Body hair seen through innocent and loving eyes
The other day I went to visit my family-in-law and I got to play with a three-year-old little girl. She is in that period in which she makes everything a “why” question. I shall give you an example.
We have a small dog, very nice to children. She instantly fell in love with him petting him and following him all over the place. Her first inquiry about him was: Why is he a dog?
That was a tricky answer to makeup, I tell you. But it was not the only difficult question she posed that afternoon. We were sitting and playing with her toys when I lifted my arms to tighten my ponytail. She then noticed something under my T-shirt. The sleeve was loose so my armpits showed a bit, and from her perspective (she is not taller than Snow White’s friends) the view was clear: What do you have there? Why do you have hair there?
If someone had asked me before, I would imagine myself reacting with embarrassment or hiding like a mole on a sunny day. But her innocence gave me a kind of confidence I don’t often feel. So I let her look and I told her the truth: Because everybody eventually grows hair under their armpits.
No, I don’t! was her answer. I told her she surely will have, for I didn’t have either when I was her age. She looked at me a bit distrustful and muttered an insecure I don’t know… I thought it was funny that she was so obstinate to believe it, but then I glanced at her mum and I understood. Her role model, the closest image of an adult woman, didn’t have a single hair on her body.
As I was saying, I usually hold a feeling of shame around my body hair. I am Mediterranean, which means it grows well and strong. Given my religious upbringing, both the hair and the shame, I suppose. Nevertheless, this “childish conversation” got me thinking.
It’s the era of posing
We all try to look good in summer. Not only women but men too. When we scroll down social media we see thousands of pictures of perfect bodies that fit perfectly the imaginary standard we would like to achieve in our flesh. So we often go through much trouble to prepare our skin for it to glow when the time comes to upload a photo of our holidays on the beach.
Unfortunately, all of that requires lots of money and time. Time that you may not have if you are trying to make money. Either way, it always comes a day when you have the opportunity to spend a couple of hours swimming somewhere and you have the perfect body of a bear. What will you do?
Most people wouldn’t go if they don’t have time to remove all the unwanted hair. Even if you avoid being in pictures, everybody would see you and find you gross. God forbid that your crush is there too. Nah, you should hide in your cave.
Because let’s be honest: who would find you attractive in such a state?
Where did this feeling begin?
When I was thirteen years old, my friends and I planned a party for New Year. After having dinner with my whole family, I got to my room and I started to get ready. I had chosen a red checkered skirt and a black top because it was the 2000s and I wanted to conceal the fact that I wasn’t cool.
I was doing my hair when my much older brother and sister came in. They were also getting ready to go to their particular parties. The three of us tried to share a narrow mirror that hung off the door of a wardrobe. We had to take turns to approach it. My sister was applying lipstick, my brother was filling his hair with glitter and I wanted long eyelashes.
It was when I asked them to check if my mascara was right, that they gave me the news: You have a unibrow. I looked at myself in the mirror, and as if it was magic, a few hairs suddenly appeared in the space between my eyebrows. They were telling me the truth. I had indeed more hair than those girls I saw in the magazines. Anyway, my young spirit didn’t care about it. I am not going to do anything about it, I said, this is how I was born and that’s it.
Oh, how much I wish the story ended right there. I was about to leave the room when my sister blocked the door. Just listen, she said, we are trying to help you. It’s for your own sake, my brother insisted, you will see yourself prettier. Plus, it’s New Year’s, you have to look sharp!
They didn’t convince me, really. I agreed to the first hair-pulling, but by the second I was trying to escape again. They had to hold me. Now, it is a pity to stop, my sister said, it’s already halfway done. Hang on for a while longer, my brother insisted. I certainly gave up soon enough. It was only for New Year’s, right?
Back then, I hadn’t even started shaving my legs. On the rare occasions I wore skirts I used black stockings so nobody noticed. When I played soccer, I did it with long socks too. However, not much longer after that night, I began “smoothing” my legs.
Nearly twenty years later, my troubles haven’t finished yet. It doesn’t matter that I didn’t stop plucking those hairs, unwanted to my siblings. Today, the eyebrows standards have risen and now I should actually be doing some sort of contouring all around. I still hear comments from well-intended friends and neighbours who let me know that some new waxing technique has appeared in the industry of aesthetics and cosmetics. I am very much inclined to shout at them a rough “I don’t f*cking care”, but I usually go with a simple “Oh, interesting”.
The history of hair removal begins as far as Ancient Egipt
Some people might argue that hair removal is a very old human practice, and they would be right about that. But the fact that something it’s been done for thousands of years doesn’t mean we are still doing it for the same reason. At first, hair removal had much to do with hygiene, because lice were a huge problem in ancient societies. There was no treatment, nor prevention methods and therefore, the only way to avoid them was shaving.
But hygiene is not an argument any more, because, at the same time that the pubic hair was removed, the head was also shaved to be covered with a wig. However, we are not doing that anymore, are we?
