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  Ellen Davignon: Lives of Quiet Desperation

Hisbidity Ain't No Big Hairy Deal

November 15, 1998

Apropros of absolutely nothing at all, my husband exclaimed, "Damn, but you're kind of a hairy varmint!" thereby causing me severe mental anguish. 

It isn't as if I wasn't aware of my excess body hair.  I just thought that if I never directed anyone's attention to it, they might just find me a bit fuzzy and out-of-focus and blame it on their new glasses. And I certainly never imagined that it would be Phil - the man that promised me the world but gave me, instead of Arpege, five children, a lifetime in the service industry, and migraine, not necessarily in that order - who would blurt it out so blatantly.  

It was Charlie-cat that gave me away, of course.  Charlie, and the puddle of spring sun on freshly vacuumed front room rug. 

It was Saturday morning and I'd been cleaning the house.  We Working Girls do that - clean house on Saturday, leaving Sunday for quality sleep-in time and a leisurely brunch followed by personal time for toning the thighs, touching up the roots, trimming and shaping the nails, all the things that us girls who Go Out To Work must do on a regular basis.

Now, in my absence, Phil has become a regular little Susie Housewife. He makes the bed and tidies up, bakes a batch of bread now and again and has had supper on the table every night since I've been, you know, working.  But though he tries, it's not the same and the house cries out to me by the end of the week.

And so it was that I, alone in the house, barefoot and attired only in cut-offs and  t-shirt, was industriously scrubbing and shining away, when it happened.

Charlie, sleepy-eyed and cross at being disturbed by my frenetic activity, jumped off the love-seat and landed in the pool of sunshine. Her eyes opened wide and she looked at me with surprise. "Is this SUN that I feel on my fur?"  she asked.  Then, "Ooh, I just love this!" And as I watched, she plopped down and began a sensuous writhing and rolling, from one side to another, all the while uttering little cries of delight, looking utterly kittenish and adorable and totally unlike the usual prickly and unsociable feline we have come to know and respect.  After a few moments of dazed pleasure, sanity re-instated itself and she rose, licked a few care-free hairs back into place and sauntered haughtily into the kitchen to sneer at her well-filled food dish.

Charmed by the moment, I stared down at the sunny spot on my clean rug.  Tentatively, I moved one bare foot into the light. It felt wonderful, warm and somehow, healthy.  Throwing caution to the wind, I stepped fully into the sun, heedless of the way it illuminated my fleecy legs, and seconds later, I, too, had stretched full length on the carpet, purring with contentment.

And that's where Phil found me, back-lit and high-lighted, and made his painful observation.

When I emerged into the world, smiling and cooing a portent of my unrelenting good nature, my parents made a detailed inventory.  It was apparent that I had my mother's eyes and mouth, Dad's chin, and some friendly mail-carrier's snub nose.  Being bald as an egg, it went un-noticed at the time, that from my father I had also inherited a hirsute gene that ensured, in the event of a premature ice-age, I would be ready and waiting.  Unfortunately, our weather seems to be getting warmer, not colder, and all this genetic preparation appears to have been in vain.

I try to deal with my burden.  With great pain and suffering, I pluck the hairs from my chins and wear long sleeved shirts buttoned right up to the top. I braid the hair on my legs and hide them from the world under heavy blue jeans and double-knit Fortrel trousers.

Short of wearing gloves, however, there is no way to disguise the hairs that creep down my wrists and collect in bristly tufts around my knuckles.  And I try to be shod at all times, there being something distinctly unladylike about hairy toes.

Meanwhile, as much as possible, I stay out of brightly lit places, ignoring the stubble, hoping others will blame it on their glasses. And for our nearly-40 years of marriage, I have undressed in the dark, re-garbing myself in long flannelette nightgowns before slipping demurely between the sheets.  Until today, Phil has either never noticed, or has blamed it on his bi-focals, although once, encounter- ing my leg as he thrashed about on a sleepless night, he did mutter something about me wearing "your longjohns under your grannie gown, for Pete's sake?!"  Upon which I, in a bit of shameful subterfuge

and play acting, began groping about under the covers while saying in a tone of great annoyance, "Oh, that darn Charlie, is she under there again?" and destroying any mood that may have been initiated by the challenge of both gown and woolies.

Our lives will never be the same, I suppose, now that Phil has openly acknowledged my hisbidity.  But, on the other hand, something may be salvaged.

He may be more sympathetic to my needs when I turn down the heater in the car or open the kitchen door to release some of the 90 degrees that he has so assiduously amassed.  Instead of muttering and swearing as he empties his electric razor of a mat of blonde hairs, mowed down in an act of desperation that rendered the mower forgetful of bathroom etiquette, he may simply and quietly tip it out onto a sheet of news- paper and dispose of it in the furnace without comment. 

And should there ever be another chance encounter on a sleepless night, I won't have to blame anything on my poor little cat.  I can simply remove a chancely encountering hand and say, with cool and simple dignity, "No dear, it's neither my Stanfields nor is it Charlie.  You know very well that it's the hair on my leg.  And it's given me a headache."

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