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Age and Human Hairiness

Posted Feb 10 2009 11:29am

[ EDITORIAL NOTE:Two people so far have responded to the call on Monday for photos for Where Elders Blog. You will find Peter Tibbles here and NancyB here. Many elderbloggers are missing and we would all like to see where you carry on at your keyboard. Even if you don't keep a blog, you're welcome to show us your workspace, so get out your cameras. Instructions are here. ]

category_bug_journal2.gif Following Crabby Old Lady’s whine about going bald a couple of day ago, Marian Van Eyk McCain of The Elderwoman Website left this comment:

“Notice how all this “going bald in old age” conversation has so far focused exclusively on heads? How prim we all are!”

Prim, indeed. Today, that omission will be rectified since we have hair (or not, at our ages) in all kinds of other places on our bodies.

Crabby might well have complained, in that previous post, about facial hair. The more I lose from my head, the more I gain, it appears, on my face as though gravity is pulling it downward. I have always had a dusting of fine, transparent hair along my jaw and above my upper lip, but it was so unnoticeable that I ignored it all my life - until recent years.

Now it grows longer, sometimes curling into my lip so that it’s an irritation impossible to ignore until I can get to the tweezers to remove it. It’s damned painful to pull out hairs from around a lip, and no less so from my chin which regularly sprouts a longer, courser hair or two. If anyone knows a better solution than tweezing, please don’t keep it to yourself.

Men, of course, have a long history of facial hair and can choose to shave it or let it grow. If there are changes in later life – annoying or otherwise – it would be interesting to know about that.

God, what a tedious task it is shaving legs. I never bought the Sixties women’s movement admonition to just let it grow. And for whatever reason, I never tried chemical removers like Nair. I just wept from boredom twice a week.

For the past decade or so, leg hair seems to grow much more slowly. An alternative explanation is that I’m not so concerned about it now that I’m not jumping into bed with a man with anywhere near the frequency of my young adult and mid years. But habit or some measure of daintiness keeps me shaving, just not as often.

As with my legs, underarm hair growth seems to have slowed. I don’t have an opinion about it; it’s easy enough to take a razor to it in the shower when needed.

Some consider it an affliction for men to have a lot of hair on their backs, but I had a boyfriend in my twenties whose upper back was nearly as furry as my cat. I found it quite cozy, although a lot of people stared at him when we were at the beach or a swimming party.

I hear tell that some men, these days, shave or wax their chests and come to think of it, I can’t remember seeing chest hair in photos of male models in recent years. I wonder what cultural change I’m ignorant of has brought this trend upon us.

I’ve left the body part Marian was undoubtedly referring to for last, discussion of which is even more taboo than female baldness.

My, my - how attitudes about women’s pubic hair have changed in my lifetime. Women now shave or wax regularly and it is, apparently, a social faux pas of some major magnitude for any stray pubic hair to peek out of a swim suit. There are even fashions now in regard to how much to remove or not. Fortunately, I’m way too old to care (bikinis are long in my past), although it does occur to me to wonder if there is such a thing as pubic hair fashion for men.

I remember a question turning up occasionally in my youth for which we had no answer: does pubic hair go gray like head hair? I have no idea if there has been any research into this and can report only that mine has not. It is and always was more red than the brown of the hair on my head until it began graying in my thirties.

I don’t know if I’m typical in that regard and I don’t know either if people – men or women – go bald in their pubic region as we age. In re-reading this, it is obvious that there is a great deal I don’t know about human hairiness. Perhaps readers can enlighten us all on this vitally important topic.

[ At The Elder Storytelling Place, Sheila Halet remembers her father in My Daddy. ]

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