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Out of the Mouths of Babes

Oh how I remember the sting of her comment — like a yellow jacket injecting me with a venom bringing instant pain and agony. It was the mid 1990s, and Savannah — one of our nieces — was just a toddler learning to talk and interact with our family. My sister worked with her, and through tireless repetition, helped her baby girl carefully enunciate each word slowly and carefully. When Savannah was very young, she was as cute — or cuter — than little Cindy-Lou Who from Dr. Seuss’ epic book and television special, “How the Grinch Stole Christmas.” Fair flawless skin. Thin wispy blond hair. Big blue eyes as large as saucers.

When we were together, I’d set Savannah on my lap like a China doll, wrap my arms around her, smother her with love and attempt to entertain her. It was on one of these “bonding” moments that sweet Savannah studied my face and smiled.

I smiled back. Then she lifted her tiny index finger to her top lip, tapped it, and said in her sweet little perfect voice, “Look! Aunt Amber has a mustache!”

Her words were perfectly clear, and devastating. Blood rushed into my cheeks as the family members present laughed. I reached up and felt the cotton-white peach fuzz barely visible on my upper lip and felt a wave — a tsunami — of embarrassment.

I was just shy of 30 years old, and up until that point in time, I had never considered removing the hair on my face. But young Savannah had spotted the hairs while scanning my face. I wondered if others in my life had noticed and failed to point out the issue to me, fearing that it was a sensitive subject that would bother or upset me. Perhaps my loved ones didn’t want to hurt my feelings.

Later that afternoon, I asked my husband, “Hey, can you see the hair on my lip? Does it look bad? Does it look like … a mustache?”

He rolled his eyes. “Are you still thinking about that?” he asked. “She’s just a baby. Babies say all kinds of things.”

I quickly realized that he had not answered my question.

And that’s the day I decided to start removing the light-colored peach fuzz on my face. I went to our neighborhood pharmacy and scanned the aisles until I found some Sally Hansen products. I didn’t need to bleach my hair. It was already light. I needed a product to “make it go away.”

I purchased some cream and went home. I locked myself in the bathroom, read the instructions and slathered the thick lotion all over my lower face, applying more to my lip area. I used a watch to monitor the time required for the concoction to eat away the fine hairs.

A few minutes later, I rinsed my face and dried it. My skin was tingly and numb. I looked in the mirror and realized that I could still see some hairs.

“Does this look any better?” I asked my husband.

He took the Fifth and refused to answer.

So the following day, I repeated the process. I rubbed the cream onto my face like I had seen my father lather on shaving cream. I sat on the side of our garden tub waiting for Sally Hansen to do her magic and make my facial hair vanish. I gave it an extra couple of minutes for good measure.

But on the second day, when I rinsed it off, I noticed that my face was red and somewhat “burned.”

“Oh, Lord,” I spoke to the mirror as I splashed more cold water onto my face, but the redness didn’t go away.

The next morning, I covered the discoloration and puffiness with foundation and powder. I thought I had done a fairly good job until my coworker, Phil, took one look at me and said, “What’s going on with your face?” continued from page

Twenty something years later, every time I wax my lip or pluck the hairs in between my eyebrows (I certainly don’t want a unibrow), my mind recalls my niece’s sweet voice saying, “Aunt Amber has a mustache.” Every time. She meant no harm by her comment. She was just stating the obvious. As they say, kids say the darnedest things. “One time, Savannah looked over at Mom lying down on the sofa in the family room and said, ‘Look! Grandmother looks like she’s about a million years old!” my sister reminded me last week.

Ouch. That’s much worse than what she said to me.

Savannah’s a beautiful young woman now. She’s married and has a great job in Atlanta. And she’s kind, generous, compassionate and would never say anything hurtful to anyone. The next time I see her, I plan to scrutinize her face and see if she, too, has a mustache. And if she does, I won’t say anything.

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