Beard Stories: Remember me?

August 16, 2009:

(Context – I had just shaved the beard for a job interview, which was why it was so short.)

I’ve found myself needing something more productive to do when I’m killing time online. I’ve been wanting to get back to journaling but haven’t been sure what to write about publicly. And I’ve been meaning to start writing up and posting my beard stories. I recently found a blog by a bearded woman in Germany who did a daily posting about her bearded experiences. I wish I’d though to make a daily project of it when I started growing the beard, but then when I started growing it, I only thought I’d keep it for six weeks.

So, my new killing-time-online project is to write up the beard stories. One a day, or as often as I can. I’m not going for style yet, just to get the details down – though I’d welcome stylistic or other suggestions.

A few notes on how I write up these stories. I’ve been writing some of these up in a paper-journal, inconsistently, since I started growing the beard on April 23, 2008.
I try to get as much detail as possible – visual (hence the detailed physical descriptions of the people), location, time, setting, tone of voice, etc. I feel odd writing in someone’s age, dress, and, most particularly, their (apparrent) race. But I’ve found it interesting the ways in which the responses I get do or don’t don’t match stereotypes. So, apologies in advance for that convention in my writing. In the paper version, I also diagram locations, gestures, expressions as best I can.

“Remember me?”
Newark Airport, Newark, NJ, Near Gate 15
approx. 5pm EST
I’m early for my flight. Wandering around near the gate looking for an unoccupied outlet to plug in my computer and get online. I usually wouldn’t pay for the airport wireless, but the school is paying for this trip, so it’s on them.
It’s busy – lots of flights coming and going, lots of people wandering around. A tall, thin man with dark, curly hair is walking towards me, smiling with a “remember me?” kind of smile. He’s dressed business casual, appears to be traveling alone. Resonably good looking guy with a strong, thin nose. White or something that passes for it, I’m not sure. Mediterranean maybe. I don’t have a clue who he is. I can’t remember ever meeting him before, and I’ve got a fairly good memory for faces, even if I often can’t pull up the name or context. He steps a bit to the side, towards me, arms out in a “hey! good to see you!” welcoming posture. I’ve got no clue who he is.
“Hey!” he says, in the “remember-me?” friendly tone.
“Hi…” I reply, with neither tone nor expression hiding that I recognize him at all.
“We were on the same flight out here!”
I didn’t sit next to him, I don’t recall being next to him in line, and I definitely didn’t interact with him at all.
“We came in on the same flight, right? From San Francisco?” he says, as if this explains why he’s greeting me like a long-lost friend.
“Um, yeah,” is the best I can manage. I’m not sure what I’m supposed to reply. My expression is still confused, cagey, not engaging. I don’t know what he’s after.
“I saw you on the flight the other day. And now we’re going back on the same one!” he continues, although I’d pretty much gathered that much already.
“Um, yeah,” followed by a pause, waiting to see if he’s heading anywhere with this.
He continues smiling, apparently not sure what comes next either. At this point we’ve both stopped walking, to have this little exchange. I’m not sure what else to say either, and, following my usual response to social situations where I don’t know what to do, I duck out. “Um, great. Thanks.” I mutter, nonsensically but friendly and smiling obligingly, and turn to walk away towards the gate. Apparently, all he wanted was to say hi and let me know, in a friendly way, that he recognized me, and he continues walking the other way, to get a snack or wherever he was headed.

Even though I’ve only got a week or two of stubble, I assume he remembers me because of the beard. It’s not the first time I’ve been remembered out of a very large crowd. It’s strange for me, since I’m used to being a wallflower and have been pretty happy with that.
I wonder, as I walk away, how it is that he doesn’t register that I’m the strange one, so of course he remembers me, but that he’s just ordinary, so of course I don’t remember him.

