A few years ago, my brother dated a medical student who also happened to be exceptionally vain, rich and beautiful. Naturally, I hated her. One day--I'm guessing while studying endocrinology--she roared out the door making tracks for the nearest electrolysis parlor.
"What is the matter, my dear?" asked the electrolysis lady.
"You've got to help me," pleaded the medical student. "I'm suffering from secondary hirsutism! "
Sounds like the plague, doesn't it? Well, it was.
She had found a hair on her chin.
Do you know what happens when a pre-menopausal woman finds a hair on her chin? Have you ever seen "An American Werewolf in London"? Remember that scene where the guy's hair starts sprouting everywhere, his hands suddenly stretch into claws, his teeth become fangs?
You get a little emotional.
I'm gonna tell you something that I don't share with most people, as long as you promise not to go blabbing.
A few years ago, after it became hormonally impossible to ignore, I accepted the fact of my Armenian heritage and brought home a tub of Jolen Cream Bleach. A five o'clock shadow might be fine for George Michael, but it's not such a great look for someone in a skirt.
If you have never used Jolen, you probably don't know that it comes in two parts--a white cream and a white powder. When you mix them, they turn into a concoction that gives off stinky fumes and scares the color right out of whatever hair it happens to come in contact with.
I managed to mix the two substances without blowing myself up. Then, following the directions, I slathered some of it under my nose. It was to sit there for 15 minutes, or until my nose hairs were singed by the burnt-smelling fumes, whichever came first.
After about 10 minutes, when the pain became only slightly less intense than when I had my armpits waxed (more about that later), I had to scrape it off.
I rinsed my upper lip with cold water, trying hard not to swallow any of the goo because God knows, my teeth are white enough. I patted my lip with a towel and bent toward the bathroom mirror for inspection.
I now had a mustache fit for an Alpine shepherdess, providing, of course, that she was a natural blond. It looked a little odd against my olive-toned skin, but it was a definite improvement.
And so I went about my fetching way, until about a month later when my darling husband took me in his arms, leaned in for a smooch and stopped well short of my lips. His eyes, no longer melting pools of passion, were riveted to a spot just between my upper lip and my nostrils.
He furrowed his brow. Then he smiled.
That's the problem with body hair when you are a babe. You can't just get rid of it. It's like a poltergeist that way--and about as welcome.
I opted for bleach because, although I strongly believe in suffering for beauty--the alternatives seemed even too masochistic for me.
Electrolysis? Stick a small needle-like instrument into my hair follicle to shock it into oblivion? I don't think so.
Waxing? I'll tell you about waxing, then you'll understand why I tried it only once.
Do you know what waxing involves?
You take hot melted wax and pour it onto your hairy body parts--your legs, your armpits, your, ahem, bikini area. You let it cool and then rrrrrrippppppp the wax away. The wax peels every little hair right out of its follicle.
The next thing I knew, I was peeling myself off the ceiling.
I kind of gave up on the idea of ever having a pristine upper lip. I just don't have the discipline to stay on top of new growth.
And after a major breakthrough with my therapist, I can now joke freely about it. Is it too much to expect people to get the humor?
Last year, when I was invited to appear on "Oprah" in a segment on newspaper columnists, I made a little joke while the makeup artist was slathering something beautifying on my face.
"So, uh, hey," I said, trying to bond, since she had the thickest eyebrows I had ever seen. "Can you do something for this mustache?"
She did not laugh. She furrowed her fuzzy, fuzzy brow.
"Wow!" she said, shaking her head. "That thing is definitely gonna show up on camera. If I put some concealer on it, it'll just look like a big white stripe on your upper lip. . . . I know what! I'll trim it with my little scissors here."
What a great sense of humor, I'm thinking.
And then I see the glint of metal.
"Go like this," she says, twisting her mouth to the side like Lily Tomlin doing Ernestine.
By the way, it did not grow back thicker. So far.
Just to be on the safe side, though, I never drink milk in public.