No Shave November… A Hairy Situation…

Some of you may know that I’m participating in No-Shave November.  What a good number of you don’t know is that my face has been growing a beard/goatee since around the age of 10.  No, I’m not talking about just a few random chin hairs here or there.

I’ve spent the vast portion of my life — over 30 years — trying all sorts of ways to rid myself of the hair that I have been repeatedly shamed for having.  At first, I was dragged to dermatologists, and given blood tests. The results of the blood tests were a big fat Nope.

There was no evidence of PCOS, and my hormone levels showed up the way they were expected to be.  Those avenues drying up, the never ending search for hair removers began: depilatories, waxing, sugaring, shaving, and finally electrolysis, which was costly and painful on the first treatment, and ineffective by the second. At worst, I had painful scaring and burning and it grew back within days.  At best, it still grew back within days.

By this time though, I had already learned that my body (and especially hair,) was something that “should” always be hidden from others because it was grotesque. Did I mention I’m terribly short – not even 5’ tall? So began the jeers of ‘ewok’, ‘Cousin It’, ‘Hobbit’, ‘Dwarf’, ‘mini Sasquatch,’ and the like. It’s no wonder that I wouldn’t leave the house or let myself be seen, even by family, until after I’d managed to shower and shave.   Those taunts stung more than I ever let show.

It almost became a compulsion — the need to eliminate any body hair.  I’d resorted to shaving because nothing else worked. Electrolysis hurt. Waxing was back within a day and not the promised week. Sugaring was ineffective. Depilatories left me with chemical burns on my skin, and the hair still standing proud.  I remember how proud my mother was one day when the shaving went extreme and I did a swimmer’s shave. She exclaimed that my arms “looked so much cleaner!” simply because the hair was gone.

So, I gave up and just shaved.  And shaved. And shaved. Every day.  Without exception.

As I grew older, things didn’t improve.  Having partners who found body hair repulsive didn’t help the matter. One ex-girlfriend asked me if I was trans because of the facial hair, or had ever considered being trans. To have someone tell me that my body was not only unacceptable but wasn’t even the right one for me left me dumbfounded, especially as I’d never expressed any discontent with what actual body parts I have.  I quite like my breasts and other girly bits, thank you.  I didn’t know what to say, other than “No,” and trying to change the subject.  Some partners requested that I shave in specific ways for specific body parts.  I even endured the mortification of a girlfriend after a morning tryst, saying that I had given her beard burn.

I wanted to simply cease existing at that moment.

As time passed and partners came and went, I still wouldn’t leave the house without shaving. If I absolutely had to, I would try everything to hide my chin. It took me until a few years ago to build enough confidence to make a quick run to the corner store without shaving first.  Even then, I would hide my chin in my shirt collar.

In the past year or so, I’ve been forced to face this issue more and more.  Seeing articles about women like Sikh Harnaam Kaur from the UK pop up across the internet, I wished that I had that kind of courage and strength to be able to be comfortable in my own body the way that it is.

I can look at women like Ms. Kaur and see how beautiful she is.  But, I can’t look in the mirror without hearing the echo in my head of all the past taunts and shaming.  At times, it’s overwhelming.

The fact is, this is something that I’m still struggling with and even at times reduced to tears over it at the age of 38, and it feels ridiculous.  I feel that by this point in my life, I shouldn’t be having these kinds of arguments with myself anymore. Yet, here I am. Participating in No Shave November has been more than a little daunting for me as I grapple with internal guilt and shame over my appearance, along with the reactions of other people to my appearance.

My wife, bless her heart, is one of my biggest supporters.  She’s known for years the anxiety and hell that this particular issue creates for me, and has tried for over 10 years to get me to relax about it. Sometimes, she even begs me to let it grow.  Admittedly, she’s struggled to understand why it bothered me so much.  She thought it was different and therefore ‘cool’.  When I tried to explain not enjoying the taunts of being the ‘bearded lady’ or a ‘freakshow,’ she didn’t believe it would happen, no matter how many times I explained that it already had.

