how do i tell female relative about faical hair problem?
August 21, 2006 6:55 PM   Subscribe

A close family female member in her mid 50s has let herself go - I know this isn't 1950s but she has long facial hairs on her chin and her eyebrows are out of control. She does care about her appearance cause she still dresses reasonably well.. do I or do I not tell her about the hair problem? and if so how on earth do I say it without making her feel awful? I feel like a sh*t for asking this but I can't bear to see a smart, lovely woman acting like she is 80 when she isn't.
posted by wigmore to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (33 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Could you arrange a spa day for the two of you? Get your hair done, manicures, oh yea, and facial waxing.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 6:59 PM on August 21, 2006 [2 favorites]

I had something similar with my mom. I casually brought up the new tweezers I'd bought, all "between us girls"-like. She got the hint.
posted by desuetude at 6:59 PM on August 21, 2006 [1 favorite]

both good ideas!! thank you
posted by wigmore at 7:03 PM on August 21, 2006 [1 favorite]

If you're a guy though, you can't do anything. Period.
posted by crabintheocean at 7:21 PM on August 21, 2006

Could you tell a little fib and say something jokey like, "I have a facial wax every month. If it weren't for my standing appointments at Red Door, I would be forced to join the circus."

She may have a laziness problem. It could be a vision problem also--maybe she doesn't see the hair like others do.

Some women don't like spa treatments. If this is the case for your family member, have a girls night with the wax, some Tweezerman's, and a lighted magnetic mirror. Poetic waxing is the best. It smells so good and doesn't burn or hurt as bad as drugstore wax.

Good luck.
posted by LoriFLA at 8:13 PM on August 21, 2006 [1 favorite]

I was also wondering if maybe she just can't see as well as she used to. I agree with LoriFLA and ThePinkSuperhero.
posted by 6:1 at 8:22 PM on August 21, 2006

I second the spa idea. Also, do you know if she has some vision problems that she isn't taking care of? If she's getting a little farsighted, she may not see some of those exta hairs when she's doing her personal grooming. I'd try bringing up her eyesight, maybe ask whether she's ever worn glasses, or if she has, if she's noticed her prescription getting a little blurry. Then, maybe post-spa, giving her a lighted magnifying mirror as a gift.
posted by maryh at 8:23 PM on August 21, 2006

What makes you think she hasn't got a mirror?

Maybe she's decided she doesn't care about shaving/plucking anymore.

Why are her grooming choices any of your business?
posted by ottereroticist at 8:28 PM on August 21, 2006

I don't buy the vision argument. As a man I am reminded daily of the length of practically every hair on my face just by running my hand over it. If you've got long hairs on your chin you really can't help but feel them, or so I would think.

I agree with people that have said "she just doesn't care any more." Maybe she's worried that if she starts waxing or removing them that she'll be forced to continue doing this forever, and she doesn't want that kind of obligation.
posted by Rhomboid at 9:05 PM on August 21, 2006

No, I think the eyesight thing could be an issue -- and it might not even be that her eyesight is declining. I say this because after my sister got Lasik surgery a few months ago, she said that one of the funny side effects of no longer being as insanely nearsighted as she used to be (read: as nearsighted as I still am) was that she couldn't see her pores/facial hairs as well as she could previously -- and so plucking had become surprisingly difficult. ("I used to wonder how on earth any woman could go around with any visible hairs on their chin or their eyebrows all a mess, and now I know," she laughed.)
posted by scody at 9:12 PM on August 21, 2006

Okay, but in that case she knows about it but chooses not to do anything about it, because she's unable to pluck them -- which was my point entirely. What I was trying to say was that it'd be impossible not to know that the hairs were there, even if you were blind.
posted by Rhomboid at 9:51 PM on August 21, 2006

No, you can not know a hair is there because you can't see it. This happens to me all the time--a fine, soft hair appears out of nowhere, and I don't realize it's growing out of like, the middle of my cheek or the side of my throat, until I switch out for a new pair of contact lenses.

