If you are a convert to the Orthodox Church my guess is you will probably be able to see traces of yourself in the following piece (regardless of your gender.)
A friend once told me that “there is truth in every jest;” so relax a minute, be willing to laugh at yourself, and read on:
The Life-Cycle of the Orthodox Convert’s Beard
An inkling of an idea — You have just attended your very first Liturgy, and you’re ready. You’ve bought every book in the parish’s book store and you’re prepared to arm up for what you’re going to tell your fundamentalist Baptist family when you decide to convert. And then, in the course of your reading, you notice — all these guys have really long beards and even longer hair. And you think, dare I? Dare I, who have never sported more than a 5:00 shadow, grow one of those monstrous manes?
No going back — It’s been six months, and it’s your baptism/chrismation day. By now, you’ve got some healthy growth on your chin — a bit patchy in spots, but that’s OK. The important thing is that you’ve made your commitment, and you’re sticking to it. No going back. In fact, to bear eternal witness to your commitment to whiskers, you’ve chosen to be known forever after in the life of the Church as Onouphrios, and you’ve bought the full length icon of him, the one that shows the really long beard.
Conundrum — You’re in year three of your Orthodoxy and your second year of seminary. It suddenly starts to dawn on you that the young lady you have your eye on for matushka-hood doesn’t seem to like long beards. You wonder, what would St. Onouphrios think of me now? and agonize as you find yourself wishing you’d chosen a chrismation name a little closer to the name mom and dad gave you — Dave. Your roommate, Barsanuphius, is of no help. When you asked him if he chose his name because of the beard thing, he just rolled his eyes forbearingly and said with disdain, “I’m not named for that Barsanuphius. I’m named for Barsanuphius the Dwarf of Beloozersk”, and he pronounces it very precisely as “Varsanofyi”, just to emphasize the point. (His pre-conversion name was Donald, by the way, but he had it legally changed.)
A Happy Solution — It’s your wedding day. The young lady in question had no problem with your beard. It was actually your 700-knot prayer rope that was the problem. She had just assumed you were going to be a monk. Once you finally got up the courage to speak to her, all became clear, and you struck a bargain: your prayer rope will be no longer than 100 knots and you can grow your beard as long as you want. You’re in all your glory today, looking like Jeremiah Johnson, at your home parish of All Saints of Ascetic Feats, and Barsanuphius is your sponsor. (He’s driving everyone, even poor Father Zacharias, crazy with his “Varsanofyi” bit.) Your beloved, Hermione, has even sewn herself a traditional Russian wedding costume for the happy day. (She’s not Russian, but what the heck.) All is well. Everyone is happy. Both your parents and your new in-laws are completely mystified, though, and they keep asking, “Who are Onouphrios and Hermione?? We thought we were coming to see Dave and Tina get married.”
Props to Sophocles for sending me the above “life cycle.”