I have a memory of being 17 and on a bus, sitting near two beautiful Italian women, perfect head to toe. Hair, perfect. Clothes, perfect. Italian words coming out of their mouths, perfect. Then one one crossed her legs out of the shadow and into the sun, and glistening on her leg was hair. She was wearing heels and mini skirt and and she didn’t shave her legs. The light shifted and I saw that the other woman also had hair on their legs. I was shocked. Hair was supposed to be disgusting, I thought? But yet here were two of the most beautiful women I’d even been near—and hair on their legs.
My leg hair is not blond like the Italian women. It is dark. My legs are pale. In the winter I go weeks without shaving, and I walk around the house in my underwear and I look down at my pale legs with the dark hair. I’m taken aback. It’s so ugly. But it’s not ugly. What could be ugly. Why do I think it’s ugly? Think of the Italian women! I am a human woman just like them. I should be okay with this hair.
I let my pits go for awhile, too. It was a moratorium on shaving, out of laziness, then out of curiosity. But then one day I was wearing a tank top and standing in front of the mirror with my arms resting on my head and I crossed my eyes a little bit and imagined the dark stubble as dark tufts, curly and long, and I decided, it did not gross me out, in theory. Maybe I’d keep my pit hair, why not. I held out of a day then shaved it off. It took two razors.
I think about my leg hair and my pit hair but the hair I think about most is the hair on my face. I didn’t used to have it, but I do now, and not just one hair but many tiny little hairs. Dark, course. I’ve never shaved, but I’ve plucked and waxed and threaded. I bleached once, but while the bleach was on my face I got a phone call and forgot to wash it off. Twenty minutes later I had cream on my phone and a red, burning face. It looked normal by the next day, but it was not an experiment I’d replicate. Marring by hair cream.
I was in college when I first noticed the hair. In line in a drive through, when I looked in the mirror and saw tiny hairs where I didn’t think there were any—on the sides of my face, on my chin.
Sometimes the hair is all I can think of and sometimes I forget for a few days and then look in the mirror at the tiny whiskers growing out of my chin, my cheeks, my neck, and cannot believe, literally cannot believe, I’ve been walking around like this. I used to keep tweezers in my car and now I have them scattered around the house. I’ve gotten good at using my fingernails as tweezers. I’ve also gotten good at walking around with a splotchy face because I decided to use my fingernails as tweezers.
I did an experiment once where I didn’t look in the mirror for two weeks and let all the hairs grow out. This wasn’t exactly on purpose, though I wish I were the kind of person that did experiments like this. I was housesitting and alone and when I left the house it was to walk to the grocery store and I never had occasion to look in the mirror. My mom was the first person I saw after my adventure away from the mirror. Go get yourself groomed, she said, handing me cash.
I had hoped the experiment would go differently. I had hoped that as the hair grew it would get finer and lighter and then would disappear. Fall out. Be gone. This did not happen. Instead after two weeks of not looking in the mirror the hairs I had grown longer and darker and thicker, and new hairs had also grown, themselves shorter, but still dark and thick. I stared at my face for awhile and then I thought about leaving it, being natural, being me, this is who I am, this is what I look like. Then I took my mom’s money to a salon down the street and let them wax my face.
When I get my face waxed I don’t make appointments. I walk in and ask if someone can wax my brows. Then when I’m in the back I pretend like I just realized, during the walk back, that I have hair all over my face actually and would like to have all this—hand waving in a circular motion in front of my face—gone. Clean my entire face of demon hair, please. This has always worked out. It worked out this time. It costs $60.
The hair is very likely the result of a hormone imbalance that could be remedied with the right birth control pill. But the thing about the right birth control pill is that it can take time to find, and it definitely takes money to find—co-pays for doctors visits, the pills themselves. I haven’t been on hormonal birth control in some years. I don’t really want to be on it right now, or ever again. I take pills for my brain, I don’t want to take other pills unless I have to. But I research pills sometimes. Are there ones that could promise to keep the estrogen … away from my brain and just make the hair go away? No. Science doesn’t work that way.
I really want to throw money at this problem and have it go away. And that’s a possibility. Laser hair removal is a thing that exists. Sessions can cost $250, and you can need six sessions: $1,500 to get rid of hair. Groupons and promotions can halve the cost. But still hundreds of dollars. For vanity! I’d do it if I had the money. And will one day, when I have the money. Sometimes I wish I’d done it when I was still using credit cards. What would another thousand dollars be to me, now? Instead I’ll wait, just pay for it in cash in some years.
There’s a threading place across the street from the office. It’s cheap and no frills and they’ll do my whole face for under $40. This is the process I go through before I go there. Try to love the hair, grow out the hair, hate the hair, tweeze the hair, wax the hair, BCP research, laser research … then threading. When I walk in the lady will recognize me. She’ll wonder why it’s been so long.