And I am *obsessive* about plucking. Bright lights, magnifying mirror, arsenal of tweezing apparati, the works.

You can feel a stubbly little new-growth hair, but you can't always feel one of those stealth hairs that's been sneaking up on you for a while.

I vote for eyesight being a problem here.
posted by padraigin at 10:23 PM on August 21, 2006

I would place a second vote here for "none of your business", but if you do bring it up, try to do it directly. Giving her a lighted magnifying mirror is pretty strong gesture, and might backfire.
posted by jokeefe at 10:28 PM on August 21, 2006 [1 favorite]

What I was trying to say was that it'd be impossible not to know that the hairs were there, even if you were blind.

Sure, if you're a guy with a full face of whiskers. You may have noticed that most women don't have those, and so even for the most obsessive pluckers among us (I'm like padraigin -- I check twice a day in bright light), the stealth hairs absolutely do sneak up. If you're not checking obsessively and/or your eyesight isn't sharp that close up, then it's even easier for it to happen.
posted by scody at 10:36 PM on August 21, 2006

I check twice a day in bright light

Holy crap. I feel so at home in this thread. I am not crazy! Or at least, I am crazy in a large, well-respected group. I vote for day at the spa. It might be that she just isn't feeling really special and pretty and sexy and so it manifests on her lack of chin grooming. Since she is dressing in a manner that suggests she cares about these things, I think it would be kosher to bring it up but, like others before me have said, make it feel like you are bringing her into the fold of fellow pluckers, not singling her out as a bearded freak. Spa treatment might make her feel all beautified and womanly, a pleasant thing if you like that sort of thing (like hairy me).
posted by Foam Pants at 11:25 PM on August 21, 2006 [2 favorites]

Giving her a lighted magnifying mirror is pretty strong gesture, and might backfire.

Buy two. Say you found them on sale really cheap, so you bought two and you'd like to give one to aunty. If it's a wall-mounted thing, mount it for her. When she visits you, she'll see the same mirror in use at your place. You can joke about how this will help with the problem we all have with getting hairier and hairer.

And do the day at the spa, after you've done the mirror bit. She'll come home from the spa, look in the mirror, and feel good.

If that doesn't work, quote Macbeth to her: "you should be women, / And yet your beards forbid me to interpret / That you are so."

(Also, semi-eponysterical: wigmore)
posted by pracowity at 1:43 AM on August 22, 2006

Have you thought that maybe she *wants* to leave the hairs there? Sometimes, I leave mine. I make a point. It's not my problem. It's other people who have a problem with me having chin hairs, not me.

Why not just ask her about them? If you're female, it's much easier. If you're male, then tread *very* carefully.
posted by lemonpillows at 1:50 AM on August 22, 2006

As a woman who only shaves the leg bits every few months and the underarm bits slightly more often, I kind of find this thread offensive. Now that my leg hair is finally visible (It was blond and fine until three or four months ago, and not many people noticed it) people freely point out that I "need a shave." Frankly, a shave represents time that I'd rather spend sleeping in the morning and razors that I'd rather not see end up in landfills.

So feel free to point out to Aunty that she's got the witchy whiskers, but if she rebuffs you, or is offended, don't hound her about it. Odds are she hasn't been bothering you to get that(insert ridiculous cosmetic procedure of your choice here) taken care of.
posted by bilabial at 2:30 AM on August 22, 2006 [2 favorites]

Whether or not it's your business depends on how close you are. I also go for the eyesight thing (my mother's eyesight has deteriorated as she's grown older, and as a result her eye makeup choices are a bit on the wacky side).

But! A word of warning. While a spa day is a nice idea, if she IS nearsighted, she MAY NOTICE NOTICE ANY DIFFERENCE.

