You’ve got to change your hairy ways, baby…
OK, that isn’t exactly the way the Santana song goes, but it may as well have been my theme song once upon a time.
Let me start off by saying I blame my parents for my hairy ways. Yes, both of them—but for different reasons. My dad was a furry dude. Pictures of him at the beach in his younger days revealed his manly blanket of chest hair. He had hairy arms and legs too. My mom, on the other hand, had next to no visible hair on her legs or arms, and her eyebrows resembled a pair of thin parentheses—a holdover from the days when that look was all the rage among the glamorous movie stars in the 1940s. Her brows remained pencil-thin all her life, even when that look fell out of vogue. So I grew up thinking men were hirsute and women were not. I figured I would grow up looking like my mom—smooth as a baby’s bottom from nearly head to toe.
What was I to think, then, when my eyebrows began their inexorable march to meet in the middle of my forehead? What was I to make of the unmistakable outgrowth of dark hair that suddenly grew on my legs, mashed this way and that under my “suntan” mesh stockings? I was mortified when kids at school made rude remarks. I had endless fights with my smooth-legged mother about shaving the gross hairiness that you could practically part with a comb. One day I was complaining to my dad about how horrible my legs looked and pointed out that I was the only girl in 7th grade who didn’t shave. Soon thereafter I was granted permission to, as Seventeen magazine delicately put it, de-fuzz my legs. My best friend called attention to this fact the next day at school in a voice that was louder than necessary, in my opinion.
My mother, having no experience in this area, insisted that my older sister and I use electric razors, since she believed that regular razors would make the hair grow back darker and thicker. Did all mothers say this, or just mine?
My next hairy problem soon revealed its ugly self: the “bikini line” that was more accurately a “Bermuda shorts line.” Every trip to the beach or the pool required an application of a drippy, smelly pink depilatory—or a disastrous attempt to shave those embarrassing dark hairs that grew down my legs and curled out from the lower edges of my swimsuit. In later years, I advanced to waxing and the painful process involving needles and jolts of electricity. Ouch, ouch, ouch. Recently, I’ve paid more money than I care to think about on the rubber band “snaps” of laser treatments on my legs and, oh what the hell, my underarms too. Ready for the beach? I’m good to go with sunscreen and a hat. Sleeveless dress? Bring it on! No more scratchy legs for me, which makes my husband a happy guy. It’s a win-win.
Let’s get back to eyebrows. After all the years of tweezing, electrolysis, waxing, and threading (never again!), I still have outliers that need tending every few weeks. I’ve been saved by the young woman at the local Benefit brow bar who found my proper arch and keeps those rascals tamed with her deft use of hot wax. Finally, I feel that I have those brows of mine under control.
I understand that hair growth slows as we age. Oh really? That’s one in the plus column for getting older, as far as I’m concerned. For now, I occasionally put on my reading glasses and inspect my legs for regrowth.
It dawned on me the other day: miraculously, my legs do look like my mom’s now!
I have, at last, changed my hairy ways.