So about 6 months ago, my friend asked me this question on twitter:
@Teddy_Picker: @Marinaisgo Have you ever written a blog on female body hair perceptions/problems? As always, I would love to hear your thoughts and feels.
And I responded:
@Marinaisgo: @Teddy_Picker I haven’t, but that’s a great idea. It’s going in the drafts folder.
And there it stayed.
It’s not like I didn’t want to write about body hair. It’s just that there’s just so much involved in being a woman and having body hair. It’s a big bear to wrestle. (Shout out to my Slavic bitches)
The first time I noticed my leg hair, I was about 11 years old. We had just started going to a church which necessitated fancy dress on Sunday. Something I lacked familiarity with. I remember that I was already uncomfortable wearing “church clothes” since I was well into my cord shorts and oversize t-shirts phase, and I was not interested in wearing any kind of weird girly dress situation. Especially because I already had the boobs of a 21 year old co-ed, and if you’ve ever tried to fit adult woman tits into little girl church clothes, you are going to have an angry worship ceremony ahead of you.
To make matters worse, somebody thought it would be a good idea for me to wear nylons. I could see the black leg hairs pressing out against them like a thousand angry bug legs. It looked gross, and I was embarrassed. None of the other girls in the youth group I attended had leg hair. Granted, the only other girl I can actually remember at this point already had a baby, so it’s not like she was a role model or anything.
Up until that point, I didn’t care for the idea of hair removal. Like so many other things that grown-up women did, shaving seemed stupid to me. Except that the hair on my legs stood out, which is the last thing an 11 year old girl wants any part of her to do. (Apparently not wearing nylons was somehow not an option. I’m not sure what that was about.) Finally, I asked my grandma how one would go about leg shaving if one were into that kind of thing, and I got a surprising amount of nonsense in return.
She tried to tell me that I should never shave my legs, which was rich coming from someone with shaved legs. She claimed that she didn’t realize the kind of awful Sisyphean path she had set herself on all those years before, when leg shaving was cool and acceptable. Like any addict, she got hooked by its fashionableness in her youth and she was too far in to back out now. I, however was young and fresh and could be saved from the horrors of unnecessary grooming in the name of the patriarchy. Which is a shit argument in a house where you have to let grandpa hit you because he is a man and he makes the money. Besides, she said, I’d cut myself.
Undeterred by grandma’s sketchy feminism, I went to my mother who was way more open to cultivating the male gaze. She was also afraid I would cut myself, but she appreciated my need to conform to performative gender roles. Thus, I became a user of Nair. Because a rash of weeping red welts all over my limbs is so much better than a layer of hair. It was really obvious that I was having a bad reaction to the Nair, but my parents lived in this fantasy world where a nick or two from a razor was somehow a million times more terrible than putting the same caustic chemical hair remover back on top of the scabs it gave me the last time I used it. Eventually, I started shaving in secret, then pretending that I was developing a Nair tolerance. Nobody said anything about my obvious lie. I think they were just relieved they didn’t have to talk about it anymore.
Three years later when I started to trim my pubes, my mom, who is gross, noticed the telltale beardiness of a drain hair I had accidentally left behind and gave me a speech about how proud she was that I was finally trying to get a boyfriend. Up until that point, she had been worried that I wasn’t interested in boys. The assumption that my only motivation for grooming was in order to get laid probably wasn’t altogether wrong, considering the kind of kid I was. For awhile there, it was really difficult to convince me that boots needed to be taken off when one is going to bed. Weather that was because my mom had started to loose her shit by that time and it’s good to be prepared, or because I thought it was a bad-ass thing to do, I can’t even remember.
To be honest, I probably would have been a much cleaner teenager if I had been a lesbian because girls are way more put off by that kind of shit than guys are. But I digress.
There’s this weird idea in my family that you have to do a lot of things for men. Like, if we were left to our own devices, we could live in a feminist paradise where we just loved our hairy bodies and had multiple orgasms and did’t fear for our physical safety. But somebody has to pay the rent; so you shave your shit, you keep your weight down, and you learn to take a punch. I can’t speak to the experience of other women, but that is fucked up. In a lot of ways, but also in the way that we blame our own behavior on men, either specifically or generally. Men didn’t make me shave my legs. If anything, our brief experience with Christianity is to blame for my fall from hirsute grace. That’s where I learned that God only loves you if you show up to his house in the most uncomfortable dress you own.
We’re a society of people who wholeheartedly believe that looking good is more important than being comfortable. That goes for shoes, clothes, professions, and yes, body hair. But hair’s not the only way that affects me. If you recall, I’m the idiot who slept with her boots on rather than wear any stupid non-punk rock soft shoes, even if they were easier to get on and off every day. Hair removal, like so many other things is a personal choice. I think that part of what got us in this mandatory shaving mess is the false claim that one state was inherently better or more sexy than the other. Personally I shave my legs because I know that Ben will stop loving me if I don’t. And I always try to please my man.