Navel gazing body hair

I’ve had a weird relationship with my body hair for a long time. I don’t know when it started but I know it’s been around for a while. I remember putting on sunscreen when I was a kid, probably eight or nine years old, but possibly younger, and hating how visible the lotion made the hairs on my legs when it pressed them against my skin. But I also remember seeing women, women I thought were really cool or absolutely gorgeous or something else that made me want to be like them, who had hairy legs and hairy armpits, and that just added to the coolness that I saw in them. When I was thirteen or fourteen, I stopped shaving, but then I also stopped wearing anything that showed my legs or armpits if I went anywhere where I thought I might see people I wanted to impress.

Some of my friends teased me (or just acted kind of baffled) about my hairiness, but I’ve always been stubborn so in some ways that just made me more determined to stay hairy, even if it meant hiding the parts of my body where that hair grew. Then one day when I was fifteen I used shaving as leverage to get my boyfriend to do something. It’s definitely not something I would do now, and I think he probably got the better end of the deal, but it might have been my way of getting out of having hairy legs without admitting that maybe I wanted to be hairless. That got me in the habit of shaving my body hair regularly, and I kept it up for several years.

Until one day/week/month in my final year of university when I sort of stopped caring and didn’t shave for a while. Once my leg hair got past the sharp, stubbly phase, I didn’t mind it too much, but I still thought it looked kind of messy. My armpit hair, on the other hand, looked amazing. I took out my razor one day when I was feeling kind of sick and needed something to pick me up, and I shaved my legs supersmooth, but I decided to leave the little tufts growing in my pits. I decided, pretty definitively, I thought, that I liked hair that grew together. Leg hair wasn’t thick enough; I could see too much skin through it. But the hair in my armpits was more like the hair on my head. It was all one clump of hair, not tiny hairs spread all over the place.

So I stayed like that for a while, shaving my legs but leaving my armpits, and while I noticed I was less likely to throw my arms up in the air than I had been when I shaved my pits, I eventually got comfortable wearing tank tops to dance classes where everyone would see that I didn’t shave. One friend congratulated me on getting through a summer without giving in and shaving (and also without always wearing sleeves). Another friend told me it looked gross and could I please stop this silliness? Most people didn’t say anything unless I brought it up.

I kept that up for a couple years, enjoying my smooth legs and rough pits, until last summer when I went on a family vacation and left my razor in my suitcase for three weeks. My plan had always been to eventually shave my legs, but it just never seemed like the right time. Plus, there were a couple really cool and really hairy women on that trip with me, and maybe I felt like I could never be as cool as them if I shaved. That’s a load of crap, but those weird feelings operate on a level that logic can’t get to.

So since then I haven’t shaved. I’ve thought about it, about being able to run my hands along my legs and feel all skin, but then I think I’ll somehow be selling out, and plus if I decide to grow my leg hair out again, I’ll have to go through that annoying stubbly phase, which I hate. I don’t know if I like my legs hairy, or if I’m just keeping them that way out of stubbornness or some attempt to be cool. I would be in a similar situation if I shaved my legs. But I have noticed one unexpected side effect to not shaving: I am way more comfortable wearing frilly skirts and girly tops if I’ve got some body hair showing. I also have a weird relationship with my gender identity (this post is long enough so I won’t go into that here), but dressing like a stereotypical girl is much easier for me now that my legs look a little bit manly.

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Listen up, people who write suspenseful stories!

In the past week (I think; it might have been a little longer), I have been very disappointed by the payout in two suspenseful stories I was reading. They were both graphic novels, and I don’t think that has much to do with it, but actually now that I think about it, I remember that I was disappointed by the big reveal in another graphic novel I read a couple years ago. But anyway, I have some advice for you.

Don’t build up a secret identity/plot/piece of information/whatever very much. Having a secret and a bit of suspense around it is okay, but if you make it too big, my experience tells me that the reveal will suck for one of two reasons. The first is that it won’t be as spectacular as you made it out to be, and I’ll be annoyed that you manipulated me into feeling invested. The second is that you’ll make it such an intricate and spectacular identity/plot/piece of information/whatever that it will seem fairly ridiculous. Neither of those outcomes makes me a happy reader.

