“Did you know it’s loosely based on P.T. Barnum’s life and the creation of his circus?”
“Some of those people were crazy! You should Google some of the real people who were in his circus.”
“Did you know the Bearded Lady actually had a beard?? Did you know there are still women around who have beards? That’s crazy. Just Google it. So crazy.”
When I was 16 years old, I started to notice a few weird, coarse hairs growing on my chin. They were random and isolated to one spot. I hated it, but I didn’t think it was a big deal. I tried to keep up with plucking them, but that was hard to do discreetly in the communal mirror of a high school girl’s locker room.
After early morning basketball practices, I would use my razor to shave the little spot before I exited the shower and put makeup on for school. Over the last few years of high school, the spot slowly grew, but I never told anyone, and figured it would go away eventually.
The hair pattern spread to semi-cover my lower chin, and the need to shave became more frequent until it was a daily requirement. Still, I never told anyone. I shaved in the morning before work, and again after work if there were plans with friends or if I had a date. I got really good at hiding it. My hairs are pretty blonde, thank God, so I’ve never had to battle with the 5 o’clock shadow that we adore in our male counterparts, but some women definitely do.
I’ve struggled with my weight for my entire life – out in the open, for everyone to see. But I’ve also struggled in private with the low self-esteem that comes from being a young girl, and now a grown woman, who has to shave her face every day. I eventually met the man of my dreams, but I never told him, either. I went to impressive lengths to keep my secret for as long as possible.
When I was in my early 30s, in preparation for our wedding, I bought a Groupon for laser hair removal. I’d never tried it, but figured I’d give it a shot. I arrived and spoke to the lovely nurse practitioner who would be doing my procedures over the course of 6 weeks, and upon inspection of my face and listening to me hesitantly answer her questions, she casually said, “Do you have PCOS?”
I’m sure I looked at her like she was speaking a foreign language. I responded, “PCO what?” She followed up with, “Have you talked to your gynecologist about this hair on your face?” Now, excuse me for being a 31-year-old woman and apparently thinking this was the dumbest question she could possibly ask me. Why would I talk to my OB/GYN about hair on my face? To my understanding, her area of expertise falls deep in my southern hemisphere. So, no, I’d never talked to my gyno about it. In fact, this complete stranger… this nurse practitioner at a completely random aesthetics spa I’d never stepped into before…was the only person I’d ever told.
We moved on, she completed my first (and subsequently unsuccessful) treatment, and I made an appointment with my gynecologist. Turns out, I do have it, and there isn’t a cure for it. Turns out, there’s only symptom management for PCOS. Turns out, cystic ovaries are painful. Turns out, it’s incredibly hard to lose weight. Turns out, it can make it very difficult to get pregnant.
Turns out, all of that comes as a bonus to growing &$%#ing hair on your face.
I was furious. Truth be told, I’m still furious. And embarrassed. And tired. Most people have a list of their biggest fears, which normally include public speaking, snakes, death, etc. Mine? Being seriously injured enough that I have to be hospitalized or sedated, while everyone watches me slowly turn into a werewolf under my ventilator tube. I have actual nightmares about it. I even made a pact with my best friend that she has to take care of my gross face if I’m ever in a coma. (#truestory)
It’s hard to be positive or share something inspirational about it. It’s hard to say “it’s nothing to be ashamed of” or “you’re beautiful just the way you are” or “embrace your flaws, sister!”, but the truth is… I wrote this anonymously on purpose. Because it sucks. And there are a lot of us out here, hiding in plain sight. So, if you are also struggling with the horrid symptoms of PCOS, just know that I see you, even if I don’t see the hair.
Yes, I cried during The Greatest Showman, too. But not for the same reasons you did.