Vanity of the Bearded Lady

“You’re something of a handsome woman, Boss.”

My eyes drift to see the feline stretched lengthwise in front of the television as if willing the attention of the room to be drawn to her instead of the screen behind. She will not be upstaged.

“Beg pardon?” My thumb tucks between pages of the book I’m reading.

“There’s something distinguished about you. It could be the regal way you hold yourself or it could be that moustache. I’m not sure which. Either way, girl, you workin’ it.”

Insecurity overtakes my free will and I touch the area between my nose and upper lip. It doesn’t feel like there’s a grizzly moustache growing, but you never want to be the bearded lady who is unaware that she is the bearded lady. I toss the book on the table next to my water and grab my iPhone. The camera turns on so I can see myself in the screen. I approach from several angles, holding my face with my free hand so I can’t run away from myself to go cry in a corner.

She strokes her whiskers in a cavalier manner. “It’s mostly sprouting from the sides; with how long it’s getting, you’ve got kind of a fu-woman-chu. It’s pretty neat. And cultural.”

“You, talking with all those  awful words, are not making the situation any better.” The natural light helps illuminate the blonde hairs sprouting atop my lip. Oh god. It’s real. All that father/son time I spent working on cars with my pops and now I’m a man. I’m so sad for myself right now.

“My sincerest of apologies. I thought you knew. You stare at yourself in the mirror often enough.” Fat jumps down and wanders into the kitchen to start rooting through the junk drawer.

“Disaster. Such disaster.” I close the camera on my phone and go into my list of contacts until I find Stripped Wax Bar. It only rings once. I poorly conceal the frenzy in my voice. “Hi. I have a moustache. When is Heather free?”

“I could take care of that for you. We have duct tape, right?” Fat pilfers through the random hodgepodge of spools of thread, empty keychains, matchbooks, and hordes of extra ikea parts. She’s not a quiet rustler so I have to amplify my voice.

“Nothing sooner?”

A triumphant paw lifts high into the air holding a roll of the industrial tape. “Eureka! Boss, we’re in business.”

Oh. My. God. No.

“It’s okay; Thursday is fine.” I watch as Fat starts picking at the end of the roll of tape, “I’ll just hide behind a hand fan like a debutante or geisha until then. Thanks, bye.”

I groan and my head hits the back cushion of the couch. It’s a good forty seconds of silence before Fat leaps up beside me and forces her head under my hand for a pet. I sit up, reach for the glass on the table and sit there sipping while I scratch the feline’s head.

Fat’s eyes close with contentment. “I shouldn’t have said anything. It’s probably hard enough to deal with being pregnant without me making you feel self-conscious about your hairy face.” In the midst of relaxation, her head lolls to the side.

I choke on my water. “What?”

“Aren’t you…” Her inquisitive green eyes open and travel to my stomach region. “My mistake. Big lunch, right? You’re probably just bloated.”

I Know My Rank; I Don’t Make the Podium

“Tell me how much you loved the Mother’s Day gift I gave you.”

My fingers string more words together as I look up from the laptop screen. This moment is exactly the reason I learned to type properly; my fingers can keep clicking along so I can offer the cat a quizzical expression and not miss a beat.

“So help me, Fat, if you are referring to the gross state of your litter box…”

My hands lift away from the keys. I interlace my fingers and lean back in the office chair, eyes still glued to the feline.

The grey fur ball shrinks shamefully from where she sits beneath the desk, mimicking a shy turtle. “I was having digestive issues, lactose intolerance, perhaps. I wasn’t talking about that though, boss.”

I sit cross-legged in the chair. “What on earth are you talking about, then? Mother’s Day was yesterday. I’d also like to verbally acknowledge that I’m not your mother.”

Fat scowls. “Nice, lady. I thought I was being very considerate given the fact that you’re barren.”

Confusion paints my face like whore makeup. I feel the crease in my forehead. “I’m not barren…”

“Can’t keep a man, can’t have babies,” Fat speaks over me until she’s murdered my sentence. “It’s a good thing you have me around since nobody else is here to love you. Mutt doesn’t count, he’s not always here.”

With a little coercion, the chair beneath me reclines slightly. I clamp my dry lips together to keep untamed phrases from finding their freedom. She’s trying to get a rise out of me; she’s a genuine supporter for the ban on boyfriends.

Fat continues, “I can’t believe you didn’t appreciate my selflessness yesterday. Honestly, I’m kind of hurt you didn’t acknowledge my thoughtful gift.”

A puff of air expels from my lungs. “Sorry, Fat. I didn’t see anything around here that seemed gift-like.” Please don’t let this gift be a dead mouse or collection of dead flies. I cringe and scope the area to see if any rodent or insect carcasses are visible from my vantage point.

“That’s the point. You didn’t see me at all. I gave you the gift of solitude. You’re always nattering on and on how you need space. You’re welcome.” Fat’s fangs show with her delighted smile. She’s not pretending to be thoughtful; she genuinely tried with this one. It’s a gift that I love, but I have a bad feeling I won’t actually get to use.

“Just to clarify,” I clear my throat and lean on the armrests as I stare down from my throne. “This isn’t something that I can use on another day?”

“You didn’t notice?” Fat’s tiny face shatters with disappointment. “I hid beneath the bed all day long.”

I save the draft of the email I was composing and close the window.

“Fat, I went to see my Mom. It was Mother’s Day.”

“Oh, that’s right.” Fat’s sullen face brightens once again as though her facial expressions are controlled by a switch getting flicked back and forth with somebody suffering from OCD. “How did you ruin it this year?”

I wince. Me ruining Mother’s Day has become an accidental tradition. Last year I came up with the brilliant idea to try and get Mom to rank her six kids in order of most to least favourite. When she refused, I got the siblings to put it to a vote. I came in fifth… didn’t even make the podium.

On the ground, Fat bobs left and right to try and gain my eye contact.

“There was an incident with a thoughtless one-liner that came out of my mouth. Unfortunately, it turns out that the deflowering of one of my younger sisters wasn’t public knowledge. Suffice it to say, it’s public knowledge now.” I’m not sure it helped matters that she wasn’t around when the line came out of my mouth, so when she got home from work I ran out of that house like hell. Hope my stepdad found his humour about the situation…

“I see. You brought TNT to the party and left when the fuse was lit but hadn’t reached the point of explosion. Nice. That would give you sixth place this year, I reckon.” Fat rolls onto her side and laughs with immense satisfaction. “You’re tactless nature is my favourite, boss.”

“No medal for sixth place, but a participation ribbon at the very least I should think.”

“Point of optimism: there’s nowhere to go from here but up.”