Did you shave your facial hair? And if so, were you walking downtown today in a blue shirt, listening to your iPod? I thought I saw you near the Thompson Center.
We should get together this weekend if you and Josie are around. I'm going to chad's friday night and staying through next week. When do you depart for the wedding? And when do you get back? It occurred to me when I saw you this morning (or at least your twin) that you guys may be gone when I leave for Denver. Which would mean I wouldn't see you again until you all trek out west for the ski trip I'm planning.
"How beautiful maleness is, if it finds its right expression," wrote D.H. Lawrence. When I was 25 – half today's age, lanky, intense, bearded, trying to find the right expression – I resembled a bad copy of the literary "priest of love," as Lawrence once called himself. A grainy photo from that era shows me seated with my leg up, fist atop my knee, leaning forward, fiercely focused. Artistically focused.
I wear a white troubadour-style shirt that would have made Lawrence laugh. The backdrop is our sofa, draped with a colorful afghan. Most likely I am listening to my wife reel off her lasagna recipe to a visiting couple. I had been married for a year. Lawrence on a leash.
Later, when I shaved off the beard, I looked almost boyish. Not "flickering and flashing and strangely young, vulnerable, as young and boyish as flame," like Cipriano in The Plumed Serpent, but not Grizzly Adams either. A bit of dignity at the temples and some crinkle around the eyes. So what?
Barefaced for two decades, I lived through divorce, re-marriage, and re-divorce. Then I tried the beard again. To my horror, it grew a mix of brown, yellow, and copper streaked with gray, like the pelt of some exotic zoo animal. The buzzed-away remains in the sink made a pile of hideous confetti.
This year, I hit 50. "You're going to buy a Maserati and hook up with some hot babe," one of my ex-wives predicted, fearing the child-support payments would be placed in jeopardy. "You're going to hide in the woods like Ted Kaczynski," she said another time. The Unabomber, of course, had neither a Maserati nor luck with ladies. He had a rickety bicycle – and a fairly well kept beard, considering.
But I know what she meant. I've read Kaczynski's anti-technology manifesto with interest, and our lifestyles (take away the mail bombs) do share some traits. These days, I sleep on an air mattress, and I own no other furniture except a card table and folding chair. It's enough.
My womanizing father, on a ship to Australia at age 37, told the one who would become his third and final wife that he did not want to live past 50. He had just met Gloria. He wasn't drunk. "I passed it over," she said to me later. "I thought he was just goofing." Dad had quit his postal-clerk job to seek his fortune in the opal mines.
Willing or not, he lasted well past 50, almost half again as many years. It was a hard ride at the end. Before he reached 75, they had amputated his useless paraplegic legs, and alone in the wee hours of an April day he woke from his coma – leukemic, kidneys failing, his blood pressure gone berserk – and glanced around the V.A. Hospital room. "I've had enough," he said. "Shut everything off, I'm ready to go." That was three years ago. He had the whitest beard I've ever seen.
When I turned 50, I wanted my own beard back. If not the beard itself – God knows what frightful thing would sprout if I allowed it – then some other, outer emblem of my older-man status. I wanted what I didn't want before, some voluntarily cultivated evidence of age. On my face.
I considered, of all things, a soul patch. A mouche, imperial,
attilio, spit catcher, flavor saver – alternate names for
that triangular tuft of hair below the lower lip. A soul patch!
Am I gay? Certain males who fret over secret signals tend to snicker
at the patch, but last check found me more or less heterosexual,
whatever that gets me. Am I a jazzman? Leftover beatnik? No and
During visits to New York I had seen black-shirted guys with soul patches and I laughed inwardly. Aren't you cool, I thought. Aren't you a Bohemian artist. Aren't you a sad case, with a vagina on your chin.
I wanted one.
So I began razoring strategically around the area to create a sort of no-trespass zone in the valley of the patch. My first attempt failed when I absentmindedly scraped through several days of whisker. I had to bring to the act of shaving, as I struggle these days to apply to other chores, more alertness.
It's working. I now have a silver fuzz notch right where I wanted, in odd contrast to the hair on my head, still mostly dark. I like my soul patch. Does it provide me with any more "soul" than before? "One's religion is never complete and final, it seems, but must always be undergoing modification." Lawrence again. Maybe the same is true of facial hair. I might say goodbye to my patch next week.
As for Dad, I said the final goodbye to him on my 50th birthday
in March, scattering his ashes into the surf at Bolinas, north of
San Francisco. I live in California now, like he did when he boarded
that ship. Dad ended up getting Gloria pregnant; the opal venture
fell apart before he could hit a rich vein. With their new baby
they came back to the U.S., where she divorced him.
"I like your patch," Sarah told me the other night. She balanced her wine glass and rolled over to see my face better. The air mattress squeaked. For about four years, we've lived by candles more than electric light.
My soul patch, my maleness. A "beautiful expression"? I don't know. I think of it more as a parcel sent by my father across time to explode, quietly, in this protected area I have staked out on my chin.
By Randall Osborne. Randall Osborne lives and writes in Mill Valley, California, just across the Golden Gate Bridge from San Francisco. Author of a chapbook (www.bigpinchworld.com), he's been published various other places and is finishing a book of stories. Contact him at email@example.com.
