Don’t judge a book by its cover, goes an old cliche. I would like to extrapolate on that.
Don’t judge a man by the beard on his face. Even if said beard would have Hasids praying to God for such follicles and cause Paul Bunyan such a fit of jealousy he’d forge another “Grander Canyon”.
Don’t judge a person by his intimidating muscles. Even if your animal instinct instills a “flight” response because the minute he took off his sweatshirt you knew those arms could snap your neck easier than a wishbone.
Don’t judge anyone because of his age. Even if he’s old enough to be your father. His spectacularly full beard may make him look a good decade older than he is.
These are all characteristics of a man I know. Had I judged that book by its cover, today I would not have one of my very best friends.
PJ and I met playing pirates. I was cast in the role of Piratess and PJ was in the role of Pirate Captain. We would be stuck working together all summer, whether we liked it or not. I remember so distinctly the first moment I saw him, probably because he looked so distinct. The entire bottom half of his face was heavily cloaked in hair, a beard he had been growing for four months. Was this a man dedicated to his character or just dedicated to being weird? Both, I would soon learn, the later in not the way I initially thought.
He was seated on the counter top of the booth outside the costume shop. The counter was high and left his feet swinging, a few inches from the floor. He was wearing a Batman baseball cap, a black hooded sweatshirt, and jeans. Between the outfit and the beard he was this funny cross between old and young. In his hands he held a black and gray cloth bag. “Nice lunchbox,” I said. It was one of the first things I ever said to him. Apparently, I like my friendships to start with friendly mockery.
“It’s a cooler.” He replied. He went on to tell me about his strict, regimented diet where he had to eat something every three hours. During the rehearsal process, this made a cooler imperative. He was dedicated to his physical health, waking up every morning at 6AM to either run or go the the gym to lift weights. This is how you deal with a woman who tries to make fun of your “lunch box”, school her.
From this beginning, the friendship has always had a foundation of bickering, teasing, and jokes. On a tour of the site we would be living and working in for three months, he dropped broken up sticks into the side of the purse I was carrying. I was completely oblivious, only realizing what had happened later that day at the grocery store when I reached to pull cash from my bag but instead produced a handful of sticks on the counter. The cashier must have thought I was crazy- trying to pay with twigs and then collapsed in a fit of laughter as I realized the practical joke.
Don’t judge a man because he tells poop jokes for a living. Wait until you hear a sampling of said poop jokes which cause you to laugh so hard you nearly poop yourself.
PJ’s brand of humor revolves around the gross and absurd. He shows no fear with his comedy- an extremely admirable quality. He will fill a water bottle with mud and water and rig it to his pants so the punch line of a joke can be his character shitting himself. See? Dedication to character and being weird at the same time. He won’t shave his beard even if it leads him to calling it “The Birth-Control Beard”. “Woman won’t talk to me with this chin forest,” he confessed to me on one of the last days of the summer. This turned out to be false- he met the love his life while that beard was affixed to his face. Since he found her, she won’t let him grow it back, but that’s a different story.
I’ve tried to explain our friendship to people who don’t know PJ. He’s one of my best friends. Yeah…he’s 49 and I met him working at Renaissance faires. That’s all I say and they give me a look of condemnation.
Don’t judge a friendship by the way it looks on paper.
“Are you sure he’s not hoping for something else there?” my Aunt inquired, skeptically. “No, no he’s not.” I said, with no doubt in my mind. “We’re friends.” PJ’s girlfriend suspects something similar of me. That I’m waiting for their relationship to collapse so I can come swooping in to snatch him for myself. Back to the old cliche of men and women can’t be friends.
We are proof of the flaws in that cliche.I love the man very much, but not in a romantic way. On paper, it is strange, sure. We have a strange, strong connection that I’ve rarely experienced. One I never would imagined happening with the funny bearded man with “intimidating muscles” of my first impression. He’s like the teasing, older brother I never had. I do have older parents, had my mother been a teen-mom, he could technically be my brother. Biologically it is possible.
Since I’ve known him, PJ has spent the winter holiday season in New York City. It’s been a major test on our friendship.
One day we met for lunch on the Upper West Side. I saw him from across the street and grimaced. I ran up and gave him a hug. Then immediately looked down. “WHAT are you wearing?” I said incredulously. “What?” He replied, oblivious, “My shoes?”
Don’t judge a man by the shoes he is wearing. Even if you are a Manhattanite and he is wearing Crocs. I know, I know, its nearly impossible. But you can mock him, mercilessly. You just can’t judge him. Don’t mock a man until you’ve walked a mile in his shoes? I wore Crocs summer 2007 at theater camp, my mom gave them to me. I’ve walked a mile in those shoes, I can say comfort does not weigh out the ugly. Now PJ sends me picture texts whenever he’s on the road and sees a Crocs store. That’s why we’re friends.
Today is his birthday. HAPPY BIRTHDAY, my dear friend!