The location: college dorm room. The characters: me and a boy. The scene: Guy is sitting on the edge of his bed. I’m sitting on his lap, facing him, with my ankles crossed behind his back. No, we’re not naked! Get your head out of the gutter. Fully dressed, we are kissing and talking.
I can’t recall our entire conversation word for word, but oh do I remember how it ends.
I’ve known him for years. We’re close, not just in proximity. I stroke his cheek, his stubble rough against my hand. It feels good. I comment on how he’s let it grow out. He replies, this boy I like, “You’ve got some stubble too.”
Holy dagger to the heart.
He wasn’t talking about my legs. He was referring to my upper lip, and I wanted to DIE.
Now, I know I’m not the only girl in the world with unwanted facial hair. In an online poll by Glamour, the upper lip came in second after only the bikini line as most annoying hair-removal spot. A slideshow on Real Simple’s website features “5 Easy-to-Use Hair Removal Products,” including a mini electric trimmer that “works on all body parts, from the toes to the upper lip.” Search for “upper lip” and “hair removal” on Oprah.com, and the second result is a blog post titled “Lip Service: Getting Rid of That Pesky Fuzz.”
So, yeah, I’m no anomaly. But in that moment, I didn’t give a shit how common female “stubble” was. A guy whose lap I was sitting on, being all sexy with, wasn’t supposed to notice! And if he did, for goodness’ sake, he wasn’t supposed to say anything. That’s why, when he did, the best and only response I could come up with was, drum roll please…
“No I don’t.”
I was so embarrassed I had reverted to a six-year-old—Sister: “Ew! Stop picking your nose!” Me: “I’m not!” (even though I totally was).
At the time of the dorm room incident, I was still learning what hair removal treatment—waxing, threading, tweezing, creams, “as seen on TV” wonder gadgets—worked best, and I had probably neglected my upper lip too long. But to be fair to me, I think stubble was too strong of a word. In my mind that term means short, thick course hairs covering a surface like the dots in a Roy Lichtenstein painting. I have pictures from then, and that is not how I looked. My hairs are finer and sparser. I don’t have to tell you girls, you know the difference. Now to be fair to the guy, because of how close our faces were, I bet it did look like more than peach fuzz.
He wasn’t pointing it out to be mean. It wasn’t like that part in Wet Hot American Summer when Paul Rudd says to the girl he’s kissing, “You take like a burger. I don’t like you anymore.” He did still like me. He just…noticed.
In a relationship, because of how much time you’re spending together, how close your faces get right before you kiss, your partner will see your imperfections. It’s inevitable. The longer you’re together, the more of an expert he’ll become of all your ugliest, smelliest parts, and vice versa. But does that mean you should talk about them? I prefer to focus on the positive.
This boy and I split up a long time ago, for a host of reasons, not at all exclusive to stubblegate. Yet it did bug me how easily he called me out. Why would he say that? I know that he wouldn’t have wanted to hurt me. So I wonder: Maybe he thought it was OK to mention because it meant so little to him, his feelings based way beyond my looks. Could there be some aspect of that humiliating experience that was actually kind of nice?
I’m not sure. What I do know is that I already have someone in my life to point out all my blemishes and more-than-peach-fuzz, and she’s excellent at it: Hey, mom.
At least when it comes from her, we’re not about to make out.
Rasika writes about being married and how that makes you act weird. Oh, wait, maybe that’s just her. Follow her on Twitter @rwelankiwar.
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