A friend, once a nubile youngster who frolicked as easily as a nymph, now complains that getting up from bed is a lot like going in for a deep-tissue massage. You know it’s good for you, but dang, it sure hurts at the time. One morning it’s her lower back, another morning may be a shoulder or her neck. I understand. Though I’m a zealot about the gym, I sometimes greet the dawn as stiff as an ironing board. And on long road trips, I joke that I need WD-40 on my hips if we don’t stop every three or four hours. Ah, the indignities of aging.
Now another reminder that we aren’t what we used to be, despite popping those COQ10 pills and indulging our physical fitness fanaticism. Two words: stray hair.
If you’ve crossed the threshold into a certain age – read: past the fortysomething mark – you know exactly what I’m talking about. Hair keeps sprouting in the most unexpected places, as unwelcomed as a pimple on your wedding day. (Oh, wow, a flashback! Zits, remember them?)
For some reason, hair growth becomes erratic in middle age. Which is a bummer, I think, since that’s about the time we’re settling down and settling in to our own skins. Finally, finally, we’ve learned who we are and what we want – such a liberating experience. Then here comes that wayward hair follicle in the middle of your chin, if you’re a woman, or on your earlobes, if you’re a man.
And it’s so … so there! Have you noticed that these rogue strands tend to be as black as midnight, as wiry as a scrub brush, as persistent as a garden weed? Aaargh!
I’ll confess to a moment of panic when I discovered a single strand growing in the middle of my throat, tucked under my chin like a troll in a cave. Stout and curly, it waved a hello when I spotted it in my car’s rearview mirror just as I was about to apply lipstick before a meeting.
What the …? I thought, peering through my progressive bifocals at the image mocking me with such impunity.
I tugged at the hair, but it wouldn’t give way. I pressed it against my skin, but it refused to lie down. Then I rushed to my meeting, as self-conscious as a 13-year-old. I couldn’t wait to get home to my magnifying mirror.
That was about three years ago, and that hair comes and goes as it pleases. In that time it has become a source of female bonding, my contribution to the rambling laments my girlfriends and I share over red wine or Cuban coffee. In return, I hear about their travails with newfound whiskers and stubborn sideburns.
In the grand scheme of health topics, stray hair probably doesn’t rate a Top 10 or even a Top 20 hit. It’s a nuisance, nothing more, eminently pluckable, easily destroyed. At worst, excess hair may signal a hormonal problem – always comes down to hormones, don’t it? – and at best a simple beauty dilemma.
Yet, a lot of people I know, perfectly reasonable women, are obsessed with a rascally strand or two. I think it’s because the hairs on one’s chinny chin chin are usually more than eyebrows that have lost their way in our ever-shifting facial topography. They’re indisputable markers of where we’re headed.
(Contact Ana Veciana-Suarez: aveciana@MiamiHerald.com, or on Twitter @AnaVeciana.)
By ANA VECIANA-SUAREZ