Monthly Archives: November 2012

Beard Stories: Searching

So, I’ve been neglecting this blog for a bit, because my life has been in a phase of general upheaval, most of it good. (You’ll see me mentioning K a lot more, as he’s become a much bigger part of my life.)

The less fun upheaval has come from an unexpected apartment hunt. Due to some disagreements with my roommates [drama details redacted], I ended up looking for a new place to live, with a potential deadline to get out or face living with a cat and/or angry roommates.

So, as you do in San Francisco, I got on craigslist. Or, more specifically, K got on craigslist and started sending me listings. Which I then screened, compiled into a spreadsheet, and contacted every single one that seemed at all suitable.
By Sunday, I had a list of about ten places to view – back-to-back appointments every half hour or so, driving all over Oakland and Berkeley. At half the places, I showed up for the 30-minute open house along with a dozen other people, all clamoring to get a place to live that wouldn’t drain every last bit of cash. They all looked so normal. A young, thin, feminine, white woman, with her mother helping her look. A 30-ish het couple dressed in sweaters. A 30-something man with a tidy haircut and polo shirt. Some folks asked for applications, some didn’t. At one place, I asked for an application and filled it out as three het couples in skinny jeans examined the studio, yard, and garage. I handed it to the agent, a brusque, long-haired, middle-aged white woman dressed in gardening clothes and asked if she needed a credit report or anything else. She said, “No, we just look at everything all together,” which didn’t seem to make much sense to me. I never heard back from her and she didn’t call my references. A shy, mumbling, middle-aged white man showed an apartment and asked us to list our emails so he could send applications. I listed mine clearly and then emailed him to follow up. There were several others on the list – an undergrad whose mother was asking all the questions, a man with an eager Labrador, an Asian man with black-framed glasses.
I started to worry that the landlords didn’t want to rent to the queerdo (queer + weirdo, a term I like for myself most of the time). I started to wonder if I’d need to shave my beard in order to get a place, just like I shaved it to get my job. Of course, no one said anything about the beard, but then no one ever does.

Over Thanksgiving, I kept looking. I scheduled a half-dozen places on Friday, bouncing around the east bay solo this time, which was much less fun than driving around with K for company. This time, it was almost all individually scheduled showings, not open houses. When I showed up, it was just me and the agent.
As before, I made a point to mention that I was a teacher. As before, I made a point to make friendly small talk with the agent or landlord.
This time, I saw an inlaw cottage in Berkeley that looked appealing. The young black man in a grey hoodie showing the place didn’t have applications, so I pulled an application from the other day out of my trunk and filled it out on the spot. I thought it might seem pushy, but I also thought it would be the best way to get my application in first and hopefully get priority. He seemed to young to be the owner and too disorganized to be a property manager. My guess was owner’s son. Then, I went to see an apartment down in Oakland. The property manager, a very chatty, 40-something, rotund, shiny-headed bald black man in track pants, talked nonstop as he sorted through a gallon-sized bag of keys to try to find the right one. I asked if he had other properties for rent for under a thousand, and he offered to knock the price on a nearby apartment down from $1100 to $1000, “to get the right person in there.” I think I might have mentioned being a teacher, but he hadn’t seen my financials yet, so his suggestion that I was the “right kind of person” had to be based almost entirely on looks. We drove over to see it, I filled out an application, he called in to check my credit, found out it was good, offered to throw in a parking space, and offered the apartment to me on the spot. I told him I wanted to think about it, and he said to just let him know. Then he spent another ten minutes continuing to tell me his life story – how he’d lived near where I live in SF, which schools he’d gone to (since I said I was a teacher). Then he mentioned, apropos of what, I forget, that a good friend of his (or maybe one of his tenants?) directed the Gay Men’s Choir. I perked up, asked who. He couldn’t remember the name, but he thought he had a photo of the guy. He searched his messy desk but could only find a photo of the back of the guy’s head, which didn’t give me enough to figure out if I knew him. But we got to talking about the Chorus and how great it was. Finally, I managed to extract myself from the conversation, to go see one last place.

Two days later, I got a call back offering me the inlaw in Berkeley, which I’ve now got a deposit down on. I get the keys on Friday.

I’m glad that someone thinks that a butch-haired, red-bearded, bespectacled, 30 year old white woman in a tshirt and new jeans is the “right kind of person” to rent to. I’m glad I didn’t have to shave. And I’m looking forward to my new place.

 

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Beard Stories: Sir? Ma’am?

“You have your pick of liquor stores,” K joked, touting the dubious benefits of the apartment I was viewing. The building, which had badly patched stucco on the outside and badly patched plaster on the inside, was situated next to kitty-corner bottle shops. Across the street was a boarded up house, while next door there was a perky little bright yellow house, remodeled and sparkling, perched like a canary in a cage, inside the tall black spike-topped fence.

When we were done, we sat in the car, figuring out where the next apartment open house was. It was a warm day, so I rolled down the window all the way as we talked. When I pulled out my computer to see the address on my house-hunt spreadsheet, I was a little nervous to be flashing around electronics. The yelling match that had erupted outside the liquor stores earlier and the person who wandered down the middle of the street loudly cursing everything they saw had made me a little vigilant.

