing likes it, that's for sure. Check out the male models in the latest L.L. Bean or Land's End catalog; almost every one has several days accumulation of 5:00 shadow. True, they're also young (20s, early 30s) and muscular, with finely chiseled facial features, characteristics no doubt chosen because of their presumed appeal to women. I'd like to know where all the mature male models have gone. You suppose, after a certain age, we don't have to try to look manly, we just do?

If maturity is a sign of masculinity, it's a darned good thing because whenever I've enjoyed more than a day of unshaven bliss, forget about women gazing at me with undisguised "I want to have your children" yearning on their faces. They only glance long enough to make a cross with both index fingers and point it in my direction. Makes me wonder if I've been watching too much True Blood (HBO) lately. Anyway, Daniel Craig's 007 looked pretty scuzzy in Skyfall (2013) after a few weeks hiding out in paradise. Even M noticed. So, what gives?

Maybe it's a shift in women's ideas about masculinity. Instead of a sensitive soul who wears his feelings on his sleeve, they want someone who appears and probably acts, a little tougher. Not in the sense he's inconsiderate or abusive -- qualities more accurately reflective of narcissism than genuine masculinity -- rather he has a kind of durability that says he can take life on the chin.

The authors of the study seem to think women consider a shaven face as too youthful, while a full beard makes men seem older, hence better candidates for parenting. Stubble characterizes the guy in the middle, situated on the cusp of masculinity. He has enough testosterone to develop a beard but not so much that he might be considered overly aggressive. "On the cusp," however, usually means "at the point of beginning." From that perspective, a man on the cusp of masculinity is still a boy, something worth remembering when you go out on a date. Appearances can be deceiving.

I have a sneaking suspicion character or manliness are more accurate terms for the qualities that came to mind when the participants viewed stubbly male faces. With a nod of the head to evolutionary psychology, I don't think women are so shallow as to be mainly interested in how closely we approximate our prehistoric ancestors. The problem is, unlike the onset of facial hair, character and manliness don't accompany puberty. They have to be earned and the proof a man possesses them is demonstrated by the way he treats others and the standards he maintains for himself, implying an investment in time and experience. We may be born male but we have to grow into manhood. Facial stubble may signal "sexy" but if Lawn Mower Face is all a fellow's got, he doesn't have nearly enough.  


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(Creative Commons image by Twaize via Flickr)
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