The other day, I was with some people I didn’t really know. Okay, I was in a community education geography class that consists of a nice elderly gentleman telling stories from his life at 1.5 mph. Which may well be very entertaining in its context, but is not what I paid $36, trekked half a mile through a junior high school, and squeezed into a child-intended seat for. But that’s why I was with people I didn’t know.
For some reason, the social necessity arose to comment upon my facial hair. I guess it’s the main visible marker for me, much more important than perhaps my education or work experience (which one might infer from my speech, but which can’t be shaved off). Black people might tell me: “Try being the only one with a difference that Norelco can’t fix.” A fair point. However, it’s not that big a novelty. I’ve heard that sentiment from minorities too: “Am I the first one they’ve ever seen?” Women, when alone in all-male groups, probably ask themselves the same thing: Why are the men all acting weird? Was the last female they ever saw, the one who squeezed them out?
No, I don’t directly compare my experience. Too much differs. But I no longer wonder why people in minority situations have made the observations they did. They make sense to me now, even after an incomplete comparison. And I’m beginning to understand why they’d rather it went away, because maybe the damn subject is just old to them. If you’re fifty and Asian, Asianness has probably come up a time or two in your life. You’ve already learned all the perceptions, stereotypes, heard reactions thoughtful and ignorant alike. Maybe you’re ready to just be Joe, rather than Asian Joe.
That said, I also don’t think it stops. Not with newly met people in visible minority situations. So that means that, until people become friends with me or I shave it off, in groups my beard is my identity. And maybe I should be grateful for that, come to think of it, because I’d rather be noteworthy for my beard than for my weight or my bizarre voice. So mostly, I’m not too annoyed, until the comparisons go to undesirable places.
You know, being compared with ZZ Top as a form of beard association wasn’t bad. I can deal with being confused with Santa. This Duck Dynasty comparison crap, however, will meet with icy and obstinate resistance. Yes, I know you like the show. No, I do not see what’s amusing about it. Yes, I realize it’s wildly popular. No, that fact has never influenced my preferences in nearly fifty years of life, unless via contrarianship. Yes, I have watched it. No, I don’t think it’s amusing. In fact, I see little difference between Duck Dynasty and Here Comes Honey Booboo. It’s only funny because they have drawls. If you made either show with North Dakotans or Oregonians, it would be off the air, because much of our society associates a drawl with comical ignorance. (Although in Oregon, of course ‘Duck dynasty’ has a rather more different and literal meaning, one inimical to loyal Huskies.)
It’s one thing being compared to a mythical figure who brings kids joy. It’s one thing being compared to bearded Southerners whose rock band and look are so iconic that people half my age know who they are. It’s quite another being compared to a bunch of guys noteworthy mainly for making duck callers. Who even eats duck meat anyway? I assume people are not buying the duck callers so that they can feed or befriend the ducks.
Rasputin? Da. ZZ Top? Reckon so. Santa? Ho, ho, ho. Duck Dynasty? No. Just don’t.