I spend a lot of time on social media because I’m really 16 and I think you should all know that. Along with being aware of what “hunty”, “sus” or “being on fleek” mean, and gathering the majority of my knowledge on international politics and social issues from memes, this also mean I’m up to date with all the latest hot trends and what young people think is worth talking about on YouTube, Instagram and other digital platforms.
So today I bring to you: BODY HAIR!
(Disclaimer: Really? Why on earth is this even an issue? It baffles me that this is even a thing, to be honest. I mean, I can’t even. But hey.)
The first time somebody acknowledged the existence of hairs on my legs was -ironically, if I think about it now- on the London Tube. I was around 12 and was spending three weeks in England on a study-holiday trip (that kind of experience your parents send you to hoping you’ll come back mastering a foreign language while you only come back mastering the art of rolling a spliff). It was summer so I was wearing shorts (although this is not such a logical cause-effect relationship in the UK). One day we were on the Tube, a gleeful group of pimply prepubescents, and this kid who must have been a couple of years younger than me pointed at my legs and announced, loud enough for the whole carriage to hear: Whoa, time you start shaving!
I looked down at my calves and simply shrugged. I didn’t know what to think about it. To be honest, I hardly knew what shaving meant.
This might sound silly but just think about it for a second. I was twelve. My main preoccupations at the time were finishing my homework in time for basketball training, and making sure no titles were missing from my Goosebumps collection. It’s ok if you have no idea what shaving even means when you’re 12. I have to admit I was pretty hair for a 12 year old, but at that age you’re still a kid.
On that occasion, that kid’s words slipped over me without permanently scarring consequences. The holiday came to an end, I flew back home and carried on with my life.
However, I then went back to my second year in Middle School, and it soon became clear to me that the hair topic couldn’t go on unmentioned for much longer. Girls were talking about it, boys were talking about it, and P.E. class was becoming more and more about taking notes of who was shaving and who wasn’t more than running laps and jumping ropes.
I started to become more and more aware of the silky layer of hair covering y skin. Because communication has never been great in my family, talking to my mum about it was out of the question. So at first I just did my best to cover up. For some reason, unshaved legs and pits had become something to be ashamed of.
I played basketball at the time, and our uniform consisted in short shorts and a sleeveless vest. The lack of sleeves was what bothered me the most. For some reason I had decided that hairy legs were ok but hairy armpits were not. As opposed to my friends at school, who were all in the same boat as me and were struggling with the same sort of issues, my basketball mates were older than me and very judgmental. If you didn’t conform with them, they would simply laugh at you. (This also taught me another important life lesson, which is to surround yourself with people that value and support you no matter what. I quit that team a few months after.)
So after the longest time trying to figure out a way to ask my mum the permission to shave (I even considered picking up swimming, which I’ve always hated, when a classmate of mine who was a swimmer told me that she had to shave everything because you’re required to be hairless when you swim at a professional level) and realising I would never have the guts to speak up, one day I just decided I’d had enough and I would just do it.
At that point I must have been 13. I remember sliding the mirror door of the bathroom cabinet open, reaching out for my mum’s razor on the top shelf, and letting the blade slide on my dry, baby-haired skin. It hurt and got red and bumpy straight away. I hadn’t even taken off my t-shirt.
My mum found out because I’d left the sink scattered with hairs. Yeah. She asked me whether I had shaved and I promptly denied the evidence; when she ordered me to show her my armpits I ran into my room. We never spoke about that again.
I was both annoyed and relieved when people at training noticed that my pits were hairless. There was this one girl I felt at ease confiding to, and I confessed to her that I’d done it on the sly. She replied: Sure, I do it all the time. My mum has no clue. So I told her I wanted to shave my legs too and she said they were no different from my armpits: You just sit in the bathtub, use your dad’s shaving cream, and there you go. The notion of using shaving cream had never occurred to me. I was so naive that my only vague attempt at removing hairs from my legs before that conversation had been with scissors (please do not. Say. Anything.)
So the heavenly doors to the world of smooth skin were open. And so many things have changed since I first stepped past them. Seventeen years (!!!) after brandishing my first razor, I now have a completely different vision of what shaving means.
First of all –as you’ve probably figured out by now – I’m much more open about the subject; in fact, I absolutely love talking about it. As it’s true for many other topics, I believe that talking about your position on the shaving argument is fun, beneficial, and crucial in order to feel comfortable with it. I went from pretending the problem didn’t exist with my mum, to proudly showing my before and after legs to every single member of my family.
I’m only able to do this because over the years I’ve got to know myself better, and I’m now very much aware of my own body.
To be honest, I wish somebody had told me the moment I hit puberty that those hairs are nothing to be ashamed of. I wish somebody had told me that whether I wanted to keep them or shave them off was completely up to me. Growing up I never felt like shaving was my own decision. It was always something I thought I was expected to do by virtue of being a female. I shaved because all my girlfriends shaved, because that’s what boys want you to do, because “hair on women is gross”, because “armpit hair is unhygienic”, because you’re supposed to. I shaved in spite of getting rashes under my arms every single time. I thought it was a waste of time and energies, but I still kept on holding on to the razor. I’ve also tried bleaching, waxing and epilating, experimenting with different levels of pain but always the same result: hairless skin for maybe a week, and then back to the start all over again.
And now I say: fuck it. My legs are covered in scars I inflicted myself while shaving (and I was only drunk maybe twice). I have spent hours painfully plucking, trimming and grooming, without never achieving that perfect smoothness that razor ads promised.
I’m not one of those Nordic pale blond girls who don’t shave but they hardly have any hair. My hair is dark and visible -let’s just put it out there. But I don’t care. Everybody has hair and that’s fine. The fact that man can be hairy but women can’t doesn’t make any sense. It’s just hair.
I’ve been on and off the razor for maybe a couple of years now. I’ve learned to live with my body hair and I’m actually starting to find it kind of cute. I only shave if I feel like it. And I’m not ashamed to go out in shorts and fuzzy legs if I don’t feel like it.
Part of my newly acquired self-confidence comes from travelling (man, travelling teaches you so many things!). Having lived in a van for the past three months, without regular access to a real shower/sink/anywhere to shave, has forced me (and Giac) to face the fact that my legs and pits would be hairy and we had to live with it. (To be honest, when you live in a van shaving is the last of your problems.) And you know what? I have met people along the road that have seen me in all my hairy glory, and nobody cared. I’ve been to the gym in shorts and sleeveless t-shirts and do you think people gave me awkward looks, or felt offended by my hairiness? Of course not. Nobody gives a shit!
This feels amazing. To do what the heck you want with your body. The times of presenting yourself the way people want you to look are over. (This might be TMI, but I even had an encounter with a dude who refused to get into any hanky panky because I was not completely shaved down there. HA!)
Now, I’m not saying you shouldn’t save. All I’m saying is: Do what the fuck you want. If you like shaving, shave. If it makes you feel beautiful and confident, by all means go ahead and do it. BUT DON’T DO IT BECAUSE YOU THINK YOU’RE SUPPOSED TO. And please, please do not feel ashamed of your body hair. It’s just hair. It doesn’t make you a less better person. If anything, it shows that you’re at ease in your own body (which makes it kind of sexy in my humble opinion).
I can’t believe this is even something people feel the need to talk about. All this fuss about something that we should merely accept the presence of and GET THE FUCK OVER IT.
Not real hair
Ps. I was kidding about all that teenage slang. I hate teenage slang. I do say “like” a lot but I also know what “literally” means and I don’t use it in unsuitable contexts. I do my best to speak like a grownup (also because I’m mainly surrounded by adults who wouldn’t understand anyway).