There was a 15 year span in my adult life during which I did not shave my legs. Ever.
I had spent the previous seven or so years of my life shaving my adolescent legs, because “we have to.” I hated every wasted minute, every painful red rash bump, every time the stupid guy who sat in front of me in history class would reach back and caress my shin and say either, “Ooo, smooth, who are you trying to seduce?” or “Oh, stubble, time to shave!” In the way the a lot of teenage girls do not question cultural assumptions or the asinine way that people communicate them, I would inevitably feel alternately whorish or ugly. And I continued to scrape the sharp metal against my skin.
Until I moved to Oregon in my early twenties.
Now, I know, there is electrolysis, hair removing cream, waxing, and a myriad of other methods. BUT WHY? Why do we continue to adhere to the purely vain idea that women must spend time, money and energy regressing to a prepubescent body by removing the natural covering of half their bodies?
Well I wasn’t going to do it anymore.
For those of you who have not had the singular experience of living in an area inhabited by a significant population of freaks, you will not understand the ease with which this decision is made. You can walk down the street in shorts, leg hair flapping in the breeze (and to impress you further, my skin is quite pale and my body hair, minus the grey on my head, is quite dark), and no one will bat an eye. When you are surrounded by folks with their entire faces tattooed, by young people, white and black, with their hair in long scroungy dreads, by piercings and earhole-widening plugs and green spiked hair, the most likely reaction to a woman whose sole foray out of the norm is her hairy legs will be, “Geez, why are you such a square?!”
Thus, 15 blissful years.
Granted, it took me a while to overcome my cultural training and stop being repulsed by the sight of my own bare legs. It helped that I saw others similar to me. I always wanted to high five these women, thank them for being a weirdo like me, but I thought it might progress the cause further if I just acted cool, as though saying “What’s the big deal?” might make it so for the rest of the world.
I also had, about five years into this experiment, what might be considered a healing dream of sorts: I was sitting in a circle of men, all of us in shorts, our legs casually stretched out toward the middle of the circle so that when you looked down you couldn’t tell us apart. It fit so satisfyingly into my gender ideal, which is that each person be seen for who they are as an individual and not be immediately put into a box based on the type of genitals they (presumably) possessed.
It was a habit that would be called into question when I met the man who is now my husband.
He is far too kind and understanding to have demanded or even suggested that I shave. But I knew. I could tell by those subtle clues that one must use with those selflessly thoughtful people to find out what they really think. So I began to shave occasionally, usually just up to my knees. Heck, I supposed that in doing so I was meeting him halfway. Seemed fair.
And now? Well, dear readers, I am currently living in the South. The days of freakdom have (temporarily?) come to a close and I suspect that a stroll down the avenue with gorilla limbs would not be well received.
But I still hate it. My poor gams are stinging as we speak. I wonder if they might be willing to walk all the way back to the Land of the Weird and reclaim their right to be shaggy.