Oh no, I haven’t shaved in weeks!
I think to myself as Noah runs his hand up my leg. We’re sitting on the couch watching Master Chef and my heart leaps up to my throat. Does he notice the three or four weeks of hair on my legs? I look at him and he doesn’t seem bothered. Up and down, goes his hand. I really should have shaved when I took a shower this morning. Sure, I had to hurry to get ready for work that morning but I could have devoted a little more time. As I have this inner dialogue, there goes Noah, still running that hand up and down. Completely comfortable with his hairy legs, watching someone cook something edible with Vegemite!
Finally, after five minutes of tender attention paid to my left leg, Noah announces he must go to the bathroom, could I please pause the show for him. I sigh. Where is my head at right now? There’s a reason I haven’t been caught up with the whole shaving. It’s because I don’t fuckin’ feel like it! But here I am getting myself in tizzy over what my husband thinks of my legs.
It’s something men have the luxury of not worrying about. They can wax if they’re so inclined, they can leave their body completely intact, hair growing like wild weeds in a garden of roses. Whatever they decide, they at least have the choice. In fact, the hairier they are, the more virile they are reputed. Being natural, for men, is quite advantageous when seeking a mate.
Being plucked, shaved or waxed comes standard for women. We are like chickens in your grocery store meat counter, no trace of feathers, ready for consumption. And we’re anxious and apologetic when we aren’t.
Just recently, I’m the banks of the Maumee River (OH) with the classmates of my Ecology class. We’d taken a field trip to the river to check out the local wild life. When our instructor tells us we can walk around the river in our bare feet, a couple girls and I take to it gladly. As we kick off our shoes and roll up our pant legs, one class mate says, “Try not to mind my hairy legs, I haven’t shaved a week.” I shrugged and reply. “I haven’t shaved in a month.” We both laugh and take a plunge.
I wasn’t always like that. When I was thirteen, I implored my mother to let me buy a razor so I could shave my legs. We sat in the parking lot of a Wal-Mart, when I told her: “I’m so HAIRY! I can’t wear shorts anymore or else people are going to LAUGH!” In the small space of our car, I hold my leg to the light. “Look!”
She laughed as she peered closely at my leg. “I can’t even see anything,” she said. “Besides, who cares? Men don’t.”
I wanted to tell her that Men were the least of my worries at age thirteen. It was the girls were going to crucify me! The frightened girls who had already been indoctrinated about Standard American Beautuy. They were the ones that noticed and my reputation was left in their cruel hands. And my mother, who had already passed the point of adolescent pressure, wasn’t going to entertain the thought of me slicing my legs like ribbons, just ’cause some idiot girls said so.
Fast-forward to dating. I’m in my twenties and I’ve become an old pro at shaving everything. My legs, my underarms, that weird bit of hair that grows under my navel and of course, down there. . . If I’m going to get serious with men, like clothes getting clumsily pulled off, I need to prep.
And by prep, I mean arduously strip my body of all traces of masculinity. It should be said that I’ve just recently read Caitlin Moran’s How To Be a Woman and she devoted an entire chapter to hair removal while dating. When Moran describes the meticulous planning before a date, it makes me remember those awful episodes in my bathroom, wet foot slipping off the sink, causing me to nick the fuck out of my shin. It’s is an entire process that looks a lot like a Bridget Jones’s Diary montage, just fraught with embarrassment. Is it appreciated? I’m not sure. I didn’t want to experiment.
Why do we groom with such enthusiasm? If it weren’t socially necessary to bush-wack ourselves every three days, would we still be doing it? If you’re in Continental Europe, say, France, probably not. My friend Sarah and I, recently talked about this grooming and decided that two entities were at fault:
- Razor Companies (i.e. Schick or Gillette), We believe they created the supply for men and then, naturally, they created the demand from women. We make this product, why the hell aren’t you buying it? Aren’t you worried about becoming a pariah?? There are so many delightful commercials with happy, smooth women using razors to reclaim their femininity from the evil clutches of hair. The razors are pink and powder blue, they have great plastic handles and boast of five blades! FIVE!
- The Porn Industry, I have nothing major against pornography, hell it’s been around since people realized they could have sex. But we’ve taken our cue of waxing our vulvas and bleaching our anuses from porn stars. It’s just as simple as that. When someone tells you that she gets her monthly Brazilian because of hygienic reasons, rest assured that it’s all bullshit. A freshly shaved or waxed vulva and mons is only useful in the case of getting better close up shots during the penetration scenes. Crass, I know, but there you are.
Sarah and I (and Caitlan Moran) also came to the conclusion that yes, it’s okay to shave your body until you like a prepubescent girl. Do whatever you want, you’re an adult. But do take a closer look at your decision. Are you doing it because you have to or because you want to? If you left the house with squirrel tails under your arms, can you still hold your head up and walk proudly? Can I? I will be honest with you, no, I cannot. But I know why. I know there’s strict social norms to follow and people want to feel normal. Being subjected to ridicule is sometimes hard to sort out.
Now, where I draw the line, is at being obsessed about my hairy genitals or my legs. I can actually walk around in shorts and not feel like a dirty hobo. I might do some “light grooming” when it comes to my “down there,” but I will not let that rule my life nor will I spend crazy amounts of money on it. If I forget to shave under my arms, I can easily wear a t-shirt instead of the tank top. IT’S NOT THE END OF THE WORLD.
So I implore you, like I did my mother all those years ago, don’t worry about it. Make your own choices. Don’t let frightened girls, immature boys or corporations make the decision to modify your body for you. When you’re sitting on the couch with your significant other, and he or she runs their hand up your leg, try not to wince like I did. They, most likely, won’t say anything about your Grizzly Adams legs. They will probably wonder, “How on Earth can one bake a Vegemite souffle??”