Removing body hair has been a part-time job for me since I was a tween. I don’t mean professionally — I mean that I spend about the same amount of time as I would a part-time job removing my body hair, from my legs to my pits to my pubic hair. I’m 5’10 and Greek, so body hair for me is like a mile-long celebration of dark wiry weeds. I think I saw a goat grazing in my armpit once.
Then there is my daughter. She is 11 years old and is starting to sprout some hair. When she asked me if she could borrow a razor to shave her legs, I said no. I was standing in our bathroom after a fresh, full-body shave while giving her my feminist views on the sexist pressures of body hair removal. Note: She pointed out the obvious.
I do shave, but it’s different. Plus, I have changed when it comes to hair-down-there removal — these days, it’s seasonal. It’s only on the calendar in the summer. But how could I defend my position on the beauty of body hair when I was removing my own? The shaving cream was on the wall and I had no good answers. So, I said what my mom said to me: If you shave now, it will grow back thicker.
First, I’m pretty sure that’s not even true. Second, when my mom said it, I ignored her warning, stole her razor, and shaved anyway… without water or soap. (Note: That’s when I learned what razor burn was.) Third, isn’t this warning still contradictory to my position on the feminist merits of body hair?
I had a lot of thinking to do. To sort out my thoughts, I sat down and journaled to understand the deep layers of my opinions on this hairy topic. Note: I didn’t journal. I just laid down and took a nap after eating some pizza. But thinking was done somewhere during that time.
When I thought about why I shaved, I realized that removing body hair was ingrained (or shall I say ingrown?!). Shaving had become a habit for me and a part of what I thought it meant to be a woman. It was my cross to bear! And sadly, this cross to bear had become hard to break.
I patted myself on the back for at least growing out a bush, but when I thought about that, I realized it wasn’t a strong statement. No one knows when I’m full grown down there and I still groom for summer beachwear. I was a fraud — like this one electric razor I bought that didn’t work. Note: Do your homework before buying an electric razor.
I had seen young women with armpit hair and I thought it was empowering and attractive. So, I challenged myself and grew out my own armpit hair and left it there for a week, and then shaved. I didn’t feel great or attractive. What was my hang-up?
It wasn’t so much a hang-up, I realized. It’s who I am. I’m a shaver, a hair remover, a groomer! There I said it. And it’s okay. I’ve been doing it my whole life, and it makes me feel good and comfortable. Maybe I didn’t start shaving for the right reasons — for example, I’ll never forget that middle school moment when Matt Springer pointed out a hair on the back of my leg that I’d failed to reach when I was shaving. I felt embarrassed and I shouldn’t have — but the expectations placed on women to look perfect are unrealistic and unfair. We do too much! And I haven’t even mentioned the chin hairs I’ve started to pluck out.
But I want something different for my daughter. I don’t want her to feel like she has to do these things because other people expect it and will measure her worth for it. If she wants to shave because she wants to do it, that’s fine. If she doesn’t, that’s fine too, but why rush it? There’s no need for her to start now. When the time comes, if she should decide to shave her parts, we will talk about it and I’ll make sure she does it properly. Note: There will be water and proper shaving cream.
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