Posts Tagged With: beard stories

Beard Stories: The moment of determination

At the Castro farmer’s market today:

The man selling hummus and other spreads held out a piece of spinach-stuffed bread with yogurt, artichoke hummus, and jalapeno sauce on it. “Free sample, sir?”

I dropped my voice half an octave. Not faking anything, just the lower end of my normal range. “Sure,” I said, taking the bread. Part of what fascinates me in my experience with my beard is what gender they guess me to be. Some days, I feel like I’m presenting a very masculine appearance – button down shirt, tits smooshed flat in a sports bra, shoulders squared, taking large steps. Sometimes I default feminine, raising my voice a few tones and turning up my sentence-ends, to appear friendly to store clerks and taxi drivers. Most days, I feel kind of neutral. I have my beard. I have my tits. I wear tshirts sometimes, button-downs sometimes, jeans most times. And in these neutral times, it seems like a toss-up what gender I’ll get read as. Not that people will necessarily be confused; that comes a few seconds later. It’s the first read that puzzles me. “Free sample, sir?” “Can I help you, ma’am?” These phrases, said with casual confidence – and often quickly corrected – give me hints at what people notice first. Sometimes it’s obvious why. When I’m slouched in the window seat, with a blanket over my chest, no wonder the stewardess calls me “sir.”
These moments are often fleeting. As soon as I ask the stewardess for a coke, my voice tips her off to her “mistake.” So, sometimes I try to extent the moment. I drop my voice a little, square my slouchy shoulders, let the ends of my sentences fall, clip my words a little bit, substitute “yeah” for a precise “yes.” I’m curious what they’ll see next. If the tits don’t tip them off, and the voice doesn’t tip them off, will they wise up to my gentle jawline, my delicate hands, my shallow brow ridge, or some subtle social cue of feminine behavior that I’m not even conscious of performing?
So much of the reading of gender is below consciousness – mine as well as theirs. So I try to slow these moments down, pay more attention, see what I can pull out.

Of course, the answer is that most of the time I can’t read the person’s mind. I can’t tell what they responded to, what they thought.

The man selling hummus doesn’t correct himself, but I can see the second look as he watches me eat the hummus, which, incidentally, is delicious.
He tells another customer about the special deal – five for the price of four – and then turns back to me. “It’s good, yes?”
“Yes. Very tasty.”
He talks me into another sample – the same stuffed bread, with butternut squash dip, hummus, and sweet and sour carrots.
As I chew, he motions stroking his chin, nods towards mine, and says, “This looks good!”
“Thanks!” I smile. A compliment always feels good.
“I like it!”
“Thanks!”
“How… How do you… How do you grow it?”
“It just grows there.”
He looked puzzled.
“It just grows there,” I repeat, “I just stopped shaving.”
“Hm. Wow,” he purses his lips and raises his eyebrows, nodding. He thinks for a moment, nods approvingly. “It looks good. I like it!”
“Thanks!”
He smiles and nods again, then goes back to discussing the merits of the lentil-curry spread with seasoned carrots. I take him up on the five for the price of four deal, getting one of everything except the jalapeno.

Categories: Beard Stories, Positive | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Beard Stories: “That’s disgusting!”

August 2, 2008

1pm, downtown San Rafael, Marin County, CA

J (my coworker) and I are walking around downtown San Rafael, killing time as we eat ice cream and being amused at the overly quintessential American downtown neighborhood with its upscale Marin boutiques. We’re standing in front of a portrait studio, critiquing the cheesy, artsy family portraits on display.

A guy in his early to mid forties, shaved head, medium-heavy build, tall-ish, wearing a tshirt and maybe jeans walks by, passing in front of us. As he passes me, he turns to stare, pausing a step, craning his neck around to see as he walks past. When he’s a step or two past me, he exclaims, “That’s disgusting!” with a look of horror. For a second, I looked around, looking for what horrible thing he’s referring to. A few steps further on, he adds, “That was a bearded [____]” – I didn’t catch the last word, as he’d already turned his head away and was several paces down the street.

I told Dossie about it, puzzling over whether he might have been talking on a bluetooth headset or whether he was addressing the world at large, since he didn’t seem to be walking with anyone in particular. Dossie replied, “He was talking to you.”

The only other negative reaction I’ve gotten was from the one rabbi in Israel. Nothing bad when I was in New Jersey, Florida, Ohio, or even West Virginia (although I avoided strangers and wore baggy jackets when in West Virginia). I didn’t expect this in the bay area.

Categories: Beard Stories, Negative | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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