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My Beard: Let's Talk About It.* by Meg Taylor
 

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  • Because you're obviously going to anyway, with or without me, silently or loudly, consent or no. This is going to be a clumsy, cloppy, angry, mean story. Too fucking bad.

    I was buying shitty wine - Carlo Rossi Rhine, the only wine they have with a half-decent alcohol percentage at the only spot, Julie's Market with the yellow paint and blue trim, before the last bus to my client. Yes, I drink. Worse - I'm not above shitty wine. To be unfair, I do sometimes actually put some of the wine in their food, occasionally. I gave up cigarettes, if that helps you like me any more. Yesterday morning, I gave up cigarettes. Mostly.

    Julie's Market is not owned by Julie. Maybe it was owned by Julie a few decades ago, but today it is owned by a Chinese couple who are very loving to each other and trade off 6 hour shifts between 8am and 8pm every day capitalizing handsomely on the addictions to the convenience of packaged Takis and Tecate nursed daily by their neighborhood patronage, including me. "Julie," who is nobody's fool and will make this known in broken English, or Spanish, if pushed, was handing me my change as a man walked in and asked for ice. "Julie" pointed to the wall to the left of the refrigerator case, and the man walked over, slid the freezer door open, grabbed a bag of ice, and slammed it shut.

    "AAAeey - be caywfuw!" she immediately called out. A beat, and then:

    "HA HA! Oh, that's comedy," he said dismissively.

    "Julie" wasn't having it. "NO - you bwake, you pay money! Pay money!" She was pointing at him, her jaw muscles flexed.

    "We have a comedian!" He walked over to the counter and slammed the bag down in front of her, unmistakably instigating this time. Now, I'm not necessarily a total fan of "Julie" because I'm pretty sure she's clear that she and her husband are doing well off of all of our disastrous choices, but when somebody seemingly unnecessarily acts like a dick to women just because he knows he's safe getting away with it, my hair stands on end, and my StupidHero bat winds up.

    "Why are you doing that?!" I valiantly assert.

    "Why don't you shut up. Why don't you shut up, you weirdo."

    Aaaaaand, we're off to the races.

    "I'M weird?!"
    (He was not necessarily "weird" - he read brown and had a ponytail of pretty salt and pepper hair running down his back to a bit past his shoulders, colorfully rubber-banded in regular 2-inch intervals, and a pair of Oakley iridescent sunglasses, jeans and a t-shirt, but this stupid retort is all I could think of on such short StupidHero notice.)

    "YEAH, weirdo -- look at your chin - you weirdo!" But it was really the whole package he was referring to as he looked me up and down.

    "Well thank you - thank you for - for calling me weird - coming from you, I'll go ahead and take that as a compliment!" said StupidHero, valiantly again, wagging her finger.

    "Why don't you get the fuck out of here and leave me the fuck alone, you weirdo - WEIRDO!"

    "Julie" has now piped up to defend me, and I'm not quite sure what she's saying, but it's something like, "You shouldn't be so mean" and "There's something wrong with you!" or something to that effect.

    "AGHHH, MOM," he says, crouching with his arms protecting the back of his head from some imaginary random fuselage or fallout, as if he either wants his mommy to come get him out of here, or is in grave peril of being attacked by a gang of matronly Amazons composed of a 5'6" bearded white weirdo and a 5'2" Chinese woman demanding respect.

    "Well you have a nice day, all the best to you," StupidHero says, her cape disheveled and fraying at the ends.

    He grabs the bag of ice (he is at least smart enough to pay money! or face the real wrath of "Julie"), and starts out the door. "Weirdo, weirdo, WEIRDO - you're a weirdo, look at you, ya fuckin' WEIRDO!"

    I start blowing kisses at him. No, I do not know why I started blowing kisses at him - I had absolutely no interest in kissing him. I would say it was all I could think of, but I wasn't really thinking at that point, it just occurred, like obvious questions such as, Is there really a god? occur out loud to 5-year-olds.

    Out of nowhere, like a snot ninja, he hocked a loogie and spit it in my face. "You fuckin' weirdo - you FUCKING DYKE!" he yelled, as the mucus dripped down my sunglasses and onto my chin. Unfortunately, I was 100% stone-cold sober when this happened, but I could smell in the breath which delivered his spit that he was not.

    There was silence for a moment, and we just looked at each other, him through his iridescent Oakleys, me through my spattered sunglasses, his saliva dripping off my hairy little Rube Goldberg mess of an excuse for a beard.

    "Fucking dyke! Fucking DYKE!!" he yelled as he mounted his bicycle and pedaled away.

    "That's RIGHT, I AM a fucking DYKE," I screeched out like a set of padless brakes, the sound reverberating through the middle school soccer field across the street, their game now momentarily suspended, through the Iglesia de Jesucristo housed in the modest one-story prefab bungalow with the pescado-shaped mailbox, their slightly out-of-tune choir of five trailing to a halt mid-hymn, through the Ranchito, a satisfied carne customer paralyzed mid-exit in the door jamb.