It’s been a week now since I last shaved… and there’s no possibility of hiding it.

7 days

Life doesn’t slow down or stop just because I’m uncomfortable.  I’ve gone out of my home – to attend church, to go to VA Hospital appointments, to run errands, and even going out to eat with my wife.  I’ve watched as people have struggled more and more to try not to stare as each day goes by; the way they seek to avoid looking at the lower half of my face, or to try to avoid looking at me altogether.  I’ve watched my wife’s face crumble as she watched me do my best to act unaffected by all the body language that spoke of how unacceptable my appearance was, even though most people remained silent.  One person found out why my chin was hairy for charity, the first words out of her mouth were “Does it bother you yet?”

As long as I don’t leave my house… no, I’m not bothered.  But the minute I do and face the condemnation that comes my way for being different… yes, I’m bothered a great deal.  I know why No-Shave November is such an exercise — it forces those participating and those observing to feel a similar pain that cancer patients who have lost their hair feel. It doesn’t matter if you have too much hair, or not enough – the world is plenty cruel.

I know that the reactions are only going to get stronger, more obvious, and more outspoken as the month goes on, so I’ve decided to be proactive about it.  I’ve made a button that says “Go ahead, it’s ok… ask me why I’m so hairy,” and business cards that talk about No-Shave November. On them, there is a link to my No-Shave November fundraising page, encouraging them to donate.  The way I see it, if people can try to make anyone feel uncomfortable for something that is just a part of who they are, then I can make them uncomfortable right back.  That’s how this ingeniously crafted conversation begins.

Advertisements

An Open Love Letter…

Some of the folks close to me know about a special work that I participate in every month.  I don’t talk about it a great deal.  A few months ago I learned about More Love Letters.  It’s a project to send more love letters out into the world.  Not the sappy kind you wrote to your first crush back in grade school, but the uplifting, encouraging kind.  Written anonymously and left either for a person to find in some public venue, or gathered for love letter bundles to be mailed to a person that such letters have been requested for.  I’ve been participating since I first learned about it.  And an interesting thing has happened…I’ve found that writing these letters has helped make me a more compassionate, thoughtful.  It’s helped to make me a better person.

At times like now, it’s hard not to walk around with a feeling of melancholy.  Maybe to even fight not to lose your faith that humanity has value.  I know I certainly do.  But being negative – doesn’t help anyone.  One cliché that I have found proven true time and again in my life…is that if you want to feel better…help someone else.  And while I certainly try my best to help those I know, and a fair number of people I don’t know, I thought that right now might be a good time to try and stretch that a little more…by writing an open love letter to anyone who might need one right now.  And so, if you’re reading this…this is for YOU.

 

Dear Darling One,

I can’t begin to imagine what you might be going through right now.  The trials and struggles that we all have to face that are utterly unique to each one of us.  One thing I do know, and want you to know – is that what ever you may be facing…you are not alone.  It feels like it sometimes.  It can be hard to reach out.  But I can promise you.  You are not alone.  There are people around you who love you.  Who want you to succeed.  Who would love a chance to support and help you conquer whatever you are facing.

It’s easy to feel alone.  To cut yourself off thinking that others would never, could never understand.  But I promise, there are those that do.  You are never alone, but your thinking makes it so.  It’s ok if you’re scared.  It’s ok if you’re confused.  It’s ok if you’re hurting.  You don’t have to be perfect.  You don’t have to have it all together.  All you have to do, is take a deep breath and reach out.  You can do it.  I can’t promise it’ll be easy – it probably won’t.  I can’t promise it won’t terrify you – it might.  I can promise, it’ll be worth it.  I can promise this, because I’ve been there.  Sometimes I still am.  But I have learned that it is ALWAYS worth it.  Go through the pain, through the fear, through all of it…and connect.  It’s always worth it.

