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Movember or Not, My Mustache Is Here to Stay

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Not everyone grows a mustache specifically for Movember.

A septuagenarian neighbor of mine recently sprouted one resembling Clark Gable’s tasteful, unobtrusive horizontal strip. When another friend of ours asked why, at this late stage in life, he decided to grow one, he replied, “I’ve been trying for about 10 years and it finally started coming in.”

To which I retorted, “I’ve been trying to get rid of my mustache forever and it’s not working.”

A dramatic recreation of me with a Clark Gable mustache

Laughter erupted, but I was serious. I’ve struggled with excessive facial hair my entire adult life, but after 50, it’s reached new lengths. To make matters worse, my hair is very dark, nearly black. I trace my genealogy mainly from Eastern Europe, where men are men, and women often resemble them.

My eyebrows are particularly hardy. If they could detach from my face and become sentient beings, I believe they could carry pails of water and split logs. They would be mistaken for Sasquatch or Bigfoot if they decamped to a wooded area.

A dramatic recreation of my eyebrows cutting wood

I grow eyebrows on top of, below and to the side of my eyebrows, and it’s not getting better as I get older. My eyebrows are tiptoeing toward my ears and creeping up my forehead. I’ve even noticed new growth underneath my eyes. What remnant of DNA could possibly be responsible for that? Were my ancestors so sexually irresistible that upper cheekbone hair developed to ward off randy villagers?

I am not exaggerating when I said if I don’t pluck on a near-daily basis, I look like the love child of Frida Kahlo and Leonid Brezhnev. I know this is true because when I tell people this, they giggle, steal a glance, and then their smile melts away and they fall suddenly silent, eyes darting around for another subject to bring up.

Speaking of Ms. Kahlo, she unselfconsciously included her mustache in self-portraits. Mine also never bothered me as much—perhaps because I opted for outright denial. It was there, yes, but not as prominent as my bushy eyebrows. I guess my eye was always drawn up and away to the more problematic areas.

I tried having my “lip”—as salon employees euphemistically call women’s mustaches—waxed on several occasions. They always promised special, organic, sensitive-skin wax from happy bees, but my delicate skin rebelled. A strip of pink would emerge and burn for a few hours, followed by an outbreak of tiny pustules that lasted about a week. The hair re-emerged eventually like wildflowers after a desert rain, but not nearly as attractive.

And then one day in the mid-2000s, after a few years of marriage, my husband brought it up. He ranges from silently accepting of some of my physical traits to wildly enthusiastic about others. But he heard about a thing called “laser hair removal” and asked if I’d thought of doing it. Laser hair removal, according to the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery, was the third-most popular non-surgical procedure in 2016, with more than a million people undergoing the treatment.

At first I was inconsolable, but eventually I succumbed. It wasn’t pleasant, but not as bad as other things I’ve endured (wart removal, collarbone surgery, certain local repertory theater productions). As promised, it felt like a tiny rubber band snapping on my face repeatedly.

Alas, the rinky-dink strip mall laser machine was no match for my rugged field of fur. After six treatments, it was no better. I was beaten. It continued to sprout with a vengeance and has been there ever since.

I’m still much fuzzier than the average female from the neck up, but at least ear hair hasn’t taken root … yet.

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Geri Koeppel

Geri Koeppel

Geri Koeppel is a journalist, hedonist, gadfly and gal-about-town. She loves animals, despises hypocrites, and will do almost anything for good pierogis.

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