It’s been a little more than a month since Sen. Ted Cruz first stepped out on the town with facial hair, an occasion that prompted some of his critics, this one included, to reluctantly admit that he looked better than usual. For the first time in his political career—and possibly his life—he looked (minimally) chiseled, (barely) easygoing, even (ever so slightly) tolerable.
However, one cool thing about hair is that it grows. We must be vigilant in our monitoring of Cruz’s beard, lest we miss a notable phase of its development. It was in the practice of such vigilance that I noticed, in photographs taken earlier this month, a disquieting irregularity between his right side and his left:
As a woman with a meticulous eyebrow maintenance regimen, I know how hard it is to make one side of my facial hair match the other. But unlike Cruz, I do not have a team of people working full time to make sure I’m presentable and professional. I don’t have millions of dollars in assets, a few hundred of which could certainly be devoted to proper facescaping. Beards should not end in a pointy pen’s nib on one side and a soft parabola on the other. I expect my elected officials to look at least as pulled-together as the nattiest customer at any given Buffalo Wild Wings. Cruz’s beard, the sharp angles of which recall Seneca Crane’s Hunger Games lewk, falls far short of that low bar.
Then again, I once heard from an esthetician that eyebrows should be sisters, not twins: similar but not congruent. Perhaps the same familial relationship applies to beard corners. For the sake of generosity, let’s say it does, and forgive Cruz’s jagged asymmetry. There’s still plenty of cause for concern here. In the image at the top of this post, a photo snapped during Donald Trump’s trip to the U.S.-Mexico border this week, Cruz’s beard looks fluffier than before. It’s even starting to curl under at the ends, making him look like a whimsical carnival barker or a Civil War general. (Which side? The fun is in the mystery!) A Slate colleague pointed out that while Cruz’s shorter beard functioned as contouring, creating the illusion of a jawline and chin, the longer beard unavoidably announces itself as hair. No one wants to think about hair growing on Ted Cruz.
I consulted a beard expert (a man) who presented this unappealing new volume as evidence that no one has told Cruz he needs a beard trimmer—apparently a bit of insider knowledge people with beards pass on to other people with beards as needed, like a sacred each-one-teach-one rite of passage. Let that be a lesson to Sen. Cruz: A beard is only as good as the friends it’s made along the way.