Hairy Women Unite!
April 22, 2015
I’m over 70 years old and I’m finally coming out of the closet.
I’m a woman and I have hair growing on my face! In fact, I’ve had hair growing on my face since puberty. There. I’ve finally come clean.
For the past five plus decades, I had been tweezing hairs daily from my chin, my upper lip and my sideburns. My impetus to be honest about this horrific malady has slowly grown over the past several years as I pursued an action I had thought about for most of those years. I’ve been getting electrolysis treatments.
It all started when a friend mentioned she had an electrolysis appointment. My ears perked up. I’d been thinking about this for years. Why not now? I’m retired, so time wasn’t a problem. Thank goodness, money wasn’t a problem. And I had this terrible fear of lying comatose in the hospital or a nursing home, a grey beard slowly covering my chin and upper lip. My husband and friends would walk in and be shocked, thinking this could not possibly be the woman they knew. In fact, I had already told both of my daughters to please, please cut, tweeze, or shave my face or at the very least, disguise my identity but don’t let me grow a beard!
So I made my first appointment with the technician my friend recommended and found a competent, no-nonsense but kindly woman my age who made me promise never to tweeze again. This was hard. Tweezing had become a habit, part of my daily routine and I found, strangely, I missed it. The first couple of months were especially difficult. I had an hour appointment once a week (sometimes sooner) and had to live with the growth in-between. Even though I cut the new growth as short as possible, I could still see it in my 10 X magnifying mirror. And I was certain, so could everyone else. The only thing that helped my extreme paranoia was the fact that the hair was now white instead of black, one positive aspect of being over 70 years old.
But the time went fast and it wasn’t long before I had half-hour appointments once a week; then appointments every ten days, which grew slowly to two weeks. The next step was half hour appointments once a month until I reached maintenance (Call when you need me, the technician said.) Hurray!!!
But a strange thing happened during the year of electrolysis. I began to notice that a woman always left the electrolysis office as I was arriving and a woman was always waiting when I left. Could it be I was not alone? If so, where were all these role models when I needed them?
Most of the inhabitants of the small Northern Minnesota town I grew up in were blonde and fair skinned, descendants of the original Scandinavian settlers. I was a brunette with brown eyes. When the first hairs started popping up on my upper lip at puberty, I was bereft. Then the first chin hairs appeared followed soon by sketchy sideburns. I was convinced I was an aberration. Something terrible had gone wrong. I was meant to be a boy. Women were not supposed to have hair on their faces.
But I was a girl in every other sense. In fact, I was a typical girl. I played with dolls, dressing them up for balls, had a lot of girl friends with whom I enjoyed talking about typical girl things and, at twelve, had already had crushes on at least four boys. .
My mother couldn’t help me. She was a redhead with very pale hairless skin. She didn’t even need to shave her legs. Then my aunt on my dad’s side of the family came for a visit. She became my confidant and it wasn’t long before my ugly secret came out. To my surprise, she laughed. She told me about hours in electrolysis (what was that, I wondered) and bought me my first tweezer. I had been saved and a lifelong battle against facial hair had begun.
I asked my electrolysis technician if many women had hair on their faces and she said it is extremely common. In fact, many have much more than I (Is this possible?). Indian women have a huge problem, she told me. African American women, Italian women, Jewish women (that’s my category). No one group is untouched, except perhaps for fair women like my mom and my Scandinavian friends. And the problem is not medical.
Where have these women been all my life? Why don’t we talk about this? Why does it seem to be a deep dark secret? Maybe it just doesn’t come up in casual conversations. Or maybe I’ve never brought it up with another woman. I was too ashamed, too certain that something terrible was wrong with me.
So this is a call to action. Hairy women unite! There is nothing wrong with you or with me. Hair on our faces is natural for us. We must get the word out; tell our sisters, our daughters, our girlfriends. Let our fathers, our husbands, our sons know this is a natural condition. Maybe we should stop tweezing for a month to show our solidarity. When we meet on the street, we will recognize one another and we can raise our arms in unity.
Well, maybe later. Right now I’m late for my electrolysis appointment.
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