Sarah R. Callender


In Body Stuff, Faith on March 23, 2013 at 12:41 pm

If you are one of my Facebook Friends, you know that at least once a month, I make mention of the whisker that sprouts from my chin.

I get a lot of empathy via my Friends’ comments, plus tips for carrying tweezers in the car. Tips on the best brand of tweezers (Tweezerman). The pros and cons of laser therapy.

From my older Friends, I get comments like, “Ha! Just you wait!” Which sounds a little ominous, but I think it’s just another form of empathy. Preemptive empathy.

I don’t know why I’m so obsessed with the chin whisker. Perhaps because I didn’t know I’d be getting one (or five or twenty–Ha! Just you wait!). Or that I’d get the old lady throat. The lumpy hips. That my head hair would relocate on the southern part of my face. Little snowbird whiskers.

Yes, I expected wrinkles. I did not expect mass migration.

Just yesterday morning, my friend, Rapunzel, called. 8:42 a.m. “OK,” she said. “I know you are getting the kids to school, but I have to tell you something.” Rapunzel paused. “My eyebrows are migrating to my upper lip.”

We laughed and talked about our migrating facial hair, and then we hung up to carry on with our day. I love that girlfriends call me and tell me about their mustaches.

But since that call, I’ve been wondering why our hair and various other body parts migrate as we age. Why! Migrations usually ensure the health and survival of a species. Creatures and nomadic tribes migrate to follow better weather, fresher water, more abundant sources of food.

So what about my migrating hair follicles and southward-moving body parts? How do a droopy arse and chin whiskers ensure a woman’s survival?

In 2010, Husbandio’s company awarded him a sales prize–a ten-day, five-star trip to Africa–for him and one guest. He chose me!

In addition to hot air ballooning over the Serengeti, to snorkeling in the Indian Ocean, to seeing baboons piggyback their bare-bottomed babies,

hawaii 099

(I almost grabbed that little guy and packed him in my suitcase.)

we got to witness thousands and thousands of wildebeest in the middle of The Great Migration.

Scientists don’t know what triggers the massive, annual migration. Scientists know only that a few wildebeest, the trendsetters, the ones who would have known that 80s fashion would return in 2013, lead the charge. These prescient few raise their noses to the wind, catch the whiff of something, and post, “Wagons roll!” as their Facebook status.

(Behold, ye of many chin whiskers!)

Eight million hooves etch dusty ruts into the Serengeti. And when they run, spooked by big cats or mangy hyenas, the vibrations of their hoofbeats rattle the earth’s inner core. It is loud, it is powerful, it is beautiful, this great migration.

My body’s own migration is the opposite of beautiful and powerful. Those chin whiskers are tenacious and sharp. The sagging skin looking like a wrinkled plastic Safeway bag. The southward migration of breasts and butts and throat skin makes me wonder, where is that girl? What happened to her?

As I try to remember her–me!–that young-bodied girl, I twiddle my neck waddle. I catch a glimpse of my tush and wonder if someone has, by chance, invented a derriere brassiere.

But thoughts like that make me wonder why I think them. And what would I tell Sweetie about why mama wears a butt bra and is having her waddle tucked?

Instead, maybe I should embrace my body’s migration.

Maybe I should see that our hair and arses migrate not because of gravity or survival but because we are supposed to learn that the appearance of our bodies doesn’t matter very much. Not in the scope of things. That indeed, as my favorite book states, all really is vanity.

Maybe as we age, we’re supposed to learn that we should care for our bodies, but not obsess over their appearance. Instead, maybe we should obsess over what matters: loving each other.

Heck, maybe we’re designed to keep moving in some sort of migration, not so much geographical movement, but movement from one life stage to another.

I see it happening in my life, and in other women in their forties and fifties and sixties and upward. Our bodies are changing, yes, but so too are our senses of self. We no longer care quite so much about perfection and being well-behaved. We care about laughter and connection and making a mark. We stop caring so much about the size and style of our jeans and instead care about the size of our hearts, the style of our personality.

That’s how we are designed. So that we aging women can lift our whiskery chins, hoping to catch a whiff of something that tells us, Yes. Now is the time. Move and survive. Move and there will be a better life. Move and you will have more of what you need to thrive, more of what sustains you.

We are not meant to stay in one place. We are not meant to stay the same. We are not meant to look the same. There is beauty and power in the migration, in the movement of our lives.

That beauty and power is seen in the tracks formed by the hard hooves of the wildebeest.

