Each February I used to grow what I called a 60-degree beard. It was my own stupid, uncharitable spin on No-Shave November.

On Feb. 1, I’d stop shaving, and I wouldn’t pick up a razor again until the temperature touched 60 degrees.

I’m not sure why I started doing this, but I think it was partly laziness, since it provided an excuse not to shave. I also liked the idea of keeping my face warm with a beard through the harsh weather of February. And it was a silly little way to anticipate the coming of spring warmth.

A few years back, I swore off my 60-degree beard after the temperature didn’t reach 60 until March. By that time, my face was red and itchy around my patchy whiskers. I looked like a mangy dog and felt like a rabid one.

My 60-degree beard did keep my face warmer when I was out in the cold, but I spend 90% of my time indoors, so that benefit was negligible. The penalty paid in a hot, itchy face was far too high.

Other men have advised me to have patience; the itching will eventually go away, they say. They might be right, but I’ve never suffered a beard long enough to find out.

Why do men have beards, anyway? I found this less-than-scientific explanation on a website called beardpilot.com:

“In prehistoric times, scientists believe that men grew long beards for three main reasons. First, for warmth. The beard provides the face with protection from the elements, and a natural shield from the more delicate parts of the face around the mouth and lips.”

OK, that much makes sense. Still, I’m guessing insanity ran amuck among itchy-bearded prehistoric men.

The beardpilot.com explanation goes on to say this:

“Next, prehistoric men grew their beards for protection. The thick, rich beards that they could grow were so full that they helped cushion blows to the face. Concussions from a fistfight? Not with the right beard, my friend.”

OK, that seems a little tongue-in-cheek. Surely, a pair of fast hands – or fast feet – would go farther toward preventing concussions.

Here’s another advantage of a beard, according to beardpilot.com:

“Prehistoric men also wore their beards as a sign of intimidation, something that has carried through the centuries. Much like the mane of the majestic Lion, the beard creates a manlier, more testosterone-infused look by creating the appearance of a thicker, stronger-looking jaw line.”

This passage makes me think of “The Lion King.” Remember Mufasa’s thick, majestic mane? Remember Scar’s scraggly excuse for one? Perhaps Scar never got past the itchy phase, which might explain his foul, vindictive mood in the film.

I wonder how many lions deplore their irritant manes and would, given the tools and opposable thumbs to do it, shave them off post haste?

I have those tools and those thumbs. And I finally have the good sense to shave as often as I want, no matter how long winter weather keeps coming.

Editor Scott Underwood’s column is published Mondays in The Herald Bulletin. Contact him at scott.underwood@heraldbulletin.com or 765-640-4845.

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