My facial hair is like all of the hair on my body—copious and resilient. If I want a clean shave, I have to lather up every morning—five o’clock shadow arrives around noon. Nair, with its putrid aroma, is powerless in the face of my wiry follicles. Waxing is an expensive procedure for about a day’s worth of smooth skin because the hair begins to reappear forty-eight hours after hot wax rips away roots. The cost of laser treatment would bankrupt me. It’s as though my body is covered by a million microscopic Hydras, mythic immortal coils that, when severed, grow back twice as strong.
I’ve tried to make peace with my hair. I’ve imagined being an animal in a past life, a wolf perhaps, covered in thick fur for protection from the cold. After all, I was born without incisors, which brought my canines forward, giving me a beautiful set of fangs. However, a dentist filed down these gnashing chompers without my consent. That is another story for another day.
Perhaps I was once a spider, sprouting hair from every inch of my spindly arms and legs. When threatened, tarantulas use their hind legs to flick hairs from their abdomens. These hairs stick in the eyes and skin of potential attackers, acting as painful irritants. What a beautiful thought—my hair, a weapon of self-defense.
There is a slew of reasons why a guy like me would be uncomfortable with the amount of hair my body produces. We are living in the era of the hairless torso—of this, there is no escape. Any advertising that falls from the slop bucket of the corporate media machine portrays the male body as methodically hairless. Stomachs and chests so smooth and clean you could eat tofu scramble off them. Don’t get me wrong—I would totally go to town at an all-you-can-eat buffet on one of those six-packs, but my body will never look like that. Then there is the alpha male archetype of gay porn, where taut bodies are often entirely polished and glossy, except for modest trimmed bushes and tamed pits. Chest: hairless. Back: spotless. Asshole: depilated. Balls: bald. It’s like more work goes into gardening than into fucking.
Perhaps the biggest source of my shame comes from the fact that my hair hinders me from passing. Though I generally move through this world as a cisgendered guy, sometimes a girl just needs to put on her dancing boots. Because of my hair, I will never pass as the brazen femme I want to embody. All the foundation in the world won’t subdue my beard. I could wear severe Victorian dresses that cover my body from neck to ankle, but the harlot in me wants to show some skin. I want to be like PJ Harvey in her slinky red satin cocktail dress. I want to be like Björk in her twirling lily McQueen frock—its bodice just a few strings of pearls. I want to be like Grace Jones at Club 54 wearing nothing but a bone necklace. Instead, I am Chewbacca.
On the vast spectrum of sexes and genders, everyone has some degree of body or facial hair. In the society that we inhabit, the belief that body hair symbolizes masculinity goes largely unquestioned. I’ve never felt particularly masculine and I’m not sure I do such a great job of being a man, whatever that entails. Yet, I’m covered with this signifier that bellows man!
Even in the concrete jungle, we are all mammals. Perhaps this is why we use animalistic identities to make sense of excess hair. But how to find the most fitting species? While the classification of “bear” feels somewhat inviting, I could never pull off that level of butch. Furthermore, I am simply too small in stature to fall under ursine taxonomy, cub or otherwise. I often claim that I’m not a “beach person,” but this is because I don’t want anyone to witness me in a bathing suit. In truth, I love water. I am an aquatic creature at heart. Thanks to my habitat, behavior, and hirsute anatomy, adopting the term “otter” makes perfect zoological sense.
I had been looking for sex online and was facing constant rejection based on my shag. Some of these rejections were grounded in evidence of my physical transgression—I’d send potential partners photos of myself and they’d immediately rescind their invites. Other rejections were based solely on language—the term “hairy” was enough to cock block.
This negation of desire based on arbitrary physical traits should not have surprised me. Cruising the web can be abysmal. Online, I am too furry—and too old—to acquire twink status, and yet, there’s something about me—hairy or not—that is deemed not masculine enough. Failing the masculinity test here is the final digital nail in the cyber coffin. After all, aside from the unabashed hatred of different body shapes (“No chubs!”), the sexualization of white-supremacist ideology (“White guys only… sorry, just a preference.”), the conversion of human age into dog years (“No old guys! Under 24 only.”), and the reduction of complex health issues into a medieval dichotomy (clean vs. dirty)—the biggest loser in this ludicrous charade is femme men. Even amid all the talk of dick sucking and ass fucking, most guys online “act straight” and will therefore only suck, finger, rim, penetrate and kiss other “straight acting” men.
I’d like to know: where is this illusive community college that teaches Straight Acting classes? How does one come to channel their inner straight man? In Acting Straight 101, do they use method acting, the Meisner technique, or do they reference Stanislavski? Are there prerequisites for the course, or can any flaming queen walk in off the street, roll up her sleeves and just dive into the role?
After navigating the ego-crushing online manhunt for far longer than necessary, I finally came across a guy who identified as an otter seeking other otters. His photos were very sexy, and our IM interaction felt too good to be true. After so many rejections, how was this sexpot so keen on hooking up? We met for coffee and a chat, and nearly two hours of intellectual intercourse transpired. We decided it was time to get naked. Because neither of us could host, we got a room at a sauna, which is not my sex location of choice. I was once in a bathhouse when the front desk was serving free pizza to its clientele. The vision of sweaty men in towels eating damp dairy with lubed hands makes me dry heave to this day.
Once in our room, the otter and I started making out like mad. At the time, I was sporting a handlebar mustache that I’d grown out for a friend’s 70’s disco cruise ship theme party, and the otter was in full beard. We kissed and rubbed our faces together, facial hair meeting facial hair, scruff meeting scruff, the friction incredibly sensual. We slowly got undressed, reveling in one another’s body hair. His pelt was marvelous, a thick treasure trail that went all the way up past his bellybutton, hairs interlocking like Velcro. His pubic hair was wild, an unkempt thickness of epic proportion, more dense than any bush I have ever seen in my life. For a long time we just laid there, kissing, touching, rubbing, and playing with our collective fuzz. All of this hairy foreplay was super erotic, though vapid music blasting from the sauna speakers above the grated ceiling of our room occasionally interrupted the intensity. I appreciate the allure of cheesy pop, but I do not need or want to hear Justin Beiber while I’m being plowed.
Overall, we had a grand ol’ balls-to-ass good time. But this is not a tale of metamorphosis wherein I emerge from the cocoon a beautiful, mustachioed butterfly. This is not a rom-com of bearded redemption. My commitment to body positivity and acceptance can only come from me and not an outside source. On some level, we’re all viewing our own visions of ourselves in contrast to the distorted images that mainstream media sources churn out. One otter essay will not remedy this entirely—but hopefully it helps. We need to work toward a variety of bodies producing, representing, and telling their own unique stories. All bodies are valuable.
I’m still second-guessing the cut of the dresses I contemplate buying. I’m still making sure that my T-shirts are snug enough so that the collars don’t droop and reveal my 70’s porn star chest rug. But I’m doing my best to approach things with the essence of an aquatic mammal.
Be like the otter: playful, hedonistic, and hairy.
Front page image by JD Hancock.