September 6, 2015 § Leave a comment
Yesterday I was at the Scottish Highland games in Belfair.
I was standing outside of a booth noticing that the vendor was having quite a response to me. For the most part, everyone there had pretty much smiled at me and I hadn’t caught any negative response. But this woman was staring. And it was the kind of stare that was accompanied with a scowl… I caught her elbowing her husband to get an eyeful of me.
I quickly slipped behind a display rack. I could see him straining to see around the rack so he could catch what she was pointing at.
And then a little bit of wicked snuck in. I very calmly stepped into their booth, making sure my hands were in my pockets the entire time. As I did so, I made sure that there was no clear visibility between the two of us. In fact, I made sure I got quite close to where they were sitting, but always keeping my back to them so they would not get a full close up glimpse. It was such wicked fun and I didn’t feel one ounce of guilt for doing it.
Towards the end of the day, my friends and I were catching one last performance by the Seattle Knights. As I made my way towards the bleachers, or young man caught my eye. A tall lanky thing at about 14 to 15 years old with a sword strapped to his back, and carrying his skateboard. He approached me with his best fake Scottish accent, “That’s quite the nice beard you are growing… how long did it take you to grow that?”
I smiled. Shrugging my shoulders, I told him it had been since December and this was probably about as long as it was going to get. He replied saying that he couldn’t begin to grow such abundant facial hair. I promised him that it would come in…
He plopped down next to me and turned to the stranger to his left, “Look at that, will you? The woman can grow a beard better than you can…” The poor man turned to us, eyes got big as saucers, and quickly turned back to the performance.
I chuckled with him. So bold…
July 24, 2015 § 1 Comment
“Why do you have a beard? You are a girl.”
I looked down at the small red head staring up at me from the steps of the Harbor Mercantile. Her little brother turned his attention towards me, as did her grandmother sitting on the bench between them.
Grandma beat me to the punch. “Your grandmother would have quite the beard if she didn’t have tweezers.”
She continued to stare at me as she reached up and stroked her throat, “I have one little hair right here…” Her grandma nodded, “It might be telling of things to come.” The woman had a slight smile on her face as her twinkling eyes went from her little granddaughter up to me.
I grinned. “Your grandmother is right, a lot of ladies can grow it, but they choose not to. I just like mine, and I think it looks kind of cool.” She thought about that as I paused.
“What do you think of it?”, I asked.
“Well, I think it’s kind of weird. But I kind of like it, too.” I smiled and nodded as I went inside the store.
The usual raucous crowd was inside. I love the haphazard social scene at the Harbor Mercantile. The morning coffee pot was still on, and the banter was flowing. I started to walk out the door with my purchase…
She was still standing there in the doorway, looking at me. “That’s all you’re getting? Potatoes?” I held up the two bags of baby Yukon golds. “Yep. I am making potato salad, and I have everything I need. Except for potatoes.” She pursed her lips knowingly and nodded. I wished her a good day and hoped that she was up to something fun with her grandmother…
She waved at me as I walked to my car, “Good luck with your potato salad!”
I live on an island.
I love where I live…
Good Luck Potato Salad
About a pound and a half of baby Yukon Gold potatoes, chopped into generous pieces. Cover with water, and bring to a boil. As soon as the water boils, turn off the heat and go to work for four hours.
Bust out a sparkling clean house at an unreasonable pace, all the while sweating about your guests coming in the afternoon.
Rush home, still in your work clothes, and put potatoes in a strainer to drain. Run out to sweep off the deck, and make sure the slip & slide is in good condition. Put out paper plates, check on the sun tea you made yesterday, clean off the one serving spoon still at the bottom of the sink.
Chop up three medium-sized kosher dill pickles, and toss on top of the potatoes in a large bowl. Dice a fistful of parsley, and throw that in with about a quarter cup of mayonnaise and 2 tablespoons of cumin.
Frantically try to grind white pepper in the pepper grinder that has never really worked very well, call it good enough. Toss and put a lid on it to keep the flies out.
Feeds one employee on her birthday, her husband who goes back for three helpings, a teenage boy that eats as much as his dad, and a young girl who would rather have popcorn.
Oh, and one house cleaner who forgot to have breakfast…
July 18, 2015 § 1 Comment
At the time of my youth, MTV had just come into its own. I didn’t get to see that first broadcast, “Video Killed The Radio Star”, but I certainly devoured the rest.
Starved for something “other”, growing up in the beautiful landscape of Montana but not with a culture that supported a young queer creative type…
I had to sneak in my viewing times – my father frequently patrolled what we watched on television, and frequently MTV was on the “no” list.
One time, I had turned on the television and was watching a series of videos. I had the oddest thing occur – I could feel myself growing fatter and less desirable with each video. It was about that time I decided I was no longer going to watch much television, and in fact have never owned one.
Growing up as the fat kid that everybody beat up on didn’t help me much. Fighting to squeeze myself into a standard of beauty that I would never fit, I did my damnedest with make up, dress, etc.
It just wasn’t working.
