So, I stopped shaving sometime around October 2019, and it's the best thing I've ever done.
Now, I'm not #blessed to be one of those people who have blonde hair, or who are mostly bald anyway. No no no, I have lusciously dark hair all over my legs and arms and elsewhere. Thanks, Dad. When I was a preteen/teen, I sometimes got teased about my leg hair (not naming any names but I was homeschooled, so my list of schoolfellows at the time is pretty short). It wasn't horrendous teasing, pretty run-of-the-mill stuff that happens sometimes. The kind of adolescent teasing I'm sure a lot of people remember but don't exactly give any credence to. But for me, it was a little scarring. It really engendered self-loathing in the body hair department. I felt pretty ashamed of the hair on my body, but also pretty powerless to do anything about the 5 o'clock shadow appearing on my legs each day. I shaved and I waxed, I got razor burns and a pretty significant ingrown hair crisis after a bad wax experience. The whole shaving thing was expensive and it wasn't awesome. Fast forward a few years. I am an angry feminist, and I'm grappling every day with what the patriarchy has done and is doing to us societally. Makeup is a topic I've heard discussed many times. Is it catering to the Male Gaze to get dolled up? What about the fact that you can be legally required to wear makeup to work? What about the negative impact that going barefaced may have on career prospects? Do we wear it because we want to, or because society is telling us to? Should we accept the way things are and use it to our advantage? At the end of the day, I've heard most women say something along the lines of "I wear it/don't wear it because that's what I want to do." And I'm pretty down with that. It's pretty much how I operate. Perhaps there are bigger fish to fry in this world. But conversations about body hair are not as widespread, I find. Perhaps because there's quite a bit of social stigma around bringing up how you maintain your leg/armpit/pubic hair in a group setting. The few people I have talked to have said something along the lines of "I shave because it's what I want to do.""It makes me feel good." And I'm pretty down with that. But you know what, shaving is not what I want to do, at least right now. And it sort of never has been. Shaving has been more about "no one can make fun of me" and "now I can avoid embarrassment" than "this makes me feel good" or "I enjoy how it feels." And people are generally not okay with hairy women in this world. And not just not okay, but kind of disgusted. Hairy women are the butt of jokes, ridiculous, unsanitary, weird.
But the person who is least okay with my body hair is probably me. Everything was okay in the winter. I wanted to try not shaving to see how I felt about it. And at least this way it would be an experiment only I would know about because in Canada your body is very covered from November-April. At first, I felt conflicted. On the one hand, it felt kinda gross. On the other hand, I felt kind of empowered. I felt like I was doing something I've secretly wanted to do for a long time but have always felt too embarrassed about, or I was worried about What People Would Think. And I felt... sexy. Which is a) not something I feel on a regular basis, I'm kind of in therapy for that right now... and b) completely unexpected because I have a dark loathing of my equally dark body hair. I felt like I was finally able to live this one part of my life from a place of self-love instead of self-loathing. And once things went from spiky to soft, it was nice to pet my own legs lovingly. Then springtime came. And it started getting kinda warm, and I had some decisions to make. Risk the stares of complete strangers and a deeply ingrained sense of embarrassment every time I lift my arms or wear shorts? Or shave and feel the relief of having hidden something shameful? In the spirit of honesty, I did shave once during the winter. I felt sort of pressured into it and it felt so terrible. So I didn't really want to go back to the "I'm giving in to societal pressure at the expense of my own comfort with my body." It was not a good look on me. I spent a large part of spring successfully wearing pants and keeping my arms down. But I knew I had to take the leap sooner or later. So one day I decided to go for a run and wear -*gasp*- capri pants. And you know what, I didn't notice anyone staring (it was early COVID days and everyone was getting the hell away from everyone else on the sidewalk), I didn't get yelled at by anyone, and no one teased me. It was almost like no one really cared. And then, I felt the strangest feeling. Kind of... tickly. For a moment my brain scrambled to figure out what the heck that feeling was. Then I realized, it was the indescribable sensation of the wind in my leg hairs (the title of my memoir, probably). It's a pretty weird feeling at first, let me tell you, but you get used to it. It's also kinda nice, feeling a new feeling at the ripe old age of thirty. Honestly, the whole experiment has been worth it for that little, weird, inconsequential feeling that I'd never had before. I may have gone my entire life without ever experiencing that sensation. And I think it would have been a sort of little robbery of a small but meaningful moment of getting to be me the way I want to be. Through this whole thing I have sometimes felt embarrassed by my own body hair, or occasionally caught a weird look from someone as they register what they're seeing. As time goes on, though, I am less and less embarrassed. I am less and less afraid of what other people will think. I am doing what I want to do, and it makes me happy. It becomes more apparent to me each day that body hair really is no big deal, and people's disgust at body hair on women or anyone else reflects poorly on them and their biases. You don't have to love it, it doesn't have to be your thing, but I think it's a bit dramatic to find body hair "gross", or "unsanitary", or to send women death threats because they photographed women with body hair (yep, that really happened). Calm down, please. Ask yourself what this is really about and if maybe you need to do some unlearning.
I can wax eloquent on what a massive waste of time, energy, and money shaving is. What an environmental burden all those millions of pink disposable razors are in the world. How it's just another insidious way for the patriarchy to tell women they aren't good enough. It's another insidious way for capitalism to sell us more products. It's yet another way for women to worry about what a man might think and get stuck always seeing ourselves as objects to be viewed instead of living embodied lives. How much shorter my showers are now that I don't have to mow 50% or more of my body. I can talk at length about all those things. I could give a TED talk. A sermon series. But all I really want you to know is that deciding to live my life from a place of self-love, care, value, and a sense that my created body is a sacred thing motivated me to stop shaving my legs and I am happier for it. I hope it inspires you to live the same values in your own life. So I'm writing this to all of you who've ever thought shaving was a massive waste of time, money, energy, and resources. To those of you who've ever wondered if shaving is another relic of the patriarchy and one more way we infantilize women. To those of you who've realized that the majority of humans who are naturally essentially hairless are small children and babies, and are somewhat disturbed that you're expected to maintain an eerily similar level of hairlessness despite your clearly adult body. You can give leg hair a try and no one will die (I'm a writer of slogans now). See what happens if you sit with the discomfort of allowing your own body to manifest its natural state in this arena. We're so pressured to do stuff to our bodies to make them acceptable. Pinch, contain, remove, slim, pluck, cover, shave. How about trying to embrace your body exactly as it is for a change? You don't need to do anything to it to make it beautiful or worthy, you're already there. Go on, feel the wind in your leg hairs.