What was it, 18 years ago, when Luke Perry first showed up on 90210 with a goatee?
And we smirked.
Just as we smirked at Tori Spelling’s elephant bells.
After all, these were merely the world’s oldest high school kids shooting the precipitous curls of fashion’s fickle waves.
But remarkably, long after a second generation of Nehru jackets and hip-huggers has been relegated to the resale stores, the goatee persists.
Persists? Hell, it flourishes. My chic gay friend, Troy, is sporting one now. The entire psychology department staff at my college has grown one (including Mrs. Lippman). When a trend can endure the long and perilous descent into my little seventh circle of unhipness, we’ve got a genuine cultural phenomenon on our hands.
So, what is it about the goatee that resonates with something deep in the human psyche, whereas that sideburns fad just made everyone look like a Tilt-O-Whirl operator?
The word “goatee,” no one will be surprised to learn, is derived from “goat.” Recalling our overpriced liberal arts education, however, we are reminded that the goat was a primal symbol of sexual energy among the ancient Greeks.
Dionysus, the god of wine, of drunken revelry, of frenzied orgiastic abandon, was represented by the goat—don’t you see? And Pan, plus those satyrs in the forest hitting on those hot little nymphs, had goat-like features. If you don’t believe me, check your Grecian urn.
The very word “tragedy” comes from the Greek root “tragos,” which means—you guessed it—“goat.” What this whole goatee craze really boils down to, then, is one giant public tragedy: millions of noble but flawed tragic heroes donning goat masks, assuming the role of feral young beasts, and challenging that old invincible nemesis, the Midlife Crisis.
Classical scholars will be reminded of course, of Euripides’ obscure but prophetic tragedy, Stanocles at Vons. Though written nearly 2,500 years ago, it remains remarkably relevant today.
In the climatic scene, goateed Stanocles, 45 and bisexual, masquerades as a satyr to pursue nymph Kellinaea through the produce aisle.
Kellinaea: Goat-faced one, wherefore do you pursue me?
Stanocles: Pursue you? I am but gathering limes for my nightly revel. Care to join me?
Kellinaea: Surely at your age, your days of revelry are behind you.
(Nymph laughs and exits.)
Stanocles: Why does she flee? In my Porsche would I escort her to the sylvan glade.
Chorus: Oh, vain and foolish Stanocles, who thinks a mere beard can undo the scourge of twoscore years.
Stanocles: How easily my deceit is discovered!
Chorus: You reveal yourself thricely. First, by the folds of flesh at your waist.
Stanocles: Alas, there’s no time to maintain my physical form. Even now, I must pick up my brother’s firstborn from discus practice.
Chorus: Second, a satyr would hum the tunes of Panic at the Disco, not the antiquated melodies of Steely Dan.
Stanocles: Today’s youthful strains are naught but an inharmonious din.
Chorus: Finally, Stanocles, your very beard betrays you. Look!
(Chorus leader reveals Stanocles’s reflection in the produce counter mirror. He clutches at his beard.)
Stanocles: Flecked with white? By Zeus! An old man’s beard after only 45 years?
(Before Stanocles can repent his folly, however, the goddess Athena appears, and transforms him into a dented can of condensed milk. As legend has it, he languishes in the baking aisle to this day, ignored and unwanted.)
As we baby boomers inch toward the rear end of our life cycle like a pig in a python, we are indebted to the ancient Greeks for the kind of insightful wisdom that helps us come to terms with our own mortality.
And, failing that, for Grecian Formula, which can remove unsightly gray in about five minutes. I picked some up for my friend, Troy. It’s available at Walgreen’s, Aisle 7. Oops, sorry, Troy. Well, hey, consider the source.
Bye for now.