Beardly Beloved

Pretty much

Pretty much

My entire existence should not be called into question over facial hair. I shouldn’t feel ashamed or feel like I’m turning my back on an ideal I held so firmly for so many years.

Growing up, I never liked facial hair. I hated the way it felt on my skin, the way I looked like a baby with a beard, and I preferred not being with men who had facial hair. I shaved every day to retain the smooth, youthful appearance. After all, it was my bread-and-butter when it came to dating.

Now, at 28, I’m growing a beard. A well-manicured beard, but a beard nonetheless. Again, I am confining myself with limits: no goatees because I never found goatees attractive on any male; no weird decorative beards; Duck Dynasty facial hair makes me gag; just short yet shaggy. I’m also finding myself very attracted to men with beards.

Right away, I see a difference in the way people approach me. I’m not immediately seen as a child or a ditz. Instead, people hold their judgment and talk to me with respect. But I often wonder if that’s true or if I’m just full of shit. People keep telling me how great the beard looks on me, how much they like it, and that I look much older. Am I projecting my own feelings onto others because I’m finally receiving some acceptance in the world?

I used to hold on to this feminine sense of self, and it took me a long time to accept that it was okay to be feminine. However, there were moments – and there still are moments – where I’m ashamed for being so feminine or where I’ve shamed others for being so feminine. Those moments, now, are few and far between. In fact, I often berate others for being misogynistic who say hateful things to fems.

But I used to be the one berated for being so femmy. I was judged by people for looking youthful, even asked if I was old enough to be working at previous places of employment. People talked to me about being “so young” as though I never lived a day in my life. Now, these episodes seem to be a thing of the past.

Currently, I’m at odds with the new facial hair and the false sense of self I held so tightly to in my femininity. After all, the most masculine of men wear beards. How can I be masculine while remaining feminine?

Then, I remember the music video to “Not This Time” by The 2 Bears, and there are quite a few bearded queens or queens seen in all their beautiful natural masculinity done in makeup and dressed with gowns. Combined with a beat reminiscent to disco ballads of yore, these fierce individuals do not worry about showing armpit hair, shaving chest hair, or completely covering their five o’clock shadow with foundation.

Masculinity and femininity are social constructs created to label and keep ideas separate. Women and men are two different creatures needed to come together to create children and replicate the Earth. However, women were seen as lesser, slaves to men used only to birth babies and take care of them. What was necessary in the beginning no longer needs to be in place. Thanks to technology, we don’t even need men or women, just skin cells to reproduce eggs and sperm to create test-tube children.

These social constructs can be deconstructed in order to allow us to be free. Why can I not be a male with a beard who wears eyeshadow and shiny red lipstick? So what if I want to wear a dress and prance around in high heels while showing off my hairy chesticles? Who cares that my high-pitched voice does not match my hairy, masculine exterior? It doesn’t reduce my amount of femininity or masculinity being both. Further, there shouldn’t be such a thing as an “amount”, specifically an “acceptable” amount, in order to be accepted or embraced.

I am an individual, a human being, with thoughts and feelings, and I matter. I also change and shift, and I will not always be the same. Nor will anyone else. So, why should it matter? It’s just a bit of hair.

My Socially-Awkward Life

My family crest

My family crest

I don’t totally feel socially awkward. I am awkward at times, but I don’t feel incapable of carrying a conversation unless it feels forced. Honestly, I wear my moments of awkwardness as badges of pride.

For example, the time I took my coworkers out to lunch and I went through the Dairy Queen drive-thru: instead of ordering my go-to fat food (chicken strips w/ peppered gravy), I decided to try their new Chicken Bruschetta sandwich.

Now, to preface the situation, I do not like slices of tomato. I can eat tomatoes, but I gag at large juicy slices.

So, I asked the Intercom for no tomatoes on my sandwich. There’s a moment of silence before the Intercom responded with, “You mean the Bruschetta?” Right! The thing that makes it a Chicken Bruschetta sandwich. But it was the tone the Intercom used, as if I could hear her thinking “What sort of fuckery is in my drive-thru right now?”

I apologized for my lack of intelligence and pulled around to pick up my food. I don’t think Intercom was the worker at the window because they didn’t have a look of total disappointment at humanity on their face as they handed me my food. My coworkers snorted and guffawed loudly, and proudly, at my stupidity.

