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Hair to eternity

Posted: February 18th, 2018 | Author: | Filed under: Column | Tags: , , , , , , , , | No Comments »

I’m 44 now, and my PCOS encourages the growth of facial hair, called hirsutism. While my right-thinking brain knows I don’t have a severe case of it, I can’t believe it to be true. In my mind, the light, fuzzy hair on my chin is the texture and consistency of an actual Brillo pad. I imagine people talking to me see this:

In my heart of hearts, I have always wished my body were as smooth and hairless as an egg. My mother, God rest her soul, had legs that looked freshly waxed all the time even though she didn’t shave. She didn’t have to; she naturally had zero hair on her arms and legs.

All the residual body hair that missed her generation hit me hard.

I don’t remember the hair on my legs when I was a girl; anyway I shaved it off as soon as I could. I must have been eight or nine the first time I did it. Our family was going to Tobago and my big sisters were all shaving their legs in preparation. Who was I not to? I remember the sound and feel of a disposable razor scoring the skin off my shin as I tried to shave dry. The only thing that painful lesson taught me was that I should next time shave with lubrication.

Women had hairless bodies. Anything else was not acceptable. I’m not the only one who has thought this; if you Google “woman legs” you’ll get this, with not a hair in sight:

 

 

I shaved everything. Even my feet. I was so desperately afraid of my own body hair, I thought the little tufts on my toes made me look like a Hobbit. I would not wear a skirt when my legs were unshaven. I wouldn’t go to the beach without shaving my pits—and of course the Devil’s Triangle had to be properly landscaped, it goes without saying. I  apologised to sexual partners about the state of my own pubic hair when it wasn’t perfectly coiffed, as if my shaving or clipping my pubic hair had one iota of impact on the experience we had.

When I was about 27, pregnant with my second daughter, my face started sprouting. I was at lunch with a friend when he pointed out three, long, straight strands sticking out from below my chin. I pulled them out immediately. But you know these hairs always come back and they bring friends. Women are told not to shave chin hair because it grows back thicker, or so the common misinformation goes. I tweezed mine, or had it ripped out by waxing or threading every month. When I couldn’t tweeze (make sure you pack your tweezers on vacay, guys) I shaved, making the hair on my chin appear even thicker and to my eye more masculine. The weeks between waxes were the worst, because you have to let your hair grow to a certain length or there’s nothing there for the wax to pull out. So for weeks I’d wait, anxious to be able to go tear my hair out again.

Over the past few years, inspired by my very feminist daughter, I let my leg hair grow out. To my surprise it’s not hard and scary to have hair on my legs. I wear skirts, even short ones. Nobody runs away screaming. (And if they did, so what? It’s my hair, and internalised sexism is the only reason I think it’s ugly. Most men do not care about it, in my experience; some even find it sexy. And women either get it–“Down with patriarchy!”–or ignore my hairy legs out of politeness.) Then I let my armpit hair grow out. Zero problem. But I made the joke that I was feminist from the neck down. The final frontier: my chin.

Now, after years of painful tweezing, expensive waxing and threading, suffering ingrown hairs and scarring from hair removal, I’ve tried to let my chin hair grow out. It is absolutely terrifying. But I’ve not only been out and about, I’ve done two public events where I’ve been photographed for media with my hairy chin. Scary stuff for me, but I’m doing it. Maybe next week I’ll give in and tweeze, or run screaming into the beauty shop and pay someone to have them paste hot wax on my face and rip it off with a small strip of cloth, pulling my hair out by the roots. Or I might not. I’m learning to love my hair, however slowly; or rather I am learning to love my body as it is, hair included.

If she can do it, I can too.