Yesterday evening after work, Allerleirah was talking to her family about a difficult customer...
Allerleirah's step-sister: "Did she have a beard?"
Allerleirah: "What? What does that have to do with it?"
Allerleirah's step-sister: (Completely jovial, as if this is a great joke.) "Once [a coworker] and I had a woman come in with a beard, and we did rock paper scissors to see who would deal with her. [Coworker] lost."
Allerleirah: "Why? Was she unpleasant?"
Allerleirah's step-sister: (Gleefully.) "No."
Allerleirah: (Trying to hide growing offense, not very skillfully.) "So what does that have to do with it?"
Allerleirah's step-sister: "She was just ugly!
Allerleirah: "Don't you think that's a little bit prejudiced? She can't help it--"
Allerleirah's step-sister: "That doesn't mean you have to let yourself go just because you're old! She could shave!"
Allerleirah: (Through clenched teeth.) "Maybe she's tired of shaving."
Allerleirah's step-sister: "She could wax!"
Allerleirah: "Maybe she was waiting for the hair to grow long enough for her to wax."
Allerleirah's step-sister: "No, she was definitely growing it out."
...Soon I gave up trying to argue. She obviously wasn't going to feel bad about it, and I was afraid it was becoming obvious this was personal to me, when to her it was just a laugh. I was tempted to whip the rug out from under her with the truth, but in the end decided it wasn't worth it. The unnerving thing is, since she moved back in with us I've come so close to coming down to family dinners when I haven't shaved. I've been tired of hiding just because my skin needs a break. I was forgetting the very strong feelings I've always had that letting her know this thing about me will come back to bite me in the rear.
I simply don't trust her with it, and not just because she thinks a bearded lady is a good butt for a joke. That's pretty normal, pretty human. But the horrifying conversation was a piercing reminder of the shallowness and immaturity that make it so hard for people to accept what exists outside their comfort zone... and so hard for girls with hirsutism to be comfortable with themselves.
Maybe she thought bearded women are so rare that it's safe to mock them from a distance. They'll never touch her life. One day she's in for a surprise.
But for now, in my own home, I'll keep hiding it.