A new study suggests that men may be cutting their own throats by not shaving.

In what has got to be bad news for professional baseball players for whom the two-day stubble look has been as indispensable a part of their image as the crotch grab and the rope of tobacco juice drooling from the corner of their mouths, a team of researchers has found a link between irregular shaving and coronary heart disease and stroke.

A team at Bristol University in England found that men who do not shave every day were more likely to suffer a heart attack or stroke. The team studied 2,348 middle-age Welsh men over the course of 20 years. Of the test group, 835 died, results that seem to indicate to me that there is considerable risk in taking part in a 20-year study conducted by Bristol University.

The researchers, however, came up with different conclusions. They found that 45 percent of the men who shaved less than daily died, compared with 31 percent of those who shaved at least once a day.

The researchers suggested - and I am paraphrasing - that irregular shavers have a lower life expectancy because they are basically chain-smoking, underemployed, beer-swilling losers who couldn't even get a date over the Internet, assuming they knew how to use it, which they don't. Regular shavers, on the other hand, are high-achieving, happily married, tobacco-loathing stud-muffins who eat a minimum of 26 servings of fruits and vegetables a day, often gnawing on a raw zucchini while putting in their three-hour daily workout on the rowing machine.

I think this is yet another example of how scientific researchers are working to make us all so anxiety-ridden that we can't get out of bed in the morning, let alone clutch a razor in our trembling hands and scrape the whiskers off our face without slicing into our carotid.

People who forget to shave every day are not (necessarily) social misfits who live in run-down trailer parks and supplement their crack-selling income by stealing change from the penny jars at convenience stores. Many go on to successful careers in art, music or, in the case of Osama bin Laden, international terrorism.

Clean-shaven people, on the other hand, often go into law, politics or, in extreme cases, journalism, which is hardly a testimonial you're likely to see on the next Norelco commercial.

The most famous five o'clock shadow in history, of course, belonged to Richard Nixon, who did not suffer from anxiety himself but caused plenty in others.

The simple fact is that many people are too busy to shave once or more a day. Nixon was so busy covering up the Watergate burglary that it is amazing he had time to perspire.

Heart attack and stroke risk aside, I think it's clear that men who do not shave every day are men who are courageous out-on-the-edge types who don't care what others say or think about them, up to and including the fact that they live in a house with 50 cats and no indoor plumbing.

People who shave once or more every day may lead healthier lives, if you discount the nicks, but they share the same personality disorders of people who spend too much time staring at themselves in the mirror.

Take into account the perpetually clogged sink, and I think you've made a pretty good case for letting the ol' beard grow.

© 2002 New York Times News Service

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