Grooming Issues

As if we don’t all have enough to deal with right now, here come the beards. It’s not just that the grid view for certain Zoom meetings is starting to resemble a collection of Smith Bros. cough-drop tins. The evidence is right there in the mirror—especially, according to some disturbing online images, if that mirror belongs to Jim Carrey, Kevin Hart, or Harry Styles. When did I last shave? (And what day is it now, anyway?)

The beards really shouldn’t be a surprise. We currently have no intimate social obligations with the wider world, but we do have plenty of time on our hands (time that could be spent shaving, but never mind). And Hirsute & Disheveled is, undeniably, a persuasive hunter-gatherer look for 2020—what, after all, says more eloquently and thrillingly that you’ve just spent several hours trying (and failing) to get through to Fresh Direct?

When did I last shave? (And what day is it now, anyway?)

A beard in progress is also a project—and projects are welcome! Just a week in, even some wispy underbrush can give a real, if wildly misplaced, sense of accomplishment. And, when worn in conjunction with a distracted, far-off gaze, cheek foliage can suggest that you might be in the throes of a creative frenzy and understandably way too busy for things like maintenance. (It worked out nicely for the Band, holed up at Big Pink in 1967.) Grooming, in short, is for squares.

But it’s hard not to feel a little wistful. Just as the scourge of facial hair seemed finally to be going into slight remission, you look around and it’s suddenly Ich bin ein hipster.

This, despite supposed recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control. Back at the end of February—at precisely the time Donald Trump was calling the coronavirus kerfuffle a “hoax” and predicting that new cases would be “down close to zero” within days—a C.D.C. chart resurfaced that illustrated the often unhappy nexus of facial hair and face masks. Some styles worked with the masks, said the C.D.C., but most did not. For instance: “Soul Patch,” “Zorro,” and “Zappa,” fine. “Mutton Chops,” “Dali,” and “Fu Manchu,” not fine. (The C.D.C. chart was from 2017 and not specific to the coronavirus.)

O.K., for the record, it’s true: some men look great in beards. And this sentence is just a placeholder that will be substituted with another as soon as any names occur.

The beards are spiking: another curve we yearn to flatten. Because surely there are more original ways to say I’ve given up.

Ticker Shock

News that the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission has suspended the trading of Zoom Technologies shares won’t have an impact on your plans for the rest of the day. That Zoom isn’t the Zoom (Zoom Video Communications), and the temporary pause is the result of confusion over the companies’ ticker symbols—respectively, ZOOM (the not-Zoom) and ZM (Zoom).

Both Zoom-y stocks were climbing, and it’s not the first time an innocent bystander, as it were, has benefited from a case of mistaken identity.

According to Fortune, “when Twitter announced it would go public in 2013, the stock of Tweeter Home Entertainment, a retailer which was then in bankruptcy, soared as much as 2,200% over the following days before being halted.”

Think of it as collateral windfall.

Although friction over similar names has been known to blossom into lawsuits—Snap Interactive and Snap Inc. (Snapchat), competing Florida health clubs called Youfit and Fit U, etc.—stock-market ticker symbols have often been at the root of the chaos, as with Forward Industries (FORD) and Ford Motor Company (F), or, as mentioned above, Tweeter Home Entertainment Group (TWTRQ) and Twitter (TWTR). It’s enough to make you reach for the Ibutamoren—no, wait, the ibuprofen! Ibutamoren is a growth hormone.

Name confusion isn’t limited to the world of finance, naturally. Already we’ve had indie films titled Never Rarely Sometimes Always and Sometimes Always Never. Not long ago at least two railroad-related thrillers set in London with women protagonists were published, one called The Girl on the Train, the other Girl on a Train. And Stephen King’s 2013 crime novel Joyland temporarily boosted the sales—200 surprise copies in a week—of a 2006 coming-of-age novel with the same name by Emily Schultz.

It’s enough to make you reach for the Ibutamoren—no, wait, the ibuprofen!

The splendid British ska band the Beat was known in the United States as the English Beat, to avoid confusion with an L.A. power-pop band called the Beat (later Paul Collins’ Beat), and in Australia as the British Beat. In recent years, the two Beat front men toured separately as Dave Wakeling’s English Beat (in the U.S.) and—until his death last year—Ranking Roger’s Beat (in the U.K.). About that Ibutamoren …

For that matter, we’re even at risk of wandering into the wrong museum gallery, virtual or otherwise. Because there are Manet fans who wouldn’t dream of taking a selfie in front of a gauzy Monet, and they probably wouldn’t have in the 19th century, either.

By the way, Zoom Technologies—that is, not the Zoom we now structure our lives around—is headquartered in Beijing. Coincidence?

George Kalogerakis is a Writer at Large for AIR MAIL