Friday, February 4, 2011

About a Whisker

Hair on your face is creepy, if you think about it. Born men don't think about it much, I imagine, since they have no choice in the matter, anyway. But given precisely the choice to grow hair out of my perfectly nice face or to leave it be — well, with the amount of straggly facial hair I see on trans men, this has been serious barrier to committing to a regular regimen of testosterone.

But here I am taking the stuff again, partly because I've decided that it could be workable to be a clean-shaven transman and partly because I looked at my brother and my father and realized it's pretty unlikely I'll become anything remotely resembling a yeti anytime soon.

I have a whisker. It's smack in the middle of my chin. Alright, I tell myself — it's just one whisker. It doesn't lock me in to a full transition — even though lots of facial hair probably would: it's got to be better to be a transman than to be a chick with a beard, right?

I decide the whisker provides a good opportunity to practice shaving, which is one of those erotic ritual behaviors of masculinity. Except it's really hard. How can I explain? If you have experience shaving your legs, imagine that every part of your leg is the most difficult curve in your ankle and that missing a patch is not an option because it will show. And cutting yourself will also show. Maybe it's because my skin is the most delicate ladyskin ever, but shaving also gives me itchy, painful razor burn that lasts for two days. Fortunately, at this point, I really don't need to shave, certainly not every day.

But once you start shaving, you notice the hairs on your face growing in — not even to mention the single stiff whisker in the middle of your chin, which drives you absolutely insane. Even the soft blond hairs grow in all stubbly, and I find myself stroking my chin feeling them stand up against my hand. (Is this masculine, or just weird and gross?)

At one point, I see something that looks like it could be a second whisker just beneath the surface of my skin. Here I will pause to say that just as straight/gay and male/female are important binaries that give structure to our social interactions, so, too, is picker/grown-up. And, alas, if it's not already all too obvious, I am a picker. Give me a pimple and I will double its size daily until I have a disfiguring scab across half of my face. Give me an ingrown hair and I will confront it with bigger and more sophisticated tools until I've forced it to unravel and reveal itself, even if it brings a stream of blood with it. At that point I will say something like, Ha ha, I got you, you fucker.

And so it was with the potential second whisker, which turned out (I think) not to be a whisker at all, just the suggestion of something dark under the skin. Of course, once I was picking, I decided to try to pluck whisker #1. This did not work, because it wasn't long enough to grab with tweezers. End result: two small scabs on my chin that looked much worse than two whiskers, or probably even three, would have.

But until the scabs heal, I can't shave again because I will just nick them off.

They are, fortunately, small scabs. I sure as hell don't plan on telling anybody I was trying to dig out whiskers (or potential whiskers), so I head out with a poker face about the whole thing to meet my friend E. for a movie.

E. is a good friend, and therefore obviously also a picker. She has a big scab on her chin. I don't mention it.

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