There was a period of about 10 years during which I dyed my beard and mustache. This wasn’t vanity, but rather that the gray came in so lopsided that the asymmetry drove me crazy. From a distance it looked like a lizard was clinging to my upper lip, with most of its tail dangling down one side. I don’t know if it’s the OCD tendencies that accompany my autism or if this would be equally disturbing to neurotypicals, but when the gray was all on one side it was hard to reconcile my image in the mirror as being me. So I colored it and all was well in the mirror again.
Not that all was well everywhere. As a kid I used to tease my mom about coloring her hair and said I would never do that. I’m definitely a function-before-form guy as anyone whose known me for a while knows based on my choice of cars. Also, once the dysmorphia is under control it’s hard to remember just how disruptive it was. In my head I knew this was necessary but my heart kept nagging me that it was purely cosmetic and driven by vanity.
The worst part though was the lingering feeling of inauthenticity. White roots made the dye job obvious so you knew I was something other than what I portrayed, and I knew you knew, and that bugged me. It bugged me a whole lot less than the lopsided lizard lip look, so I lived with it.
Every so often over the years I would let my beard and mustache go natural enough to check the progress. All gray yet? Nope. Somewhat symmetrical? Nope. Oh well. Bust out the dye.
Then about 6 months ago during one of these checks it kept passing the “is it symmetrical enough” test until it was completely natural. Still not completely gray but at least no longer reptilian. Most important, I recognized the guy staring back out of the mirror as me. The real me.
Today the ‘stache is mottled white. There are two prominent dark streaks but they are mostly symmetrical so I can deal. And, yeah, I rock this look. After a decade feeling like I was deceiving people or succumbing to vanity, I could finally relax and just be myself again. Queue the long, satisfied sigh of relief.
Tonight my wife walked up close and gazed into my face intently. She then reached up and stroked both sides of my mustache. I’m from a demonstrative Italian family and she’s not so I was kinda enjoying the intimacy of her touch, and wondering where she was going with this. She stroked both sides again.
“Hmmmm…It’s always thicker on this side” she announced, pointing to the left side of my face. “I think this side grows faster.”
“Oh shit.” She had realized what she had just done. “I was just kidding!”
By now I was frantically running my fingers through my mustache. “You didn’t sound like you were kidding! This side is thicker, isn’t it? I can feel it!”
“No you can’t,” she said. Then, “I’m going to bed.”
“THIS IS NOT A SOLVABLE PROBLEM!” I yelled back. By now I was in the downstairs bathroom counting hairs in the mirror. “Come help me with this!”
“No can do,” she replied. “Matt’s coming tomorrow for a sleepover and I gotta get to sleep on time. You can have the whole weekend to yourself to figure out how to handle it.”
The side she thinks is thicker is the side with the giant scar that goes all the way through my upper lip. If I shave it off it’ll be even less symmetrical due to the scar. Coloring won’t help.
I think I’ve figured out a solution but it involves tying a shitload of teeny, tiny red ribbons onto individual hairs before going to the laser depilatory clinic. And, I suppose, convincing the clinic not to throw me out on sight.