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My unwilling journey into becoming a bearded lady started in college. A few thick, black hairs appeared under my chin. The lady who waxed them for me once a month told me they were nothing to worry about; it happened to everyone.
She suggested I get one of those nose, ear and facial trimmers for when I was in a hurry and had to miss a waxing session. I made sure to keep the trimmer in my purse at all times, just in case, and worried no more about it.
That was until it started getting much, much worse. Once a month turned into once in two weeks, which turned into once a week. Currently, even a trimmer won’t do and I have to shave my face every morning.
If I skip it for a day, not many people notice. But if I get lucky enough to sleep with someone, it turns into a nightmare: First, I have to make sure I’ve shaved close enough. Most of the time, I still can’t help but cringe when we get to the face-touching level.
Then, in the morning, I have to get up before he does, tiptoe to the bathroom, shave my face and go back to bed, ready to pretend I wake up with hairless cheeks.
It took me moving to the US for college to come to terms with being a plus-size woman, when I caught the beginning of the “love yourself no matter what size” movement. I saw there were sizes larger than my XL, and I watched how comfortable those women felt in their bodies, believing that I could do the same.
This whole facial hair situation came into the picture after that, and it’s been harder than trying to fit myself into clothes that “look” like I can squeeze into them. Imagine if I actually found myself in a relationship, forgot to shave one day, and the boyfriend touched my face? Yikes!
My size managed to fool the endocrinologists I went to: They prescribed me Glucophage for type-2 diabetes and the birth control pill, Diane 35, for hormone treatment. They told me I should use these, but I would only see results if I started losing weight.
“Even only losing 20 pounds will make a difference,” they said…
I used the pills and lost the 20 pounds, but I still have to shave first thing in the morning. This time, I made more research, and found a doctor, a different endocrinologist that everyone praised.
After giving several tubes of blood, having my ovaries, kidney, skin and the dreaded facial hair looked at, I was diagnosed with PCOS: Polycystic Ovary Syndrome. I’m not sick; I have a syndrome.
When you are sick, doctors will prescribe you the necessary medication, tell you what you should do and within the amount of time they expect, you’ll be OK. But treating a syndrome doesn’t work like that because they’re not even sure if there is a cure. Now, I have to continue taking the Glucouphage pills and use a different type of birth control. I have to continue losing weight, even though the syndrome makes it almost impossible to, while making sure my diet consists mostly of grains.
The dieting part I can handle; I was dragged from one dietician to the other all through my teens. But the facial hair is a whole other story. Being a big girl, I’ve been made fun of, stared at, subjected to pitying looks, but nobody ever asked me why; they just assumed I ate a lot and couldn’t stop. When they see a woman with facial hair, though, they want to know.
The different women who take shifts at the 24-hour corner deli at night when I go in in my pajamas to get cigarettes have stopped me.
“I’m sorry,” they usually say, “I have a friend with the same problem; have you tried laser hair removal?”
On the bust to work, when I was minding my own business with my headphones on, the woman sitting next to me tapped me on the shoulder to inform me that there was something called “ant egg oil,” which stops the hairs from growing if you apply it after you wax your face.
Strangers I can deal with because I’ll never see them again and they’ll pretty much say anything to anyone. The worst are the people I know who won’t stop bugging me about it.
One morning, I accidentally cut my chin while shaving. This lady at work who’s much older than me pulled me aside when we were on break to ask me how it happened—I told her the truth.
She was furious, telling me I should never shave my face and wax it instead. I tried to explain to her that in order to go for the waxing method, I had to grow it out a bit, and that I did not want to walk around with a beard.
She didn’t understand, but I thought she had let it go—until her birthday. After we celebrated her birthday at the office, like all my co-workers, we did the celebratory kissing thing, which is more of a cheek-touching move. And you know what she said to me afterward?
“You’re shaving again; your cheeks stung when you kissed me.”
I’m just glad that at least men don’t notice these things and if they do, they ignore it. After my diagnosis, I met a close male friend, and I was telling him all about it. When I got to the symptoms part, he stopped me at one point and said, “I see you’ve shaved this morning, though, your cheeks look lovely.” That’s when I realized he’d noticed it long ago, but chose not to say anything. I’m thankful that he knows no woman would want to actually grow a beard.
People slapping it in my face makes me want to never leave my apartment, but at least I now know what’s wrong and what I should be doing to make it at least a little bit better.
I continue to shave every morning, and I’m planning on looking into laser hair removal once I start seeing some results. And if worse comes to worst, I can make my childhood dream come true and join the circus as the bearded lady.