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Stray hairs take it on the chin

September 8th, 2010

Reprinted from Today’s Local News, 11.17.06 By Lois Swagerty

“I refuse to think of them as chin hairs. I think of them as stray eyebrows,” says comic Janette Barber.

What’s the proper etiquette for chin hairs?Did they suddenly become fashionable and someone forgot to send me the memo?

This morning I saw a lady, otherwise unremarkable in appearance, sporting a chin wart with sassy hairs of various lengths sprouting from it in all directions. These were not wispy strands. They were springy shoots of white hair.

They looked like a tiny bouquet of beheaded flower stems, and I wondered how she got them to stay like that. Maybe she blow-dried them first, and then applied a gel product to hold them in place.

Standing behind her in a long line gave me the perfect vantage point to gawk. I had to admire this woman’s sense of personal style, a regular follicle free-for-all.

It was hard not to stare. The only other female I’d ever seen with such impressive chin growth was an acquaintance in New Hampshire who had one long, curly tendril, the presence of which I chalked up to poor eyesight and awkward placement.

What would Emily Post, the maven of manners, advise? Do you try not to look? Do you bring it up and compliment the person? Do you tactfully reach in your purse and offer your tweezers?

I always thought chin hairs were to be avoided at all costs.

While most people plan ahead for advance directives and power of attorney, I made sure to provide for durable power of plucking. It’d be just my luck to have my life saved, only to live in a vegetative state where I couldn’t take care of my own chin grooming.

One of the first things they asked me during my recent hospital stay was, “Do you have an advance directive?”

“Yes,” I said, “and it includes a chin hair clause.”

The nurse looked at me blankly.

It’s true. My living will includes a provision for several of my girlfriends to tweeze on my behalf if I ever lapse into a coma. Not something I could completely entrust to my husband—sorry, honey.

Now there’s a small business idea just waiting to happen: a mobile plucking service. The Sisterhood of the Traveling Tweezers.

The woman I saw this morning wouldn’t have lasted long if she were teaching in an elementary school. You can always depend on kids to speak up the minute they notice something unusual.

“Mrs. Swagerty, you’ve got something in your teeth,” a child informed me one time. Another day it was, “What’s wrong with your nose?”

So helpful, those students. Of course they never made a peep the day I accidentally wore my shirt inside out. Neither did any of my colleagues, but that’s a whole different story.

Suffice it to say, children are a little more understanding if you explain the situation right upfront. It also means they’ll probably never hear another word of the lesson—they’re too busy asking questions.

I’ve got some questions of my own about facial hair on men. Take the trendy stubble look, for instance. It may seem sexy on screen, but how do they keep it the same length every day? And how many days does it take before hottie turns grungy?

I suspect that TV and movie stars use a special trimmer to maintain their casually unshaven appearance. But doesn’t that negate the whole purpose of not shaving?

Which brings me back to the dilemma of the unplucked woman. Her courageous attitude is starting to grow on me. I say if you’ve got it, flaunt it.

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