Steinbeck devotes Page 32 of Travels with Charley to the “one thing that a woman cannot do better than a man”—grow a beard.
Men grow beards when they are young to look older. At any time a man may want to hide something in the bush: bad skin or the family chin.
Many men grow beards to punctuate a boring face even though it may be grammatically correct.
Steinbeck claims he wears a beard for the same reason a peacock was given his tail: for adornment. He left unsaid what we all know, that peacocks flourish for peahens. Now I am not suggesting that Steinbeck had a roving eye while he traveled, his writing does not hint that. I doubt if I need remind anyone that the adult human male has been known to preen to attract the mate they already have.
I’ve grown a beard twice in my life. Once in college when my brown goatee looked like it was glued on to a young actor in an effort to age the face. It lasted about six weeks and satisfied the need for the next twenty-five years. The next white goatee was grown during the only other motorhome escape in my life. It made me look old. I wore it about six weeks until I was ready to return to real life and it came off faster than a prom dress.
Fast forward another 25 years and I haven’t shaved in a week. My face is already so old that a beard won’t make any difference. I may let my beard grow, a day at a time, maybe even another five weeks.