It’s possible for stories to keep me in suspense without pissing me off. (I’m not sure it’s possible for real people to do this, however.) A few examples of books that did this, that I can think of pretty easily, are the Harry Potter books, Game of Thrones (I’ve only read that one so I can’t comment on the rest of the series), the Hunger Games trilogy, and Jitterbug Perfume. Actually, I think I figured out at least part of the reveal of Jitterbug Perfume before the book revealed it, and I still wanted to keep reading to see what happened. I think the trick is to not have the entire story, or even most of it, revolving around a big secret. That’s probably the easiest way to make a story compelling, but it frustrates me and makes me think you might be lazy. So, writers of this kind of fiction, because I know you want me to like your work, please stop doing that.

Also, on a very related note, the Buffy the Vampire Slayer comics turned one of my favourite characters into a snore. I think there was something really special on the screen that just didn’t translate very well to written word and drawn image, but I’m disappointed.


“Ten percent of teachers are bad”

Every time I see or hear a celeb say something awesome, I get warm tingly feelings inside. Actually, it doesn’t always have to be a celeb.

[Video of Matt Damon explaining that applying a paternalistic view to education policy – job security makes people lazy – ignores the fact that people go into teaching because they want to teach.]

I wouldn’t say that all teachers are amazing and no one’s allowed to criticize any of them. I’m sure there are many teachers who started teaching because they wanted summers off and really don’t put in the effort or care that their students need. And even the teachers who love teaching and want to be good teachers and are good teachers should be given constructive feedback so they can improve. Since the video seems to start in the middle of a conversation, I don’t know the entire context of what Matt Damon was saying, but the idea that not having job security is a good thing because it gives people an incentive to work harder is really problematic, and it looks to me like it’s mostly applied to people who work in the service industry or other industries that don’t make a huge amount of money. Didn’t BP’s executives get a bonus the year after the oil spill?

Anyway, a big part of me wants to go to Finland to investigate this. (I really have no idea how to go about doing this. I hope to figure it out before next summer.) Obviously they’re doing something right. The fact that all teachers need a masters degree that doesn’t just consist of “silly courses on education theory and history” (although I would argue that those courses can be useful sometimes) but actually learn things that “enable them to bring a higher level of intellectual preparation into the classroom” is pretty cool. I think that something should be done about teachers who don’t care about their job, but that comes from recognizing that teaching is a tough, time-consuming, often under appreciated job, and that people support and proper training to do it well.


Why we need to teach kids not to bully

I’ve been doing a lot of thinking inspired by this post by the awesome Captain Awkward about dealing with bullies in school. From what I’ve seen, people tend to think of bullying as mostly something that happens from kindergarten to grade 12. To a large extent, that might be true. People generally have a kind of independence after they leave high school that they didn’t have when they were in it. They might have more control over who they spend time with since they’re less likely to have teachers or parents telling them to just get along and work together, and if bullies find that every time they pick on someone, that person peaces out, they might stop picking on people. Plus, it seems that most people get better at dealing with bullies as they get older, likely because they have more life experience and that just makes you better at dealing with that kind of stuff. Or so I have found. I think it’s true that, in general, it does get better, or at least different.

But that doesn’t mean that bullying just goes away. Grown ups bully. I wouldn’t say they do it all the time, but they definitely do it, and I find it really awkward to deal with because how do you tell people in their 20s, 30s, 40s, 50s, 60s, or whatever to stop being mean? They should know by now that their behaviour is inappropriate. And what’s even worse is that when some adults bully, people call it doing their jobs. When I watched coverage of the New York State Senate’s vote on marriage equality, I kept thinking of the mean kids in the playground who somehow end up in charge of other kids, the ones who say things like, “You’re only allowed to play on the slide if I say you are,” not because they’re using the slide, but because it’s fun to tell other people that they can’t. It’s great that the senate voted for marriage equality, but in many ways it looked to me like a group of people saying, “Gay people can only marry the people they want to marry if we say they can.” It looked like bullying. When police officers abuse their power over people who annoy them or people who disagree with them, it’s bullying. Any time a person behaves in a way that serves no purpose other than to intimidate people or make them feel like crap, it’s bullying. And it’s definitely something that adults do.

It’s important to teach kids not to bully, for a few reasons. It’s important because kids are still learning to advocate for themselves, and they sometimes need help. They need to see grown ups sticking up for them so that they know it’s okay to stick up for themselves. But we also need to teach kids not to bully so that they know that bullying is not okay. So that they don’t grow up to be adults who bully. We need to tell them what all kinds bullying looks like, so that they can see it for what it is, and not do it. We need to make sure we don’t bully them, so that they don’t learn that it’s okay to bully people as long you have more power than them. We need to teach kids not to bully, because by the time they turn into grown ups, it might be a little too late.