>When traveling, I try to pack as lightly as possible. I hate checking bags or lugging heavy carry-ons through the airport (why on earth do they not make wider stalls in airport bathrooms?), so I carefully rationalize every item I take with me on a trip. Since I do not wear make-up, I am relieved of the bulky case that drags so many good women down. Yet I learned the hard way that it makes no sense to leave my tweezers behind. They basically take up no space anyway, and security doesn’t bother confiscating them these days, so why risk a Tweezing Emergency if I can avoid it?
Last June, I did not think so rationally, and I went to a conference in Atlanta without any tweezers. Half way through a training session on speaking with the media, I touched my chin, and felt it. A chin hair. Once I know a chin hair exists, I can’t stop obsessing about it. Who the fuck cares what I say to the media when all they will focus on is my status as the bearded lady who belongs in the circus? I sat there and mentally went through my suitcase, which was back in the room. When could I escape and pluck my curse out?
Finally, freedom came and I ran into the room I shared with a woman I did not know well. (Although we soon figured out that our mothers grew up in Skokie, IL across the alley from one another, which bonded us immediately, but that’s another story.) To my horror, I discovered that I did not bring any tweezers. I took a deep breath and asked my roommate if she had some that I could borrow. She was kind enough to hand some over, but was shocked when I yanked out a coarse hair from my chin instead of plucking my eye brows (which, incidentally, were giant uncontrolled bushes on my brow). “Wow,” she said. “That’s brave of you to de-hair your chin in front of someone you barely know.” Then she confessed that she too needed to remove hairs from her chin.
This is what gets me about my chin hair. I am only 30 years old. I am not really old enough to have as much chin hair as I do. I had assumed that I was afflicted with my freak hirsute condition because I grew up frontage to a major highway, near power lines, and two blocks away from freight train tracks, and was “polluted” as a young child, which could also be the same thing that stopped my period at the ripe old age of 17. Then other friends of mine, also in their late 20s and early 30s, who grew up in all parts of the country and not by highways, power lines, or train tracks, began sharing their chin hair sagas with me. At this point, I don’t know anyone who is not plucking frequently, and we all were initially mortified by our “secret” affliction in a way that armpit hair, leg hair, and crotch hair don’t bother us, even if we do wax or shave it to be more "feminine." What makes chin hair more upsetting than other hair? I suspect it has to do with the fact that while most women have these other types of hair, beards are manly, and women with facial hair have traditionally been ostracized as freaks or pitied for defying strict gender roles. I thought about this a lot on Sunday at the Coney Island freak show, which has no Bearded Lady (perhaps I can apply…), but did have a lovely painted portrait of one on the wall.
Seriously, what the hell is going on in our world that so many women are dealing with chin hairs? My friends and I are far from the only women who are struggling to, uh, keep our chins up in the face of this assault on our feminine images. I’m glad that women are not as ashamed as we might have been in the past, and can even poke fun at our situations, but it disturbs me. Hormones in milk? Pollution? Vitamins? Maybe a diet loaded with carbs leads to beards?
When I was writing about this for BlogHer earlier tonight, I was fascinated by the number of women who write about their chin hair. While none of these women get to the root (I’m sorry, I can’t stop with the puns) of the issue and ask what is causing so many young women to sprout hairs, it is important that they are out there talking about it and normalizing it. Maybe we aren’t wearing our budding beards with pride, like the amazing bearded women who were featured in a Bitch magazine article from Spring 2005 (for more information, see I Blame the Patriarchy’s excellent recap of the article, which is not available online, as well as insightful commentary by Twisty and commenters), but at least we are not hiding with our tweezers any longer. Maybe one day we will even be comfortable enough to not travel with tweezers (unless we worry about splinters).