For the Love of God, Stop Shaving!
A lot of people ask me, Erin, do you think I should grow a beard? To which I reply, uh, yeah, duh. Every man should grow a beard at least once in his life. A beard can make an average man hot and a good-looking man irresistible, and he doesn’t even have to go on some lame makeover show or spend a dime to undergo this particular transformation. I haven’t been able to pinpoint the exact reasons behind this hairy phenomenon, all I know is that it works, well it works for me, anyway. Some people hate them, so if you’re already engaged, you may want to ask your significant other their opinion before you throw away your razor. If you’re single, let me fill you in on a little secret: you’ve got a lot of power hidden beneath your chin. Take for example, Oscar. Oscar, is, for a lack of a better word, a nerd. Not "a cute alternative rocker pretending to be a nerd" sort of nerd, but a good old-fashioned Revenge of the Nerds type. You know, pants too short, crew cut, socially awkward. Don’t get me wrong, I like nerds, nerds are good, but I’m trying to make the point that Oscar isn’t normally the type of guy that would make me ooze with feminine glue. Then, one day, without warning, he started to grow a beard. Now, each time I see him there’s a certain energy in the air. I let my gaze linger a little longer, find myself thinking hmmm. . . . I’m not yet at the point where I want to stick my hand beneath his underpants, but if his beard made me look twice, think about what it would do to a woman seeing him for the first time! So, there it is. Start growing a beard. Do it now. But before you begin, let me give you a little tip. Do not, I repeat, do not model your beard after the men in the World Beard and Mustache Championship (http://www.worldbeardchampionships.com/). While these beards are fun to look at, they aren’t likely to make anyone wet between the legs. I liken it to women and long fingernails. While you might like your lady to have vampy back scratchin’ fingernails, do you really want her to grow those oversized curly fry nails? I didn’t think so. Keep this in mind while you’re growing your beard. Okay, now get growing!
by Erin Bealmear
title: raspberry picker extraordinare
favorite activity: looking at cookbooks because the pictures get me excited
current ailment: bearded men
quote: "What the frell?" or "Frell that!" Because hours and hours of Farscape has turned me into a huge sci-fi dork.
Hi, Alex, I read where you were look for pieces on facial hair? This is from my book "The Journal of A Perimeter Man".
"Great moustache; How long have you had that distinctive bit
of facial hair?"
"Forever. I've never shaved my upper lip. It is a family tradition. Dates back to the Crusades when we used to wear armor. Never shave the lip. A large moustache soaks up a lot of blood inside the helmet. Might save you from drowning one day."
Not so much like the pencil sketch she displays,
her profile hangs – as she calls out, “betrayed.”
Leathery cheek skin littered with thoughtlessly
picked blemishes, probed one-handed
and man hair caught often by the desert light
as she sneaks her smokes “their light”
behind the house she shares with the family
that knows little of her true self.
“There’s a litany of things you cannot talk
to my children about.”
She drives, saving the near empty half pint of mall milk
and worse, yet, are the secrets she told her sisters,
“they clapped for me” she claimed after she bared her tits
to the crowd of tequila-ed men at the CB riot in Colorado,
the waiting in the social services line with “the Mexicans”
for checks and food stamps, screwing her writing professor
in his car in the liquor store parking lot
while her husband and his wife answer trivia questions
in the South Valley.
He knew her writing was poor
but her tits were large and public
so he pumped her for memories of his salad days
as a Ph.D. candidate, free love advocate, Marxist…
all the things she now hates. “Betrayed.”
by sheila duane
Bio: FYI - my new collection of poetry is my "pissed off"
series (no name yet, I'm still too pissed to give it a name haha).
University of New Mexico (BA) and Rutgers University (MA). I've studied with Rachel Hadas, Elliot Figman, Philip Schultz, and William Packard. I've been published in college journals (UNM, Rutgers, Monmouth University (where I taught), and SUNY's Phoebe). My chapbook, Hands, received an honorable mention from Five Fingers Review, CA.
And thanks again,
I wasn't born with power hair--an agonizing situation for a girl growing up among friends who had hair like Neanderthals. But now that I'm maturing, I have an abundance of the stuff . . . in all the wrong places . . . on my chin, for example. Like the one I had last week; the one that kept eluding me.
Before bed time, I'd get in there close enough to leave a mist on my magno-mirror, position my best tweezers, grab it and pull it . . well, actually snap it. . .off. . . leaving an annoying stub of a bristle.
Next morning I'd be back, breathing into the mirror, measuring
overnight growth, finding just enough to grab and doing the whole ritual over again, loosing yet another tug of war with my own face.
Then one night toward the end of the week I had a twisted dream in which I finally pulled the little offender out. I held it up to the light and was surprised to discover it had a huge see-through corkscrew root about 1/2 inch long, shiny and slick. It looked like a small transparent upside down Dairy Queen--without the cone--mounted on top of a stiff black wire.
There was something printed on the root. I could read it without my glasses since eyes can see better in dreams. It said, "Keep this in water for up to nine days and watch it grow!"
I wonder what Freud would say?
By Sharon Rockey, firstname.lastname@example.org