So, when a person walking up the street appeared to be headed for my car, my shoulders rose and tightened a little. As she approached the car, I don’t think my posture changed visibly, but I felt my whole body go a little bit more tense.

She was a thin woman, draped in four or five layers of clothing; I could see a white sweatshirt with big polka dots, a black shirt buttoned wrong, and worn navy blue trenchcoat, none of this sat squarely on her shoulders. Her dark brown skin showed deep creases, but I couldn’t begin to guess her age.

“Excuse me, sir?” she said, standing a few feet away from the window and leaning towards us.
She looked again.
“Ma’am?”
She looked again, still puzzled.
“Are you a woman?” she asked.
“Yep,” K replied for me at the same time as I answered.

She then proceeded to explain how she had fifty pennies but they wouldn’t take them at the store because she didn’t have the wrapper to make them into a roll of pennies. So she wanted to know if we had two quarters that she could trade for her fifty pennies, so she could buy something that the store.

We apologized for not having any change. She shuffled away.

 

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Beard Stories: Wishful thinking

(Originally written September 2, 2009.)

“You used to be in Andy’s lab, right?” asked the professor I was meeting with to see about a job as a grader. Her office is across the hall from Andy’s.
“Yeah. I switched  into Gretchen’s lab.”
“You used to have a beard, right?”
“Yeah!” I’m surprised. Almost no one says anything outright about the beard, especially no one outside the queer leather scene.
“I didn’t recognize you without it,” she says, smiling. I think to myself that clearly that isn’t literally true, but I understand her meaning.
I smile with a little shrug and nod. I’m never sure what the next step is in a conversation like this. My failure at small talk. Or the lack of training in my upbringing on how to converse about one’s beard.
She leans back in her chair a bit, taking a more relaxed, conversational posture “You know, I’ve been with my husband twenty-five years**, and he’s always been clean shaven.” Her tone clearly says that she kind of wishes he’d grow a beard.
“It’s fun variety,” I offer, smiling and wishing that sentence had come out with better grammar. “I’ll be growing it back soon,” I continue to show I agree with her that beards are nice. (As if a woman would grow a beard without having a preference for them.)
“Ah, great,” she says, or some other phrase of approval. “Twenty-five years, and he’s never grown it out…”

And the conversation moves on from there to whether or not I’ll be working for her.

**I actually remember it as thirty-five years, but that didn’t seem to add up with her age. Ten or fifteen minutes later in the conversation, I was trying to figure out if I was remembering it correctly or what she might have said, or if she could possibly be a lot older than she looked and had in fact been with him for thirty-five years. Based on her appearance, twenty-five even seems high, but then I’m lousy at judging ages.

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Beard Stories: Me too

(Originally written August 29, 2009.)

“Large chai latte, please.”
“Venti chai. That’s three thirty-five.”
“Thanks.”
I’m in the DC train station, waiting for the next train to Baltimore. Not in a total hurry like usual.
A black woman in her forties, wearing a beige trench coat and a long, business-woman skirt and blouse, is in line behind me, so we end up standing together waiting for our drinks. She catches my eye and asks, smiling in a friendly, wide-eyed way, “How do you grow that?” with a hint of pleasant fascination in her voice.
“It just grows there.” I reply, smiling back and shrugging. “It started growing in when I was thirteen, and I used to spend all this time shaving and tweezing and plucking and doing chemicals and whatnot. So I decided to just let it grow.”
She’s smiling broadly now. “That makes sense!” she chuckles. “If I had one, I’d grow it myself!” she says with a chuckle.
I laugh and say something generic like “Cool!”
“Venti chai.” The barista sets my drink on the counter. We smile and nod, and I head off to my train.

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Beard Stories: Beard in translation

(Originally written August 28, 2009)

Spanish, Catalan, Italian, Romanian = barba
French = barbe (looks to my American eyes like “Barbie,” although I’m sure that’s not how it’s pronounced. But I like the idea of a Barbie beard.)
Afrikaans, Dutch = baard, German = bart, Yiddish = bord
Croatian = brada, Latvian = bārda, Lithuanian = barzda, Slovenian = Brada, Polish = broda
Welsh = barf (ew)
Galician = Barbados (I’m assuming this is a translation error!?)

Hebrew = zakan (If I’m reading it right.)
Slovak = fúzy (! – my favorite)
Cockney rhyming slang = Strange and weird (I like this one!)

More:
Danish = skaeg, Icelandic = skegg, Swedish = skägg, Norwegian =skjegg
Albanian = mjeker
Czech = vousy
Estonian = habe
Filipino = balbas
Finnish = partaa
Hungarian = szakállt
Indonesian, Malay = jenggot
Irish =féasóg
Maltese = abjad
Swahili = ndevu
Turkish = sakal
Vietnamese = râu
(as a sidenote, it was interesting to find out which languages used which alphabets.)

Beards.org says my particular style is called a chin curtain, chinstrap, or Donegal.

