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The Sound And The Furry

My boyfriend of three months is adorable on every level, except for his beard, which he refuses to trim. When we started dating, it was short and looked sexy, but now it's grown to mountain man proportions, which he believes "adds character." I've told him as sensitively as possible that I don't find the "Rupert from 'Survivor'" look appealing, but he doesn't seem to care. I don't want to seem shallow, but I'm not as attracted to him with the big, bushy growth. Is there anything I can do?

--Hairy Cares


Ideally, making out with your boyfriend shouldn't have a lot in common with being mauled by a hedgehog.

You don't seem shallow. You seem worried that you'll be condemned for not parroting the anthem of the undergroomed: the lie that what's inside is all that counts. It isn't shallow to care about how somebody looks -- well, not if you're planning on looking at them. At the moment, this guy's face appears to be the victim of a hostile takeover by one of those furry after-ski boots. You aren't saying facial hair length is your main measure of a man. You aren't asking him to get a new head. You'd just like him to do a little mowing on the one he has so you won't feel tempted to buy him a cologne gift pack that includes a flea-powder chaser.

He insists his beard "adds character." Unfortunately, for many people, Rasputin, Ted Kaczynski, Sasquatch, and Saddam in the spider hole are the characters it calls to mind. Meanwhile, "character" is typically used as justification for something unpleasant; for example, your dad probably claimed you'd build it by marching out into the 97-degree heat and cutting the grass. It's hardly ever associated with anything you'd actually want, like a seat in first class, or a big, juicy slab of filet mignon.

Men are civilized because women exist. If not for women, there would be no indoor plumbing. Men would eat out of tin cans with their hands, then toss the cans on the floor, only to clean up when the pile obstructed their view of the TV. Luckily, when boys get interested in girls, they learn that personal grooming is the cost of doing business. But, cut to adulthood, and here's your guy, fighting hard to keep looking like a foster home for field mice.

Not satisfied to simply drive a wedge between you, he's grown a hedge between you. He knows you'd be hot for him with a couple days growth, yet he's clinging for dear life to Sherwood Forest. What does it take to get him to compromise, if getting clued in on what you find attractive isn't enough? Must you give him an ultimatum, "Here's the scissors; there's the door"? If so, it seems he has stuff to work through before he's grown up enough to be in a relationship.

It is possible that he's hiding behind the face foliage out of insecurity. A lot of guys try to make up for hair fleeing the top of the head by letting it jungle up at the bottom. If you think this is the case, tell him how much you love and miss his face, then launch into a monologue about how sexy it is (and it is sexy) when men going bald have the confidence to shave it all off. Something here has to give -- before it becomes any harder to tell whether you're having a sex dream about him, or you just had too much to drink, and passed out face-down on an S.O.S pad.

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Copyright ©2004, Amy Alkon, from her syndicated column, "The Advice Goddess," which appears in over 100 papers across the U.S. and Canada. All rights reserved.