My Dad thought my mom had some terrible terminal illness when they were engaged. She kept informing him that she had “appointments.” She never explained what they were for, and got really nervous whenever the topic came up, giving vague descriptions and avoiding my Dad’s eye contact. One day, he finally confronted her, fearing that something was truly wrong with her and wanting to support her through whatever it was.
At this point, mom informed dad that she was not dying but instead, was receiving electrolysis treatments to remove facial hair. My Dad laughed with relief, but mom was mortified. Among the flaws of females, there are those we discuss and those we don’t discuss. We can commiserate about weight loss and talk about our thunder thighs. In some circles, women can even call attention to a particularly large blemish without too much shame. Forgetting to wear makeup or noting a bad hair day commonly come up in conversation around the brunch table and on girls night out.
However, we silently agree to keep some imperfections a secret. We lock these secrets in the vault of womankind to deal with them behind our own bathroom doors lest the male race find out we are not as ladylike as they imagined.
These defects get corrected in dark rooms at the back of nail salons, with half priced zaps purchased from Groupon, and furtive purchases at Walgreens. We deny the problem and its solution sitting tight-lipped as others joke about lady store clerks with five o’clock shadows and elderly aunts with hair-sprouting moles.
Informally, I have worked to bring the conversation of female facial hair into the en-vogue exchanges of the fairer sex, but this blog is my formal announcement that I, Meredith Bazzoli have a mustache and so do a lot of you.
Scott Laskowski first discovered my excess facial hair sitting in the back of Miss Paterson’s 6th grade science class. “Do you know you have a unibrow,” Scott asked. I choked back the tears, brushing off the accusation with a middle school retort, “Um, no I don’t.” To be fair, I didn’t. My strays didn’t fully bridge the gap between my left and right brow.
But on the walk home from school, I sobbed all the way, avoiding the greeting of the crossing guard in my mom’s bible study and not even stopping to look at my dream houses. Upon arrival home, I burst into the kitchen,
“Mom! I have a unibrow and you have to fix it!”
That day my mom entrusted me with my first pair of tweezers. Among the many injustices dealt to pubescent Meredith including braces, an early menstrual cycle, coke bottle glasses, and boobs before they were cool, I began the painful process of plucking away the stray hairs that trailed around my eyebrows.
After I became a woman of the world and started to wear contacts, I heard a rumor about another option, “waxing.” Instead of multiple pricks with the cold metal tweezers, my unruly eyebrows could be fixed with a few rips. I started to make bi-weekly visits to Katrina’s Nail Salon for eyebrow waxes.
One fateful day, my life changed forever. Whilst ripping away my unibrow and a few chunks of skin, Katrina asked me if I’d like her to take care of my upper lip too.
“Excuse me? My what?”
I knew that I had a unibrow, but I never considered that I’d been cursed with a mustache too. I had heard jokes about aunts having beards and seen circuses boasting bearded ladies, but until Katrina asked if she could get rid of my mustache, I never suspected that I had one.
Not so anymore. Every look in the mirror, every fluorescent lit bathroom, every close-up picture, it was there– my mustache.
I blamed everything on my facial fur. It was a boy deterrent, a depressant, and something that had to be stopped. Tending to my facial hair felt like a rigged game of whack-a-mole. Once I claimed victory over one section, the next day, or even hours later in new lighting, more hairs popped up.
As I worked to trim, wax, pluck, and manage my facial hair, more grew back. And it grew back with a vengeance, splitting and multiplying, my own loaves-and-fishes miracle across my upper lip. At this point my mom passed down a pair of sharp cuticle scissors, a favorite grooming weapon in the Bazzoli clan.
I hated when my mom reminded me to take care of unwanted hair. More-so projecting her own facial hair humiliations, she could not stand when I didn’t tend to my sprouting facial hairs. “We better take care of your face later,” she’d say.
It didn’t matter how sweetly she told me. It stirred up rage, the embarrassed kind. I’d huff, puff, and stomp off to take care of the problem myself. She had better vision than me and it didn’t matter how long or hard I tried, she always could find a few strands I missed.
To this day when I suspect my facial forest has overgrown, I write the word FACE in all caps in my daily planner.
“Although feeling has not returned, muscle control remains weak, and my lip still bulges with swelling, like a phoenix from the ashes, the darkest, most coarse black hair shoots have risen out of my scar line.”
The hipster mustache trend has been particularly trying for me. Irony escapes my real-to-life lip cozy. Some people have even gifted me with items decorated with mustaches as if to further emblazon me with a scarlet M.
Most people politely ignore my mustache in conversation. As I mentioned, nail salons will not even call a mustache by name, its just “upper lip hair.” However, as a special education teacher, my students have always been willing to call a spade a spade.
One of my earliest students gestured with horror toward my upper lip hair and said, “It’s growing!” Another girl just told it to me straight, “You have a mustache,” she said with a giggle.
From one of those small, wicked parts of me I wanted to yell in that first graders face, “YEAH! Well you do too. And so does your Mom!” But I took a deep breath and decided to start acknowledging the truth. So for the first time, I admitted it out loud, “Yeah, I do.”
And in one of those Lifetime movie moments of self-empowerment, I made a choice to start changing the way women talk about their mustaches, moles hairs, and stubborn chin hairs, starting with me.
It began with honest conversations in girl gab sessions. What did I find out? There are more of us out there than I thought. We starting swapping removal technique tips and cursing our Eastern European heritage together.
Personally I bleach. When the fluorescent lighting in bathrooms starts to reveal dark prickles and I question, ”WHY HAS EVERYONE BEEN LETTING ME WALK AROUND LIKE THIS!” I know its time to slather the white chemical cream on my lady-stache and any other developing areas of concern. But we all have different ways of taming the beast.
Recently my lip was cut open and I needed surgery. I hoped upon all hopes that it would affect hair growth.
Although feeling has not returned, muscle control remains weak, and my lip still bulges with swelling, like a phoenix from the ashes, the darkest, most coarse black hair shoots have risen out of my scar line.
You just can’t keep my nose neighbor down. In fact, we can all learn a lesson about resiliency from my mustache, chia cheeks, elvis sideburns, and developing Christian Dad goatee. Those little hairs won’t be stopped even by the most infected follicle trying to trap them inside a blemish.
But seriously. I’m stuck with this thing. At least until menopause changes my hormonal composition. I can cower in shame and help keep the silence or normalize conversations about normal things. I want to make the world a better place for future daughter who may come out of the womb looking like Groucho Marx or Borat.
Yes, I have a mustache
I won’t keep it in
Not by the hair on my chinny-chin-chin
Peter Thompson shot all the amazing photos for this post! He was a blast to work with, and I think he captured me pretty well in these pictures… More of his work on my blog to come, but for now, check out his website!