When I noticed the first thick, dark hair on my chin as a teenager, I thought it was some horrible hormonal mistake of puberty. It would surely go away after my hormones settled. It didn’t. In fact, by my early twenties it had quite a few friends. This wasn’t peach fuzz, these were beard hairs.
I felt like I was failing as a female human. Not only was I apparently growing a sparse beard, but I was sprouting a dark trail of hair on my lower abdomen, plus a couple of cheeky chest hairs. Don’t even ask about the territorial expansion of my “bikini area.”
Thus, as a young woman, I became obsessed by “unwanted hair” and solutions thereof. I tried bleaching, but it didn’t work. The beard hairs were too thick, and even if they were platinum blond they would be visible and scratchy. I tried chemical hair removal, which left my skin burned and the hairs merely softened. I tried waxing, but the roots were deep and usually only half of the hairs came out.
So I plucked. I spent hours every week with tweezers and a magnifying mirror, trying to extract each hair the moment it appeared. My skin got irritated and scarred. I had swollen ingrown hairs that had to be surgically extracted from under the skin with a sterilized sewing needle. I often made myself bleed and left small wounds.
When I told my gynecologist about these beard hairs, her reaction wasn’t, “This is a terrible hormonal imbalance! Let’s fix this!” (which had kind of been my hope), but more of a shrug and something about: “Androgens. Pretty common. Not a big deal.”
When laser hair removal became a thing, my gynecologist started offering treatments. It was beyond my budget, really, but I thought perhaps I’d found a final solution to my “problem.” I came up with about a thousand dollars for a series of treatments. I was probably about 30.
The hairs did get lighter and sparser. For awhile. By a year or so later they were back to their normal beardy state.
I was over it. I gave up on the tweezing, and started shaving my face every day in the shower. By the next morning I could feel a small patch of stubble. By the following afternoon there would be a dozen or so visible hairs.
When I was closing in on forty, I saw a Groupon for laser hair removal and thought maybe the technology had improved. I paid for a series of treatments and trekked over to the Eastside once a month for most of a year.
Once again, the hairs got lighter and sparser. Once again they eventually returned to their normal state. By this point in my life I had spent thousands of dollars and hundreds of hours trying to do something about my facial hair.
And now I just shave every day. As far as I’m aware, no one has ever been revolted or put off by my stubble. I have never glimpsed a look of horror in an airport after a long flight as my tiny black hairs poke through. I don’t think people really peer that closely at other people’s chins.
Of course, I’ve seen the women who just let their beard hairs grow. There was a checker at a grocery store I used to frequent that caused me a deep internal cringe mixed with profound admiration. She seemed perfectly comfortable sporting a hairy chin. Why couldn’t I feel that comfortable?
Women get more facial hair as they get older. I fully expect menopause to gift me a full beard…but at least it might be grey. At this point, my daily shave is just part of my morning shower. I no longer think, worry or obsess about any of the hairs on my person. I leave most of them alone, most of the time.
Here’s my question: who says women can’t have hair on their faces and certain parts of their body? Why was this weird rule ever put into place? Obviously hairs grow there. No one looks askance at a man with a few extra hairs. So why have my little chin hairs put me through so much agony?