As many of you may be aware, a few months ago people went ape over a report that beards are supposedly home to more nasty microbes and stray feces than a Taco Bell restroom. The story made the usual Internet rounds and found its way into respected birdcage liners such as the New York Times. I'd embed a link to the story but that would require effort on my part. If I had to list my top five defining characteristics “laziness” would be three of them because coming up with five adjectives is a pain. Plus, the story is total hokum.
As it turns out, the whole thing started with a reporter at KOAT in Albuquerque, whom I'll call Sparky, who exemplifies modern journalism. By that I mean that he couldn't find a story so he decided to invent one. So, Sparky goes to his lab tech buddy with an idea. The two grabbed a couple of guys, swabbed their beards, found a handful of bacteria, and proceeded to blow everything grotesquely out of proportion. Maybe Sparky was mad because some dude with a beard ran off with his girlfriend. I don't really know.
What I do know is that common sense and common knowledge combined in the correct proportions make an effective antidote to the brain poison people like to pass as news these days. “Beards are full of poo!” So, they found some E. coli and other gut bacteria in some guys beard? Where could that have come from? Perhaps this bearded gent handled money, the door of any number of public establishments, or any of the other few dozen things we touch on a daily basis that have a nice, rich slime coat of bacteria and matters foreign. Maybe, just maybe, he also happened to touch his beard at some point in the day as well. As George Takei would say, “Oh, my.” On the other hand, they might have found a few really filthy guys, too. They're out there.
The fact is, what they found isn't abnormal. We're covered in the stuff anyhow. Shower ten times a day and all you'll have is a higher water bill. Plus, gut bacteria isn't the same thing as fecal matter. Sparky could have spent two minutes on Google and found that their methodology was flawed and that their results were meaningless. The only feces involved were of the "bull" variety and Sparky should be ashamed of himself, as should every news agency that ran with this without checking the facts first. Of course, they don't do that for real news stories either, so I might be asking too much.
This is just a shining example of crackpot journalism combining with hyperbolic statements to create something from nothing. Mountains, molehills, blah blah blah.
The point is, beards aren't any dirtier than any other part of our filthy bodies. If they were us bearded guys would drop dead from some infection instead of dying at 103 after being shot by a jealous husband.
Oh, and I meant no offense to the good people at Taco Bell. I've always found clean restrooms there, and the Doritos Locos taco is awesome. Please do not sick your lawyers on us.