Hair removal started because of hygiene, and that is history. I am a lover of hygiene. Like many women, I even had my obsessive moments with it, and it is precisely why I am now questioning all this waxing and shaving.
Everybody should know that if a woman removes her pubic hair she will get fungus infections far more often than if she doesn’t. Urine infections: the same. All the chemical and laser treatments have not been proven to be as safe as they advertise, merely, because there has not passed enough time since the beginning of their widespread use. I’ll give you an example. Today we all admit tobacco to be cancerous, but it was necessary for a thirty years long study to get the government to stop businesses from advertising it as an antitussive (a medicine to stop cough).
Oh, and if you shave, no matter where, the protective layer of your skin gets damaged, and surprise, you get more infections! Not to talk about dryness, itchiness or sharpness.
It’s a matter of class
I never get tired of saying it: hair removal requires time and money, which are precisely the differentiating characteristics of the upper class. All these beauty standards are defined by wealth, so the rich can stand out and show their power through their looks.
I can’t argue against that. That’s what people do on social media. Everybody puts photos in which they appear to have an exuberant lifestyle and exhibit some sort of forever happiness. However, that is not the word I was hoping for and it is certainly not the one I would like to leave behind.
I have been accused of utopist many times, especially when I express my wish of seen real equality. I am not talking about having women, queer and racialised people at the top of the pyramid. No, that is called parity and it has no potential for change.
We must start to value natural qualities and beauty without the pricy enhancements. I’ve known for a while that if you are rich you can be as different as you want to be, you don’t depend on your looks to get food in your mouth. While if you have money you can afford to be “ugly”, when you don’t, you have no choice but to adapt to the artificial social standards expected of you. That’s why the hobo style only works for millionaires.
Hair removal it’s one of those that goes across all disciplines because it is gender-bound, though I have to admit every day we see more men falling into that trap. The system wants people with low self-esteem because when we feel inadequate we consume anything we find to “improve” ourselves. But, as with any addiction, there is no good end to it. There will always be something new to promise you more beauty and perfection.
I want that little girl to grow in a new world
Most adults are terrified. We might have hopes and dreams, but the fear of losing the little we might possess makes us tighten our hands around a bunch of values we detest. We not only accept them but we participate in their development and transmission. And we do it so because we want to protect the ones we love. Though I often wonder: Do we truly protect them or do we teach them to submit?
All I can say is that the confidence that a three-year-old girl has granted me, even if it was only for an afternoon, it’s what I would like to offer her back when she grows older. I hope she keeps asking why and accepting no explanation for which she has been given no proof.
Talking about it with my husband
For a while I noticed my husband wasn’t giving a damn if I had hair. Little by little I stopped waxing without hearing any complaints. Not only that, but he kept kissing my hairy legs as if there was nothing on them. At first, I could not take it. I could not let him do such a horrendous thing to me. He thought I was angry at him, disgusted by him. Eventually, I had to confess.
He laughed at me. He tickled me and kissed me even more. He even licked me to the point that I was even starting to feel disgusted for real. But it was all with such a truthful love that I gave in and accepted my hairy self. Only in the privacy of our intimacy, though.
I must say, like the little girl, I could not believe he didn’t mind it because I didn’t know any other man who didn’t. Now and then, I did a complete treatment to observe his reaction. I didn’t say anything, I just prepared myself as if I was going to practice pole dancing. Eyebrows, moustache, armpits, legs, groin… Everything! And faced wrongness with great delight. He was not impressed at all. Of course, he told me I was pretty; just like he does when I have a crazy hair day and my curls refuse to have a master.
Yeah! Exactly, I also thought the same: He is a f*cking liar!
I confronted him, and then, I understood. It was me who cared. I wanted to be a “normal girl”. It was me who all along wanted to keep some facade, but he never really noticed. Since I was a teenager, I did all these things afraid that if I didn’t nobody would like me. Then I found him and I assumed all of that had something to do with us having a relationship. The reality is that understanding the complexity of a human being, he had accepted all those empty moments in which I confined myself in the bathroom to follow some sort of ritual he couldn’t comprehend. But we all have flaws, don’t we? That was one of mine.
During the many years in which he witnessed me going through that torture, he often asked me about the “women’s care routine”. We talked about creams and products like two lab technicians would do. At some point, I even convinced him of the benefits of using nourishing cream after showering. Yet, discussing painful techniques and unreliable methods of hair removal, he remained hesitant.
So when I expressed my frustration around this matter, he had no doubts. If I was going to spend that much time and money on something, I should be at least taking care of myself. What is the point if it’s not actual care?
We shouldn’t be afraid of hair. Nectarines are nice, but other fruits might be yummier. Of course, you are not going to eat a pineapple without removing its peel, but I am sure you have eaten a whole peach and loved it. Look for beauty in the natural qualities, and remember:
If it’s not itchy, it’s peachy.
Support the author and get the latest publications subscribing to:
Look at her latest book 📕, En Brandán