We’re an over-sharing generation, but there are still a few things we’re too embarrassed to openly discuss. Even previously taboo topics like poop are now open subjects. I’ve had more conversations about fiber and roughage with my friends than if care to admit. I frequently draw cringes when I describe in detail a rash accompanying a recent outbreak of shingles. Few things are off limits in my mind and this also seems generally true across my friends, favorite blogs and Twitter feeds, but I rarely hear or engage in open and honest conversation on these topics:
1. Chin hairs
In my senior year of college, I timidly confided in my best friend about a problem. And that problem was a rogue hair that had inexplicably sprouted on my chin. Or so that’s what I told her. In fact I’d been experiencing a chin hair since at least freshmen year, but I downplayed it for fear of ridicule. My friend laughed, incredulous of my body hair issue. Fast forward three years: Two weeks ago, I received a text from the same friend saying she had just discovered a chin hair on her own chin (to her dismay) that said, “OMG I have a random chin hair. Is this karma for making fun of you?”
It seems as if we’ve pretty much gotten over the shame of every type of body hair except the spiky nuisance that is the chin hair. I like to ask my coworkers if they think my eyebrows are balding from overgrooming and am happy to discuss the pros and cons of different waxing techniques, but still I’ve only once discussed my chin hair.
Over the weekend I watched OITNB (don’t worry, no spoilers ahead), but I have never felt so much solidarity with a TV character than when Piper described her chin pet, “Spike.” “Finally!” I thought, “Chin hairs are getting the recognition they deserve, and maybe one day I’ll be able to discuss my chin hair unabashed and inspire someone to find a remedy for these scraggly nuisances.”
2. When we don’t know how to pronounce a common word or the name of a pop culture reference.
For my friend’s 25th birthday a group of friends and I attended a Kelis concert. You probably recognize her name from the early aughts hit with the chorus that crooned, “My milkshake brings all the boys to the yard.” Despite the fact that this star sang the anthem of my misguided middle school days, I realized that I never knew how to pronounce her name, whether it was pronounced like Game of Throne’s Khaleesi without the extra “i” on the end or more like Kell (from “Keenan and Kell”) with an “is” on the end. So I basically just rushed through saying her name hoping no one noticed. One time, in an attempt to describe my envy of Cara Delevigne’s voluptuous eye brows, I referred to the British supermodel “Cara dellVIG (hard g) ne” to the amusement of my coworker who had formerly worked at the teeny bopper mag J14 (not even fair, right?). This was before the whole Reese Witherspoon pronunciation video, so I was mortified. In an age where we spend most of our time reading, not saying unconventional words (like Etsy.com, another one I struggled with and once received ridicule for) and stage names that do not follow any laws of phonetics we should be more open about our inability to literally articulate what we’ve read. There’s nothing that makes a learned and a well-read person feel more uncomfortable than being corrected on pronunciation, but especially when it’s something as pedestrian as a craftgoods website.
3. When and why we’re not charitable.
You know what story I tell a lot? That time my first winter living in New York and the temperature had dropped into the negatives. There was a homeless man huddled on a sewer grate a few feet from the door of my apartment and I felt so bad that I went upstairs and found an old blanket and then asked my boyfriend to offer it to the man. You know what stories I never tell? The countless times that I’ve shaken my head and apathetically said, “no, sorry,” without really even hearing the request being made by the probably impoverished person holding out their cup or hands panhandling on the street. Sure, I give occasionally, but the reason for doing so isn’t as my altruistic as it probably should be. I do it only when I have change, time and sympathy to spare. We never talk about why or how we make those value judgements to give to one person and not another for those of us who are occasional givers like myself. Probably because it reveals more about our biases and selfishness than we’re even willing to admit to ourselves.
4. That we have no idea why or what we’re doing.
A lot of my friends have their shit together. Like together, together. Like in grad school with long term career goals together. Me? Not so much. Recently, at my college reunions there we’re a lot of, “So, what are your plans?”-type questions. I think that question is terrible unless you’re a retiree and it’s reasonable to respond with nebulous plans like, “Shuffleboard, golf, and travel.” If you tell anyone who is a peer that you don’t know any where, why or when you get this kind of pitying look (unless they’re in the same boat in which case you get some real deep head nods of recognition). Tell the same to your parents and you get panic. I’ve adopted a vague stare, half-smirk smile and nod approach. Or I come up with a vague answer. People just want to know that you have something going on in the next day, week, year and I really don’t. I shouldn’t be ashamed of that. But for some reason I am (and that may be the most embarrassing part to admit, to be totally honest).
5. That our parents were right.
One evening when I was in high school my mom found me in her bathroom peering close to her magnifying mirror obsessively plucking at my unibrow. I remember sighing and lamenting that I was also starting to see some downy mustache hairs coming in and I distinctly remember her response, “Just wait until you start getting chin hairs!” I cringed and visibly recoiled, but I now realize that everything, but especially unwanted hairs, come full circle.
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