For me, the conversation about public hair has been an ongoing one. I’m an eighties baby so I became accustomed to hearing the words Brazilian, Hollywood, Californian as I went through puberty. Each got trendier and soon became the norm for young women. As a result, I’ve always known my lines. I’d go for my wax and 99% of the time we’d start talking about grooming. “Oh I wax for myself,” I’d say. “Not for a boyfriend. If I wasn’t with him, I’d still be coming in here every six weeks.” To be honest, it was true. Or at least I believed that I didn’t want the hair. That it was important for me as a woman to wax my bikini line, shave my legs regularly etc. And so I’d get annoyed when I’d read articles giving out about my generation and our obsession with waxing. How we were only doing it to appease a man. Meanwhile, I’d look down at my unkempt bikini line and a self loathing would coarse through my veins. I would become extremely self conscious when naked and never able to relax. And bizarrely I’d start wondering if all the other women I met were bald and beautiful and much more on top of things than I was.
That is until recently! I couldn’t shave my legs for several weeks due to a mild skin irritation. As the hair grew and grew, so too did my embarrassment. And disgust. One day, I was out shopping for a Christmas outfit. I tried on a dress and wanted a second opinion. My other half was wondering around, so when I popped my head out the curtain, I had to stand there waiting. The sales assistant spotted me and came over to comment on the dress. I was mortified and immediately drew her attention to my hairy legs. All that was screaming in my head was ‘She can’t think I chose to come out looking like this’. She didn’t say anything, instead coaxed me out of the dressing room. While we stood there, pondering the merits of the outfit, I kept commenting on my legs. Eventually, in her beautiful Spanish accent, she said “Oh I’m the same, my legs are so pale living in Ireland”. Heh? Couldn’t she see the hair? Now she may not have misunderstood my self consciousness and had noted the dreaded hair. But maybe not. Maybe she just didn’t care.
Because that’s the thing! I don’t care if my friends have hairy legs. I don’t think any less of them. So why do I think less of myself? Why do I dread being naked when I haven’t had a wax or shaved my legs? Why do I recoil a little when I see women who let loose the hair under their arms? Because I believe it’s dirty. I feel dirty when all that hair is left to go wild. Yet, I honestly thought that was always MY opinion. I’ve realised it wasn’t. I didn’t think that when I was twelve or thirteen. I’ve been conditioned to think like that. That we’re cleaner when we’ve removed all hair. I even had an ex who used to go on at me about ‘getting my wax on’. There was always that pressure to conform to certain beauty standards.
I’ve seen a few people write about this recently – men as well as women – about the way we have been made to view our natural hair. And I understand now that I am fighting against something in order to be considered beautiful. So I’ve started to rethink my relationship with my hair. Admittedly, it still freaks me out a bit but I realise what’s more scary is not being able to accept your body the way it is. The emphasis on the female form and beauty will always make us want to look our best. This will never change. But I now believe it is important we understand where that’s coming from. That it’s okay to be unruly and not conform. I plan to embrace the hair and love it in between the wax. Because that’s it. I’m not saying we should throw our razors in the air and never shave again. It’s your own choice. I will continue to do it all but I’m going to try and love my body and sprigs of hair in ‘unwanted’ places in the meantime.
I hope you can too!