Criteria For Goatees

I think it’s time to put forth a proposition regarding goatees. They should be grown only by fathers with very young children, and also by anyone else who finds themselves in the company of young children. The reason for designating this segment of the shaving population is simple: it is easier to draw someone with a goatee. Young children should be given the opportunity to feel they’ve succeeded in drawing their father or uncle or whomever. However, once a level of skill is achieved, it will be time to jettison the hairy construct. Just as children pass from kindergarten to first grade, so too they should pass from the easy dunk of drawing a veritable dark circle under a nose, to tackling the more inscrutable terrain of the lower face. (This is not to say that the time to shave is when the child makes the transition from kindergarten to first grade, close observation will make the proper time for transition apparent.)

This plan further allows for a sequence of goatees throughout one’s lifetime. There are the goatees of unclehood, fatherhood, and grandfatherhood, and each of those may consist of their own series of growth and discard patterns.

What this neatly accomplishes is the redistribution of goatees into a wider segment of the population, while keeping it from being the sole province of one particular age group. Myself, I grew a mustache when I was seventeen and kept it for 22 years. The mustache was sometimes accompanied by a full beard, and there was also a brief phase when I added an imperial (also known as a jazz dab, as well as by other music_ and beatnik-related names), but the mustache always remained: it was the headquarters for all the hair forays into other parts of my face. In the last few years of that mustache it served as the anchor for a goatee, all of which I shaved off when my daughter was six (and in fact, it was the summer prior to her entering the first grade). Her drawing skills did adapt to the loss of the visual hook (sort of like the free space in Bingo), and she subsequently zeroed in more on my glasses. However, I’m not getting contact lenses. And I’m also not going to cut down the backyard tree just so she’ll have to draw the garden behind it. I’m only trying to rearrange the proliferation of goatees.

– David Greenberger

(aired on NPR’s All Things Considered, 20 March, 1997)