I don’t know if you’ve ever grown out your hair. I know some people for whom it seems to just happen. They forget they have hair, and then wake up one morning to find that their hair is twice as long as it used to be the last time they thought about it much. I am not this person. Every day that I do not have either a fresh, tight fade or hair long enough to pull back into a topknot, I am painfully aware of every follicle.
I never really got around to talking about what testosterone has been like. I think that’s because I started it on (checks obsessive record of weightlifting stats) May 21st, following which I was teaching a summer class that packed about five months of material into eight weeks, and then I was in Chicago where in the same week I got a very exciting phone call and ended a very important friendship, at which point I abandoned the newsletter for about a month. Friends, it’s been a time.
Testosterone, in all of this, has been kind of a pleasant background state. I’ve mostly felt like “me, but I have more energy and am more impulsive”, which is nice! It feels a little like having just taken off something heavy. I feel less restricted, less fearful, more frequently happy to just be where/what/who I am, which has been useful as I’ve been having some pretty intense whiplash in other areas of my life.
Throughout this whole process, my body has been busily doing things. It happens at the speed of hair growing, so a lot of the time it’s beneath my daily notice what the cosmetic differences are. This happened to the extent that I woke up one day to realize that I had a little mustache. Not the kind of thing you’d notice, except in very good lighting. I immediately tried to wax it, discovered that waxing it hurt a lot and didn’t do much, and gave up. Two months later, it’s darker and longer, but still mostly unobtrusive unless you’re specifically aware of it. I’m thinking of keeping it, by which I mean “I have done nothing to not keep it”. It makes me happy, which surprised me; I never thought I would be pro-mustache under any circumstances.
Which brings me to something like a thesis: the pleasure of testosterone, so far, has come at the expense of what I previously thought of as my aesthetic preference. When I think of handsome masculine people, what I actually imagine is a tall, slim, androgynous David Bowie type. I have if anything migrated further from this than I ever have. I’ve gained weight, a lot of which seems to be new musculature. A stripe of dark hair runs down my belly starting at my navel. I have a mustache.
But the pleasure of feeling the way that I feel is strong enough that I don’t quite care in the way that I would have, and not caring also becomes part of the pleasure. I’d heard other people describe this before, and I always thought “oh, not me. I will either maintain my aesthetic or I will be deeply unhappy about it.” I like a sense of control and consistency. It’s why I hate growing my hair out: it takes as long as it takes. At least if you cut it all off, you know what’s happening and why.
About a year ago, I shaved my head. After I did it I felt really ugly, and getting comfortable with feeling ugly was really powerful. I think it prepared me for being out of control. I’m thinking of doing it again, or maybe I’m doing it now, as I watch my hair grow in at a snail’s pace, driving me nuts with how weird it looks. It’ll be okay, I tell myself, because it’s already okay. There is nothing wrong with where we are right now.