A Self-Proclaimed Plucker Wages War on Midlife Hair


I think it is time to talk about a taboo subject. Normally, I would not broach such a hair-raising topic, but my body is going through a subtle revolution whereby some parts or factions are declaring war on me. It is time for me to pull back, reevaluate the enemy and its tactics, and strategically plan a retaliatory maneuver.

What is this enemy you ask? It’s not the fact that I have to drop something on the floor to be able to read it. No, it’s not that I need to take a shot of Milk of Magnesia as an after dinner dessert. And, it’s not my on-going need to count the dimples in my thighs. I can deal with all of that. What I am talking about is what Dr. Seuss would say is “muchly much more serious”—midlife hair.

[Gasp! Gasp! Choke, choke. Cough…]

[Whispers, whispers]

[“Oh, she did NOT just say that.]

[Girrrrrl, uh uh, you cannot go there.]

[What? Did she just say the H word? No, no. NO!]

I know. I know. I am a brave soul for even mouthing the words, but quite frankly, ladies, THIS IS WAR! We deal with scary things in war, so tug up those Spanx and prepare for a debriefing.

When I was a teenager living in the most humid place on the planet—Miami, Florida—if wanted any lift or height in my doo (hey, this was the era of A Flock of Seagulls, Madonna, and Duran Duran), I had to lather my hair with “products,” heat up the curling iron to the blaze setting, and once fixed to the proper height, spray it like Bob Villa lacquering a piece of furniture. I did that so that the natural bone straightness would be transformed into a rockin’ look for this child of the 80s. In fact, I just resigned myself to the notion that I had straight hair forever. Styles come and go, and the straight thing has served me well at times, so I can’t complain. Recently, however, I am looking around to see whom I might have ticked off. I am wondering if someone has a voodoo doll with my name on it, and is sticking it in a light socket because my hair has changed significantly.

The only way to describe my hair is highlighted cotton candy. It is so fluffy that it has taken on the texture of spun sugar, and the more humidity in the air, the fluffier my head appears. I have heard that when your hair turns gray, the texture changes. It is more like wire. On my head, there is no mistaking this for wire. Now, I have noticed a touch of gray at my temples, but truth be told I have not seen the natural color of my hair since Reagan was in office. Underneath the artistically dyed camouflage could be an entire head of gray hair, but I lament that I did not inherit the strong steel gray hair that my mother and grandmother had. Nope. I am stuck with fluff that can only be tamed by a flat iron, and the taming lasts on average 1.02 hours. I am only able to garner a non-frizz hour because I have plied my locks with the latest serums and keratin miracle products. Otherwise, I would live in the Land of Fluff 24/7.

I know I should not complain. At least I have hair, something my younger brother hasn’t experienced since he was in college. I am just frustrated because I have spent over 40 years learning how to quaff my hair, and now the game has changed. It’s as if I have spent my whole life playing tennis, and one day I walk onto the court and somebody with a golf club in his hand yells, “Four!” It’s the proverbial fall down the rabbit hole.

All of this is not to say that I haven’t sprouted any wire-like hairs. The wiry hair I have tends to grow out of my chin. Yep. I am going there. The first time I saw a “stray” hair on my chin, I was in my 20s. And, it was exactly that—one lone thick hair, blooming from my chin like a rare rose in the desert. I didn’t really know what to do with it. I didn’t even own tweezers. So, I borrowed my roommate’s to discreetly take care of this strange variance. What was an anomaly turned into a weekly routine; almost like search-and-find game. In my 30s this happened with more frequency, but I was not alarmed. Now the distress signals are blaring.


As I approach 50, my chin resembles the Sequoia National Forest. I didn’t know so many hair follicles could sprout with such frequency. And, these are not soft pale hairs. Nope. They’re course black or gray hairs that could do some damage to my kids’ faces at a bedtime kiss.

I may be a bit paranoid, but I must confess that I conduct a chin inspection twice a day now. With tweezers in hand, I stand under the brightest of lights and contort my neck and chin to see what has germinated in the past 8 or so hours. Every once in a while, I will find one that was hiding in plain view for weeks because when I yank that sucker and inspect it, I am amazed to find it is almost an inch long when I uncurl it. How is it possible to miss this super long hair so many days in a row? Sometimes I scream in agony when I find these long ones and lament the odd parts of the aging process.

Feeling desperate I considered the new trend where women are shaving. So-called “experts” claim it is a fantastic way to exfoliate one’s skin. I just can’t see it. I know something about shaving since I’ve been shaving my legs since I was 12. When you shave, the hair grows back thicker. That’s why it’s called stubble. No one named it lamb’s wool or rose petals. Stubble. Do I really want facial stubble? I would be afraid my stubble would be worse than my husband’s by dinnertime. The stubble experts out there claim this stubble is really not coarser or darker; it’s just an illusion. Well, I don’t want even the “illusion” of stubble on my face. I have to wonder if the women who shave are all from Norway or Sweden where their stubble would be blonde and unnoticeable. I just can see my Italian friends promoting this practice. In fact, I took an unscientific poll among a small group of friends about whether or not they would shave. Here is my data:

“What? Are you kidding? I never heard of anything so ridiculous.”
“What idiot came up with that idea?”
“The day I start shaving my face is the day pigs will fly.”
“Excuse me? What did you say? Did you say shave? Your face? Uh NO.”
“I had a great aunt who had a lot of facial hair, and I am pretty sure she shaved in secret. We called her Groucho behind her back. Not attractive.”

As you can see, these women were not in favor of shaving. Now I know my sampling was small and certainly not statistically significant, but I do feel they are a good representation of middle-aged, chin-hair-plucking women, and they condemn this practice. They would rather go to battle armed with their favorite tweezers than risk looking like their fathers.

Men have no idea how much attention we give our chin hairs. If they only knew how often it enters our mind. Every time we look in the mirror to apply lipstick we take notice. In the middle of the day—could be in a meeting or just talking on the phone–when we put our chin in our hands or brush it lightly, we notice a prickle here and there. One of my best friends and I have made a pact that whoever is put in a nursing home first, the other has to come visit at least every two days and perform the plucking ritual. Now, that is a good friend. Maybe I should make one of those primitive signs that reads, “You know you have a best friend when she is willing to pluck your chin hairs.” I think it would be a best seller, don’t you?

One thought on “A Self-Proclaimed Plucker Wages War on Midlife Hair

  1. Teri

    Mom will kill me for this, but I used to have to pluck her fairly sparse hair every time I visit. It’s a daughter’s privilege. Now I have them. And while I was reading your blog, yes, I found myself checking. I hate the white ones. They are kind of coarse and are camouflaged, but then when they come out, there’s the black root and little capsule. I had heard that if the capsule comes out, you got the whole hair. What numbskull jackleg (my Dad’s words) came up with that one? NOT!

    So I have a couple old faithful spots that pop up every couple days.

    Oh, and my leg hairs? I don’t shave above the knee, and you can’t really tell I have leg hair – thank God! Few and far between. The only unwanted hair that isn’t coarse!


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