I had a whole post planned for today, written in my head, a beautiful poem ready to share. But as it often does, the universe threw a wrench in my plans.
While driving down to the local library (my digital stomping ground), the voices of Kristen and Caroline from Unladylike (a super rad feminist podcast) filled my car. While their voices often ignite inspiration within me, another voice, a guest’s voice, sent chills up my spine, tears to my eyes and goosebumps to my arms.
This voice belonged to an 11 year old Vera, a patron of a public 5th grade classroom chalk full of judgements, opinions, and popularity contests, all to do with body hair.
This sweet little girl spoke of the 95% of her peers who shaved their nearly hairless legs and armpits, so they, “wouldn’t be gross and sloppy” and more importantly, “so they could get boyfriends and be popular.”
I remember this mentality all too well. I remember commercials with sun-kissed, hairless models who promised me ease and joy if I too could be hairless.
I remember being sent home with a pink razor, shaving cream and deodorant in 5th grade.
I remember the all encompassing fear of my peers, boys and girls alike, being repulsed by my body hair or smell.
And I most definitely remember the shame that came when I entered my teenage years, the inability to raise my hand if even a day of grow out lived there, and the apologies that tumbled from my mouth if a boyfriend undressed me and I hadn’t showered or shaved.
I lived in the beliefs of my own 5th grade classroom for years. Beliefs much like those Vera from Unladylike is learning now.
Beliefs like: I will be surpassed in beauty and popularity by every other girl if I don’t shave and smell like a rose. I will be rejected as sloppy and gross. And my relationship status relies largely on my hairless body.
Vera has a mother who does not shave and promotes body positivity. And while Vera herself spoke of inner-beauty as paramount, she still takes scissors to the blonde peach fuzz that grows upon her arms. She is still conscious of being in the 5% of girls who do not shave. And my guess is, the peer pressure will get to her, the fear of being “sloppy and gross” will get to her, and she too, will remove the forests that prosper naturally on her body.
I definitely caved to the pressure. For years, I Naired, plucked and shaved. For years I let fear guide my decisions about my body hair. And for years I apologized, again and again for stubble, for grow out, for the way I smelled, looked or tasted, fearful that other women covered up their natural bodies better.
But a few years ago I hopped on a plane to Europe, a new college graduate, away from the peer pressure of my youth. I lived out of a backpack for 3 months, I smelled like sweat and pheromones no matter how much deodarant I slathered on, and I carried around a razor that eventually dulled and rusted. And all of a sudden my habits of poking and prodding my body faded, they became unreachable, and moreover unnecessary.
And one day, I looked in the mirror at a month of dark grow out and thought, “Damn, this is what I look like. This is what my body does on its own. And holy shit, I’m actually so sexy.”
I’d never even had the opportunity to look at my body with hair. I’d never stepped outside of the fear and shame long enough to take a peek at myself unshaved. And inturn, I’d never had the opportunity to realize how beautiful, sexy and strong my hair made me feel.
So, when I arrived back to the USA I let my hair continue to grow.
And here’s the deal, in my adulthood, when most folks I surround myself with have fully stepped into their sexuality and at least partially stepped into self love, I have never once had a man turn away from me, or call me gross for the way I looked or smelled. I have never derobed and seen a shocked face before me. I have never raised my arm to grab a book off the top shelf and watched people turn away in disgust.
Yes, there is still judgement, there are still folks who live in the beliefs of their 5th grade classrooms. But they are fewer and farther between, they are not hugely included in my environment, and truthfully, they don’t matter.
Because as Vera said, whether or not she believes it yet, “If people abandon you for your body hair, they were never that great friends or partners to begin with.”
So however you wear your hair, make sure it’s right for YOU, and rock on with your bad self!
Lots of love,