You are a beautiful person.  You have so much going for you – more that you can even realize.  And we need you.  This whole crazy messed up world, needs YOU.  There is only one person who can be the unique mix of crazy, beautiful, talented, wonderful being that you are.  You can not and will not ever be duplicated.  So please, share your talent with us. Share your crazy, your beautiful.  Share the uniqueness that only you can give.  We’re all waiting just to cheer you on.

Love,

C

 

Angels and Demons the Following Day…

“One may tolerate a world of demons for the sake of an angel.” – Doctor Who ‘The Girl in the Fireplace’

With Valentine’s Day right around the corner, it’s easy to get caught up in the hoopla of holiday. The kids need the requisite cards to hand out to their classmates (yes, even the kid that smells funny, or the one that picks on them…yes even that one kid…you know…the weird one, who’s family is just….strange). Trying to explain to the little ones that everyone needs love. Or the pressures of dating or being solo or married/partnered. When they said they didn’t want a gift…did they really not want one? Or did they secretly want one but not want to have to tell you they wanted one? Or , or? To the point that we lose focus on the really important things in life.

Valentine’s Day, history and Hallmark aside, is meant to be a reminder of one of the greatest gifts humankind has. The capacity to LOVE. Love is a word that has probably one of the broadest ranges of definitions of any word in the English language. It has at least 27 definitions to express everything from a score in a tennis match, a term of endearment, and fondness for objects/activities, an affection for another person (anyone from parent/child, friend, to the intensity of romantic/sexual partners), the act of intimate relations, even a feeling used to relate the fondness of deity for it’s creation! It can be conditional. It can be unconditional. It can be short or last a lifetime. It can be returned or not. So why do we limit our focus in February so narrowly? Why celebrate only romantic love?

Sure, in it’s best form, romantic love is meant to embrace and embody a perfect union of (at least) two souls – in an unconditional, life long, enduring, passionate affection. But how many of us these days can honestly say to have found that ideal? How many of us compromise? How many of us are afraid to give of ourselves that completely – thinking it will never be returned as fully? How many of us limit our capacity and definition of love? Why? How often do you say “I love you” because you don’t know what else to say? Or because someone said it to you and you don’t want them to feel bad? Or even without really thinking about it because it’s just become so much habit – like saying “hello”?

Love can be so much more than we allow it to be. Rather than getting caught up in all the circus, why not spend some time to really think about those people in your life that you truly love? In all their varied forms and roles. The friend that you haven’t spoken to in years, because life gets busy, but you know if you called them on the phone right this minute crying they would immediately drop everything for you. The sister/brother of the heart – even if the stork did get lost and make the delivery at a different house. The people in your family, who would be there for you no matter what – even to tell you the things you don’t want to hear when you really need to hear them. Your partner/spouse. Your kids. Your parents. Anyone who can lay even the smallest claim on having a place in your heart.

I’m not saying all these relationships are perfect, of course they’re not. We’re all human and therefore all fallible. But what if we tried just a little bit harder? If we gave just a little bit more? What if we treated even a total stranger as we would those we hold most dear? How would that change the world? What if we treated ourselves with the same love that we give others? How would that change our own happiness? (Or if you’re really good at self love – treat others with the same love your show yourself. How would that change how they feel? How would it change how you feel?)

No matter our circumstance or personal histories, everyone knows and experiences what it feels like to be unloved. If you’re really lucky and fortunate, you only have to feel it once. Maybe a first crush that wasn’t returned. If you’re less lucky, you know other ways in which the absence of love can prick and sting even the seemingly hardest of hearts. But the presence of love, can be just as powerful. It can melt through the coldest walls of self protection a person can raise. Applied persistently and with care, it can create miracles. Love makes us feel good. It makes us happy, more positive, and healthier. So it makes sense that a person lacking such feeling would be more negative, sad. It’s been proven that going long enough without love can even cause death.

