Today's questions have been sourced from Atlantic Wire staffers and friends. But please send me your dilemmas for next week.
To beard or not to beard?
Many a facially hair-laden fellow has shaved off his beard in preparation for the hottest months of the year. Does that mean that you have to or that you will be judged if you decide not to? Further, what are the implications for keeping your beard year round?
First of all, we are not here to tell you what to do (even if this is an etiquette column). We are here to gently advise, or, like a therapist, present a partially impartial outside voice that helps you find the right conclusion on your own (unless you're asking something that clearly can have only one right answer). In the case of a beard, this is a matter of choice, primarily. But it's not your choice alone. It's also the choice of anyone who must make contact with your beard. Thus, if you have a girl or boyfriend who, in the summer months, will be particularly annoyed and disgusted by your scruffy mange that holds onto sweat and God knows what else (we don't want to think about it; we haven't eaten lunch yet), you would be advised to shave to maintain that relationship in its most healthful, pleasant, tactile state. Similarly, if your beard is extremely long, unruly, and/or prone to touching strangers, say, on the subway, even if accidentally, get rid of it for the summer—heat is high and so are tempers, and the accidental touch of an unknown tendril of facial or other hair has been know to start fires, at least metaphorically.
But consider this, as well: If your beard is fairly short and easily maintained, if it does not make your own face sweat excessively or break out in summer heat, if you, mostly, not only love it but also consider it part of you, your look, your soul, whatever: Don't shave it. Keep it. Wash it. Groom it. Love it. After all, no one is demanding that you shave your head for the summer, right?
How do I explain that I have no "summer travel plans" without seeming a total loser?
Ah, this is a tricky one. It's also one of the questions most commonly asked during the season by random acquaintances and people like your doctor or hairdresser or the nosy lady in line next to you at the Post Office. Maybe you just haven't decided yet, maybe you're too busy with work to go anywhere, maybe you're broke or simply hate leaving town. Nothing wrong with any of that. But this question, which is intended only to create some pleasant, if meaningless, conversation—do they really care? Probably not—can strike a pang of fear and dismay in the hearts of many an otherwise stalwart individual. What to do?
Do not, even if tempted, lie. You only make it harder for the rest of us, and you jinx yourself from ever going on that vacation of your dreams. If you said it to the stranger with the nervous laugh and face mole at Starbucks, it will not happen—if it does, you will always remember said stranger, which means, vacay to the pristine beaches of Barbados ruined. Don't, either, do that cutesy thing and talk about how you might take a "staycation": That word alone is fraught with the tinge of inherent rationalization. If you want to take some days off and stay home in your underwear and eat microwaved nachos in front of the A.C. while watching soaps, do it. No need to name it something "cation"-y in hopes of making it sound more fun.