Likewise, the etched tracks in this woman’s face show wisdom, experience, pain, joy. Beautiful tracks.
Does this mean I’m not supposed to pluck that chin hair? Should I toss my face cream? I’m not sure. I don’t think so. We can admire the wildebeest, but we don’t need to look like one. We can pluck that which makes us feel mannish. When we are eighty, we can wear opt for skirted swimsuits over bikinis. But we should not pluck, alter or hide those parts of us that show we are changing and moving. We should not conceal how our own hooves etch dusty tracks into green earth, searching for better, for fresher, for more than we’d ever be able to find if we stayed inside our own youthful, taut bodies forever.

Young bodies are a kind of beautiful, but the beauty of an etched-faced woman whose body has migrated south? Nothing is as beautiful as a woman who says, “I used  to be there. Now I am here.”

Your turn. How are you migrating? In what ways are you striving to find fresh water and greener prairie grasses? How do you cope with the physical migration of your body, from firm to soft, from taut to saggy, from smooth to whiskery? Please share. Whisker plucking tips are also welcome.

Baby baboon butt compliments of my camera.

Wildebeest paths compliments of Flickr’s  Ganesh raghunathan.

Wrinkle paths compliments of Flickr’s  Emilia Tjernström.

  1. Liposuction, Botox and spray tanning!

  2. You rock! Have I ever said that? Because I should have…

  3. Per usual, Sarah, fantastic post. I struggle with this too, especially raising kids – what do I want them to learn about their appearance? And I know they’ll learn more by watching me than anything else. I actually just had my author photo taken (!) this week and I came home with the make up still on. My daughter told me she thought I looked “kinda creepy” and that she liked me better without it. I almost burst into tears I was so happy. But at the same time, I too, keep plucking and futzing, etc…trying to find that balance.

  4. Rapunzel, Rapunzel, let down your (facial) hair… thanks for another great post!

  5. No whiskers here (yet). Just spider veins blooming like kudzu vines. That was a great post from tweezers in your car to baboon butts and back to lessons from aging;)

  6. Dear Sarah, “Just you wait” ,I’ve never been happier or freer than now at 67…tweezerman in tow. Do you mean Spanx as a derriere bra…I love Spanx, and spandex in general. You nailed it. Tweezerman and Spanx are necessary but have nothing to do with happiness and freedom. I face the spots, migrating hair and sagging as symbols of our aging that we must not fight. As a grandma of a new baby, the contrast is even more stunning with her firm, unblemished and hairless body. Although I pluck and cover-up, I recognize my status that does not hold me back from running with the pack, even if I am at the back. I too love your blog and only wish you would publish your essays…that is your talent!
    Your old neighbor in Orinda, Ruth

  7. Another great post. Yes, the body ages, and it was a strange day when I realized that actually I like getting old. Yup. My mind has completely turned. I like being old, or whatever I am. And no, sixty is not the new forty. It is sixty, or in my case, sixty three and three-quarters. So that’s why I like your post about the wildebeest, and chin hair, and wrinkles. Because it’s real. Every day I get to wake up is a pretty good day.

    thanks a bunch!

  8. Best post yet Sarah!! I shower in the dark: partly because it’s easier to wake up in the predawn darkness with warm water pouring over you and partly because I just really don’t need to keep up with what’s going on with the physical aging process. I don’t own a scale, I don’t pay much attention to anything unless and until my clothes get tight. You can only work with what you’ve got (left) so I just do the best I can each day and let it go.

    My father used to warn us against vanity in our Catholic home and we were not allowed to get caught looking in the mirror and all our morning preparation had to be completed within 15 minutes or we were chided. To this day, I avoid mirrors and I get ready very quickly! But, I do love my make-up and if I didn’t color my hair, I would look very, very gray. But who said it, Maya Angelou?, that women are beautiful in all phases of life and we have earned each wrinkle, each gray hair and our bodies are often testament to the incredible lives we have created and birthed. Let’s celebrate all that instead!!

  9. Do you want the fun, up-beat reply or the truth?

    My outlook changes based upon the day, but I think what troubles me about my body parts’ migration isn’t that they’re on the move, but what they say about my innards. I’m not so crazy about the idea of being frail or dependent upon others.

    What I tell myself, in my wiser movements, is that in my twenties or thirties, I wasn’t crazy about what I thought of this era of my life, which I quite like now that I’m here. Mayhap this will be the same?

    In my bad moments, I get depressed about the fact I’ll look back in my eighties and see how much time I lost in my forties to anticipatory grief. Basically, those chin whiskers mean I’m screwed. 😉

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