My roommate was the first person to tell me I had a mustache. She sat me down on the floor of our apartment and studied my face, her finger jabbing at my upper lip.
“Just let me take care of that,” she said, her face very close to mine. “I can’t believe you don’t wax it! You won’t even notice that it’s gone.”
She stuck a Sally Hansen wax strip to my upper lip and pulled. It hurt. But, it was gone.
She held a mirror in front of my face, and sat back on her heels, admiring her handiwork like I was a cake she had just pulled out of the oven, all golden, softly scented, pillow-y.
“See how much better that looks?” she crowed. I stared at myself in the mirror. My upper lip was screaming red and angry, but eerily smooth. Huh, I thought. I guess that’s an improvement. This is where my war on facial hair began.
To be fair, there’s not that much. My eyebrows and I have finally reached a quiet truce, after a period of just kicking back and letting them live so that they could blossom from the pencil thin dashes of my high school years to the beautiful caterpillars they are now. I have hair on my upper lip that I had thought was unnoticeable, but as I get older, it manifests in catfish-like wisps at the corner of my mouth.
A few years ago, I discovered some sharp, pin straight chin hairs that change in color from black at the root to pure white at the tip, sprouting out of my face like thorns. I plucked them with little fanfare and went about my business, until I found out that just under my chin, in the pre-waddle area, a veritable forest of hair was growing. It’s not quite a five o’clock shadow, but it’s there. My ex-boyfriend took exquisite pleasure in plucking them for me, a meditative act conducted in privacy, while I lay on my back, grimacing, with my eyes closed.
I never even really think about the hair on my face until the brisk woman threading my brows clucks her tongue and asks me if I want my lip and chin done, too. Once, I made the mistake of going with a coworker to get our brows threaded on a lunch break. The woman mistook my “I’m done here, thanks” grunt to be one of consent, and proceeded to thread every stray hair on my face with exacting precision.
“I think I’m late for a meeting,” my coworker said, checking her phone and jiggling her foot. “I’ll see you back at the office.”
Admittedly, I’m lax about taking care of this very brief, super-simple maintenance thing. I get my brows done when they start looking sketchy, about once a month. I tend to the tiny thickets on my lip and chin more sporadically, plucking a stray hair when I see it. Occasionally, I will go to town with some wax strips and a magnifying mirror, trying to get every last one, but they grow back, sharper and darker, and fast, too, like a never-ending game of whack-a-mole. So, when the threading lady asks me if I want my chin and lip done, I usually submit to her ministrations, leaving with skin as fresh and as smooth as a newborn babe.
It’s kind of expensive, though, this grooming ritual. The place down the street from my apartment charges me $20 to do my entire face, which feels cheap, until you realize that at the rate your face hair actually grows, you’d have to be back every week to maintain it. I resort to at-home waxing and plucking, which is much better suited to my fondness for tiny, repetitive tasks that can be done at home in pajamas behind a closed door.
It’s embarrassing when you first notice the sun glinting off that one super-long hair you somehow missed. It becomes the only thing you can think about. I have fallen into the habit of stroking my chin, like a wizened elder, taking note of whats sprouted and what needs to be eradicated. I am sure that people don’t notice, and if they do, they’re too nice to say.