Love can make us do stupid and embarrassing things, sure. It can also bring out that which is the best inside of us. We are moved to sacrifice and endure for others, what we would never do – even for ourselves. As stated so aptly above in the Dr. Who quote “One may tolerate a world of demons for the sake of an angel.” Who would you tolerate a world of demons for? For who in your life, would you be willing to face down the bowels of hell itself? Who is the first person you think of when you wake? Who is the last person you think of as you drift into sleep? Who, at the merest thought of, can make you smile and instantly make your day better? Who knows the one thing that can always make you laugh? Who is the guardian of your secrets and will take them to the grave for you? Who never leaves, even when you’re not very lovable? Who prods, cajoles, gives you crap – because they want to see you succeed at be your best?

There are no right or wrong answers here. You may have a different person for each of those questions. You may have a small handful. You may have just one person. Whatever the case may be, I challenge you to do something this month for anyone that comes to your mind in answer to any of these questions. Send a postcard, give an unexpected hug, just listen when they need to vent. Something, anything, to show that they’re important to you and that you appreciate them. In other words – show them some love. You may be one of many that love them, or you may be the only person in the world that loves them. Does it really matter? To them it will. Who doesn’t like knowing that they matter to someone – even a little.

Try showing even a stranger a little love. I promise you it makes a difference. Whether it’s picking up the tab for someone behind you in line at 7 Eleven, helping someone with their bags at the grocery store when you see they’re overwhelmed, leaving an anonymous letter somewhere for someone to find that simply says “You’re Great!” The smallest things can have such far reaching effects – we can all make a difference. And here’s a secret: Helping someone you don’t even know – can even help make you feel happier! Where can you start to make a difference? Where can you take an extra five seconds to give a stranger a smile or hold a door for someone who’s hands are full? Who can you cheer up? Where can you spread a little more kindness, a little more softness, a little more love in the world? Where can your presence lend a little more grace and goodness to the world?

Sometimes, the biggest thing we can do to lift another, is letting them help us. Is there somewhere in your life, that you could let someone help you? It can take a little stress off of you, it makes them feel trusted and important, and can make both of you happy. When someone offers help, instead of declining out of hand, think about it. Would helping you help them too? Do they maybe just want to be able to be a part of your life for a few minutes more? Do they maybe feel unnecessary or unwanted? Saying yes, might change that.

It’s not always about what you do or don’t do. It’s about how our actions and words affect others, from those who are most important to us to the stranger we pass without even noticing. It’s not always the big things we do that make an impact on people. It’s not the once a year charitable donation. It’s not looking good at church on Sunday. It’s choosing to be kind instead of first. It’s choosing to help instead of hustling by. It’s living as though every thing you do matters. Because it does. Small everyday things often times have the biggest impact. Some of the things you do that may have the biggest effect on the life of another, may be things you never hear about or even gave a second thought to.

Applying love to our life, in all it’s wonderful and varied forms, should not be something for just one or a handful of days a year. It should be something we live and breathe everyday. Where can living and breathing love improve your life and the lives of those you care about? How can we start seeing more angels and fewer demons?

Coco Mingolelli

Lesbian Romance Author

The Manifest-Station

A Place For Words.

Stories and Dreams

writing of Michelle Belanger

Silver RavenWolf

Author Blog -- The Crow at the Crossroads

Something Mormon

something mormon this way comes

Young Mormon Feminists

not in Primary anymore

By Common Consent, a Mormon Blog

The greatest Mormon blog in the universe.

Villainy Loveless

Lover. Fighter. Professional Tease.

exaggerhated

Late night thoughts kept from the light

ellisnelson

children's author

Megan Has OCD

About Mental Health, Daily Struggles, and Whatever Else Pops in My Head

The Better Man Project ™

a journey into the depths

mysilentscream.com

My Silent Scream: Inspiring Great Relationships Every Day

Margaret and Helen

Best Friends for Sixty Years and Counting...

Kim Harrison

Don't Let The Blond Hair Fool You

The Worlds of Amanda S. Green

Where you'll discover how the mind of one warped writer works.

%d bloggers like this: