I’m curled on the sofa, next to my beloved, scratching him behind the ears as he, Spousal Unit and I binge watch “Better Call Saul.” I absent-mindedly rub my chin and a piercing pain shoots through my finger. I bolt up and run for the bathroom.
I’m brushing my teeth, scowling into the mirror at the oversized woman with the bags under her eyes and compact fluorescent light catches an unmistakable glimmer. I drop my toothbrush, foaming from the mouth like Old Yeller and blindly reach for the weapon I know is close at hand.
I feel an ache, a pain that is familiar, particularly from my youth. I rub the underside of my thumb across it and my thumb crests the mound that holds a pimple. I grumble that pimples and wrinkles should not be on the same human at the same time. I tilt my head in front of a mirror to address the issue in the time-honored fashion my foremothers addressed theirs, push my two pointer fingers together and squeeze. Puss ejects, but something remains beneath the skin. Curled.
I curse and growl.
A pox upon you, chin hair!
Bette Davis might have believed that “Old age ain’t no place for sissies,” but the dame had people. Makeup artists. Managers. Sycophants. I don’t have people. There is nobody who will tell me that I’m growing a silver dagger out of my chin, or simply pluck the offender out whilst applying my war paint for Act 3; Scene 1. I have to be my own guardian of the galaxy for the silver constellation that rises from my skin faster than 45 can rage tweet before 6 a.m.
I don’t remember when the first chin hair erupted from my unblemished face, but for years, I’ve had one soft, curled lock twist away from my neck. When my children were young, I was lunching with them, my neighbor friend and her kids, al fresco on a sunny spring afternoon. We were yabbering away, restraining preschoolers from creating mayhem and solving ALL the world problems, when she furrowed her eyebrows and leaned toward me. She squinted, reach out her hand toward me and spellbound, I sat, unmoving. Unblinking. Her outreached fingers rubbed against my neck and suddenly, a sharp pain jolted through my throat and down my chest.
She victoriously pulled back, clutching something between her thumb and forefinger. “It was shining in the sun,” she proclaimed, proffering a blonde hair toward me like an offering. My eyes watered with pain and I felt like my voice box had been pulled through my skin like the still-beating heart of a Mayan sacrifice. She took my tearful speechlessness for gratitude.
Many years later, Man Child (Boy Child at the time, of course) was suffering the slings and arrows of puberty. His voice squeaked. He was as clumsy and leggy as a newborn deer and hair began sprouting in places he’d never had hair before. I told his dad he needed to explain about the hair thing and I’d deal with the rest. I had books. Spousal Unit handled it as he does most of my requests, by tilting his head, furrowing his eyebrows and walking off in a state of confusion. As a result, one of my favorite memories of that time is standing side by side with my pubescent son as we plucked the hair from our chin.
In my younger, fantasy-laden days, I had believed that by this point of my life, I would be either living on a horse farm in the rolling hills of Kentucky, or on a horse farm beneath the moss-covered oaks of the low country. I would stride about in jodhpurs and riding boots, the halls of my estate lined with framed covers of my best-selling novels and posters from the movies made from those best-selling novels.
I would wear my natural-blonde-only-tinged-with-gray hair in a loose bun at the nape of my neck and my wrinkles would be perfectly placed smile lines at the corners of my eyes. Makeup would only require some mascara for my thick blonde eyelashes and a dab of rose-colored Estee-Lauder lipstick on my smooth and unlined mouth.
I would begin each day with a sun salutation in my light-filled atrium followed by peaceful moments of meditative prayer, focusing on my breath and words – or a mantra — that bring me peace.
Instead, I am sitting in a supremely messy, (albeit pretty cool) house, clad in a literal muumuu (thank you Vermont Country Store), with a horse at somebody else’s awesome farm, (because dear God, do you have any idea how much WORK is involved in that?) dreading the detailing job that will be me getting ready for church.
I began this particular day by rolling over in bed, scratching my chin and slicing my finger on the katana springing from it. I waddled to the bathroom and grabbed the tweezers, my mantra as I breathe deeply in anticipation of the pain, “You m%$#@)*ing a$$*%e!”