At 23, I entered my first serious lesbian relationship. Rachel was so beautifully androgynous – and she was an exotic amongst the flowers there. I fell head over heels.
She sported a lovely mustache, with a few chin hairs that she refused to shave. She was quite belligerent with all of it, and carried a stiff shoulder of defensiveness.
She firmly cajoled me at my shaving habit. I had quite the little bit of chin hair growing, nothing like what I sport now. I decided to give in to her advice, and between the two of us we had a magnificent goatee. I joined her in her belligerence – and carried that defensiveness like a bulldozer. I kind of had to, considering the culture I was in.
I grew it out for her. And, I grew it out for me – I had this strange thought… Of course, I had grown up hating myself. I was quite convinced that I was one of the most ugliest things on the planet. A part of me knew that this needed to be rectified, but my attempts to embrace the standardizations of beauty had failed.
Somehow, I thought if I did something that would make me even more ugly, and increased my battle to see myself as beautiful, I might find my way through it.
I found myself exploring a whole new level of presenting myself. Somehow, that defensiveness brought up the thought that I was worth defending.
That was new.
I sported my little chin hairs all the way through college. When my family opened up a large antique mall and I agreed to take on management for it, it became clear it was time for me to take off the beard. It was creating too much distress for our clients and my folks with a new business. I needed to roll differently for a while and go underground…
Several years of managing the mall, and another few years serving as a curatorial assistant at the local modern art museum finally brought me to a point. It was time to leave Montana.
I hated leaving my home ground. For as culturally starved as I was, I deeply loved the landscape and my family.
So, finally, I hauled myself out to live in Portland, Oregon. Encouraged and embraced by several close friends who had been holding a safety net for me, I made the leap. This was extremely challenging for me – I had waited until I was 34 to make this move. And, I also had a deeply irrational fear of traveling…
It was amazing. And, so incredibly challenging. To move to a place that offered so much cultural diversity when I had been making do for so many years… It was honestly quite overwhelming.
During my time there, one of my closest friends was a male to female transgender. She had just begun taking hormones, and was struggling a lot to find her place with it all.
I had this thought that perhaps I should grow my beard back out again, to stand in support of my friend. Away went the razor, and… back came the defensiveness.
It took me a while to realize that people were actually smiling at me. Here was a population that, for the most part, embraced it’s gender queer folk. One day, I was standing at the counter of the secondhand store as a young man was checking me out. He ran the last item, took a long pointed gaze at my chin, and took 50% off my entire purchase. I can tell you there wasn’t a sale running that day.
I suddenly realized that perhaps I didn’t need to be surrounded with such deep armor.
This was a huge shedding. The amount of energy being spent ready for a fight takes it’s toll. Here I found myself with the opportunity to walk around just being myself. Here I found myself with the opportunity to explore one of the other main reasons that I grew my beard out: if someone can see me walking down the street and realize that, if there is room for me on the planet there is room for them…
I don’t think I’m some kind of special little unicorn because I can grow my beard out. I can tell you there are plenty of other women who are fully capable of doing it.
And, I fully believe that every single person has something incredibly unique about them. I just happen to grow part of mine out front and center. I think this is really important: I look at our society, and I see that people are getting cramped tighter and tighter into little boxes that leaves no room for that unique expansion. I see human beings that are eating the poison of the media and starving to death. It seems that there is an attempt at monocropping human souls…
I won’t have it. I won’t participate. And, I will hold my hand out for ones that might want to escape those boxes.
I don’t think I have all the answers to this, but I do know that I can’t buy into it. If I had done so, I would’ve been dead a long time ago.
In fact, at the time when I moved to Portland, the way I overcame my fear of traveling was this: I had reached a point where it was either take the leap or kill myself.
It’s fascinating what can happen when one is taken to a place of “nothing to lose”…
I lasted about 3 1/2 years in Portland. I just couldn’t take the size of the city anymore. It was at this point that I decided to move to a small island just outside of Seattle, Washington.
I had a friend who lived there, one who gracefully gave me the safety net to make the leap again. It was incredibly appealing – Vashon reminded me so much of some of the small towns in Montana, and it had a huge moat.
Fear of being able to find employment and a place to live sent me to shaving again. Eventually, I found my way. I started cleaning houses, there was quite a demand and I had a developed skill set in renovating homes. I plodded along…
In 2011 I was presented with a particular challenge. I was asked to participate in an event that really drew me to show up as my authentic self again. I bit in…
I carefully watched my client’s faces as the hair started to sprout from my chin and grow long. I carefully watched my favorite barista’s face as I approached the coffee stand. I carefully watched the face of the clerk behind the grocery checkout stand…
Hardly anybody batted an eye.
So now, I live someplace where I get to hand out my card – one that says “Bearded Lady Cleaning Services”. I forget that people might have a reaction to me. In fact, it takes me a minute to remember when I am confronted with someone struggling with my appearance…
Once a year, I shave off my beard. I go home to Montana every year for Christmas. I deeply miss my family, and I know the quality time that I desire with them is only achievable by altering my appearance. Sometimes this is really hard, sometimes it is totally worth choosing my battles…