A hair’s breadth away

Talk about a 13-year-old's worst nightmare. All around me, friends sculpted mustaches, applied cheap, musky deodorant and showed off shaggy armpits. Meanwhile, my pituitary was waiting for a jumpstart.

My dad tried to offer some words of comfort. "I was a late bloomer too," he told me over the courtesy beer provided the world over for this kind of chat. "Don't worry. It'll happen, and the good news is you'll be laughing back when you're my age."

The long-awaited buzzer finally went off late in my 16th year, but with fairly disappointing results. Granted, my height jumped to nearly 6 feet, the adolescent pudge stretched out and I finally got a taste of the body odor I'd always dreamed of.

But the thick, luscious Cro-Magnon fur never materialized. There was no heavily carpeted chest, only sparse underarm hair, and here I am at nearly 33 years of age and still waiting for that oily, black mustache to make an appearance.

The hair drought was bodywide, and some could argue that my legs were hardest hit. For nearly 10 years, I endured misguided jabs accusing me of shaving them.

"D'you use your mom's razor last night Sands?" a Sasquatch would laugh.

"At least, he's shavin' somethin'," his Neanderthal cronie would answer.

When the sprouts actually took root and darkened my thighs and calves, they were confused with slight shadows. But I wasn't complaining. I counted the growth as a definite milestone, credit to the little hair follicles that could.

Six years ago, my thinly populated legs got a break when I purchased my first road bike. "At last, true acceptance," they cried while pedaling next to similarly naked appendages. Then the unthinkable happened - the ice man cometh. In what I can only term biological rebellion, the leg hair actually started growing one day.

I noticed only after my riding buddy turned the tables on me. "You're probably gonna want to shave those things," he said in disgust.

When I asked "why," the response was less than satisfactory. "Why?" he chuckled back. "Well, for speed of course."

An image of an Australian time trial maestro flashed in my mind. Yes, his legs were shaved, but he also sported a speed sucking, heavy-duty, beard of Garcia proportions. Consequently, my leg hair stayed, and light shag and all, I managed to consistently beat my buddy and his Nair-damaged limbs to Hesperus, Silverton, Vallecito and many other points of skinny tire interest.

Not surprisingly, he eventually left me for a new partner who could share in his tales of razor burn horror. "You know, men's hair removal products just aren't practical for a decent leg shave," I imagined them saying on a spin out to Trimble.

Meanwhile, the hair continued to grow until it was almost thick enough to fit in at my old ninth grade locker room. "My God! How do you ride with those things?" another riding partner asked in horror. "Aren't you afraid of road rash?"

I shrugged, upped the cadence and thought back to all the skinned knees and the two times I'd dumped my road bike on black top. Maybe, there's a little something to that one, I thought. But then I thought again. This leg hair had been in the cooker for more than 30 years. A little rip and rub wasn't going to be the end of it.

Then, I finally heard something resembling a strong argument for lathering up and doing the deed. "You just feel faster," a riding pal said through the sick grin that comes from pedaling five days a week throughout January.

"Why not?" I asked myself. "It's only hair, barely there and only ever been trouble."

Concealed behind two closed doors, I put a fresh blade on the razor and lathered each leg until it was thick and white. I could almost hear Aretha in the backdrop, belting out, "You make me feel ... you make me feel ... you make me feel like a natural ... ."

Then the door popped open, just seconds before the first, fatal swipe and the destruction of the saplings I'd long nurtured. There, chuckling in the opening, was my almost 3-year-old daughter Skyler and a heavy sense of teen-age déjà vu. "That's mom's cream DaDa. Put it back," she lectured and then left to file a full report with my better half.

That moment of truth settled it. The razor hit the sink and the shaving cream vanished down the drain. I decided that above all, I owe allegiance to my top riding partner. Her opinion should be the only one that matters. If she's not into silky smooth, neither am I.

Anyway, from her seat in the Burley trailer, my daughter's got the best view of my legs in town. And she's been viewing them in all their stubbled glory for nearly two years and on travels throughout the back roads of the San Juans.

I guess I owe her one. Maybe I'll make it all up with an extra beer during her late bloomer talk.

-Will Sands


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