Laura used to live upstairs from me, and I have been following the behind-the-scenes development of her film for quite some time. In fact, I remember when she came back from India after conducting some interviews and filming. She was exhausted and inspired by her trip. It was a whirlwind of activity with little rest as all her waking moments were dedicated to the film.
As she spoke of the social politics and implications of facial hair, I started to also get excited. I hadn't thought about what having a beard really means. For me, growing a beard was a sheer act of laziness. I mean, I absolutely HATE shaving. So I let my facial hair grow naturally. Every now and again, I use a clippers and shave it down leaving behind a thick layer of stubble. Rarely, do I take a razor to my cheeks and chin.
Lately though, I have grown my beard long. It hasn't been trimmed since about July. I have to admit Laura's passion for beards definitely inspired me to grow mine. Sure, I have a ton of friends who have beards, and they all love them. But I never heard growing one's beard related to freedom of expression, of cultural legacies, of rebellion, of representations of masculinity. Maybe I had thought about it briefly before, but I had never thought about it critically.
For me, I love my long beard. I think it looks great on me, and I have a certain pride in growing it. It isn't just sheer laziness any more. In fact, I spend a good amount of time grooming it, more than I did when it was shorn shorter.
I also see it as representative of my own growth. It keeps track of time's passage in a very physical way. With each new month, I see it grow a few inches, and I know I am not the same person I was months ago. And not just that I am not the same person, but that I carry that person still with me. He is trapped in my beard. A gentle tug, and I can unlock a memory.
It also distinguishes me from my family. No one in my familial history had or has a beard. Or at least no one that I can remember. Everyone in my extended family cannot grow facial hair. It is sparse and thin. As an out queer (the only one I know if in my extended family) my beard is a physical manifestation of that difference. It marks me.
Now, I get to see Laura's film and get to witness her view of the social politics of facial hair. It's funny to me that a woman is the one that helped me see the politics of my own facial hair. Sometimes, it takes someone on the outside to see what is right in front of your face.
THURSDAY, December 6 | 7pm | FREE
Progressive Grounds Mission
2301 Bryant Street, SF