Cropped frida kahlo

By The Hair On My Chiny Chin Chin

Have you found your first whisker yet?

If you’re a bloke, I’m assuming the answer is a resounding yes. If you’re a woman, don’t be embarrassed, because you’re looking at a prickly old pear. I found my first whisker a few years ago, while stuck in traffic. An absent-minded stroke of the chin and, bang, there on the corner of Punt Road and High Street, on the right side of my chin, was an unmistakable bristle.

It rocked my world at the time. WAS I TURNING INTO A MAN??? But now I gain a sordid pleasure from such a find. Within 20 minutes of a Whisker Discovery, I’ve returned to cop another feel at least 13 times.

Because that is what I do when I find a whisker. I obsess over it. Touch it, play with it, feel its coarseness under the soft of my fingertips. I have to keep going back to it, as though I’m making sure it’s still there.

The longer my day is, the more fixated I become. It becomes both archnemesis and reliable companion. The very definition of frenemy. It’s like a strange comfort to me, in a masochistic way. Yes, hello old friend, there you are again. When we get home I’m going to pluck the crap out of you! And pluck it I do, with relish! If only the other physical side effects of being 40 were as easily eradicated.

I don’t know what the exact age is when a woman goes from being young to middle- aged. I don’t think I’m there yet, but I don’t identify with young either. I suspect there’s a slow metamorphosis that paradoxically feels like it happens overnight, so potentially I may wake up middle-aged tomorrow.

But I do know that some time during the transition from young to middle aged, every woman will discover a whisker, probably right next to some very adolescent looking acne. Now where’s the justice in that?

As an avid reader of women’s magazines, I’m fully aware of the seven signs of ageing, and that apparently I am to be fearful of them. It is a list, courtesy of a cosmetics company hoping to frighten us into mortgaging our house for their skincare products, which focus on wrinkles, dry skin, patchy skin and all other skin horrors in between.

I’ve never bought into such scaremongering. I’m happy to let my face be a map of my life, even if that map resembles New York City. But I will admit there are other changes on my body that I’ve found a little perplexing.

Generally speaking, it’s melting into the earth, as though I’m losing the battle with gravity. My eyebrows sag, puffy and flaccid at once (how is that possible?). On a tired day, they have even rested on my eyelashes! I fear one day I will lose my eyelids altogether, like a sheet disappearing under a pillow.

Combine this with other assorted losses of face elasticity (think of an old pair of undies that have been worn about five years too long), and I’ve begun to look either permanently sad or angry while in repose. The only way to avoid this is to always pretend to be surprised, delighted or terrified, which coincidentally is the result many women achieve when they turn to injectable procedures to fight this problem.

To complete the overall sinking effect, there’s the way parts of my body sit on my frame. My bum and boobs inexplicably hang lower – as if my outermost body parts have just given up, and decided to lie down before the rest of me is horizontal.

Perhaps this is why clothes don’t seem to sit on me the way they used to. Or last from year to year. A skirt that last winter looked perfectly respectable, this winter looked like the before photo in a stylist’s brochure. I always feel as though I’m one bad decision away from looking like a mother who got into her teenage daughter’s wardrobe, or worse for me, my four-year-old’s.

As with my random whisker growth, I’ve found myself observing all of these changes with a scientist’s fascination. I’ve waivered from caring a great deal about it, to finding the whole thing a hilarious joke (well done to the scriptwriter, ripping laughs, specially the one about finding a hair in my neck!).

On my down days, I ashamedly admit the mirror makes me sad. I see a more tired, wilting version of myself from five years ago. I know we live in a world that worships youth, and I wonder whether that will affect my future job opportunities.

But on most days, I feel strong and powerful. I’m proud that I’m fitter now than I was in my 20s. I love that I can sustain long working days, provide the soft nurturing my daughter craves, and be the sex goddess my husband still thinks I am. (Bless him, I fear dementia has set in.)

I’m thankful for a growing wisdom gained from life experiences that is replacing the vanity of youth.

I also know first hand, because my father tragically died at only 32, that every day on this earth is an extraordinary blessing, and so I’m grateful I am able to see my youth fade before my rheumy old eyes.

I only hope my eyesight holds out long enough for me to be able to avoid a full- grown beard.

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