Jun 17, 2015

Muse: Learning How To Chop Down & Embrace The Hairy Trees On My Face

Excuse my flush, but I have facial hair.

Well, just about every occupant of the female population has facial hair, so special snowflake I am not, but let me speak my truth: Facial hair --- I have lots of it --- and for awhile now, I've been struggling to keep it at bay. No, it's not some cute little peach fuzz, I'm describing a thicket of foliage that rivals the forests of Middle Earth, and all of it resides on my chin, upper lip, and jawline.

There isn't any way I can be polite about it....it f-u-c-k-i-n-g sucks.

My journey with the frustrations of facial hair actually began with someone else's facial hair frustration facial.

Dig the elements: I'm about nine or ten, it's summer time and I'm visiting my Granny, and she needs help tweezing the hairs on her chinny-chin-chin as her fingers aren't nimble and quick anymore due to her arthritis. Since I am her lovely granddaughter, she entrusts me to get the tweezers and pull, pull, pull. So there I go, learning how to tweeze coarse black hair, thinking in my mind, "This will NEVER EVER happen to me. You hear me Dude Upstairs? NEVER EVER!" 

Genetics (and polycystic ovary syndrome) are a salty wicked witch because flash to a decade later, a bumper crop of hair flourishes along my jawline, upper lip, and chin welcoming me to the jungle of womanhood. A flimsy eyebrow shaper will not do --- I need a got damn weed whacker to combat the follicle forest. After years and years of painful waxes (from the pricey salon ones to the microwave sugar kinds), stinky Nair burns, and running battery-operated razors and epilators over my face, I threw money at an at-home-laser unit, and haven't looked back. Two months into the treatment and the pulsed light is...working. The forest is actually being cleared, slowly, but surely.

Still, I refrain from going full tilt Hallelujah! at this point, as the scars of an internal emotional battle over my excessive facial hair remains visible.

For years, I harbored this annoying personal "flaw", feeling embarrassed for being embarrassed.Why should I be so insecure about dead black stuff sprouting from my face? Why was it such a dirty secret when their were commercials out there telling women to buy hair removal creams and razor? When I'd seen the women in my family combat it for years? Every human being walking this planet has some sort of whacked up bodily feature that they'd like to alter, and there are more important sociopolitical things to cause protest about than some extra body hair, but it's hard to conquer the world when you're hoping someone doesn't get close enough to view your 5'o clock secret.

There is some sort of rule, written in invisible ink, that women aren't supposed to have facial hair. It's thought of as abnormal, reserved for 'cool story bro' circus 'freaks' a la Julia Pastrana, the Mexican Bearded Lady (whose life story is pretty awesome btw). Facial hair represents burly ruggedness, unkempt he-manliness, traits that women aren't supposed to posses. Women are supposed to be the dainty, lithe and clean beings of the human species. Yet hormones and genetics play cruel jokes on us womenfolk, and we have to battle the unwanted sprouts along with bleeding once a month and fighting for equal wages. Still, if you ever talk to a woman --- any woman of any age --- about her facial hair, there is always this blush, this hint of shame.

I don't like blaming men for everything (even though it is tempting) but they are somewhat the catalyst as to why facial hair on women is met with such aversion. It plays right into that sticky social mindset that the care and keeping of women is done for the sole purpose for pleasing and attracting men. That nowhere in this thought women are supposed to 'doll themselves up' because they themselves want to look and feel beautiful. No, that it's supposed to be for men's viewing pleasure. It's why we hear throughout our girlhood's that if we don't bend over backwards to lose X amount of pounds or fix X imperfection, that we can just forget about capturing a man's attention, just set up the spinning wheel and get to spinistering. This kind of attitude is lightly touched upon on in this New York Times article that revels in the joys of women shaving their face. In the piece they bring up former The Bachelor contestant Michelle Money who is all about shaving her face, saying flat-out in a popular YouTube video that: "Men don't like it. Get rid of it."

Men don't like it. Get rid of it. 

Okay. We probably shouldn't put too much stock in what a former Bachelor contestant is saying, but dammit, that line just waltzed with my insecurity. I'd be lying if my facial hair hasn't altered my life to where I would barely leave my house, much less date a man. For a long time, I didn't feel like being around anyone, for feat that they would discover the hairy shadow cast upon my face. I built a pillow fort of shame because of this and felt like a hypocrite, because of all the celebratory fist pumping "LOVE YOURSELF AND BE PROUD OF YOUR FLAWS!" jargon I pumped out, I still felt I didn't walk tall and proud about the hairy situation that greeted me every morning. I was holing myself in the bathroom for hours, cussing and crying, while epilating and shaving my face, feeling more brute, and less the foxy lady I wanted to be. Feeling just plain...ugly, and yes, annoyingly thinking that no man is going to want to deal with me being his beard twin.

I wish I could be like Harnaam Kaur, who made waves across social media last year when she embraced the excessive hair on her face. Her pride at thwarting social "norms" and combating her facial enemy, turning it into something beautiful and even spiritual was inspiring. She gave a middle finger to her PCOS, and looked so damn happy doing so that I felt a little bad for the way I was acting about my facial hair. She was a brave and confident girl, I am...not.

But I'm hard on myself, as I'm prone to being. I should say that I have the ability to be just as brave, just as confident and in control of a situation that seemed so indomitable before. In time, I'm learning to live with lumberjacking the hairy trees and embracing the idea that hair and its growth is a natural part of being a human being, and there isn't a right or wrong way about it. It just simply is. Even though it's hard to feel beautiful about yourself when the sticks and stones of society make you feel so ugly, I have keep in mind that my personal beauty and desirability isn't mangled because of something that is in hindsight, perfectly normal.

In-between each of the laser treatments that I do once a week you are instructed to shave or the results won't work. It's a thorn in the ass, but it's necessary. It's tricky to do as you have to shave not only in the direction of the hair growth but the opposite of it as well, and the sound of it is grating as you hear the little 'scritch-scritch' of the blade hitting stubble. Not fun.

Actually, I'm in favor of the shaved face once it's all said and done. It takes less time than waxing or epilating and the smoothness of it is divine, and it does made applying my make-up much more fun and easy, but not every woman feels this way as the debate on shaving facial hair continues to be one of conflict. Googling "should women shave their face?" and a wealth of opinions pop up. Some claim that it's great to abate wrinkles and get glowing skin, others feel that it makes stubble worse and provokes those pesky ingrown hairs. The latter I agree with, which is why you have to be careful when putting any sort of blade to your face and invest in ingrown hair eliminators to keep your face smooth and non-irritated. Celebrity facialist Kate Somerville (whose clarifying toner is every freaking thing) is a big advocate for women investing in a good face shaving ritual and feels similarly, but what I loved was her spilling the tea on Hollywood sex symbols like Marilyn Monroe and Elizabeth Taylor and how they too swore by the razor. Celebrities --- they are just like us.

So for the most part (once again) it's a woman choice and how her comfort levels stack up when it comes to battling pesky facial hair. Myths about hair coming back darker and coarser have been squashed, as are women learning that being and feeling beautiful is a personal endeavor, not something meant to uphold some social expectation, thus women are feeling more and more comfortable about discussing this once 'done in the dark' practice, normalizing it.

So maybe I shouldn't flush or hide anymore as the secret is out, maybe I should let it all glide from now on?

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