February 19, 2009

Never as Big a Shock as it Seems

I should probably claim to update on Thursdays, seeing as how I rarely actually post by Wednesday. I blame it on starting this blog when I had Wednesdays off, and the fact that now days at the office always seems to fall on a Wednesday. So much for Hump Day.

I didn't feel like composing a trendy anti-Valentine's Day post this week. Other than a coworker handing me a Lindor chocolate--which was less a holiday observance and more a kind offer of work fuel, to my mind--I didn't even notice the passing of one of Hallmark's most lucrative days. But somehow, the topic for the next couple of posts ties in: telling your significant other, "Oh by the way, I'm the bearded lady."

This is a Big One for a lot of girls, whether they feel that finding that special someone is essential to their future happiness or they claim culture has brainwashed them into needing to be a couple. Love is a part of us all, and everyone wants to find it. I agree with people who say it's ingrained into our biology whether we admit it or not. And we all want to be desired. If we reconcile ourselves to having hair where society says we should not by methods of hiding, disguising, denying, etc., the thought of sharing this part of ourselves with another person is downright terrifying. The risks are all massive deterrents: hidden or open ridicule, their idea about us shifting, the secret spreading.
As I was typing, I wanted to go through my own few experiences chronologically. The first person I ever told about my hirsutism was a friend, and I found myself wanting to just talk about friends first in this post. I welcome other thoughts on the subject, too, if anyone feels like sharing.

The first person to learn my secret, outside of doctors and dermatologists and my mother, was my best friend at the time. We had been thrown together since toddlers and had a lot of the same interests but we went to different schools. She was the one who used to take me up to the mountains to stay with her family, where I could only stand to hog the bathroom for one morning trying to bleach my face before caving and trying to shave for the first time. We were walking back from the pool, all chlorinated and sunburned and very relaxed, but I was feeling very down about all the time I had spent in the bathroom and how her family had razzed me about it. However, I was also feeling good about my decision to start the time-saving activity of shaving, so I felt like explaining the whole thing to her.

So that was why I'd held up the bathroom so long. From her tone, it sounded like it all made sense. She said she knew how I felt. She confessed she was self conscious about the blond vellus hair on her face, of which she felt she had too much. Never belittle a girlfriend's insecurities, because the severity of the things we hate about ourselves are all entirely relative; but dude, I would trade with her any day! She has such a mature, elegant, smoldering beauty and I see no way anyone could look at her and notice peach fuzz of any amount, large or small, let alone judge her on it. Lucky duckling. And then she told me something else. One of her older sisters had gone through the same thing as me, and laser hair removal had been her blessing. That was one of the biggest encouragements I received for trying it myself, because I knew someone who had actually done it and it worked. (Sadly, if you follow this blog you know by now that it did not have the same effect on me, but at least I tried, and now I know.)

The two of us don't talk about our body hair much. Part of that could be because over the years we've become too involved in our own separate worlds, which revolved around post secondary schooling, so when we do talk, it's usually about larger matters like college and staying sane and living alone. Even though the truth is out in the open, it still feels uncomfortable to poke at it, even to assure each other we know how the other feels. For goodness sake, I feel awkward discussing the problem with health professionals, and they see much more bizarre stuff than a woman who grows a beard. I even cringe when I hit "Publish Post" here. It's such a private thing that it feels strange to gab about it, even in girl talk. Perhaps not talking about it helps us to pretend that for most of the day, it doesn't exist.

Several years later I told another girlfriend, a college chum. She, too, had her share of cosmetic concerns. The acne medication she was taking was so potent that I used to go with her to the clinic every month for a blood test to make sure the stuff wasn't damaging her organs. All the same, it doesn't surprise you to see a girl with pimples, but a girl with five o'clock shadow on her chin? Yeah. A little unusual. So I had some trepidation in telling her. I honestly can't remember why I felt the urge to do so, especially after knowing her for four or five years already. I wonder if it wasn't because I finally knew the laser treatment was probably not going to be permanent for me and I needed someone to vent to about it. I remember being bundled up for the winter cold (which could be any eight months out of the year, where I live) and shuffling towards a bus stop when I told her about my hirsutism and the things I had been doing for it.

"Really?" she said, her tone quite level. It was calming--she takes all things in stride, even the most ridiculous news. Whether it was failing a project because it was turned in more than half an hour late, or a well-educated boyfriend suddenly deciding to make a drastic career change into the field of flight, or that a female friend has been hiding a burgeoning beard under a caked layer of make-up, she's not one to freak out. "I never would have known," she added. And that was the entire conversation. I bared my secret, and she accepted it with minimal astonishment, and we never talked about it again. We've never really had to, but at the time it was certainly nice to unburden myself. I get the feeling that most of the time when we meet up for tea or a shopping excursion, she's really not sitting there thinking, "Heh, you have a beard. I can't believe I'm friends with such a weirdo." On an everyday basis, I think people forget, because they see you, not your every hair follicle. The forest, not the trees.

This is certainly getting long, so thankfully that is the sum total of my confessions to friends. Next week, telling boyfriends. I promise.

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