I told Dossie about it later. She wondered if perhaps he remembered me not because of the beard but because he’s a “tit man.” I considered it for a few days, but finally concluded that the tone of it wasn’t that he was hitting on me. And I’ve never had that experience before I started growing the beard, even though my tits have been prodigious for 14 years now. Dossie also wondered if the guy was making a point to say hi as a queer-to-queer recognition, but it didn’t have that sense either. I know my gaydar is lousy, so it’s possible I missed it, but the tone of it was a bit more clueless. Besides, I’m used to the usual queer-to-queer recognition signs, like the little nod-and-smiles I got from the other butch teachers at the conference that week.

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Categories: Beard Stories, Positive, Questions | Tags: , , , , , , | 4 Comments

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4 thoughts on “Beard Stories: Remember me?

  1. Del

    I find, as someone with a noticable disability and queer sensibilty, that many people tend to remember me than I them. I used to feel bad when this happened, as somehow it was a failing of mine, until I had the thought, “they’re the sixth brown-haired, average height/weight, cis gender appearing person I’ve seen this hour. I am likely the only mutlicolored-haired, nonaverage weight, transgender appearing person (in a wheelchair) that they’ve seen, ever.” I also find that some people go out of their way to make a show out of their greeting, as though to broadcast, “see how hep I am? I’m greeting this queer disabled person!”

    • Yeah, it’s clear to me why I’m so much more memorable – I’m definitely not a common type.
      I’m just amazed that there are so many people who remember me but who don’t quite seem to realize that it’s the strangeness that makes me so memorable – or they don’t quite understand how ordinary and unmemorable they are, so they don’t quite realize that the chances of me remembering them are slim to nil.
      People seem to understand when they meet a celebrity that the celebrity won’t remember them. But there’s no parallel thought process for recognizing that they are just a face in the crowd to us freaks.
      And I think the celebrity comparison is part of why it stands out to me. I’ve spent a lot of time around people who were much more well-known than me, so I’ve spent a lot of time being particularly aware of how un-memorable I am to someone who’s constantly being inundated with new faces. So not only have I gone from being a neutral-looking person to a visually unique person, I’ve gone from being a non-memorable person in a room of memorable people (and sometimes feeling pretty insignificant as a result) to being one of the memorable ones. So for me the experience of being memorable is not only novel, it’s also kind of gratifying.

      I think there’s also a many-to-one issue. When a presenter stands in front of the room, everyone in the room is watching the presenter. They learn the presenter’s name and face. Each audience member learns one name. To reciprocate, the one presenter would have to learn scores of names. I think some of the same things happens to us freaks. We draw more attention, so more people learn our faces. While I might learn the face of one person I saw on the train this morning, the likelihood that I could learn every face that turned for a second look at me is pretty slim.

      Hm, I hadn’t thought about people coming to say hi to get “ally points.” Now that you’ve pointed it out, I’ll be looking to see if I get that vibe off of anyone.

      Thanks for the reply. It’s fun to think and talk about this stuff.
      xo

  2. I seem to be memorable somehow, too. I don’t know why… even when I was a teenager, less overweight, more gender conforming, and often very shy, random strangers everywhere just seemed to remember me. Given that my visual recognition is pretty terrible, and I won’t remember someone I just met if they leave the room and come back five minutes later (ask me how many times I’ve re-introduced myself to someone I was talking to fifteen minutes earlier)–it always surprises me when random people remember me.

    One time I stopped at a convenience store off the highway in Nowheresville PA, on the way to somewhere far from there, and the woman behind the counter said, “hey, you had blond hair the last time you were in here.” Uh…? I was completely confused, since I didn’t remember having been there before, ever. I left, befuddled, and finally realized that I might have stopped in that store once before, on the way to someplace else far from there… but the last time I’d bleached out my hair had been two or three years before the current trip.

    So strange.

    • Interesting.
      I certainly think you’re memorable. 😉
      But that may have to do with things other than just looks. =)

      I understand what you mean about the visual recognition. It’s funny where the brain can have these little gaps. For me, I have a terrible time remembering who I’ve introduced to whom. I’ve introduced the same people to each other repeatedly – sometimes multiple times in one night. Sometimes repeatedly over weeks. Once I even kept introducing two friends of mine – repeatedly – after we’d all slept together!

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