I recently viewed the teaser for the next Indiana Jones movie. It didn’t particularly excite me (although the notion of an evil, Baroness-like Cate Blanchett will be quite enough to separate me from my cash), but it did bring back a cache of memories.
You see, dear reader (citation needed), when I was but a wee young hatchling, there were three things that I associated with Manhood:
2. A high hairline.
3. A whip.
The first and the third of these can be attributed to Harrison Ford, primarily in his Indiana Jones guise. Yes, I was – and still am – an uncloseted Star Wars devotee, but, true to its eunuch-like creator, the world of Star Wars to me was utterly devoid of sex. Gold bikinis were nice, but that was Luke’s sister, man. There is no teh sexay in that. MORE>>
Part I: The Imperial March
And so I was a rather peculiar little space-cadet of eight earth years – and when I say space cadet, I do most certainly mean it in its most capital form – Space Cadet. And a Space Cadet rarely has any perception of the world around him, let alone the mores of his own sexual identity.
It was 1980. Long before the stubble-beard was co-opted by the prettier-than-thou likes of Don Johnson (you cannot be rugged whilst wearing a white linen blazer) and George Michael (there is no sense in piling on George; he does so quite adequately all by himself). And you must also keep in mind that by the mid-80s, Large Feathered Man-Hair was all the rage, from Alex P. Keaton to W. Axl Rose. It was all Big. It was all teased. And it was deeply effeminate.
It was a grayish teacher’s workday when my mother took me to see Raiders of the Lost Ark. I was not especially interested in seeing the film, as it appeared to contain no Wookiees, Death Stars, or lightsabers. But, much to my surprise, I was sucked in immediately: not by the evil Nazis, not by the big fucking boulder, not by the derring-do of its hero, not even by the melting faces of evil-doers (okay, that was totes cool). No, I was drawn in by the incandescent stubble-beard of Harrison Ford.
The stubble-beard, to the astigmatized eyes of this terribly peculiar Space Cadet, was the e-pit-o-me of cool. What wasn’t there to like? It was ungroomed – this was nature left to do its work. It was unkempt – there was no styling to be done here. It was fucking unruly – it was ruthless and it would not take no for an answer, no matter the question. It was grim, and it was remarkably grimy –it looked like a freshly lacquered-on coat of dirt. Just what every boy wants.
The half-imperial, in all its unadulterated mannishness, presented to me a microcosm of everything a man should be. He should be a balls-to-the-wall badass of Campbellesque proportions, like a hybrid Norris/Nabokov: walking the earth and writing about it, kicking ass and discovering new genres of butterfly and style; ever of sharp mind, and sharper whisker.
A picture of what I was to be had begun to form in my mind. It was then that I resolved to grow my own stubble-beard at the earliest biological convenience. And the Snarling Misanthrope was conceived, at the onfall of puberty, which was chasing me down like a big fucking boulder.
A dark period had begun. I was misshapen and miscast: all sinew and voice-crackling; and still no stubble-beard, no matter how hard I gritted my teeth and willed the hair-lodes in my face to activate. I’d figured it would happen Manchurian Candidate-style: with the pressing of a button, the agent is activated; everything goes kablooie. Alas, there were no buttons, and, in the fashion of man-children everywhere, I began the terrible ritual of preemptive shaving. This of course is done at first without the benefit of shaving cream or even water. Razor meets face; razor wins. And Mother raises her brow at all the telltale blood-blots across her eldest son’s face.
And then it just happened. I staggered to the mirror and saw magic. It was magic in its smallest form; a kind of genetic charity. My stubble-beard was strictly peach-fuzz; less than peach, actually: it was white-blond and waxy like the fuzz on a fresh string bean. Yet there was no denying that hair was pouring from my face. My father took note of this, as well as a ransom of pity, and presented me with a can of shaving cream, a new razor, and something of a commencement address: “I don’t want you to be looking like some goddamned hippy!”
I kept shaving. Not to curry favor with father, but rather to incite further beard growth. It wasn’t long before the wax fell off the bean and the peachiness began to turn color for the winter. My face was bristling with blonds, browns, blacks, even the occasional grays. It was autumn harvest, and my take was a thick ochre stubble. The Snarling Misanthrope inside me began to kick. I cast off my comic books, burned all of my action figures (the Great War Behind the Pool of ’85), and shimmied out of my Boba Fett Underoos.
Another year, and I was a fourteen year-old male not unlike most fourteen year-old males of the mid-80s: pocked with pimples, rabid with the singsong nature of puberty in constant time-change, and masturbating every fifteen minutes. And waiting for the Next Big Thing (be it sociological or genetic) to arrive.
Part II will be posted tomorrow, where we will make a case for the too-high hairline being man-sexay.