Let’s talk about shaving.
Shaving is a politically charged act and everyone has an opinion about it, whether they realize it or not. It’s one of those things no one really thinks about until someone makes them, but once someone makes them it’s like their point of view is the only one that makes sense. [Probably because they don’t think about it; they consider it just to be common sense.]
I started shaving in middle school. I remember all of my friends were talking about shaving their legs and having to practically beg my mother to let me start. I didn’t have much in the way of body hair (because I was eleven) and didn’t really care about it, but I wanted so badly to fit it.
She bought me a pack of disposable razors, the kind with the little safety cap, and made me pretend to shave with a capped razor. She told me I had to remember to fake-shave every day for a month to prove I was responsible enough to shave for real. As though once I started removing the hair from my legs the entire fabric of my life would crumble around me if I missed a day.
Side note: I had to remember daily. Who the hell shaves their legs every day? Even she didn’t shave her legs every day.
I was never great at keeping up with the task. It was something I did once every week or so in high school. Once a month once I graduated. When I started dating my ex, I moved back to a weekly schedule, usually the night before a date.
But, last year, I decided I was done with it. I couldn’t count how many time I’d pulled a muscle or thrown my back out or otherwise injured myself slipping and sliding in the shower, one leg propped precariously against the wall. How much blood had I lost to nicks over the years? How many times did I nearly broke a bone because of lost balance? And for what? So I could uphold some traditional and arbitrary beauty standards?
So, it’s been more than a year since I’ve shaved my legs and pits, to the horror of a few. My mom (you know, the one who acted like my starting to shave would be the end of my life as I knew it) expressed to me some months ago how much I “needed” to shave my pits. Funny how that changed now that I’m of a sexual age, isn’t it? When I was a kid, it was abhorrent that I would shave my legs. Now that I’m an adult and can be viewed as a sex object (for men, let’s face it), suddenly I need to do it.
For the record, she couldn’t give me a reason as to why I needed to shave other than, “It’s gross.” So, don’t look at it.
For the most part, I’ve been… content with this decision. I really like the way it looks; I’m almost proud of my hairy pits.
But, let me tell you something about body hair: I don’t find it physically comfortable in the least.
I’ve tried to wait it out. I thought once it got longer or once I got used to it, that discomfort would fade. But, it snags in my clothes and pulls, which hurts (especially in the pits–ow). In the summer, it becomes itchy.
And I miss that fresh-shaved feeling. If you shave, you know the feeling I’m talking about, I’m sure, because it’s magical. When you just finished shaving and you slip bare-legged into bed with smooth legs, and the sheets rub up on your skin and it’s just… UGH. It’s so good.
I miss that. I miss that a lot.
So, just start shaving again, right? Not that simple.
I feel so guilty and ashamed when I think about shaving, now. For as much push back as I’ve gotten–my mother’s comments and side-eyed sneers from strangers on the streets–I’ve felt accomplished in my hairy feat (not to be confused with hairy feet, which I don’t have). I’m proud of not letting the stares and comments get to me. People online have praised me for taking a stand against a patriarchal ideal.
The thought of shaving now makes me feel like a fraud, even if I am doing it because of my own physical comfort. I don’t want the naysayers to think they were right; I don’t want them to think I agree that body hair is gross (I can hear it now; “You say you want to get rid of the idea that women should shave, but you couldn’t even stop shaving yourself!”).
It’s like, I’ve gone full circle, from one side of the coin (starting to shave despite my discomfort in order to fit into a culture which says women should have to be smooth) to the other (refusing to shave despite my discomfort in order to fit into a sub-/counter-culture which says women shouldn’t listen to patriarchal beauty ideals).
It infuriates me that because I was born with a certain anatomy, and because I grew up in a society that told me what I should be/do because of that anatomy, every single thing I do is a politically charged act. Everything I do is a reflection on my beliefs and my credibility within them.
And I’m just sitting here, wishing people could keep their political agendas out of my damn shower.