    "Julie" came out punching her fist in the air and shaking her head side-to-side, frowning in solidarity. "You wrong, you WRONG," but he was already at least a block away, his own opinion loudly wafting behind him.

    He had pulled all the right strings. I wanted to beat him up. I wanted a good, honest, clumsy, stupid, bloody, mano-a-man@ fist fight, replete with senseless broken noses, fillings and teeth on the asphalt, cops and sore knuckles, and pathetic egos in the black plastic corner liquor store decoy bags. I was ready to try my hands at revenge, because nothing else seems to be working. I probably could have taken him, too - he wasn't too much larger than me, and I have as much itch built up to prove you should be scared of me as he had urge to pacify his "wrongness" in this world by spitting on those even more "wrong" than him.

    But somehow StupidHero was able to think of jail, even after failure to think of any witty retorts. StupidHero has been to jail once before, and calculated that next time, the conditions should create the opportunity to widely broadcast a good story about the police state we are all either co-creating or dismantling. By those standards, this would have been a wasted arrest, and a waste of taxpayer dollars on five squad cars and ten men for a schoolyard fight at recess.

    Finally on the bus, I wonder if Snot Ninja has somehow telepathically sent a memo to the hard-working, god-fearing Black man sitting two seats down from me in the back, because he will not leave me alone, and I already know better than to give him a good solid full smile or even grin, like the one you see in the picture - it will not be returned, and my good friend, the crick in my neck from insistently looking forward, winds up. On the walk to the bus I receive more double-takes than usual, and one of the odd whistles I sometimes still receive from men who seem to wear their own special pairs of Google Glass outfitted to focus only on bouncing boobs, and I wonder if it was a full moon last night or something - but it was not. Blaming this packaging and selling ourselves to each other on wild hairs or the poor moon would be a crime.

    I arrive at the home of the client, and with the consistency and integrity of a Swiss watch, their 9-year-old daughter will not return my greeting, verbally address me at all, or even look me in the eye, except to ask into the air when it is that the Challah, her favorite food, will be ready? Last week the 8-year-old daughter of another client refused to stop talking about my facial hair to the point where I had to suspend cooking so that we could debate whether it was a "beard" or not, and whether she and her sister would even consider allowing their own likely beardlettes to burgeon ("it runs in the family" according to their mother, herself removed of any trace of facial hair). She won the debate on both counts, the first by comparing whatever I have going on to her father's beard, and the second, by simply digging her heels in, disgusted at the foreign, no cogent argument necessary, culture on her side. The week before that, I complained to a comrade that I probably lost a huge job not because the sliders, though delicious, were messy, as was the excuse, but because my beard is messy, and does not fit their "clean" white-and-steel aesthetic. People don't really go to bat for women with beards. She, herself a trans-gender womyn with beautiful long black flowy hair wearing a hot pink V-neck and black nail polish on long, carefully cultivated nails at the time, responded with, "I have to call you out on this. You could be more faint." I could go on, with five more stories fresh and organic from yesterday alone - a day mostly spent in transit and service to a workshop on gender justice.

    People love to distance themselves from substance abuse and other forms of "self-sabotage" and/or "medicating" depending upon the perspective, love to drop others with the whiff of it on their breath and the look of it in their eyes like hot potatoes. I am ready to hear you thinking I am a privileged, self-absorbed, hypocritical fuck for rationalizing my Rosé I.V. drip if you are, for instance, a single mother of five working three jobs to put them all in college, or an octogenarian Persyn of Color Queer artist, or a survivor of childhood rape and sexual abuse, or an immigrant who hasn't seen her now adult kids in 15 years, or an activist who started a revolution, or all of these. The rest of you, get ready to hear me: It. Is. Not. Fun. Getting. Spit. On. Repeatedly. Literally and figuratively. Or worse. Much. Worse. It starts the minute you open the door to the rest of the world wrapped in a box, and stops when you close it at night. Please remember this when you buy your two-year-old everything in Plastic Pink Princess the stores have to sell her. Remember it when you pay for your 19,000th meditation retreat or Pilates class or homeopathic facial or Swedish deep-tissue massage or your newly remastered Elvis Costello compilation album with previously unreleased tracks or your organic pureed baby carrots conveniently packaged in HDPE squeeze bottle with built-in pacifier or your new iPhone 27. And, then, I dare you to drop me again like a hot potato, because I drink. Who's hold on reality is it which is more grounded and healthy, again?

    Why don't I just shave it off, you ask, be more faint? Because then I would be like you - so afraid of permanent exile and of knowing the unknown that I can't even see the liberated technicolor dream beyond the iron curtain. So spit on by the iron curtain that the only way forward worth it is to offensively - or defensively - spit on whatever I can get away with spitting on, to numb the pain, to repeat the cycle, to keep calm, to remain faint, to pass through the bowels of this life mildly, smoothly, hollowed out but unnoticed. Safe. For now.

    *This photo is two years old - the "beard" is much longer now.
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