At sixty-something, there are still things about my body that amaze me. For example, (and I timed it), within five minutes of eating asparagus, my pee takes on that weird yucky metallic smell somewhere in-between burnt rubber and battery acid. I don’t remember noticing this when I was young. Maybe there is a certain age at which a person’s chemistry changes, like a breaker switch being thrown, after which everything you thought you knew about yourself alters.
This might explain the unnerving development I began to notice about fifteen years ago. I spot-ted several angry-looking red pimples on my chin. Closer inspection revealed that these eruptions were caused by…(HORRORS)…whiskers! I am a pale, fair-haired light-eyed WASP who need-ed a pair of tweezers only now and then to pluck the occasional errant eyebrow hair or to remove a splinter. So I stood before the mirror, tweezers in hand, and made short work of those three chin hairs, dabbing a little makeup where they had been.
“A facial erratic,” I told myself; “Probably some hormonal imbalance,” and I promptly forgot about the outbreak…until it happened again the next month. Once again, I dispatched the unwanted hairs with my trusty tweezers. In the course of the year, I began having to include the plucking of chin hairs in my monthly self-care regimen. My dermatologist said I could always have electrolysis or laser treatments for around $200.00 a treatment, but there was no guaranteeing that the hairs wouldn’t grow back. Not a good investment for so trivial a problem.
“Ok,” I told myself, “This is just another of the bothersome signs of aging, like the slowing down of one’s metabolism, or bunions or wrinkles. Don’t give this a lot of weight.” All went well until the day I returned home to find my husband, Dan and the maintenance man, Gus, performing some sort of plumbing operation on our kitchen faucet.
They were using my tweezers.
In life, there are certain irrevocable events after which one knows things will never be the same, like the signing of the Magna Carta or the development of the hot-house tomato. Had I known, a decade earlier, about the demise of tweezers, I would have purchased all I could and made a fortune selling them on the black market.
“NO!…Oh, no, NO, NO, NO…what are you DOING with my tweezers”? I shouted as I snatched them from Gus’s calloused greasy hands. Dan and Gus hung their heads a little, but supported each other in the instant unspoken solidarity common to all men caught using their wives tools inappropriately.
I speculate that somewhere in the late 1980’s a shrewd manufacturer figured out that the little rows of metal on the business end of tweezers which fit together like pinking shears’ blades or sharks’ teeth in order to grip the hair were the costliest part to the tool to manufacture. When used properly, they could last a lifetime; a definite liability for the manufacturer. So, while millions of women continued using their old tweezers to rid themselves of unwanted hair, the first tweezers with flat, un-ridged gripping surfaces were probably hitting the market.
I didn’t need to clean the grease from my tweezers to see the damage–my precision instrument’s teeth were gouged.
“Perhaps they’ll still work,” I thought, optimistically, as I gently bathed and dried them. Selecting a nice plump eyebrow hair I closed the tweezers on it and tried giving a little tug. The hair slid right through the tweezers, which could no longer grip, no matter how hard I squeezed. Annoyed, but as yet undefeated, I set off for the drugstore, where I bought a new pair. When I got home, I found that these were as useless as my damaged tweezers. Outraged to see that these tweezers had no teeth with which to grip, I commenced a month-long quest for what I considered “real” tweezers. This took me through the cosmetic sections of every drug and department store to no avail. Worse, all the tweezers were now heavily packaged so that one had to open the plastic to examine them which required buying the tweezers.
Meanwhile, six black chin hairs had erupted along with a few stray eyebrow hairs. I’m not talking any Frieda Kahlo-like unibrow; still it was disturbing to see myself growing…fuzzy without any remedy. Dan was untroubled by my dilemma. He said he wouldn’t have even noticed the hairs had I not pointed them out.
I stood before the mirror, wearing a jeweler’s visor, duct tape in hand, studying my chin. An im-age came to mind of the scene from the horror movie, ”The Fly,” where the protagonist discovers the tough, insect-like hairs he is beginning to sprout as he transforms into a giant fly. I pressed the duct tape hard on my chin and gave a yank, followed by a shriek. My chin looked shiny and raw but the whiskers were intact.
I began haunting yard sales, junk and antique shops, hoping to find a pair of old tweezers. I could find none. Either other women had gotten there first and snatched them up or all the old tweezers had been destroyed by men using them as plumbing tools. Then I remembered Bigelow Pharmacy on 6th Ave. in the Village. One of New York City’s old-style chemists, Bigelow was a great place to find all kinds of high-quality cosmetic supplies. I had possibly bought tweezers there many years ago!
At Bigelow’s I related my problem to the sales girl who pointed to a counter.
“Tweezerman,” she said; “They’re really good. My hopes rose. “They come with a guarantee: free sharpening for life”. I glance at the clerk. Her eyebrows were penciled in; the hair was totally absent. I didn’t know whether or not to take this as a good sign. The tweezers’ tips were pressed together behind their packaging; their surfaces weren’t visible.
“Can I open the package”? I asked the twenty-ish clerk politely. She pushed a strand of magenta colored hair behind her heavily-pierced ear, regarding me suspiciously. I tried explaining about the little grooves common to all tweezers in the olden days. The clerk raised her penciled eye-brows as if I had just tried selling her the Brooklyn Bridge. Dan, whom I had dragged shopping with me as his penance was sighing and yawning hugely.
“No, we can’t let you open them unless you buy them. You want to buy them or what?” Back in the car with my purchase, I tore open the plastic packaging and immediately saw the flat surfaces on the tweezers’ tips. A folded paper fell out extolling the virtues of my new tweezers along with a guarantee stating that, should they ever need sharpening, that service would be performed free for life. I read it to my husband, adding,
“WHO CARES if the tweezers are sharp, for Heaven’s sake,” I exploded; “I don’t use them for carving steak! I just need them to GRIP!”
As we age, we must all adapt to change. Men go bald, women grow whiskers. Maybe this is Nature’s way of discouraging us from having sex. These days, I spend a little more time trying to get my eternally-sharp tweezers to de-hair my chin. I’m sure I even miss a few, but who cares? It’s not as easy for me to see those little hairs as it used to be anyhow.