I Had A Lot Of Feelings When I Shaved My Legs For The First Time In Two Years
It seemed like if you were a woman, at least in the United States, you just shaved your legs. So I did.
My feelings about my leg hair are best described as complicated.
You see, I have thick, wiry, dark, BLACK hair on my legs. That’s just my body, which, cool.Except it’s not cool, because society isn’t super-into ladies with thick, wiry, dark, BLACK hair on their legs.
I started shaving my leg hair when I was in fifth grade. Thinking back on it now, this seems early, but I also lived in South Florida where everyone is hairless, naked, and made of silicone, so who knows, really. I suppose I’m lucky I got out without receiving Botox injections before graduating high school.
For a very long time, I was incredibly insecure about my leg hair, and shaved every day so I’d never have any visible stubble. By the time I was in high school, I’d started applying this method to my arms as well, even though the hair on them is fairly thin and light.
Not shaving my legs never really seemed like it wasn’t an option, because it seemed like if you were a woman, at least in the United States, you just shaved your legs. So I did.
But I hated every second of it. It felt like an obligation that I didn’t ask for. It made me feel ashamed, like my body was somehow wrong or not good enough the way it was. Also, no matter what I tried, my legs were always itchy and irritated within two days of shaving. And no, it’s not that I just wasn’t using the right product or technique or blade. It’s that shaving irritates the shit out of my legs, probablyyyyyy because the leg hair is there for a reason and isn’t designed to come off. Just spitballing here.
So after years of feeling incredibly conflicted about the topic of my leg hair because FUCK YOUR PATRIARCHAL BEAUTY STANDARDS, it came to be winter. And I’m not sure if you know this, but it’s prettyyy cold in the wintertime, and I live in Boston. So, very cold.Because the weather is so cold, my legs never see the light of day. I decided this was my chance to say “fuck it” and throw my razor in the trash.
Once it did, I was horrified. I looked like every image of “unattractive” women I’d ever seen.And even though I knew it was nothing but social conditioning and oppressive, fucked-up ideas of beauty, I still couldn’t look at my hairy legs and see them as anything but gross.
But because I’m nothing if not stubborn, I refused to shave the hair off. Shaving my legs felt like admitting defeat; like giving into the patriarchy. I worried I’d be a bad feminist if I shaved my legs. And the thing is, I don’t think people who shave their legs can’t be feminist.If they want to shave their legs, that’s totally fine with me.
The issue for me was that the reason I wanted to shave them again was so clearly rooted in the way I’d been conditioned to view my body. It wasn’t just about liking the way smooth legs felt. It was about fearing that I was unattractive. And that fear was at odds with what I so firmly believe, which is that my body is beautiful and perfect exactly as it is. It doesn’t need any modifications at all.
But no matter how much I told myself that, I was never really able to internalize it. I was terrified to wear skirts in public, and the entire first year I had hairy legs, I didn’t. Eventually I said “fuck it,” and walked out of my house daring someone to say something to me about my legs. To my relief, they didn’t.
After two years of trying to accept and love my legs, hair and all, I finally had to admit that I just didn’t. I also tried to find compassion for myself, like I would for a friend. If something was this conflicting for me, it obviously wasn’t right for me. And I wanted to be able to feel happy and at home in my body. I’d given life with leg hair a valiant effort, but in the end, it wasn’t for me.
My husband couldn’t hide his excitement when I told him I was going to shave my legs, and he kept me company in the bathroom while I did.
But I’ve found a happy medium at this point, and have reached a place of ambivalence about my leg hair. I don’t love it and I don’t hate it. Though I do think shaving is a pain in the ass, which is probably why my hair is halfway to grown out again as I type this.
Maybe having leg hair isn’t so bad. Or is it? At this point, I think I’ve accepted the fact that I may vacillate on this for the rest of my life. And that’s cool.
Like I said, complicated.