I will now take you into the realm sacred to women, though invokes a horrible fear. This is the place where no man may enter; no man may look upon…… EVER!!!

Women in general go through so much to make ourselves “presentable”. Most of us wear makeup, perfume, accessorize; but we do more than that. READ ON AT YOUR OWN RISK! We shave our armpits and some shave their whole bodies. Why does this society shun hair on the female body, yet, it’s okay for men to be hairy apes, back and all? Why must our preteen girls feel embarrassed into shaving their legs so young because they don’t want the other GIRLS to see them in gym class?

I bring this up because there is a stigma attached to female body and facial hair. Is it that if a woman doesn’t get rid of it, somehow people assume that she does not practice good hygiene? I used to work with an Italian girl who shaves every bit of body hair that dared to grow on her person, and I mean everywhere… for her husband. I will not judge her or say anything about her practice, but why is it that if she didn’t, she would comment about how she had “missed” doing it in the morning like it was such a big deal and a terrible oversight? What little she had could hardly be seen by anyone in the office.

You may be asking yourself, “Why is she writing about this?” I chose to make a big deal about this to emphasize what I deem a social injustice. I, myself have a severe situation of facial and body hair hanging out on my very person. I was born with it, it’s in the genes. Yes, I am saying that. And YES, it’s in the genes. I am of Mediterranean decent and it’s prevalent (and sometimes runs rampant) in people of my ethnic background, which is Italian.

I’ve always had very dark hair against very light skin, VERY visible. My mother and my sister had the same thing, but they had much darker skin than I. My mother taught us to use bleach, but I had hair on my chin and neck and the bleach stuff just didn’t stay put long enough to be effective, plus more often than not, I burned myself with it, producing even more noticeable burns that stung for days and I had to walk around with burn marks on my face. I tried depilatories but they burn, too. Oh, and you can forget about waxing! I said, “Later for that!” Finally desperate, I took my dad’s razor and shaved my face as well as my legs and underarms. My mom found out and almost killed me, figuratively, because doing that will “make it grow back faster and denser.” I can tell you that is a TRUE statement, but it was my easy way out.

I was stigmatized and ashamed to be seen, yet, I hated all this extra stuff I needed to do to be “acceptable” for the rest of the human race. All the girls and women I know are preoccupied with the removal their hair, if they have any extra. No matter how often I shaved, I could never really get rid of the stubble and sometimes I cut myself… and well, you guys know that story. Even though I have male hair, my skin is female and too sensitive to tolerate daily shaving, so I must make sure that I time my “shaves” to coincide with any events that may be going on so that I have a clean face and neck. I even tried electrolysis, but that did not work, either.

One day, while commuting from high school on the bus, I saw this middle aged woman sitting in front of me and she hardly had any hair on her head. Could have been for any reason from cancer treatments to early hair loss; but what really stood out to me, and changed my life, was the fact that she did not cover it up with a hat. She held her head high, apparently indifferent, and that affected me deeply. I am so grateful for her fleeting appearance in the show that is my life.

From that moment on, I decided that I was not going to be preoccupied with hair… well except the hair on my head. To go one further, I decided that God gave me all this hair to use for a positive. I have a way with little children. They like me and I like them… I can talk to them on their level, and they know that I listen to them. I will let a child stare at my stubble and try to project positive-ness by seeking eye contact and smiling. Sometimes they ask questions and I will answer. I don’t want the kids to be afraid of it, you know? Impressions are formed at a young age and my goal is to reach the kids out there and show them that there is nothing to be afraid of and that people can be approachable and satisfy their curiosity. Maybe this is my way of transforming this curse into a blessing…. one kid at a time.

I have a little one right here and he already knows that there is something “different” about my face and neck sometimes. He touches it. He runs his fingers over it and he knows, at 2 yrs old, that something is up. I cringe, however, when I think about his classmates and what they might say to my baby. I can see myself “cleaning” my face every day in an effort so that the kids at his school(s) do not find a reason to taunt him. Sigh. I have to stop myself from thinking about it from now.

Where does this general aversion to something normal come from anyway? What is so-called “normal”? I believe this topic ties into having (or developing) the capacity for tolerance of people who are “different” from us. I am talking about facial hair here, but it applies to the disabled, the elderly, different races, cultures, etc. It can apply to any differences we see around us.

I don’t know. I do know that this piece is totally disorganized with thoughts coming from all angles and absurdities; but I just had to get it out. Maybe before I get to post it, I’ll clean it up a bit…. Oops, too late!

By Janis Ian

I learned the truth at seventeen
That love was meant for beauty queens
And high school girls with clear skinned smiles
Who married young and then retired
The valentines I never knew
The Friday night charades of youth
Were spent on one more beautiful
At seventeen I learned the truth…

And those of us with ravaged faces
Lacking in the social graces
Desperately remained at home
Inventing lovers on the phone
Who called to say “come dance with me”
And murmured vague obscenities
It isn’t all it seems at seventeen…

A brown eyed girl in hand me downs
Whose name I never could pronounce
Said: “Pity please the ones who serve
They only get what they deserve”
The rich relation’s hometown queen
Marries into what she needs
With a guarantee of company
And haven for the elderly…

So remember those who win the game
Lose the love they sought to gain
In debentures of quality and dubious integrity
Their small-town eyes will gape at you
In dull surprise when payment due
Exceeds accounts received at seventeen…

To those of us who knew the pain
Of valentines that never came
And those whose names were never called
When choosing sides for basketball
It was long ago and far away
the world was younger than today
when dreams were all they gave for free
to ugly duckling girls like me…

We all play the game, and when we dare
We cheat ourselves at solitaire
Inventing lovers on the phone
Repenting other lives unknown
That call and say: “Come dance with me”
And murmur vague obscenities
At ugly girls like me, at seventeen…