A friend of ours lives in a gated community that has a pool, and invited us to come hang out at the pool today. I was initially very excited, because I absolutely love to swim! And then as I was trying to remember where I’d stored my bathing suit, I realized I had a quandary: I was going to have to decide how badly I wanted to keep my leg hair.
When I was in my early teens, I begged my mom to let me start shaving my legs. I was self conscious and trying to fit in, and one of the girls in class had teased me about my hairy legs. In the grand scheme of things, any attempts at conformity were futile: I was never going to fit in and they would always find something else to pick on me about. Hell, I should have just been grateful that at least at that point in time, they were only teasing me and not beating the crap out of me.
She finally relented, after warnings that once I started it, I’d always have to do it because the hair would grown in coarser (this is actually an old wives tail, by the way) and so I started shaving my legs, and armpits, and did so meticulously for many years, long after my brief forays into other ‘girly’ things like makeup had long been discarded.
By the time I was in my twenties I’d actually decided that it was pretty stupid, and would let the hair just grow in during the winter, but come summer I’d shave again because the social stigma against women with body hair in our culture is really, really deep, and I didn’t have the nerve to stand out. And I would really stand out… I am a mix of German and Scandinavian on my mother’s side and Scottish on my father’s, and that mix did not come through as light and fair, like my maternal grandmother who could get a sunburn just by looking at a picture of the sun, but rather I favor the Scottish side. My paternal grandmother came from the Hebrides, a region also notable for producing this:
The main difference between me and that cow is my hair is darker.
One thing that kept me on the expensive and time consuming razor treadmill is that the prickly hair growing in causes me sensory issues. It is very unpleasant and irritating, almost painful rubbing against my socks, but I’d heard that if the hair was left to grow naturally, it would eventually get finer as what made it so uncomfortable was those coarse cut ends. Another point in favor of not shaving was that as the hair would grow back in, there’d always be ingrown hairs and razor bumps, and since I pick at anything texturally ‘different’ I’d end up mangling myself.
Last year I said “F*** it” and stopped shaving at all. At first I was kind of disgusted by the hair, because that social conditioning runs deep, even when intellectually you recognize it as bullshit, but as time went on, I got used to it. The armpit part of the experiment was a failure – I was not prepared for the fact that the hair was straight, and would just keep growing longer and longer, which I found messy and annoying. The leg hair, though… it totally did get softer, if not any less dense looking. I completely made peace with it.
Until faced with the prospect of having to go to a pool.
In the end, I lost my nerve. The thought of drawing any unwanted attention to myself won out and I resolved to just shave. This became a matter of logistics, though – how was I going to get rid of that much hair, fast? It would take at least two or three razor blades and an hour in the tub, I figured… until I got an idea.
The dog clippers! I could run them with just the blade and no guide, and that would quickly take things down short enough that I could then shave the remaining hair off in the shower. It worked pretty good, actually, except for the part where a tumbleweed of shaved hair rolled off the clippers onto the bathroom floor and Eater-of-Things snatched it and took off, swallowing it before I could catch up to him. My bad for not closing the door, I guess. He’s done the same thing when we’ve had to shave matts out of our longhaired cat. It’s like living with a ten pound goat.
I enjoyed the pool, but I got too hot in the sun and crashed, and my partner had to bring me home. She’s back out with our friends, and I am headed for bed.
Funny, when I decided to blog this, it was because I thought it would make for an amusing story, especially the part about the dog clippers, but instead, I’m feeling kind of sad and annoyed at myself. I am already regretting shaving the hair off. By tomorrow my legs will be unpleasantly prickly and I’ll be miserable, it doesn’t seem worth it for about two hours of swimming.
Featured image: Close up of a tarantula, focused on the hairy legs.