About 10 years ago I stopped shaving my legs and armpits. Mostly because shaving really aggravated my eczema, it just seemed easier not to do it. Partly because I started becoming disenchanted with the standard beauty ideals which are forced on women. And then became down-right pissed at them. And as time went on, a few of my friends stopped shaving, and I became friends with girls who were also the type of people not to shave. It was normalized in my world.
I've always dressed "weird", since the time my mom let me dress myself (can you say wearing watches on my ankles? Yeah--I was an avant garde fashionista when I was 4), and the official story was that I've never cared what people thought of me. And I supposed I never did. But the real story was that I never realized people thought anything of me. I was always totally oblivious to people looking at me weird. So whenever people thought I dressed weird, or my body hair grossed out or offended (why would it offend someone? who knows, but it does) someone, I never noticed. I remember this girl in a class in 11th grade giving me dirty looks at the beginning of class, and it wasn't until almost the end of class that I realized it was probably because of my leg hair.
But I'm so much more aware of it now, now that I have to cover it up. Now that I have to have a "professional" appearance as a teacher. Now, all the explanations of what a professional appearance entails never include any mention of body hair--precisely because shaving is so standard, that nobody thinks it needs mentioning, it's assumed every woman shaves. And so, I have assumed that I need to cover it up at all times. I built a work wardrobe with 3/4 length sleeve shirts, so no armpit hair peeks out when I raise my arms. And in warm weather, stuck inside classrooms that feel like hot boxes with lots of bodies, I have to wear pants or solid tights with my dresses. Capri pants are not even an option. And I greatly resent that. But having to be so aware of covering up, has made me more sensitive and aware when it is showing (in non-professional settings). I'm noticing more when people are staring at me because of it. I notice, when, for instance, I'm at the water park with my brother and my mom and I hear a group of boys behind me pointing out my body hair to each other and laughing, and then staring at me when they walk by. Part of me wants to yell fuck you, because beauty norms are bullshit. And part of me wants to cry because I feel shitty having my body laughed at. And in the past few years, my leg hair has gotten curlier, whereas it used to lay flatter, and I personally don't like the look of it as much, especially with a dress and heels. Also, my boyfriend--who claims not to care physically about my body hair, whether or not that is true--confided that lately the looks I've been getting for my hair when we're out have started to get to him.
So I'm going to start shaving my legs. I still won't shave my armpits, because I find the itching and irritation that accompanies armpit stubble to be something akin to torture (especially with my eczema). It'll be easier for work, and I'll feel freer to wear whatever I want in the summer. I resent that I feel like there isn't a choice about this issue. Society makes it so that there isn't a choice. But for the last decade I had made it into a choice for myself, and I was proud of that. But it's hard to feel proud when I feel insecure and nervous and stared at.
I feel like a failure.
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