On a gorgeous Sunday afternoon in May, my family and I are walking around one of our favorite Baltimore neighborhoods, and we stop in this groovy old pub-like place that’s been there since probably the 1700s.
After we order dinner, some retreat into their phones, while others chat about nothing in particular. Somehow we happen on to the topic of how I was pretty positive that when I die, it will be of either Alzheimer’s or skin cancer. You know, since both grandmothers had Alzheimer’s and I got a good number of sunburns (on purpose, mind you) as a teenager, I thought those were pretty good guesses. What, you guys don’t do that?
My daughter, Emma, thought this was morbid dinner conversation, so I changed the subject to an even greater fear of mine.
“OK, so my REAL concern — it’s my worst fear, actually — is, let’s say I get into a car accident and I’m in a coma for a while. Who’s gonna pluck my chin hair?”
“I mean it! It’s a real concern of mine! What if people come to visit me in the hospital while I’m in a coma?" I asked. "I CANNOT have chin hair in that situation. Will the nurse do it? Or can she at least shave it once a day?”
Silence. Uncomfortable sideways glances around the table. Finally, Emma broke through with the epic question, “You have chin hair?”
“Of course I have chin hair! It’s one of the fun things that happens to us as we age,” I said with not a little bit of sarcasm. A small part of me was dancing inside that I eradicated it well enough for her not to have noticed, but I was determined not to let the real issue go. “Seriously, no one is going to offer?”
Meanwhile, a look of horror slooooowly crosses over Emma’s face. She asked, slightly panicked, “Am I going to have chin hair when I get older?!?!?”
“Oh, my god," she moaned. "Ew.”
She turned to her boyfriend and asked, “Are you going to abandon me when I get chin hair?!?”
He said (and really, I give him a lot of credit for this), “Nah. Because your chin hair will be red and it will look pretty.”
She hugged him in relief, and I glared over at my husband, whose head had shrunk down far into his shoulders and whose body was hunched over his game of 2048.
“Wasn’t that a NICE THING FOR HIM TO SAY? That HE thinks HER chin hair will be PRETTY?” I asked maybe a little too loudly. “He gets A LOT OF POINTS for that one, WOULDN’T YOU AGREE?”
Emma is smiling, her boyfriend is looking proud of himself and our sons are trying not to laugh, but failing.
“Hey,” my husband says, tentatively to our oldest son, “what do you think my next move should be? Left and down?” He was talking about the game he was playing on his phone, not the serious matter at hand.
I rolled my eyes and sighed. I guess there are regular rounds of laser hair removal in my future in preparation for my unconscious, extended stay in the hospital for whatever reason. That way no one will have to pluck my chin hairs for me. It’s one of those things I’m doing for my children, my husband and my vanity.
In the meantime, I feel kind of bad that Emma lost a little of her innocence during that meal, seeing into her follicular future. I decided against telling her that she’s also going to get cellulite and that she’ll probably crap herself when she gives birth. That can wait. There’s only so much pulling back of the curtain I’m willing to inflict on her at once.