So, if you are going to make it your business, back up the spa day with a solid hint. Throw the last sentence of your original post in there, too. She'll take it in the right context.
posted by unmusic at 3:14 AM on August 22, 2006

I used to go YEARS without bothering with hair removal, and no I'm not a hippy. That said, over the last few years I've done a lot of work in the spa industry and have become rather fond of being professionally hair free and receiving comments on how fabulous my eyes look (after I've had my brows done).

So, I'd go with you treating her to a trip to the spa. Maybe treat her to a full facial, with the hair removal as an extra. Tell the staff what you've told us. Beauticians are trained in gently suggesting treatments to their clients without being offensive. Toss in a massage or a manicure or a pedicure too. You say she still dresses well, but maybe she is feeling a little down, and all of those things should perk her up a bit and leave her feeling better about herself.
posted by goshling at 3:34 AM on August 22, 2006 [1 favorite]

I think it's absolutely none of your business to comment on this to someone and I'm appalled that you think you have the right, nay the duty, to do so. To me this is indeed sexist and you are indeed behaving like it's the 1950s.

So your relative can't be arsed torturing herself with wax strips or tweezers. (Have you tried these processes of hair removal?) Perhaps she has better things to do? Perhaps she doesn't like what's involved in these processes and doesn't feel the need to do these things to herself to gain other people's approval. That's a matter for her. I often neglect things like this when I'm busy on a piece of research or otherwise absorbed, and when I need or want to smarten up, I smarten up.

If you think she has issues with her eyesight, then address her eyesight. If you think she has issues with overwork or depression leading her to neglect herself, then address those and ask how her work is going. But please do not wade on on this. I am as short sighted as a bat, but believe me I can see hairs in a mirror and I know that there are going to be people like you who judge me for it, because I'd rather spend my time on doing useful and interesting things I like, rather than painfully primping myself in front of a mirror.
posted by Flitcraft at 6:54 AM on August 22, 2006 [1 favorite]

She probably doesn't care and you shouldn't either. Leave the woman be.
posted by Tarrama at 7:13 AM on August 22, 2006

I'd leave the issue alone and spend some time thinking about how and why you feel uncomfortable around something completely natural.
posted by 10ch at 7:23 AM on August 22, 2006

See, I would like to be told if I were her. Maybe I wouldn't or couldn't do anything about whatever the target of whispering is, and maybe I'd tell you to bugger off, but I think if I could choose right now, that I would rather people let me know that my X (hairy nose, warty neck, flabby belly, nasty teeth, giant protruding ears, fright-wig hair, glasscracking singing, etc.) is actually bad enough to worry people. I would rather be told, even if finding out pissed me off ("Fucking people are so shallow!").

And maybe to her it is a bit like walking around with a zipper or button undone -- when she finds out by herself, she'll be angry no one had the decency to tell her.

But if I did it, I'd still try to make her feel like she discovered it on her own if possible. Surreptitiously present her with a means of discovery and let her discover it. Then if she still doesn't care, that's her decision.
posted by pracowity at 7:37 AM on August 22, 2006 [2 favorites]

I'm torn between telling you to mind your own beeswax and wanting to know what's in other people's tweezing 'arsenals.'
Seriously. Ihave a good pair of tweezerman tweezers that and a good magnifying mirror. What else are people using for eyebrow maintainence (my own eyebrows are like star crossed lovers, and I am the cruel fate that must keep them apart).
I guess it comes down to this. I think getting a nice spa lady to suggest it sounds best. If your aunt doesn't like it she can curse that bitchy spa lady out during the car ride home and you can say, "I know Auntie, some people are such prissy little bitches." But if your aunt does go for it you can say "WOW, Auntie your eyes look HUGE and your skin looks GORGEOUS." Positive reinforcement!
posted by Sara Anne at 8:12 AM on August 22, 2006 [1 favorite]

If you don't want to go the spa route, a more simple way to do things (and a way that would let you know what her feelings are) would be to find a private moment and say "Hey, I just noticed that you have a stray hair on your chin, do you want me to pull it out for you?" Have tweezers available. Comment about how hard it can be to do yourself sometimes. (This is true, some hairs are hard to get at with tweezers in a mirror.)

