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The Hairy Gene


canna plantsI was thinking of our patch of canna plants in an area we loosely call a ‘garden’. These cannas have long leaves with spikes of red and orange flowers and look lovely when in flower over summer. But for the rest of the year they get a bit scruffy, with brown leaves crumpling amongst the plants. But they also send up many more canna plants along the rhizome system underground and grow quite densely together. Left unattended, I thought, I could have a whole canna plantation that wouldn’t need mowing or weeding.

A bit like facial hair, really. I have been wondering what on earth God was thinking when He designed women to get facial hair. I understand it’s all about hormones and as we age, we no longer need to look pretty to catch our man and be able to procreate to keep the human race going. So if we start putting on weight, get saggy and wrinkly and develop weird age spots, we somehow tolerate and accept this decline in physical beauty. But facial hair? Come on, that’s just mean.

I read an insightful piece of writing by Kaz Cooke, in her book Get a Grip. The chapter was entitled “Into the Valley of Over Thirty Rode the Hairy Ones”:

On the other side of thirty there is a moustache waiting. And maybe a wee little beard, and possibly other tufty bits of a slightly disconcerting nature. Luckily it is probably hardly noticeable unless you go into one of those public toilets with 356, 000 watt Kleig fluoro lighting that make you look like Godzilla and then incidentally when you go into the cubicle the toilet roll dispenser is completely encased in a metal rectangle and you have to poke up through a little slot with your fingertip and awkwardly twist around the toilet roll until you can grab an end and then you pull it gently, gently, through the slot and after 2 centimetres it breaks: snap!  Why would anyone design a thing like that? Anyway, one of the things that happens over thirty is that your concentration begins to wander. 

When I was about 18, talking to some friends at church (church, mind you, where you’d think people would be at least make an effort to caring and polite) I was interrupted by a guy a couple of years older than me. “Ha, you’d better do something about that moustache of yours, don’t you think?” Ha, ha, yeah… what do you say to a conversation stopper like that? That was over 20 years ago and my moustache hair was just a shadow compared to what it is now. 

What is it about facial hair, that you can’t see it at all when you’re staring in the mirror, tweezers in hand, but once in the car on the way to town, a quick glance in the rear-view mirror shows all sorts of hair? Dark hair, long hair, thick bristly hair… I don’t know what in tarnation this has to do with my face. I empathise with my hubby who has discovered hair growing out of his ears. There’s no real purpose for it, unless the ear hairs act as tiny antennae to facilitate hearing once you get older and can no longer make out the news on tv.

I do blame my mother a tiny bit. She has the hairy gene, and she had no self-consciousness about walking out of the bathroom with depilatory cream slathered under her arms as well as on her upper lip. As time went on, Mum went to the waxing clinic to have her upper lip waxed as she had her legs and eyebrows done. Waxing the upper lip, I’m sure, led to Mum’s mouth being in a permanently pursed position. Ow, ow, ow, ow!

Mum knew the benefits of waxing and told me as I entered high school that I should not shave my legs as that would only make the hairs grow back thicker. If I had to do something with my legs, Mum strongly advised I should get them waxed. What a proposal! Shave, and you get hairier legs…. or wax, and be in pain. I took my usual stance at that age, and did nothing. All through grade 8 and grade 9 I endured my hairy legs as every other girl shaved and wore short uniforms to flaunt their smooth, hair-free legs.

It was only in grade 10 that I was confronted with my hairiness. It was time for school photos and one of my classmates - not one that I was particularly friendly with – said, “Geez, I sure hope you won’t be in the front row again. No-one wants to see your hairy legs.” I was mortified. I thought no-one had noticed. God smiled on me in my humiliation and I was placed in the second row, with my legs mercifully shaded by the girl in photo

Not long after that I confessed to Mum that I would try getting my legs waxed, and she happily made an appointment for me. Getting each hair dragged out by hot wax wasn’t as horrific as I’d imagined. I guess once you get your legs waxed (and other unmentionable areas) you are as prepared for the trials of life as any other person. 

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