Sunday, October 18, 2009

Moustache and Beard--mutually exclusive?

Last night, I attended a moustache-themed party (with stick-on versions for those of us who couldn't supply our own). My handlebar moustache was slightly larger than my upper lip, which meant that I had to eat and drink innovatively. The drinking was successful--you set the beer bottle on your lower teeth, then tip back, white-trash style. The eating, less so. I ended up combing frosting out of my moutache, and resorted to tearing up pieces of cake and tossing them in my mouth. I was living proof that stache≠class.

More importantly, the moustachioed folks take on beards: all interviewed parties agreed that a full beard, even one that incorporates a moustache, supersedes the moustache. So the four bearded men who showed up at the moustache party held themselves in theme violation--Beard #1 even considered shaving beforehand, but didn't want to give up the investment.

The beard interviewees became significantly less cooperative as the night wore on, and, in my estimation, the quality of their beards followed suit. I'm not sure if this is the result of preferred testosterone output, likelihood of alcohol consumption, or if I just chose Mr. Approachable on first blush. The highlights of my interviews (audio pending--I won't subject anyone to 11-minute clips).

AM works in retail at an outdoor gear store. He interviewed when he had the beard, but before his first day, he decided to shave, hoping to "make a good impression." "[Being clean-shaven] makes you more approachable, in some sense. If you don't know someone, and they have a big, scraggly beard, you're much less likely to approach them, I think."

Case history
He started shaving in the seventh grade, hoping for a goatee, but he quickly realized a goatee was not as good as he'd thought it would be. He had a beard throughout undergrad (in Maine, a beard-friendly region) and graduate school.

He'd go through cycles where he would not shave for four months.

"I like growing it for awhile, it's interesting to change your appearance. Everyone needs variety in their life."
His decision to shave it is generally spontaneous. Occasionally, he's shaved for a specific day--a cousin's wedding, first day of work. He did not shave for graduation.

The current beard
He's been growing it out for two months. He's set a date in March to shave it.

Further points of interest (he was on a roll)
The transition (growth) A.M. has noticed that people don't comment on his beard until it's fully-grown, whereupon he gets a ton of comments. People he would see at work everyday didn't say anything for a month and a half, and then, suddenly, "People are like, oh, look at Mr. Beard! Like they didn't see it growing." There must be a minimum length/surface area in each person's unconscious that separates beard-palcenta from the birthed-beard. Ew. That analogy was inadequate, but interesting, so I'll leave it in. And it relates nicely to

The transition (cut) "The day after you shave, it's like post-partum depression." I should not make light (or psychoanalytic darkness) of A.M.'s word choice, as he was an amiable subject, and more than a drink in. Suffice to say, I doubt the aptness of this analogy. What he meant was that his behaviors, minus his beard, are unsatisfying--he's used to stroking his chin, for example, and doing that without a beard, especially at a moment when the skin is raw and sensitive, makes him miss it even more.

The beard is a good face-warmer in the winter, but A.M.'s has a tendency to become encrusted with ice. He waits for the majority of it to melt, but he cups his hands around his face to defrost the muzzle of it.
Also on skiing: he worked at a lift on the snow mountain. Regulations stated that he could keep his current beard, as long as it was well-manicured, but that if he shaved it off, he couldn't grow it back. His supervisor would come around and tell him when it was time to trim.

Come back for news on Dude#2's "Playoff Beard."

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

The Gay Beard

All right, I have been remiss, oh men of the world. First of all, this is my first post this month, and we are halfway through Octobeard. But I can compensate for that by outlining my recent research.

My most significant omission, as of late--"the gay beard." I hadn't even considered the heterosexual bent of my beard investigations until I hit a chapter with that title in Allan Peterkin's One Thousand Beards.

And then, this video:

The fact that I poached this link from a very out friend's page, and the repeated listing of "Glee," led me to assume that these performers are, in fact, hirsute homosexuals--a view of the original post on Joe.My.God., a blog touting its LGBT street-cred, confirms it.

I hadn't thought about what men who look at men think about facial hair. Peterkin, ever the psychiatrist/journalist, introduces the theory that gay men sporting beards are pursuing hypermasculinity, which may be a result of internalized homophobia. He also mentioned "the bear movement," a group of men who adopted the "large, hairy, strong (but also secure and gentle)" animal as an emblem.

Peterkin seems to have conducted more first-hand research into this area than I could, and he provides a short history of facial hair in homosexual exchanges from the Greek's preference for prepubescent companions, to their use as a mask of conformity in Christian Europe, to the flambouyantly smooth-face of Oscar Wilde, the wizened whiskers of Whitman, and the impact of Steve Reeves's portrayal of Hercules on the gay porn industry. In the sixties, men who take to the blade are considered sell-outs; then come the fighting drag queens in the Stonewall Bar raids, the evolution of the Leathermen, the Beards, etc. Unfortunately, he doesn't have much to say about the present-day facial hair situation in the GLBTQ community.

I tend to assume that bearded men are straight, unless they're sporting a polished goatee. So far, this guideline has served me well--the only times I've barked up the wrong, shaggy tree, it's because it was currently occupied by another woman.

But, since I'm trying to imagine life with a beard, I can't see why I couldn't have my dream beard (not a goatee) as a gay man. And I can't imagine having my own muzzle to nuzzle would undermine my affinity for bearded dudes. Imagine--our powers combined. An exponential beard!

Anyway, interviewing gay men on their perception of bearded men could be an interesting prong, but, since this is about my (female) attempt to understand the experience of a beard, I will inevitably marginalize their perspective. But I respect your excellent taste, fellow-beard/man-lovers, especially since we're not competing.

The last word goes to Wendover, who commented on the performance embedded here: "They're the perfect gay men - hot, masculine, furry, but can pull off a Glee musical number flawlessly."