The Hair on my Chinny Chin Chin

Looking in the mirror, I gasped. Under my chin was a long, dark hair. I reached for my tweezers.

As I tried to get the fine, single hair in a metallic pincer grasp, I remembered a phone conversation I once had with my mother.

My ninety-year old Grandma lived in an assisted living apartment, but she insisted she did not need any assistance. She wanted to be self-sufficient, just as she had always been. Her eyesight, however, was not cooperating. Her washed dishes were not as clean as they used to be. Dust, which never would have been tolerated in her younger years, collected on the antique furniture. She couldn’t see the fine, white hairs on her chin. “I want to pluck them for her!” Mom told me. Such a simple thing, and yet so difficult to bring up to Grandma.

Grandma was a stoic woman. She did not express emotions easily. When I saw her, I would hug her bony frame gently and tell her I loved her. “Mmm-hmmm,” she would say. As the family gathered around my dying grandfather’s bedside, tears flowed freely–except from Grandma. She wanted to explain herself. “I do feel sad, I just don’t cry,” she told me.


Growing up with stiff, seemingly unloving parents had been difficult for Mom. In her sixties, she was still intimidated by her own mother. But those long, white hairs on my grandmother’s chin bothered her. Every time Mom drove Grandma to get her hair done, or to the acupuncturist, or to buy groceries, she just wanted to pluck out them out! She was afraid, however, that she would offend Grandma if she brought it up.

A couple of days later, I heard from Mom again. “I did it!” she said.

“What did Grandma say?” I asked.

“She told me to never let her go out with chin hairs again!” Mom was relieved that Grandma had accepted her help.

Three years ago, just a couple of days after Thanksgiving, Grandma sat stoically in a chair. Her back was as straight as usual, her hands were folded in her lap. Staring at the casket in front of her, she did not have a tear in her eye. We all knew she was mourning her daughter in her own way.

Just three months later, we were saying goodbye to Grandma, each in our own way.

I stared in the mirror, wishing Mom had grown old. Wishing her eyesight had failed, her hands had grown shaky, so that I could pluck out her chin hairs for her.

I plucked; tears filled my eyes at the sudden pain. Too many tears for such a small, errant hair.

Mom, my sister, and Lily–Mom was laughing because she thought Lily was feeling her “chin whiskers.”
VOTY 2013
I’m honored that this essay was chosen as a Voice of the Year by BlogHer in 2013.


38 Replies to “The Hair on my Chinny Chin Chin”

  1. I thought you were going to write a comedic post for us today..what I ended up with was tears in my eyes. Such beauty in your heartfelt words. Sending hugs.

  2. What a beautiful post. So lovely. My heart strings have been tugged and I am so sorry for your loss. Your beautiful way with words honors both your mother and grandmother and touches hearts today. Thank you for sharing this.
    My recent post memories of paris

  3. I really enjoyed this post. There was so much love here. My grandmother was much the same in her old age. She didn't realize she had terrible whiskers and my aunt was the one who demanded she take care of her mother, but did so quite poorly. My mother and I always agonized over Grandma's whiskers, knowing she would have wanted someone to take care of them. She made my sister and I promise we wouldn't let her "look like a walrus," and then she sang "coo-coo-ca-choo." My mom is an interesting character, but we all want to go out with dignity, and deserve it. You honored your family very well in this charming, heart-felt post and I'm glad it was on the grid for me to read. πŸ™‚

  4. Gorgeous piece – I loved it. The end was so unexpected, as it must have been for you as well. I’m looking forward to reading more of your writing on the grid!

  5. My Grandma is 94, was a nurse at Pear Harbor and lives in a veteran's home now. During our last visit, she asked for one thing: face wax. God love her, I sent that package ASAP. She also told me that wearing my hair in a bun makes me look old–been wearing it down ever since!
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  6. Every time I feel those prickly hairs on my own chin, I will remember this and be grateful for what they mark – pregnancy and birth and time to enjoy the people who brought them to me as they come into their own.

  7. ((HUGS)) I have already told my children to make sure they pluck my chin hairs. I have also discovered that I have to use my reading glasses to clean, makes a huge difference. I always wondered why my aunts house never looked as clean as it use to. Don't get me started on her drinking glasses!!!!

  8. Your writing always amazes me.
    I love how you tied all the emotion together with something so simple.

    You look so much like your mother! I’m sure she would love this piece.

  9. Loved this! I probably loved it so much because I can totally relate!
    My 89 years old grandma still lives in her three story house. It is too much for her and she can’t keep it up in the way that she used to. She can’t see the cobwebs or the dust. She wants to still clean her own gutters and plant pots full of bulbs.

    She is a tough lady and she is tough on her family and to her family; however, I like to think that toughness is why she is still here πŸ™‚
    Mytwicebakedpotato recently posted…Those Painful WordsMy Profile

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