BTW, the sandwich was terrible.

The other time my brain failed me was on an interview at a temp agency. I was applying for a call center position for a newspaper company (this was during the decline of newspaper sales; suffice to say, the call center went out of business). In order to be considered for the job, the lovely headhunter hands me a laminated page filled with various words and asks that I read each of them to her.

I go through the list; some are simple, some are more complex but nothing advanced. Thankfully, I didn’t have to pronounce Otorhinolaryngologist. I felt I was doing well, so I became relaxed and more confident with each passing word. Then, I come to ‘metropolitan’, and with all of my pride, I say “Me-Tro-Pole-It-An!”. Without missing a beat, the headhunter corrects me with “meh-tro-pahl-i-tun”.

Of course, I told my sister what happened and she reminds me, to this day, of my retardation. However, it runs in the family.

One night, while we binge-watched Buffy the Vampire Slayer on DVD, my sister and I made it to “Phases”, episode 15 of season 2. The DVD menu screen tried to be hip and match the theme of the show with Gothic-lettered font, so my sister reads the title and gives me a confused look.

I ask her what’s the matter, and she says, “Which episode is this?” I tell her it’s the episode where one of the main characters learns he’s a werewolf. She declares, “What the Hell does that have to do with P.H. Asses?” I gave her a serious look and said, “You mean ‘phases’?” Her mouth closed shut as she processed this information and pressed play.

Sometimes our brains think quicker than our mouths can move, but that doesn’t excuse our stupidity. Of course, I don’t need an excuse. People make mistakes and say things wrong. I say ‘own it and move on.’ I now remember how to say metropolitan and that bruschetta is made up of diced tomatoes.

My incredible – and most likely unhealthy – infatuation with Melissa Broder

Melissa Broder's new book

Melissa Broder’s new book

I’m fascinated by Melissa Broder. Ever since I heard her on the Mental Illness Podcast with Paul Gilmartin, I’ve been – infatuated really is the better word – studying her. The way she speaks, the way she writes, the way she thinks. She is not an idol to live up or look to because she’s fucking insane, and dirty-minded, and crass, and amazing. She’s blunt, she’s honest, and she’s deeply in-tuned with her mental fucked-off-ness, and she has the unique ability to express herself freely with words and speech.

I envy her.

I wouldn’t be writing these string of thoughts and emotions if it weren’t for her, or my ex who suggested the podcast during one of my monthly bouts of depression and self-pity. I desperately want to be as witty, creative, and dark as her.

But I have to admit that isn’t possible.

I am not Melissa Broder. I am probably not as fucked up as her. I mean, she has a vomit fetish (talk about unique). Sure, I enjoy some pretty taboo stuff, but nothing I’m really willing to admit (to men I’m fucking, sure; to an entire community that would blow it out of proportion, no thanks) or that I don’t already understand. Further, it isn’t anything that hasn’t been covered. Basically, it comes down to “daddy” and “abandonment” issues.

She also seems to relish in her mental issues. For her, it’s about understanding the root of the problem and celebrating her insanity. I’m looking for a cure – I think. It’s really more about stopping the depression, staying motivated in life, and not ruining all the things just because I feel like I don’t matter.

I can’t afford to quit life again or start over. Since I was 15, and I had to drop out of school due to being bullied and physically harassed, I’ve started over every year. The last year alone has destroyed all sense of emotional/financial/familial support, and it’s time I get my shit together. I hear the Universe loud and clear: “Time to depend on yourself, bitch!”

So, no, I don’t want to keep riding this depression cycle. In fact, I want off. I am willing to become paraplegic if it means jumping off in order to just ‘be’. Not even okay anymore. Okay appears to be bullshit. Can I just be a human being that goes to work, focuses on my hobbies and passions, and comes home feeling whole?

But that’s why I envy Melissa. She understands herself on an entire mental/emotional/spiritual level I hope to someday embody. However, I probably envy her more that she uses this understanding to make money and become well-known in the writing world. Maybe I’ll get there someday.

Until then, I’ll keep writing and creating because it’s my oxygen. Without it, I cannot live. At least I know myself enough to understand that.

NOTE: I found out Paul Gilmartin used to be one of two co-hosts of TBS’ “Dinner and a Movie” back in the 90s. I had the biggest crush on him growing up and to this day. I’m very happy to see he’s moved on with a successful venture.