Wednesday, March 21, 2007

I go pogonotrophy

Over at PZ's, we get our word of the day:
Pogonotrophy (po-guh-NAW-truh-fee) noun [From Greek pogon (beard*) + -trophy (nourishment, growth).] The growing of a beard.

From this, we get lots of cool related words: pogonophilia, a healthy love of beards; pogonophobia, an irrational fear of beards; pogonology, the study of beards; and pogonotomy, a fancy word for shaving.

With only a few interruptions, I've had a beard since I could grow one. That was about thirty-three years ago. Several of those interruptions were demanded by my employers in the seventies who didn't want their employees to look like dirty hippies. This was a rather odd attitude to take in Alaska in those days, when the Republican governor sported a full beard, as did many members of the legislature and respectable leaders of business all over the state. Beards are an inseperable part of Alaska's self image as a rustic, frontier territory. Anchorage's mid-winter festival, the Fur Rendezvous, has always included a beard contest.

As a student of history and all things old, I came up with an anthropological defense of beards and critique of shaving. According to my theory, shaving is an attempt by aging males to look younger, as in a beardless youth. I even had some historical evidence to go on, since the fashion of shaving in classical Greece was mostly a result of men imitating the appearance of the boy-general Alexander. But, since a beard is a secondary sexual characteristic that comes with puberty and sexual potency, shaving carries a negative subtext. The shaver makes himself appear pre-pubescent, or not yet sexually potent. Therefore, shaving is an act of symbolic castration and I was having nothing to do with it. I still don't.

That goes double for body waxing.

* Not "opposum" as some might expect.

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