Way back in June of 2011, I wrote about body hair and its social and personal implications. A lively discussion ensued, and I ended up writing a follow-up post about my own techniques for body hair management. More lively discussion. The whole experience of sharing those intimate details and hearing about your own experiences and views was fascinating and eye-opening, and it felt good to read and consider the gamut of opinions.
Since then, I’ve had a rather intense experience with hair removal. I’m still processing it, but am honestly curious to hear if any of you have had similar feelings, opposite feelings, or never considered the issue one way or another. And I’ll warn you up front, this will get detailed and intimate pretty quickly.
I got a Groupon deal in late summer for laser hair removal, a technique I’d paid for in the past and felt was pretty darned effective. My little Sal-beard had started to become rather robust, so I signed up for some chin treatments. The clinic I’m going to (shout-out to Clinical Skin Therapeutics in Apple Valley – they ROCK) had some ongoing deals, so I chatted with my tech about various areas and, on what seemed like a whim, decided to get my bikini line lasered. I had settled on my chin because it’s among the most visible areas where I get irritating hairs, so, in retrospect, going for my bikini line next seems really odd. I’m a married monogamous woman whose husband could care less about body hair. What’s that about?
Well, I told myself that it was about pain and regrowth. Just like many of you who commented on those first two posts, I basically cannot shave within about three inches of my bikini line or I get the most unbelievably painful crop of in-growns, zits, and welts imaginable. So, mostly, I just didn’t shave there. And that meant I was extremely tufty well beyond the bounds of my panties. Boyshorts are fantastically uncomfortable on me, so for years I just dealt with the seemingly boundless overflow that issued forth from my undies. Just let it go prairie. Somewhere in the back of my mind, I had decided that getting that area lasered would be a great way to minimize regrowth pain.
But if I wasn’t shaving that area at all to avoid creating the pain in the first place … was it really about the pain?
Answer: No. It was about the shame.
Once I started getting the treatments and seeing results, once my pubic and leg hair was brought into check, once everything stayed tucked neatly inside my knickers, I felt SO MUCH BETTER. I hadn’t realized how upset it made me to be so bushy down there, how much shame and discomfort I derived from looking at my tufts. And once they began to recede, I was elated. Elated, people.
And that got me thinking about cultural standards and gender and subliminal messages. Because, hell, if my only sexual partner didn’t care about all that fuzz, why should I? And the answer is that I had literally never seen another woman with that much fluff, in print or in person. I felt like a freak, and I felt gross. No one in the world had ever told me that I WAS gross, but I still felt that way because I’d never ever seen another woman who looked like me. I’d seen men, though, and that added another layer of confusion. I began to realize that part of my issue was tied up in the gender aspects of body hair; As a woman, I wasn’t “supposed” to look this way, and since I did I appeared masculine. It became clear that what I was feeling was, in part, manufactured and imposed upon me by outside forces.
But being tuft-free radically transformed how I felt about my naked body. I felt sexier and prettier and more confident. I felt better about my body than I had in decades, and the only thing that had changed was I’d removed a two-inch strip of fuzz from my bikini line.
And those feelings of increased confidence are valid, even with all their baggage and hypocrisy. Just as I feel that weight loss, cosmetics, and any voluntary alterations to appearance are totally optional, so do I feel that we all have the right to choose them. Our bodies are ours to utilize, change, and present as we see fit, and many of our decisions will be influenced by outside forces. While it may be damaging to constantly force ourselves to conform to the beauty standard at any cost or without any critical or personal examination, we must trust ourselves to balance our choices.
So tell me: If you feel strongly about your own body hair, do you think any of that is tied up in shame? Gender norms? The beauty standard? How do you cope with your feelings, if so? Do you feel you are able to balance your choices about how you present your body to the world?
- If you feel strongly about this issue, express your views respectfully and civilly or they will not be published. I’m happy to participate in a discussion that includes contrary opinions, but will not tolerate cruelty.
- Be courteous and kind to each other when responding to remarks from other readers.
Image courtesy Boden
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