All around the world there are women who have long beautiful luxurious hair. We praise these women and their hair for its fabulousness (as long as that hair comes from the top of your head, anywhere else is pretty damn shameful). Deep down we ALL know that women have underarm hair, pubic hair. We know that at least some of the women have hair on their arms, in between their eyebrows, and on their big toes. Up until now, Women of Hair have had to hide in a closet or shave and pluck everything in sight to fit in.
Now, I am not forgetting that there are also of plenty of women out there who have no hair, except for on the top of their heads. I wonder what percentage of the population that would actually be? I can imagine it would still be quite small and yet, in our current society, we strive to be like this 4% of the population. Not only that but, it is common and acceptable to publicly or privately make fun of someone who has more hair than the average (think Robin Williams or The 40 Year Old Virgin). It’s hard for women to admit that they have any extra hair. Who could possibly admit that they pluck, wax, shave, or bleach any place on their face (except for eyebrows). It’s kinda like admitting to your ugliness. So when I saw the latest picture of Katy Perry getting a tattoo I was surprised to see her finger hair. A celebrity who is not waxed and plucked to death and not immediately trashed by all the media? Maybe there is hope?
Still, I can’t help but wonder how we all learned to be so ashamed.
Listening to my teenage female cousin describing the horrors of leg shaving, I learned early on that it would take some self-sacrifice to be a woman. Already being teased by Grade 4 for the hair on my legs, I begged my parents to let me shave them. We didn’t have any deep conversations about the conformity necessary to fit into society, or how I didn’t need the approval of the other kids at school cause I was beautiful the way I was. No, I was just given my own razor, and that was it. I had seen my dad shave a million times, being the classic boomer he is, and I’d already used a lawn mower by this ago, so I was on my own, but confident. No big gouges or incessant bleeding like my cousin predicted. I was a lady, all smooth and likeable and loveable.
From there I soon moved on to shaving my armpits, between my eyebrows, the upper half of my legs. I started plucking my eyebrows. I began bleaching my moustache, and my arms, and my back. Eventually I was shaving all of my hands, my ‘”sideburn” area, my arm pits, all of my legs, my feet and toes, my bikini line and my “treasure trail”. I was bleaching all of my face except for my eyebrows. It became clear just how ashamed I was when I watched an episode of Doctors Without Borders where one of the female doctors had such an obvious moustache. I try not to be oppressive to other women who “share my affliction”, but I couldn’t not look at it. I’ve always wanted to make some sort of major difference in the world like she was doing, but I thought, “I could never do that”. And my whole reasoning, was because I would have to be seen without the bleaching, everyone would have to see the real hairy me.
The hairy me came alive later that summer and I finally felt free. I stopped bleaching, I stopped plucking and I stopped shaving EVERYTHING. Yes, I went hippy. My partner being supportive with all of this helped give me the courage to be who I really was, hair and all. It felt like I was taking a big risk, allowing my life partner to see me in my “natural” state. I felt like he might leave me after finding out he was not as attracted to the ugly me as he was the pretty face I made up for him (and everyone else). He didn’t leave me afterall, and I began to actually enjoy being hairy. You don’t realize how much sense perception you are missing out on when you never let your leg hair grow out. And really, nothing has ever felt quite as soft and wispy as the summer breeze on my leg hair that summer.
Authenticity became my new word of choice and goal in life.
The upkeep of my new hippy look is quite minimal. In the end, I’ve accepted some of society’s norms as my own: I choose to pluck my eyebrows into the shape I want them to be in, I pluck out any darker/coarser hairs on different parts of my body, and I do shave my legs and arm pits from time to time. I don’t hate myself as much as I used to though. This feels like a very personal decision and I walk proudly whether I shave my legs or not. Stacey and Clinton may disagree and say that if I am going out “in public” then I warrant other people’s judgements. I say, if it is your employment or enjoyment to do such things as shave, wear heels, dress up, etc., then giv’er! But if it’s not, lighten up a little bit. “What other people think of me is none of my business”. Never truer.