Facial Hair Makes Me Bristle [Piping Hot Nerd]

I was recently standing on the subway platform waiting for the 2, 3 to go to work. Normally I walk, but I deemed it too cold. My walking, or not walking, has nothing to do with what I want to write about, but I just want it to be known that I pride myself on walking to work, thus saving money and getting some exercise. I even think it helps me lose weight. It really does not. But I love to put on my headphones and look at all the people swimming downstream on 6th Avenue as I hide unseen behind these magic headphones and check them all out. Perhaps it is hiding that I want to write about so this fits.

Back to the subway platform. There are always billboards to read on the subway platform. I hate most of them, but they always get me thinking. A new film starring Katherine Heigl got me thinking “Why?”  A poster for the Metropolitan Museum gets me thinking that I don’t go enough and this gets me thinking that life is slipping through my hands. Thank God the Met billboard does not depress me sufficiently to turn around and jump in front of the oncoming express train. After I think about “why oncoming and not incoming?” I am calm. But talk about a selfish act; suicide stops the subway running for hours.

Recently I saw this billboard that was an ad for the Braun Cruzer, which is some intricate electric shaver that would let you write your name in your neck in hair I think. It had the five boroughs of New York City represented by five different ways to have facial hair. Manhattan was an effete “we stole everything from alls y’all” Wall Street handlebar mustache; Brooklyn was the goatee, of course. Staten Island was a white guy Fu Man Chu thing for guys who work on their cars and never moved away, Queens was something that I blocked because Queens still reminds me of my old boyfriend and he had facial hair that I loved, and The Bronx was this stylized thin beard/ Van Dyke combo that looked like it was worn by “the black guy” in every cool Mod Squad-type series or film.

I get embarrassed by thinking about facial hair. Even a little grossed out.  Even saying “facial hair” gives me that uncomfortable feeling like saying “panties.” But when I was standing there I was thinking about how many years I wore a goatee, or more accurately, a Van Dyke. I wondered why men “wear” facial hair instead of “have” facial hair.  I liked having/wearing it though I think most people seemed to favor my clean shaven look. It did age me, but the hardest thing to cop to was how I hid behind it.  For years. And years. I had that damn thing [why is it a thing instead of a collections of things? I guess we “get our hair cut” instead of getting our “hairs” cut.] tied around my mouth for probably a decade. About 3 years ago I was home in San Francisco and my friend Jon and his partner Kurt had a facial hair intervention. These clean-shaven, multi skincare product men were gentle, but firm in their insistence that it was time. I felt supported, but also a little dared like they were trying to get me to let go of a rope swing over a lake or go up to the cutest girl in class and tell her I liked her. My fear was deeper than hitting a rock under water or being rejected; it was fear of being exposed, vulnerable, “found out.”  Once this facial gasket was removed I would have nowhere to go, it would be all me out there trying to get ahead in the world. I would no longer have my little friend, I guess. Once the hair was gone I would have to be overweight and unemployed and aging all on my own. It was asking a lot.

Finally, and I don’t remember what tipped the scales, but maybe it was the promise of a total pampering spa experience, but I finally let them put hot towels over my mug and get the various treatments from their vast collection ready.  A new blade, hot oil, some foam mixed with gel and gentle, gentle, scraping strokes. There I was in the mirror, all face. I was not pleased, just relieved. I knew it was the right thing. I had to face life, not be separated from it by bristles. Facial hair and cigarettes were my masks, my protectors, my separators. Now I am smoke and follicle free facing whatever the day brings. I have been through my mother’s death, a horrible break up, and a big move all without whiskers. I feel very proud of myself and hope my goatee wherever he is is proud of me too.

PS. I hate the Braun billboard. It is a corporation trying to sell to hipsters. It is “stubble left in the sink” gross.

feature image credit: Braun