Mrs. Potato Head

Portrait of the Author as a Young Spud

I have always looked like I came from Russian peasant stock.  I have a face that looks like it was carved from a potato. My broad shoulders were designed for swinging a pickaxe through Siberian permafrost to get at root vegetables, and my hips are wide enough to bear a whole passel of fat babies.  My eyebrows complete the package.  They are thick and wild, with hairs like the legs of a Daddy Longlegs.  Think Leonid Brezhnev.  Think Bert on Sesame Street.  Think saddleback caterpillars.  It’s not a trait most American men look for in a mate.

As I got older, those long, crazy eyebrow hairs decided they were lonely.  They didn’t want to live on separate islands: they grew closer and closer together until one day they met, until death or hot wax do they part.  Then they had children, and the children decided to move out and set up facial hair colonies on my chin, cheeks, neck, and forehead.

Then I got even older, and my facial hair turned grey.   You might think this would be an advantage.  Surely, you say, a long, snaky grey hair isn’t quite as noticeable against my paper-pale skin as a long, snaky black-as-midnight hair would be. You’d be wrong.  These are 10 gauge silver wires, thick as tree trunks and shiny enough to reflect any bit of ambient light in the room.  Santa has a twinkle in his eye: I have a twinkle on my chin. It looks as if I have hot glued tinsel to my face. This does not look the least bit festive.  It looks like, in earlier times, I would have been burned at the stake as a witch. No doubt neighborhood kids, having caught a glance, warn their friends about me and my house, possibly on horseback with a lantern system, like Paul Revere warned Bostonians about the British.

These buggers are difficult to remove.  They are fat enough to only barely fit between the pincers of a tweezer.  I’m pretty sure they have wrapped their roots around my brain stem to anchor themselves.  More often than not, the tweezers slip free as I pull, curling my chin hairs like ribbons on a present.  No, if I’m going to tackle these babies, I need a pair of vice grip pliers.  I have to put my foot up against the bathroom sink to brace myself.

As obvious as these unwanted hairs are, they are just as hard to find when on the hunt. Getting all of them is like getting every mole in whack-a-mole. Impossible, and for every one you get, two spring back up in its place.  I believe they grow under the skin, only to pop out fully adult, like Athena bursting out of Zeus’ head.  I go on a hunt every morning and most evenings and still each time I manage to find a hair so long that it had to have been growing since we were all worried about Y2k.  I probably ought to use one of those magnifying mirrors.  I’ve tried them occasionally, when they happen to exist in hotel rooms, and they just horrify me.  Sometimes you shouldn’t examine your face quite so closely. I don’t  need to know that the pores on my nose look like the seeds on a strawberry.

There are advantages to massive amounts of middle aged facial hair.  Having a renewable-resource (sustainable growth?) goatee like I do, the visual is that much more effective when I stroke my chin like a supervillain hatching a plan to take over the world.  I can twirl my moustache like Snidely Whiplash. Growing that much hair that quickly has got to take a lot of calories, thus justifying my 3 p.m. salty snack habit.

I’ve given a lot of thought as to what evolutionary advantage this trait might have.  Lord knows it isn’t attractive, except maybe on certain creepy internet fetish sites, but internet fetish sites didn’t exist back when this particular part of my genetics got preserved by my foremothers.  Of course, this nonsense didn’t start happening in earnest until I was well past my childbearing years, so that’s not it either.  I think it goes back to the whole Russian peasant breeding stock thing.  Those Russian winters are cold, and were even colder in the days before polar fleece, natural gas furnaces, and seat warmers in mid-sized sedans. Back in the day you couldn’t run up to Big Box Store ‘R’ Us and buy yourself a cheap scarf and mittens when the temperature dropped.  There was no L.L. Bean catalog to assist you with your long john needs. Trappers caught and skinned anything with fur in order to make warm wraps to help people survive the winter.  Me?  I’d be all set. I could grow my own fur.  Winter, spring, summer, or fall, I never leave home without my home grown balaclava.

This might explain why I rarely wear a jacket or stop sweating for more than twenty minutes at a clip. Living as I do now, just outside of Atlanta, it’s not really a useful trait.  My American husband married me because of my other worthwhile qualities. But if I were to go back to when my great-great grandparents eked out a living scratching spuds out from the frozen Russian ground and spouses were picked for more practical reasons, maybe it would be a selling point.  “This one,” the matchmaker would say, elbowing a potential groom and jutting her chin in my direction, “Her face will never freeze. Her kisses will be warm on cold winter nights. She’s a hot potato, eh?”  And those marriage offers, they’d come rolling in.

If you enjoyed this and want to read more like it, visit Lori at her website, , on Twitter, or on Facebook. Lori is the Readers Favorite and eLit award winner for her latest release, “You Know I Love You Because You’re Still Alive.”  She is also the author of the bestselling books “Mismatched Shoes and Upside Down Pizza,” and “The Armadillo, the Pickaxe, and the Laundry Basket.


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