I can wiggle my ears, flare my nostrils, curl my tongue, and raise one eyebrow. I can also grow a beard.
Why is the beard thing noteworthy, you ask? Because I’m not a dude.
When you think about it, the whole situation is really unfair. Somewhere there’s a teenage boy who would do anything to grow facial hair; meanwhile here I am, an unwillingly bearded woman with all the stubble a young man could ever hope for.
I would call the she-beard a surprise, although the word “surprise” usually indicates something pleasant, like a thoughtful gift, which my beard most certainly was not. I’ll just say I didn’t expect it, seeing as I’m, you know, female — and not a particularly hairy person by nature. My fuzz level was normal: just the standard amount, in the standard places, no furry shoulders or lustrous locks of hair gnarling from my toes. I’ve never even had a mustache (although I do keep my upper lip waxed just in case it decides to go rogue and man up like my chin did). But when I got pregnant with my oldest son, my blissful feminine hairlessness died a prickly death at the hands of raging hormones (more like hair-mones — heh).
My new goatee went unnoticed until my third trimester, which means one of two things: 1) It came on very suddenly, like an overnight beard explosion, or 2) I walked around for an unspecified amount of time oblivious to the fact that I was cultivating a patch of facial pubes. Either way, from the moment my unsuspecting fingers first grazed the underside of my chin and felt stubble, it has been a source of constant dismay. And what’s worse? The beard has expanded and become more robust with each pregnancy. I have four kids. You see the problem here.
Nothing delivers a crushing blow to the ol’ vanity like sporting a feature normally reserved for the opposite sex. What’s attractive on one gender is less-than-desirable on the other (two words: man boobs). No artist has ever painted a portrait of a woman and said, “She doesn’t look quite feminine enough. Let’s add a beard.” Therefore, in order to preserve my endangered girlishness, I struggle daily to wrangle my manly chin-forest into submission.
It has been subjected to various forms of stinging, stripping torture: waxed, shaved, plucked, and slathered with depilatory creams so pungent they made my neighbor’s eyes water. I would try electrolysis, but it’s pricey, and along with my beard came expensive children who need school shoes and nutritious meals more than I need my facial hair permanently removed.
I have to keep on top of this shit in a major way, or face the consequences. Take away my razor for a few days and my chin starts to look like somebody’s armpit, not to mention feel like coarse-grit sandpaper, neither of which is sexy. I have a deep-seated fear that I’ll end up in a coma someday, but not for the normal reasons people are afraid of being in a coma. I’m more paranoid that while I’m hospitalized and unable to care for myself, no one will tend to my chin. And then not only will I be in a coma, but I’ll also be in a coma with a beard. Nightmares on top of nightmares.
I wish beards would become en vogue for women just like they have for hipster men and lumberjacks, so that I could just stop the struggle and embrace my natural undergrowth. I mean, it worked for Abraham Lincoln and ZZ Top and the guys from Duck Dynasty. Women have done modishly daring things such as shaving their heads, and Brooke Shields’s bushy eyebrows practically had a cult following. Is sprouting a she-beard really that different? I dream of a day when I can proudly step out — maybe with my beard trimmed into some sort of shape or perhaps bedazzled with Swarovski crystals — and be at the height of fashion. Or grow it out long enough to combine with my head-hair into a Pinterest-worthy updo, like a hair bonnet.
More likely, though, I’ll keep wrestling with it until I die or stop giving a shit, whichever comes first. At least, since it’s apparently a direct result of having kids, it’s something I can tuck into my arsenal of motherly guilt trips. In fact, I’m almost looking forward to the day one of my sons is embarrassed to kiss me goodbye so that I can yell after him, “OK, fine, but just remember…I grew a beard because of you!”
I mean, you’ve always got to look for the silver linings.