Women Fight Back Against Body Hair Removal

We know you’ve thought about it (because we have!). Decades into the daily fight with face fuzz, leg prickles and sneaky little tendrils peeking out where they shouldn’t, what if we made peace with our body hair and just let it all hang out? Five daring women accepted our challenge. Here’s what happens when you stop mowing the lawn

by Holly Crawford, Andrea Atkins, Amanda Robb, Paula Derrow and Amy Zavatto
Photograph: Phillip Toledano

Andrea Atkins is a freelance writer based in Rye, New York.

Betrayed by My Chinny Chin Chin
by Amanda Robb

Some women suffer body issues. I endure body-hair humiliation. For more than two decades, my every sex fantasy began, “I was just waxed...” Then, just when I thought it couldn’t get any worse than having my bikini line ­extend to my knees, my face sprouted a beard.

Well, OK, enough chin hairs that I became a tweezer connoisseur. (Bonus public service announcement: Swiss Rubis classic slant tips are the pluckiest!) Still, I lived in terror. Tweezing demands excellent near vision. What if I could no longer see the little suckers? I’d never know what was happening on my chin, and they’d just keep popping up and, and . . . everyone would find out I have a beard!

I tried electrolysis. My chin looked chicken-poxed—and had ingrown hairs. My husband, who lives in mortal terror of off-gassing plastics, claimed my favorite water bottle had caused the breakout. Unwilling to confess the truth, I made up a story about an encounter with a cat that had rolled in ragweed. I resumed plucking.

Then the God of All Awesome Things invented laser hair removal, and Groupon so I could afford it. My sex fantasies became about sex! I booked an appointment to have my butt transformed from Cro-Magnon to Homo sapiens. When the laser technician (with whom I’m more intimate than I am with my gynecologist and the doctor who did my hemorrhoid operations) was done, I squealed, “Now do my chin!”

She inspected. She shook her head sadly. “Not enough melanin.” Translation: My beard is too gray for the melanin-seeking laser. Back to pluck, pluck, pluck.

Until poof went my near vision, although at first I didn’t realize it. As I could no longer see my chin hairs, I believed that perimenopause was responsible for the miracle lady-beard cure. But then my husband, who is far more committed to reading glasses than I am, ah-hemmed: “Let me say, in a completely, totally loving, accepting way . . . um, you have whiskers.”

We were past the 20-year relationship mark. I sleep with a CPAP machine (that’s a “continuous positive airway pressure” gizmo, to fend off sleep apnea). During one of the Bush administrations, he discerned that I’m not Beyoncé. Now he would face the ultimate test.

I handed him my beloved Rubis slant tips. Peering through his best readers, he went at my chin. Our 13-year-old daughter walked in on us.

“Ew!” she screamed. “Why can’t you just be having sex or a fight!”

Oh, honey, it gets worse. Mommy is a freelance writer, so I turn all my embarrassing experiences into stories. It’s how our family eats.

I scored this assignment to get paid for growing my beard—and for learning all about it. It turns out that lady beards are normal: Women grow hair in male places as their estrogen dwindles and their androgen carries on; chin hairs grow thicker, faster and more often as estrogen completely waves the white flag.

Some comfort, I thought. Farting is normal, too. I was sure that parading my bushiness around for three weeks would be a total, utter humiliation.

It was liberation. Eleven little quills on my chin grew as long as five millimeters! They were so sharp and brave, so out and proud in such hostile territory. The flag at Iwo Jima. The flag on the moon.

I flaunted my beard all around my neighborhood. It took about three blocks to figure out that there is something worse than the humiliation I’ve feared all these years: no one caring. Only my daughter noticed my daring goatee. Dermatologists say that when it comes to lady beards, we should expect this disappointment—or relief. We all inspect ourselves close up, but we peer at one another from a distance.

My daughter’s 14th birthday approached. “What do you want?” I asked.

“I want you to pluck your chin hair,” she said.

“OK,” I said. It was such a cheap, easy gift. Suddenly, I felt I had nothing to lose. My beard was bereft of drama. I got out my best readers and Rubis slant tips. Pluck, pluck, pluck, I went.

Flash went the camera on my daughter’s phone.

“What are you doing?” I asked.

First published in the June 2014 issue

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