What Does “If Grandma Had A Beard, She Would Be A Grandpa" Mean?
Oyb di bobe volt gehat a bord, volt zi geven a zeyde.
Look, we’ve all had to master the ability to discreetly avert our eyes from the cluster of wiry hairs that have not only taken up residence on Bubbe’s chin, but, like condos in regentrified urban areas, seem to be multiplying overnight. Sadly, we’ve consequently been rendered deaf to much of her great wisdom because we’re otherwise preoccupied by fantasies of sneaking into her room during her afternoon nap with a pair of tweezers. Or even worse, we ladies grow consumed by nightmarish flashes of our own future chins and their seemingly-inevitable bumper crops. (Meanwhile, our male counterparts are having to come to terms with their own hairy demons as they stare in horror, disbelieving, at the impossible thatches protruding from Zeyde’s ever-growing ears.) But will we yield as have our collective Bubbes? Never! Menopause, shmenopause! Old age? Ha! We vow to fight it, (yellowing) tooth and (ridged) nail we’ll fight it! We wholeheartedly reject the idea that we’d ever be that:
- Complacent about our maturing (and mutating!) selves.
Should this not be another crucial conversation that parents are required to have with their children about their changing bodies? Now just a minute! Before you start panicking, by no means am I proposing that we pile on yet another paralyzing parlay. Au contraire! This parent-child conversation wouldn’t be worth even an ounce of dread! Behold:
- This talk would be a hell of a lot less awkward as aging parents could trade tampons for tweezers and condoms for Conair trimmers in bluntly addressing their middle-aged progeny.
- Parents would not be as prone to putting off this talk and, as a result, would face a less-daunting task of untangling the creative-but-wildly-inaccurate (or mitigating the all-too-accurate) information gleaned at school (or, in this case, at the garden club or driving range).
- There’d be no stumbling over cockamamie characters and mawkish metaphors, no need to invent traumatizing tales of mischievous garden gnomes who, on the eve of one’s 60th birthday, plant magical follicles—into men’s ears (and backs, when feeling especially impish) and women’s faces—that will, over time, blossom into bushy burdens to be tamed at all costs.
- Just think, this time around any trace of discomfort can easily be remedied by sharing a bottle of wine or a stiff drink.
Now let’s turn to the expression at hand. The reality is, as disturbing as Bubbe’s facial growth can be (scarring to many of us), we’re not talking ZZ Top here! (Yes, I suppose the carnival’s Bearded Lady is somebody’s Bubbe, but that’s different. She not only owns her fleecy facial endowment, she’s even made it her bread and butter. I say props to the Bearded Lady for making lemonade out of some pretty hairy lemons!!) Most Bubbes’ bristles pale in comparison to many a Zeyde’s full-on beard, and this expression uses that distinction to its advantage. (Let’s ignore the disturbing implication that old age induces some kind of androgyny and that the only thing that separates our grandparents is a thin grey line. Of beard.) It’s meant to serve as nonsensical interjection, one which aims to match the absurdity of another’s statement speculating about or wishing for something that is purely hypothetical. Like, perhaps, “If I had only noticed that now-painfully obvious whisker on my jawline before the interview, I could have gotten the job!”
In an effort to spend more time with his daughter, Jonathan found himself spending a precious Saturday in the Junior’s section of Nordstroms. Surrounded by glitter, and convinced that any minute now someone would alert security to the presence of a “pervert” in the “Graphic Tees” section, Jonathan was beginning to schvitz. Middle school prom was approaching (Jonathan definitely didn’t remember a prom earlier than Junior year when he was in school!), and Jonathan, well, Jonathan’s wife, Debbie, thought this was a perfect opportunity for him to spend some time with their growing daughter. How bad could it be? His unspoken question was answered in the form of the alarming number of dresses with which Leah had disappeared into the dressing room, what seems like hours ago. Out of sheer desperation to know how much longer Leah would be—and to make a public point of associating himself with his daughter, thus proving the innocence and legitimacy of his presence—Jonathan cleared his throat and called out …
Jonathan: “Ahem… Leah, honey? How’s it coming?”
Leah: “Daaaddy! You don’t have to yell, I’m in the first changing room! See!”
She waved a bejeweled frock over what looked to Jonathan like a shower curtain. Shouldn’t they have solid doors? Any pervert could walk right in here! he thought.
Jonathan: “Sorry, honey, it’s just, well, you’ve been in there an awfully long time. Any chance you could give me an ETD? Daddy’s getting a little tired!”
Leah: “Dadddddyyy! What are you talking about?! Mommy says that commercial’s about penises and older mommies and daddies doing sex!”
Jonathan smiles awkwardly at the changing room attendant as his mind races to reconcile what had just come out of his 12-year-old daughter’s mouth. ED?! Oh G-d, she thinks I’m talking about that Cialis commercial?!
Jonathan: [forcing a chuckle] “‘ETD’ honey! It means ‘Estimated Time of Departure.’ I was asking when you think you’ll be finished so we can head home. It’s almost supper time.”
Leah: “Whatever, Daddy! Anyway, I’m almost done, I’ve narrowed it down to seven. Now I’m going to model them for you and you have to help me decide.”
Jonathan’s heart sank into his now-growling stomach and, with it, he let fall the 20 lbs of shopping bags he had in vain kept at the ready. With a sigh, he figured he may as well sit down. ...
45 minutes later, Leah was down to two dresses:
- A long-sleeved pink dress that came to just above her knees which Jonathan thought looked cute and appropriate, but which Leah dismissed as “babyish.”
- A “maxi” (one of the many words Jonathan could now, reluctantly, include in his lexicon), Leah’s favorite, that dragged a good three feet behind her and (thanks in part to her as-yet-underdeveloped-thank-G-d chest) had enough gaping fabric in the front to store A through E of the Encyclopedia Britannica.
The choice was obvious, but Leah was having a hard time accepting reality. ...
Leah: “But Daddy!!! Maybe Mommy could hem it or something! I know there’s a pattern and it might look weird, but I won’t mind! Maybe it’ll look cooler! And you could buy me a bra and I could put socks in it, or tissue! Maggie Harrington puts her brother’s Beanie Babies in her bra! Plus, the dance is sixteen-and-a-half days away! I could grow still!”
Her face sank and her eyes started to well up as the absurdity of her plan began to register. ...
Leah: “Oh Daddy! This would be the perfect dress if I had a different body!”
Jonathan hugged his precious daughter and dismissed all the grossly inadequate words flooding his mind. What could possibly soothe her in the face of what will sadly and unfairly be her (and all women’s) complex relationship with her body!? Suddenly, the words of his father came to mind and Jonathan decided to risk it. …
Jonathan: “Yeah well, If Grandma had a beard, she’d be Grandpa!”
Leah’s whimpering stopped abruptly and she looked up at her father with wide eyes as the absurdity of her Zeyde’s expression registered. What felt like an eternal interlude passed without a word. Jonathan’s heart was beating out of his chest and his mind raced: How insensitive could I get?! Oh G-d, what was I thinking!? Suddenly and miraculously, Leah threw her head back in a fit of laughter, and Jonathan, relieved, joined her, grateful that he and not his wife had spent this day with their daughter.
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