Etiquette: Letting People Touch Your Beard

Bearded Zeus

Picture this: You are walking down the canned goods aisle at the grocery, holding your little plastic basket and trying to remember if the jars of artichoke hearts would be in this aisle or with the other jarred things like pickles or olives.  Suddenly you hear the subdued laughter of what sounds like a young woman of perhaps high school age.  You casually look over to see your hunch confirmed as the girl asks perkily, “Can I touch your beard?”

Hmm… what am I supposed to do in this situation?  What are the girl’s motives?  Is she really beard-curious?  Or is there a passel of her peers nearby looking on expectantly?  The girl’s pretty young looking… is this even legal?

Now picture this: You’re kicking it in a dimly lit booth at your local brewpub downing delicious craft-brewed pale ales with three of your good friends.  The conversation has been at times as bawdy as it has been intellectual.  As you wipe another moustache full of beer foam from your lip, your friend sitting next to you asks out of the blue, “Dude, can I touch your beard?”

Whoa… that’s pretty random.  I’ve had this beard for years and he’s never asked to touch the thing… what’s up?  Is he thinking of growing one himself?  If so, then for sure he can touch it.  Has he finally worked up the courage to come out as a homosexual by flirting with me?  He knows I have a girlfriend!

As you can see, the issue of allowing others to touch your beard can be quite a quandary.  One one hand, you want to be the consummate beard ambassador and will do anything within reason to encourage others to grow.  On the other, it can be hard to gauge the person’s motives, and since you obviously take your beard seriously, you don’t want to end up the object of a joke or the conduit for the fulfillment of a dare.  This is, of course, assuming that the person has even asked at all rather than suddenly lurching for your face with his or her grubby hands.  Wearing a beard can be a perilous thing, fraught with complexities.

While the above situations are fictitious, in my days of being bearded, I have encountered moments that are similar to these.  I’ve had high school girls who were my students at the time ask to touch my beard.  I’ve had lifelong friends in a fit of drunken mirth ask to touch my beard.  I’ve had casual acquaintances completely disregard courtesy and just reach out and make hand-to-beard contact.

What have I done in all these situations?  Happily let the person have a closer inspection. Every time.  Why?  Because it means they are sincerely curious about beardedness.  If they were repulsed, they would want nothing to do with my beard!  So if I let a person satisfy that urge to see what a robust beard feels like under hand, and they see how soft beards actually can be, then I think I’ve helped them chalk up a pro-beard point in their minds.  So what if it’s a little awkward?  It only takes a second, but the experience will stick with them for much longer.  That’s my advice to you, big beard wearers.  Joyfully allow others to investigate your beard and leave them with a positive experience to remember.

Lastly, my advice to you folks who have always wanted to see what a puffy beard feels like is this.  Politely ask a bearded guy who you have spoken to at length at least once if you may touch his beard.  Do not take liberties and do not ask a stranger.  Understand that a person’s facial area is a very personal space, even when it has a big beard on it.  If you abide by these simple rules, you should finally get to see just how great all that fuzziness is to touch.

Courtesy of The Beard Coach


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