And be thankful it's not nose hairs. Someone once told my mom that it was her duty to inform my aunt that she needed to trim her nose hair.
posted by needs more cowbell at 8:18 AM on August 22, 2006

I'm sort of sad that no one seems to know that this is one of the usual side effects of menopause, thanks to the major hormonal changes that take place. She may not know how to take care of the hair because it may not have been a problem for her before, or she may be trying to keep up with it using her old routines, which are no longer working like they used to. A lot of women have a pretty rude surprise when they hit their 40s or 50s - a quick check and pluck every day or two no longer does the job, from what I've heard. Add in a bit of eyesight deterioration, and there you go.

Telling her definitely opens up the possibility of making her feel bad or even resentful of you. If you absolutely must do something, a spa trip is probably the best option. She may have gradually gotten used to the new contours of her eyebrows and a reshaping may help her decide to continue maintenance, and the attention to her chin area may remind her to check there more often. But maybe not. Tweezing sucks (especially when it feels like the hairs are growing back as fast as you pluck) and you can't make anyone do anything they don't want to do, so try to stop obsessing over it when you look at her. Odds are a lot of other people aren't noticing it like you are - these things are always more noticeable once you start thinking about them, and people don't usually look at coworkers, acquaintances or strangers as closely as their loved ones.

And she may be well aware, and just has her priorities elsewhere. It's not so crazy. Being interested in your appearance isn't an on/off switch - some people are into fashion, others focus on makeup, diet or hygiene. "Letting yourself go" is an overly simplistic concept, one that's more judgmental (and often sexist) than most people deserve.
posted by pekala at 9:04 AM on August 22, 2006 [1 favorite]

My mom was glad I told her. She'd not bothered to pluck that weird hair that grows out of her mole partially because she didn't think that anyone bothered to look at her. (Because she's older no-one cares what she looks like...was the assumption) She thanked me for reminding her that she cares about her appearance, and that she does feel better about herself when she makes the effort.

I left it up to the male relatives to remind each other to trim their nose hair.
posted by desuetude at 9:11 AM on August 22, 2006

Thank you to all the people who gave me some good advice - I am going to possibly take her to a spa as that sounds like the nicest way and a special treat for a special lady. I think she just doesnt see them - having found a rather long hair of my own the other day

All the people who told me to mind my own business - thanks for nothing - stop judging me for asking a question how to help my older relative - I wasnt asking how to humilate her just some advice. Jeepers.... perhaps you should re-read the note at the bottom of the posting window.. "Ask MetaFilter is as useful as you make it. Please limit comments to answers or help in finding an answer. Wisecracks don't help people find answers. Thanks."
posted by wigmore at 12:10 PM on August 22, 2006

PS: I am a woman for the people who accused me of being sexist.
posted by wigmore at 12:11 PM on August 22, 2006

A woman doesn't want to spend her time tweezing or waxing out hair, so she's 'let herself go' and is acting like she's in her eighties? These aren't derogatory, sexist comments, because you're a woman? Sorry, but they are.

Pointing out something is a terrible idea and offensive is not a wisecrack. I hope your relative is gracious and doesn't tell you to where to stick your spa vouchers, because I would.
posted by Flitcraft at 2:24 PM on August 22, 2006 [1 favorite]

Uh, MeTa?
posted by baylink at 3:09 PM on August 22, 2006

Original question included: "do I or do I not tell her about the hair problem?"

Follow-up from original poster: "All the people who told me to mind my own business - thanks for nothing"

They were answering one of the questions you asked. And as Flitcraft said, "pointing out something is a terrible idea and offensive is not a wisecrack."
posted by litlnemo at 10:48 PM on August 24, 2006

« Older Looking for an "easy" graduate school program to...   |   How to catalog a print collection for sale Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.