Submitted by Alden Pyle
Foreign people can be really tough to understand (they are just so foreign!), but luckily the cunning male EAW has a secret tool to overcome any and all language or cultural barriers: growing a beard!
Sure, as a western male, you are probably at least a foot taller than the local nationals due to your nutrition-rich adolescence, but a beard allows you to fit right in! Even if you are blond! There is simply no better way to *connect* with the locals than growing, and not maintaining, a beard.
The villagers know that you care about them when you show up sporting several months of unrestricted facial growth. Sure, you might have just jumped out of a Toyota Land Cruiser that is worth more than a decade’s income from their village’s feeble cash crop (drought = bummer!) and you or your Private Security Detail may be wearing body armor, a helmet, and sweet-looking retro aviator sunglasses, but a connection is instantly forged between a bearded EAW and the locals, even if the locals themselves don’t usually sport beards (or aviator sunglasses). That’s science.
Enormous beards are also useful indicators to your colleagues at a donor sustainability conference that you’ve been spending a TON of time in the field (without hot showers), and certain hygiene practices had to be sacrificed.
Other random but plausible justifications are often discussed when a bearded EAW meets with non-bearded (including female) colleagues, such as “it keeps me warm, because the desert gets damn cold at night,” or “it reduces the amount of sunscreen I need to bring in the field with me.”
Do EAW beards itch? Oh my God, yes. Sometimes uncontrollably! But beards are a signal of experience, and instantly lend credibility to the most rookie of EAW males. There is also an important bit of implied righteous indignation: “Um, I don’t know about you, but I try to conserve water in this drought-suffering country, so not shaving is the least I could do.”
In places where a motorcycle is off-limits to EAWs, a beard can be a symbol of freedom. (The EAW’s fiancee doesn’t let him grow his viking beard when he is back home… well, unless he’s a Williamsburg hipster.)
But really, the most important aspect of an EAW’s beard is just how good it makes him feel about his ability to really connect with the locals. Beards should be thought of as hairy chunks of empathy, the bigger the better!