On Physical Cover-ups
Updated: Jul 2
(2023 Note: I only keep my facial hair nowadays as part of branding. Yes. It's part of business. There is no need to debate with me on such minor matters. I also keep it because I suffer from face blindness, and need to recognize myself, distinctively like everyone else. I've no desire to forget how I look).
I begin this article by confessing that I am quite angry, but not at anyone else, rather at myself. For almost a decade, I covered my face with useless hair. I thought it defined me, that it was an extension of my personality, while in reality it was something that any genuine philosopher should hate: a display of pretense, a cover you put on yourself just because it is acceptable and you want to see how it looks on you. For years, I actually pondered about Buddhist monks and how they feel with so little hair on their head.
I am aware that this may sound like a very minor issue to consider, but what are hairs, makeup, piercings, or any other kind of facial add-on? I will tell you: it is either a "mask" or an enhancement of that. It is a fact, after all, that it isn't your actual head; it's something that you either put on yourself or grows on you. In order to not be sexist, I label facial hair in the same regard as makeup, even though it is natural (you can say that it's a natural mask).
It's not the only reason I'm a bit angry at myself. The only recollection I had of myself with no facial hair was in exactly a decade ago. Only with my decision to see how I look without it, I realized that I look completely different than the way I thought I am. I wouldn't be over-dramatic and claim that this is traumatic, but I do feel like I have been deceiving myself by having facial hair; that I no longer look like a kid, but more masculine, like the men in my life.
This frustrates me because it is hypocritical for a philosopher to deceive themselves, to be satisfied with the shadows of the cave as their "true selves". I thought, all this decade, that I look childish, if not infantile, without my facial hair, along with its comfort-giving nature. I'll tell you why I feared seeing myself without that hair: to be seen like other people, to not be distinct enough. However, it was all a delusion; an escape from the true self that exist beyond the shadows of mere cosmetics. Is the true self one's face?
Well, there are programs nowadays that can literally identify what one is feeling, simply by analyzing their facial expression. If that's not a great way to delve deep into the self, I don't know what is. Of course, a fully-bearded man can still be identified just the same, I think, but what is even the point of a beard in the first place, when all it does is to cover up your face, in some way or another, just like a COVID mask, or a woman's makeup?
I think that facial cosmetics can say a lot about our kind as a whole. What do we use cosmetics for, if not for certain occasions that are more formal -- like a wedding, a date, or any other celebration event or ceremony? In order to improve the whole atmosphere, we "improve" ourselves, by "enhancing" the way we appear. That way we can tell ourselves as well as others, that this is an important event, with whatever function it has that is of bigger significance than day-to-day life.
If we are, however, to bring a cold-honest philosopher to the center to carry a speech, they might as well say that this is all just a collectively-accepted fraud. Why? Because day-to-day is every day, and we are not as important as we necessarily think we are.
As I've learned on my own skin, cosmetics is all just a form of escapism -- to escape from the regular, average man or woman that we are. You might be surprised, but I don't see my job as that superior than any other job, simply because we are all equal in a sense. Socrates, for example, wasn't a noble, but a mere stonemason, and Nietzsche was an odd fellow who spent the remaining 11 years of his life in serious ill with no hope of recovery (eventually died in 1900). Let us not forget, of course, Diogenes, who was basically homeless and urinated in public.
And still, they were great philosophers, not because of who they were, but simply due to what they had to say. That is, in the end, what makes a man a philosopher -- not their various masks, but their honest words!
I'm a bit relaxed now, but I still find it hard to live in peace with the fact that I've deceived myself, even if unintentionally. I at least take solace in the fact that this is a relatively minor aspect of existence, and not something that has to do more with my work.
Finally, I would like to apologize to those who take their facial appearance very seriously. I am simply writing the insights I have revealed using my own narrative. I do not know how it is to be a woman, as I have never been and will never be female. Perhaps I am wrong and makeup is more important than I take it to be. Nonetheless, I will say this: if I were a woman, I would choose to give up makeup as well, for the same reasons that I am trying to give up facial hair for a while. Of course, that would be my decision and not anyone else's.
Just be aware of this: makeup is making up. To make up stuff is, technically, to either create something real or fictional, or to pretend. That is, unfortunately, the literal meaning of the term.