How a Teenaged Girl Grew a Beard and Liked It
Most 13-year-old girls do not have a beard.
But I did.
My junior high drama club held auditions for the Christmas play, called “Skullduggery At Santa’s Place.” I had to look up skullduggery in the dictionary when the play’s title was announced. The definition pleased me enough to sign up for the after-school audition.
I wanted the part of Cookie Claus, Santa’s beautiful daughter of marrying/kissing age. I poured all my energy into becoming Cookie, believing the part would launch me into a Love’s Baby Soft scented stratosphere of Junior High fame. I read my lines with delicate but passionate intensity, with a tinge of sweet spunk and the ability to swoon at the sight of the nearest imaginary but C. Thomas Howell-handsome Canadian Mountie.
The part was mine, I smugly assumed for the next several days. When the cast list was posted on a classroom door, I wasn’t nervous. I casually surveyed it for my name. It was there. But it wasn’t next to Cookie Claus. It wasn’t next to Mrs. Claus.
My name was listed next to Santa Claus.
Everyone laughed, even the kids who were assigned to do props or help with the lights.
My family thought it was hysterical, too. I found no comforting sympathy, no soothing words, no permission to quit the show in prideful protest.
In retrospect, I should have anticipated my Santahood. Not one boy auditioned to be in the play. That meant the male parts would go to females. I just didn’t think it would be me. The villain and sole source of the skullduggery was a girl who was also displeased she didn’t get the coveted part of Cookie. The elves were girls, but it wasn’t so bad because they got to wear curly cute shoes and speak in squeaky voices. It wasn’t much of a stretch.
But I had to speak with a deep voice and become a saint and a legend. It was an undeniably important part. Over the weeks of practice I began to have begrudging fun with the character. When the day of the dress rehearsal arrived, I couldn’t wait to strap on the pillows and pull the furry red pants and coat over them. The belt, the boots, the hat—each important layer made me more Santa than disappointed brat. My teacher taught me how to put spirit gum on the beard, which would tack it to my face. It was itchy and burned slightly, but the effect in the mirror made it worth the discomfort. It was liberating—it was a mask.
I loved being Santa. I didn’t have to worry about saying the right thing, or looking the right way. I could be fat and goofy. I let myself disappear for the first time in a long time. All affected teenaged girls should be required to dress as old benevolent men, at least for two evening and one Saturday matinee performances.
I like to think my performance was so good that people in the audience truly believed I was Santa up there on the cafeteria stage. Realistically, I think Santa’s voice was a little too high, his steps a little too quick, the hair peeking out from under the red and white cap a little too dark.
But the snow white ZZ Top beard? It was just right. It was the piece which allowed me to step fully into the part with abandon and no self-consciousness. That is a feat for any teenager.
For a girl who aspired to be nothing more than Cookie, it was revolutionary.
(post originally appeared at Lifenut)