Long Beautiful Hair….
For those of us old enough to remember the Cowsills (all right, all right, my hand is up) we may also remember their ode to “hair, long beautiful hair, here Daddy, there Mama,” etcetera.
Well. I’ve been in a state for the last four days, and part of that state involved a fever induced set of hallucinations. Now mind you, these aren’t flashbacks from drug use. I abstained, my brother was the experimenter. However I will say that the most magnificent trips I’ve ever been on have involved a nasty fever, and boy are they memorable.
So was this one.
I was hallucinating about toe hair.
You read that right. Toe hair.
Those little Hobbit-like tufts that pop up quite uninvited on the knuckles of your toes?
I had those. These days, one of the (very rare) and great kindness of hitting my mid-sixties is that these little hirsute islands have nearly. disappeared, along with tufts from other unnameable body parts and have migrated, just as insultingly, to my nose, of all places.
Please do not tell me that the gods don’t have fun with us.
My dad was a gorilla, much the same way Robin Williams was a walking outdoor rug. His eyebrow hairs grew out at least four inches. No amount of cajoling would entice him to contact the Guinness Book of World Records. The only time they got a trim was when our farm experienced The Annual Summer Fire, which, since we were outside all the fire districts, we were left to hose down on our own to save thousands of trapped chickens.
It always got close. And by getting close, Dad’s eyebrows got neatly singed back to a more reasonable length. His nose hairs also got a crisping, but being determined, they were usually back by breakfast the next morning. Those are the bastards I inherited. Thanks Dad.
My parents avoided the birds and bees talk like the bubonic plague. That, I could have handled. What was far more horrifying to a thirteen-year-old girl was to wake up one morning to discover a small dark tuft erupting between my nascent breasts. The tuft was taller.
I hardly had time to get ready for school, but that discovery lead me on a trail of dread to see what else had sprung up overnight. Sure enough, pit hair. Well, look, that’s expected.
A unibrow? COME ON MAN.
I looked closer. A MUSTACHE??? YOU GOTTA BE KIDDING ME!!
Another tuft, about where you’d hope to find one, but this one had legs. Rather than having the common courtesy of limiting itself to a V-shape, which was at least modest in appearance, it spread nearly from hip to hip and across the upper thighs.
My bottom half was beginning to look downright ancestral. As in Darwinian.
Before I put on my socks, there were the final insults. Toe hair. Not only that but the top of each foot was growing a garden.
I wept in frustration. PT (I realize nobody has it any more but we did) was going to be brutal.
And It Was
I already sported a very full head of extremely curly hair in humid-as -hell Central Florida at a time when long and straight (think Vidal Sassoon) was the rage. I was teased unmercifully about my head rug. Now, in the locker room, the tufts and tangles and expanses of dark savannah weeds were unmistakable.
While I’m quite sure that my brother was undergoing his own set of mild amazements at his changing body (and voice, which despite my shrieks about my new gorilla suit didn’t change one bit) I was obsessed with all the excess and exceedingly unladylike flora. This was Southern Belle territory. While I was a tomboy, I didn’t want THAT much emphasis on boy.
I demanded to know what to do about it. Mom was stumped. She was as hairless as Dad was carpeted. I pondered a career with the circus. I was convinced there was no God, what kind of God would do such a wicked thing to a teenaged girl?
It didn’t help that I was stronger than most boys. Dad was an early adopter of equal opportunity kid slavery, so my brother and I swapped out heavy duty farm chores with housework. I could heft a 100-lb sack of sweet feed into a barrel almost as tall as I was. I could pack and heft heavy cartons of eggs for hours. Now here I was looking more and more like a brother every day.
Without asking permission (after all it was HIS damned fault) I began to surreptitiously borrow my dad’s razor. I trashed it regularly from the vastness of the forests those stainless steel stripes were enlisted to mow down. The cost of blades went up. I got chastised. Then belted. But that didn’t deter me. I was NOT entering middle school looking like a teenaged wolfgirl in a dress. I had to shave all the way up to my hips. Always have.
For decades, you wouldn’t have wanted to go on an extended camping trip with me. Touching my bare legs in the night would engender shrill screams of “GRIZZLY! GRIZZLY!”
The Cowsills’ song notwithstanding, I resented the hell out of all the extra layering. I shaved it all off, and it would spring up a day later like some viral mushroom. I began to investigate karma, to see if I had been cruel to a zoo animal in a previous life.
Eventually the hippie movement, with its love of all things natural (read: hairy and rather ripe) moved on, and into its place came disposable razors which I could buy by the carton. “I’m having a slumber party,” was my explanation. “You have a lot of them,” was the Rexall store manager’s response. I hated that man. But I was clean shaven.
I tried those gooey, itchy, burning gels. Nope. I tried removing my mustache with a sticky piece of plastic designed for the job. My hair fought back. In fact, that little jobbie cost me skin, but the hair stayed stubbornly rooted. I walked around for weeks with a mustache of scab AND hair. I still didn’t believe in God. I wanted to be a girl, not wake up with stubble where stubble DOES NOT BELONG on women.
The quiet, underground movement of follicles from one body part to another began sometime in my late fifties. Quietly, silently, like a cat padding across carpet, I noticed that shit had moved in the night. The hair on my crown was slightly thinner. It’s like old people moving south. Much the same effect. The North gets thinner, the South gets thicker.
Not unexpectedly, certain unnameable areas began going grey (there’s a dye for that, which tickles the crap out of me, whaddya do when you only have five left?)
My foot hair has gone….transparent. It’s still there but you have to use a microscope, and know what you’re looking for. For the first time ever I can wear stiletto sandals without worrying about getting hair caught in a strap. In my sixties. I had to wait this long.
Somewhere along the way, the hair on my chest gave up the ghost. One day it was there, another, huh.
I would like to say that the dense undergrowth which required multiple razors to tame is still around, which is excellent news for Gillette.
Then there’s where all those hairs decided to put up pup tents. Right in the front of my nostrils. The best nose hair clippers are no match for these bastards, they need industrial strength scissors. By the time I’m done thinning and trimming I look like a bobcat had tried to nest in my nose.
The Worst is Yet to Come
As my mother aged, she developed macular degeneration, which left her largely blind. However, her sense of touch was acute. After Dad passed and I was in charge of Mom’s Face, my duty was to clip.
Apparently her punishment for being proud about having had no body hair was to develop several extremely long chin hairs, longer than my father’s eyebrows. They curled quite prettily in their own Wicked Witch of the West fashion, and drove Mom to distraction. My job was to clip. I think she was afraid if I tried to jerk them out a lot more than hair might emerge. So was I. I clipped.
Mom was vain. So am I.
I can just see (or not see) what’s coming. I will go down in the Guinness Book of World Records with the longest chin hair in history, right up there with the Chinese gent with the longest fingernails.
Had the Cowsills grown up in my family, I seriously doubt they’d have been so celebratory about hair. They would have done well, however, to have invested in Gillette stock. I’d have made them rich.