My Dad used to come home from work and wash his face before sitting down for the family evening meal. I used to copy him as a child, using one of his bright orange disposable razors with the safety cap on. Him using the water in the sink, me using a bowl on the floor. Both of us using the alcoholic smelling shaving foam that made us look like Santa Claus.
Then, when I started growing pubic hair, I was handed a razor and told to shave my armpits and my leg hair off. I found this bizarre. Covering my face in shaving foam had been a free choice – no-one told me to, and no-one told me not to. But this was different. Suddenly, leg hair that had been fine for twelve years of my life had to go. This new pubic hair had to go from my armpits, but the stuff on my pubic mound got to stay.
I nicked myself on every occasion and bled into the bath. I didn’t understand why cutting yourself was considered a self harming bad thing, but if it was in the cause of removing some body hair other people were likely to see, then it was okay to harm yourself.
I also didn’t understand why people expected me to have long hair on top of my head, but to remove hair from other places. I quickly realised this was about being shaped to fit an external construct of what I “should” be, rather than me being my natural self and celebrating the diversity of life and what I choose to do with my body freely, for my enjoyment. Newflash – I didn’t come off a production line to a specification. I am created unique.
When I was 18 and considered myself an adult, I had my head hair cut short. This meant that it was out of the way of my necklace and better for how I lived my life. My hair, that had previously been scraped back in a pony tail to keep it out of the way, suddenly had life and bounce. I delight in the shapes I can make with it. I also decided to stop harming myself with a razor blade and let my armpit hair grow. (I had already let my leg hair grow, and teachers and students at school commented. Funnily enough, I thought I was at school to learn academia, and not to have my body judged when it had no impact on their life.)
I went to the gym to weight train. I wore a short sleeve vest and shorts, and no-one ever commented or stared. This might me because everyone else at the gym also had hair on their legs and armpits. We were there with a common purpose to improve our fitness, and we helped each other. I also went swimming, and again no-one said anything about seeing darker hair in my armpits or at the top of my thighs that wasn’t covered by my costume. No-one judged me.
Gone were the injuries. Gone were the tears when the alcohol based deodorant stung the wounds. Gone were the sweat rashes as I now had hair to wick the moisture. Gone was the bad smell of sweat pooling on my skin. Gone was the irritation of sleeve seams rubbing against my unprotected skin. I was operating at a way I enjoy, that was and still is best for me.
As a sixth former, I had many male friends in lower sixth who I used to play console games with. They saw my natural body hair growing back and asked, “Do you shave?” I realised it was a query about if I was a late developer or not, as they were going through puberty and starting to grow pubic hair too. I said no, I had simply chosen not to shave. But if they wanted a demonstration about shaving their face, I had plenty of practice. 😉 It was interesting to hear young men facing body hair issues, about either being clean shaven face or having a well presented beard, but no variation.
The only place I feel a smidge self conscious about having pubic hair on show is at a sit down meal. I think this is because my Dad shaved before social meals, and that was an early imprint. But, even that is fading as I grow in self confidence. People I meet, women especially, say they would love to have my confidence about their body hair.
Repeat after me, to a mirror, every day: I glow with confidence.
Be your unique selves, and don’t have your self esteem undermined by advertising and people who lack self esteem themselves. Businesses want you to buy a product, and they need to create demand by lowering your self worth. People who lack self esteem need to bring people down to their level, as if you are confident, they will feel uncomfortable with how they are. After all, if you are confident with how you are – however that may be – that means they don’t have to lack self esteem and can change.
This post is inspired by:
Which I found through the Facebook page of: