I have been hairy for as long as I can remember.
Growing up in the mostly white suburbs didn’t help either.
Grade six is a tough time in a woman’s life. You are in this awkward phase, transitioning from little girl to teenager. Your curves start showing, your start wearing deodorant and a training bra and you may even get your period.
I was one of only two South Asians in the class. My classmates would ask, “Do you wear that red dot on your head?”
Luckily I was proud of my Indian heritage despite it being uncool and different at the time.
What I didn’t like though, was my facial hair. The boys would taunt me and tell me I had a “stache.” It felt cruel to tease me for something that I had no control over. Or did I?
I hopped off the public bus after school, just a few meters away from my house. Allison, a kid down the street, also got down. And that’s when I heard the faint, but all-too-well-known sound of the bullying coming my way. “Wax,” she said quietly on the sidewalk following behind me. “Wax, wax, wax, WAX,” she yelled louder.
I carried forward, determined not to let her see me crumble. To add to my mortification, her voice was so strong that my Mom heard her, ran outside the house, and told her off, leaving Allison to scurry away as fast as she could. Never underestimate the power of a mama bear protecting her cubs.
“Don’t worry baby, you are beautiful just the way you are,” my Mom consoled.
But even though my Mom saw the beauty, all I saw was an ugly duckling.
To make things better, Mom bought me a box of facial hair bleach. “All the white girls have hair on their face too, but it’s just blonde,” explained my Mom.
I slathered the stinky, white cream on my face and admittedly it did lessen the obviousness of my dark upper lip hair.
A few years later, I started high school. Hormones were raging even more now causing more hair to sprout in other places.
I am not an athletic person so gym was my least liked class. What made it worse though was the girls asking me why I had not removed the dark hair on my legs. “Your hair will grow back thicker if you shave it,” Mom said.
Our parents come from a different time, when there was less pressure on women to look a certain way. Hair in the South Asian community was considered totally normal. It didn’t lessen your prospect of finding a nice guy or getting married.
But in Toronto circa 1995, a face of inky-coloured hair on what South Asians would consider fair skin, was a bullseye for bullying.
One evening, after a tough day of teasing at school, I came home and declared-as I darted up the stairs-that I would be shaving my legs whether my Mom liked it or not. I locked myself in the washroom, pulled out her electric razer and say adios to the black mane.
Next came the predicament of the facial fuzz. I was scared. If I removed it, would it come back thicker? Would I look like a man? “Just thread it,” suggested a Pakistani friend. She showed me how easily it could be done.
For the first time in my life, I felt like I had entered a new reality of facial-hair-free-skin!
But the re-growth was a lot to keep up with.
My Dad signed me up for a session of laser. Mom and Dad raised three girls, so they know quite a bit about everything lady-like.
Since then, laser has been my saving grace, whisking away those whiskers for months at a time.
I finally felt beautiful.
But every now and then when I confidently look in the mirror or see myself in the sunshine, all my marks and delicate hairs on full display, that innocent, little girl, looks back and me and I vividly remember the pain I felt when I was teased and taunted so many years ago.