The Battle Against Body Hair

I can still remember getting my first (electric) shaver when I was about 14 years old – I couldn’t wait to use it and have silky soft legs at swimming, “like a real woman”. The next parts of my body to be de-haired were my arm pits. Shaving the legs is not enough to fit in at a swimming pool with the other teen girls. You have to look completely pubescent.

A couple of years later, my innocent little sister had gravely informed me that my eyebrows looked like otters strapped to my forehead (thank you sis for that wonderful imagery!), so my mum agreed to let me have them waxed. God, it hurt, but it was worth it. All those pesky hairs dealt with for a couple more weeks. But then plucking them myself ended up being cheaper and less sticky! Thank goodness for all the many ways you can remove hair!

Not long after that, I realised I had a faint moustache, but that was easily solved with my electric shaver (so versatile!) every once in a while. My tiny lady beard is more of a bugger to remove though, requiring painful plucking that makes your eyes water.

For years, I de-haired myself without blinking an eye. In fact, it made me happier and gave me peace of mind. The idea of going swimming with actual hair showing on my legs made me panicky and somehow I *knew* that boys would think I was a complete troll if I had otter-like eyebrows again… I cant even count the hours that I must have dedicated to these rituals. It was only when I reached about 18 that I started to question my war on my body hair. WHY was I doing this to myself?

I read somewhere that razor adverts were targeted at women during the World Wars because the razor companies had lost business when there were less men around. So this idea of a beautiful hairless (apart from on the head obviously) woman entered society and has been plaguing us ever since. When I first read it, I was angry. Of course it makes sense – I shave because society wants me to. I definitely have always felt like I’d be judged if I didn’t shave/pluck/wax/laser/epilate/use hair removal cream or electrolysis to de-hair. So I resolved it was stupid and I wouldn’t bother with any of it anymore.

But, here’s the odd thing… I found myself doing it anyway. It was hard to resist that allure of a possibility of looking more attractive, so I decided my facial hair couldn’t stay. And then,though I mostly couldn’t be bothered to shave my legs or under-arms, I would in the summer, in order to wear more revealing clothes or if I was wearing swimming costumes.

Now, the battle is not so much with my body hair as it is with my mind… Because that question of WHY is always in my head, haunting me. I feel like I still want to shave/pluck etc. but is that because I’m so indoctrinated by society? Because hairless women are shoved in our faces everyday – on websites, in porn, on TV, in magazines? We actually now live in an age where hairy women are shocking (how bizarre that by not shaving, and therefore doing nothing, you are making a statement about your body). It all hurts my head.

I guess it ties in to wanting to be pretty. I know that there’s more to me than that – I’m an intelligent, sometimes hilarious, individual person, with a bunch of good attributes and also terrible character flaws. But I still want to be pretty and I feel prettier, somehow, when I’m slightly red from being plucked raw…

And don’t get me wrong, I want to look pretty for myself, not for other people. I think… It’s so hard to dissect thoughts and wants, and where those wants come from. Hence the mind battle.

I guess I am still working out how I feel about my hair, though I’m definitely more lax about it than I used to be. Maybe one day, I’ll feel beautiful all the time without needing to hide my hairy bits.

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