Unwanted hair has been on my mind a lot of late. Thinking on it this morning as I left the house, I was reminded of an experience – and important lesson – that befell me as a younger man.
I’d been on a date – a big deal for me to have got that far, as I was never the most forthright of suitors; the plucking up of the courage to ask her out took the best part of, well, you get the point. But, it was all fine, we went for a meal in a nice restaurant, and the date went well – not that sort of well, my bench was set as low as my confidence with her – and, most tellingly, I recall I did punch the air (it’s what one did) on my way back home that night.
Once home, I happened to check in the mirror. From my right nostril protruded a hair of preternatural blackness and girth – of inconceivable length – angled with the self-preserving forethought and cunning that had thus far ensured its dreadful progress remained undetected by me, its host.
I brought my reflection closer. The hair was quite markedly pointed, sharply, at its tip, and it kinked up there just a touch, with a tendril’s deliberate, reaching intent. An hour before it would have been pointed directly across the table at her. More recently than that it must have brushed her kissed-goodnight cheek – could it have poked her in the eye, then?
There are doubtless other ways of signalling one’s testosterone levels to a potential mate. But this way, it seemed, had been mine: a virulent and invasive singular sprouting of nasal hirsuteness, obscenely engorged with a compost of adrenalin, imagined post-dinner scenarios, and her extraordinary scent.
After a further mirrored minute’s contemplation of my bad mast, I took a-hold of it – I should like to write ‘with both hands’ – and readied myself for what was about to pass. These days, of course, I’d have taken a picture first and quite probably shared it moments later online with a captioned ‘ew!’ Back then, photos took a while, and, besides, the social ‘ew!’-ness of life was yet to come. But, all that said, here it is, now, in its online ‘ew!’ after all. I took a-hold of it, fingernail and thumbnail pinching just behind its pointed snout. It was a good grip, I knew it right away. I felt my own nervous and anaesthetising exhalations rush from my nostrils and over my braced knuckles. One clean tug, and then came the expected tears.
I held the black branch before me. Its length I knew, but what I had not foreseen was the shocking white bulk of its root-ball – resembling now, in a pleasing overlap of recall and retelling, one of the unhewn sugar lumps, here in the bowl of this village café. What a thing to have spawned, I marvelled, turning it in the light; but then knew myself well enough that that way lay the very real risk of my naming the beast, of keeping it – so I swilled it down the sink hole.
In the ensuing mental clarity that followed that evening’s second courage-slash-pluck initiative – and ‘the ensuing mental clarity’ is precisely what I described in that night’s diary entry, 1990 – I blinked away the tears and laughed. The sprout had been my ‘out’. Not the obvious, lewd fishing rod I’d feared, but an unconsciously conspiratorial, self-sacrificing and date-destroying… ‘ew!’
That air-punch, I realised, had been not for the evening, but for the evening’s being over.
Now she just had to get over me.
© Copyright, Steve Mitchell and Fisher Lane, 2012