Monday, November 2, 2015

My life as a bearded lady and learning to Love it

My name is Annalisa, I am 30 years old and a female living my life with a beard.

You heard me right: a true life, 100% authentic bearded lady!  I'd like to back up and tell you a little about my life and how it has led to me finally accepting my body as it is.

My mother always had a weird aversion to body hair, often claiming that body hair is dirty and should be removed. I remember when I was 11 or maybe 12 she told me that I had to shave myself because I was stinky and dirty. She stood over me/nearby while I was in the shower and told me I had to shave. I cried while she watched to make sure I shaved my pubic region, underarms and legs. From then on, I was expected to keep clean shaven and keep myself 'clean' from hair. At that moment, a seed of self-shame came into play. 

At 13 or so, my mother came up to me, screaming about how I must have shaved my face and how stupid I was for shaving my face. I had no idea what she was talking about, since I never shaved my face in my life and saw no reason to. I was also confused as to how it was bad, since I was expected to shave the rest of my body already. My mom thought that since the hair along my jaw/neck/upper lip was darkening, that I MUST have shaved it. When I finally convinced her and my dad that I, in fact, had not shaved then I was told it had to be removed. I had to shave it from then on out.

My mother wanted to 'cure' me of this apparently shameful stigma. I was brought to doctors, dermatologists and ultimately told that I should have laser hair removal done, as it was the only 'permanent' option. After several treatments, my mom decided that it was too expensive. I was thankful, because the treatments were severely painful and leaving burns on my skin, and there had been no change to my growth. In fact, I saw more hair growth after treatments.

It was also during this time frame I was diagnosed with PCOS and told I would probably never have children. When asked questions about addressing this issue, the doctors told me that they wouldn't be treating me until I was ready to try having children. Which never made sense to me!

My ritual since then had always been to shave my face before I leave the house.Over time, it turned into shaving up to three times a day, and often ended in tears because of the never ending and soul crushing ritual. This was the ritual for a few years.

In November of 2012, I started a new job working for Target. Face shaven, makeup mask on, hair down, I struggled during training coming to terms with working in this public space again and wondered how I would shave my face on breaks. Over the last year or so, I had been dealing with an increasing amount of stress and anxiety, and the way I dealt with it was to try and hide-to pretend it didn't exist.

One day I just didn't want to go to work. I didn't want to shave anymore. I wanted to hide. My husband had been helping me wax, pluck, sugar-whatever he could do because that's what he thought I needed. I think he realized that this was killing me, hating something so much about myself. He realized helping me wasn't helping me.
He told me, just stop. What will happen if you just stopped? You can pick that razor up again if you need to, but why not give yourself a rest? Your skin a rest, your stress over it, the worry, the crying. Just take a break.

I felt like someone gave me permission to love myself, or at least to try to love something I never was allowed to accept. It didn't happen overnight-I would let my hair grow for a day or two and then freak out because I was afraid people could tell. If I went to work without shaving, I felt brave in the face of extreme fear. No one ever brought it up, but it helped me to just...tell someone about my struggle-to give an excuse for the horrible way I looked. Soon, it turned into less of a shameful 'sorry for my ugly self," and turned into a way to educate people and allow myself to say what it is I struggled with in my life.

Over time, I felt empowered. I still struggle with self doubt and self confidence issues but the difference is, I have the self awareness to know that I am better than how I treated myself back then.

My story is far from over.

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