Navel gazing body hairPosted: August 22, 2011
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.