I studied in an all-girls school until the tenth grade. I was a pretty good student: my academic standing was well, was on top of my ECAs, and had the most amazing friends… alongside a thick black lining of my junga. There’s a famous saying in Nepal, “khane mukh lai junga le chekdaina,” translating to “A mustache doesn’t obstruct a mouth that eats.” Frankly, my junga never bothered me. 

Then, I shifted schools, I went to a considerably conservative co-educational school (BOYSS, OOOH). Yeah, with the boys came comments about my junga. One of the teachers told me, “Ohhhooo you’ve such a thick mustache, you look like a boy.” 

Trust me, I knew how distinct my facial hair was, but never had anyone pointed it out in such a manner to me. If it were my friends, probably it wouldn’t have affected me at all. But it was my teacher, and in South Asian culture, we’re brought up to have the utmost respect for our teachers. Having heard such a comment from someone I looked up to, I couldn’t take it.

I went home during the weekend and told my mom that I wanted my junga removed. She said that it was unnecessary. I insisted. She gave up. She threaded my junga. 

IT HURT SO BAD. SO SO BAD. I had tears rolling down my eyes. Try grabbing a tweezer and pluck that pubic hair of yours. Now imagine a lot of tweezers working at the same time. Yes, that’s how bad it hurt. 

After mom was done, I looked at myself in the mirror. I looked like a monkey, seriously. I wanted my junga back. I thought by removing it, I’d suddenly meet the standards of beauty – I didn’t. I looked worse. 

People asked me what I’d changed about myself because I looked so different. They asked me if I used to wear glasses and whatnot. Time passed by and I got used to my face without my junga. Every week or so I have to thread my upper lips just so I look ‘clean’ or ‘pretty’, IDK what. 

And it still hurts, but I’ve become way more numb to the pain now. 

A few questions/reflections.

  1. The linguistics that surrounds the ‘female mustache’ is very interesting. The auntie in the parlor/salon asks, “Do you want your upper lips done?” You never go and ask a boy, “Did you shave your upper lips today?” Why is there a distinction between the male and the female mustache?
  2. I’ve enjoyed being called a boy growing up, but I’ve realized that the pride in being called a boy was limited to the skills and qualities I had. The moment it was based on my looks, I was defensive.
  3. My junga never posed me a problem in my all-girls school, it only became problematic in the co-educational school. Does this mean that in a co-ed environment there is a greater need to distinguish between ‘two genders’ rather than being ‘gender fluid’?