Definitions, from various sources. 
v. defy, oppose
n. hair on the sides of the face and chin
(v. t.) To take by the beard; to seize, pluck, or pull the beard of (a man), in anger or contempt.
(v. t.) To oppose to the gills; to set at defiance.n. a tuft or growth of hairs or bristles on certain plants such as iris or grasses
n. a person who diverts suspicion from someone (especially a woman who accompanies a male homosexual in order to conceal his homosexuality)
n. tuft of strong filaments by which e.g. a mussel makes itself fast to a fixed surface
n. Of a woman, pubic hair.
v. go along the rim, like a beard around the chin; “Houses bearded the top of the heights”
(v. t.) To deprive of the gills; — used only of oysters and similar shellfish.
n. An imposition; a trick. [Obs.] –Chaucer.
(n.) A barb or sharp point of an arrow or other instrument, projecting backward to prevent the head from being easily drawn out.

From the Dictionary of Phrase and Fable
Cutting the beard. The Turks think it a dire disgrace to have the beard cut. Slaves who serve in the seraglio have clean chins, as a sign of their servitude
Kissing the beard. In Turkey wives kiss their husband, and children their father on the beard.
To make one’s beard (Chaucer). This is the French “Faire la barbe à quelqu’un,” and refers to a barber’s taking hold of a man’s beard to dress it, or to his shaving the chin of a customer. To make one’s beard is to have him wholly at your mercy.
I told him to his beard. I told him to his face, regardless of consequences; to speak openly and fearlessly.

And from Easton’s 1897 Bible Dictionary:

Beard. The mode of wearing it was definitely prescribed to the Jews (Lev. 19:27; 21:5). Hence the import of Ezekiel’s (5:1-4) description of the “razor” i.e., the agents of an angry providence being used against the guilty nation of the Jews. It was a part of a Jew’s daily toilet to anoint his beard with oil and perfume (Ps. 133:2). Beards were trimmed with the most fastidious care (2 Sam. 19:24), and their neglet was an indication of deep sorrow (Isa. 15:2; Jer. 41:5). The custom was to shave or pluck off the hair as a sign of mourning (Isa. 50:6; Jer. 48:37; Ezra 9:3). The beards of David’s ambassadors were cut off by hanun (2 Sam. 10:4) as a mark of indignity.
On the other hand, the Egyptians carefully shaved the hair off their faces, and they compelled their slaves to do so also (Gen. 41:14).

Etymology
Beard O.E. beard “beard,” from W.Gmc. *barthaz (cf. M.Du. baert, Ger. bart), seemingly from PIE *bhar-dha “beard” (cf. O.C.S. brada, Lith. barzda, and perhaps L. barba”beard”). The verb is from M.E. phrase rennen in berd “oppose openly,” on the same notion as modern slang get in (someone’s) face. Pubic hair sense is from 1600s; in the 1811 “Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue,” the phrase beard-splitter is defined as, “A man much given to wenching” (see beaver).

And, related –
Bizarre – c.1648, from Fr. bizarre “odd, fantastic,” originally “handsome, brave,” from Basque bizar “a beard” (th notion being of the strange impression made in France by bearded Sp. soldiers); alternative etymology traces it to It. bizarro “angry, fierce, irascible,” from bizza “fit of anger.”

And finally, some beard quotes:

“All the men in my family were bearded, and most of the women.” – W.C. Fields
“To a man, ornithologists are tall, slender, and bearded so that they can stand motionless for hours, imitating kindly trees, as they watch for birds.” – Gore Vidal (Maybe that’s why I keep doing bird research.)
You cannot grow a beard in a moment of passion.” – G. K. Chesterton
“There is always a period when a man with a beard shaves it off. This period does not last. He returns headlong to his beard. ” – Jean Cocteau
“If you are really Master of your Fate, it shouldn’t make any difference to you whether Cleopatra or the Bearded Lady is your mate.” – Ogden Nash
Wisdom is in the head and not in the beard” – Swedish proverb. And, “If the beard were all, goats could preach” – Danish proverb
Or, more graphically, “A beard creates lice, not brains” – Greek proverb.
Alternately, “Chins without beards deserve no honour.” – Spanish proverb
I have the terrible feeling that, because I am wearing a white beard and am sitting in the back of the theatre, you expect me to tell you the truth about something. These are the cheap seats, not Mount Sinai.” – Orson Welles
Kissing a man with a beard is a lot like going to a picnic. You don’t mind going through a little bush to get there!” – Minnie Pearl
Seize opportunity by the beard, for it is bald behind” – Bulgarian proverb
“Upon shaving off one’s beard. The scissors cut the long-grown hair; the razor scrapes the remnant fuzz. Small-jawed, weak-chinned, bug-eyed, I stare at the forgotten boy I was.” – John Updike
When a resolute young fellow steps up to the great bully, the world, and takes him boldly by the beard, he is often surprised to find it comes off in his hand, and that it was only tied on to scare away the timid adventurers.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson
“He that hath a beard is more than a youth, and he that hath no beard is less than a man.” -Shakespeare

Categories: Beard Stories, bearded lady, bearded woman, Miscellaneous Info | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

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