Discover more from How Not to F*ck Up Your Face
a ghost story
“Ask Val” answers your urgent questions, Vol. 11
Yes, you, in the double mask and scrubs, waving—what is that, a surrender flag?
Q: I know you’ve written about this before but I’ve been so busy taking care of other people I haven’t had time for myself. When I remove my masks, I’m plagued (excuse the expression) by my mustache. Can you help?
A: A heroine! A real-life heroine! Thank you for your service!
Good day—Marian Halcombe here. I’m guest editing HNTFUYF this week, as your Usual Correspondent takes several days off to catch up on her summer reading. For those (few) of you unacquainted with my persona, I shot to fame as the fictional heroine of a serialized story recounting the somewhat complicated but thrilling years preceding my perpetual residence here in Cumberland at Limmeridge House. Some have mistakenly thought I myself was the woman in white; I say with no small measure of relief I was not. I humbly admit the writer John Sutherland has called me one “of the finest creations in all of Victorian fiction,” but I hasten to add that another description has haunted me this century and a half, which is undoubtedly why your Usual Correspondent has engaged me here.
About that second, haunting description: It was none other than my dearest friend Walter, who upon first meeting me, focused his attention (for some inexplicable reason) on my facial hair, namely my mustache. Reader, I do not have an abundance of facial hair! And when I read Walter’s description (thinking, entre nous, What in the actual fuck?) I found it—I will not use the word ungenerous, as there is not an ungenerous bone in his body—unenlightened. Dear, dear Walter; it was almost as if he were unable to ascribe to me the forthright aspects of my character (“bright, frank, and intelligent”) without over-emphasizing minor physical traits that might link me to his sex. As I said: not ungenerous, only unenlightened. I have been working on him steadily for these 160 years and he seems to be progressing in his understanding of what you call gender equality.
However, I am here today to admit I’ve chosen to relieve myself of my mustache (faint as it may be) and to share with you the means of my success.
I could, following Walter’s example, have shaved. My esteemed doctors told me the regrowth might feel a wee bit coarser. But because I am olive-skinned and the faint hair on my face is dark, unlike my fair sister Laura, I chose to have three to five of what you call “laser hair removal treatments.” (I have no words for this, literally no words.) “Laser” hair removal doesn’t work on white, blonde, red, or light hair. Which means that Walter will have to continue to ignore the downy fuzz on Laura’s upper lip—if he has indeed noticed it, though I doubt he has, as he has never once mentioned it among his adoring descriptions of her. I have seen a bona fide MD for an evaluation: One must be extraordinarily careful, as the wrong type of “laser” can cause post inflammatory hyperpigmentation (a dark stain) or burn. But the “1064 NdYag laser”—I trust there is a scientific reason for this alien moniker—works well to remove dark hair on darker skin. I will need maintenance treatments every few months, and if I cannot find a convenient transport to London, I will use my newfangled Dermaflash. Or, for the occasional stray hair, electrolysis—a procedure in which the hair follicle is destroyed by heat through an electrical current. “Lasers!” Electrical currents! The future is now!
So I have spoken. In writing these last words I have written all I know about removing facial hair. Let your Usual Correspondent pick up here with her summer reading recommendations, presented in random order.
All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr. A Pulitzer Prize-winner being developed into a Netflix limited series.
The Woman in the Moonlight by Patricia Morrisroe. During the time I was reading this historical novel about a woman who may have been one of Beethoven’s muses, I was simultaneously listening to the terrifically fun, music-appreciation podcast Sticky Notes, which happened to be reviewing Beethoven’s sonatas. The book, along with the podcast, gives a satisfyingly multidimensional Beethoven experience.
The Five of Hearts: An Intimate Portrait of Henry Adams and His Friends, 1880-1918 by Patricia O’Toole. A finalist for the Pulitzer, this book instantly drops you into the brilliantly colorful lives of five privileged players of the Gilded Age. I learned more about U.S. history in the first 50 pages than I did in four years of high school (which isn’t actually saying much).
Mike Nichols: A Life by Mark Harris. When I finished, I wanted more of Nichols and May. Among many other clips, I found it here and here. Also, the most brilliant salute May gave for Nichols here. And then, one afternoon as I walked home from Central Park, I found myself behind two thin old women, walking and chatting animatedly, shoulder-length hair flying wildly in the breeze. Even from behind, they were interesting. As I gained on them, I recognized an unmistakable voice. I couldn’t see their faces till I walked ahead and turned to them awkwardly. Was it Elaine May? I was only 95% sure. But she said, “What???” in an impossibly Elaine May way. Me: Duh. “You’re a genius,” I said, stupidly. “Thanks for all the laughs.” Maybe-Elaine-May gave me a completely unreadable look. (Who does she think I am? Who does she think she is?) Finally, she said, “Thank you,” releasing me. I ran away.
Val Asks You
Don’t be shy! What’s your most vexing or intractable appearance issue? Send me your beauty-related questions. If I don’t have a good answer, I’ll find someone who does.