This is a phrase I coined about 10 years ago when I attended a ladies' Christmas lunch with my grandmother's church. I really didn't know many of those spunky senior saints very well, so I was relieved when I found an acquaintance of mine there who was the guest of another congregant. She was not much older than me, nicely dressed, hair neatly done, makeup in place. We were not long into our pleasant conversation when it caught my eye. Sunlight was shining through the window behind her, illuminating her jawline and spotlighting an inch- long wirey chin hair. This was no stray coarse hair, it was a verifiable whisker.
As I tried to maintain eye contact I pondered my options. If it were me, would I want to know that a Brill-o pad transplant had appeared on my chinny-chin-chin overnight? Well, of course I would. The question was not whether she would want to know, but rather would she want ME telling her so. I decided in that moment that while we knew one another and had genuine affection for one another, we were not yet Chin Hair Friends.
A Chin Hair Friend is a rare find, a specimen that takes years, even decades to evolve, and which few of us have the extraordinary opportunity to discover. This is the kind of friend with whom you share so much history that verbal language is no longer necessary to communicate, and at times is merely a formality, because you already know one another's thoughts, intents, and motives. The kind of friend that houses your auxiliary brain, requiring a phone call to access some of your fading memories or the best comebacks in the midst of a marital spat. She tells you what she would do if she was you and then reminds you of what you ought to do. It is helpful if you and your Chin Hair Friend each have enough dirt on the other that in the unlikely event that one of you loses her mind and considers betrayal, said dirt will restrain her until sanity returns. Shared memories and self-deprecation remove all potential of humiliation in the case of say, a chin hair.
If while in the company of a Chin-Hair Friend an actual chin hair should appear, she will not bother to interrupt the conversation at hand, but rather casually grip the offending hair betwixt two fingers and give it a yank and carefully tuck it into a Kleenex so that she can later add it to a scrapbook page to chronicle your very first chin hair.
This week one of my very few, and my oldest Chin-Hair Friend will cross an important chronological milestone. I won't say how old she is, but I will say that when I attended her Sweet Sixteen Party a while back, we all had shoulder pads built into our sweaters. After decades of memories, volumes of notes and hours and hours of phone calls, I know that I can still reach out to her at any hour with a crazy idea or outrageous question. We may not make it to Italy for this birthday as we had once planned, but I pray for many more that we can postpone to. I hope that for many more years she can count on me to watch her back...and her chin. Happy Birthday, Sweet Friend!