My friend Trey was part of this online beard-growing contest a couple of years ago. In actual fact, it is really a photography contest with growing beards as a theme (and is thusly pretty much limited to male contestants, though females certainly jump in and contribute). For the past few years, I’ve been growing out a “winter beard” every year around November and shaving it off in again around the beginning of March, which just so happened to coincide with Whiskerino.
Unfortunately, Whiskerino only happens every couple of years so I had to wait until this season to participate. Sign-up was on the 1st of November and the response was so overwhelming I almost didn’t get in (my grandfather was visiting that day and I had waited until family left to try). Fortunately, an e‑mail plea to the organizer got me signed up and I posted a photo of Angela kissing my beard good-bye.
I really did my best to be creative. I was pretty much constrained to what I could pull off by myself (I work at home, alone) during the time I was taking to eat some lunch or take a short break from writing. I had a few good photos and the photo constraints of the contest forced me to think about how to use my camera and limited resources (no post-processing allowed; i.e. — no Photoshop).
However, between parenting and visiting family around the holidays, and all of being more sick this past winter than our entire lives, it put a strain on my time. Internet beard-growing & photo contests are unfortunately the sort of thing that has to get put aside first in these situations. I stand in awe of the guys who did this every last day with kids, jobs, and way more stuff going on than me. But it is important to note that many of these guys have been doing this for years and have become very close friends. This is the modern internet equivalent to a guy’s road trip.
And, in fact, there was even one of those! (though many women came along for the fun, too). Last weekend many participants came together here in Nashville for the Throwdown weekend. I was able to join for a taco lunch and got the chance to meet some people whose work I’ve been admiring for the past 3+ months. They were all the nicest, most interesting people from every background you can imagine.
Despite all the grumblings from Angela (who has never approved of my beard-growing activities and was not happy at all about Whiskerino), despite all the crazy one-upmans-ship that I had not way of competing in, despite all the discomfort that I get when my beard goes for a few weeks untrimmed, let alone four months!; I’d do again were it to happen in a couple of years.
Why? Because I started to see what all the people who’ve done it for the past few years see in it. It is way more than beards. Or photography. Or posting every day. It is about making friends with people whom you’d never would have had the chance to meet otherwise. It’s about taking the most individual, least competitive things in the whole world and turning it into some sort of team sport. One where the team consists of over four hundred other guys whom despite not knowing you and maybe having nothing else in common with you, encourage you and are your friend.
It was one of the oddest things I’ve ever done and it was so much more fun than I can begin to convey in a blog post. But don’t take my word for it. Go over there and look at the photos from today. Read how much this means to the guys involved. Then go and read some of the amazing stories they shared (babies, engagements, cancer, broken backs, swine flu, newspaper interviews, tattoos, even bigger tattoos, and so much more).
All that being said, I was more than ready to shave off the pile of wire and horse hair that was growing out of my face. I was starting to feel very uncomfortable (both physically and socially) and was never so glad to shave as I was today. I did try and have a little fun with that, too:
You can see all of my 2009 Whiskerino photos, as well.
To see what was truly the best of the best in these photos, please check out the King Beard section (each day’s favorite photos, as voted upon by the participants). Note, I only made into the top ten one time, and I’m proud to say it was by one of the most amazing photos I’ve ever scene.