I was just thinking about how I’m going swimming tomorrow and I need to shave. Why? Because if people see my leg hair, my armpit hair, they’ll be grossed out. Because this natural, clean, hygienic display of sexual maturity is considered disgusting.
I was thinking about how I’ll need to factor in at least an extra half-hour in the morning to take care of this, even though I’ll be called high-maintenance.
Why am I so worried about getting this taken care of? Because I’ve learned that female sexual maturity is something to be ashamed of.
My parents taught me that girls were naturally beautiful without altering their bodies. So when I started to hit puberty in the 5th grade and my mother didn’t offer to teach me to shave, I unashamedly wore shorts to school.
I remember, in 5th grade, as the hairs on my legs started to darken, the boys in class called me “Chewbacca” and the other girls started talking to me like I couldn’t understand them. I learned that leg hair made me disgusting. Scared to ask my mom how to shave, I stopped wearing shorts, and I wore long pants every day. I wore long pants when it was 80 degrees and we were running the mile in gym class. I wore long pants when it was 90 degrees and I was at a pool party.
I remember, in 5th grade, when I tried to fit in with the “popular” girls. I knew that they talked about hair, makeup, and boys, so I tried to talk to them. I told them that I liked the way that my hair was naturally - thick and curly. They looked at me like I was from another planet. That’s when I learned that I wasn’t supposed to accept my appearance. I wasn’t supposed to like my natural hair. So I began complaining about how terrible it was to have my type of hair. I began waking up early every morning to iron out the curls that my parents were so proud of.
I remember visiting my cousins the summer after I hit puberty. We went swimming, and when my cousin, who was 14, saw me, he looked shocked. He asked if something was wrong with me. I hadn’t learned to shave yet, and he didn’t know that it was even possible for women to grow hair anywhere other than their head. That’s when I began to feel that I was the only woman in the world who didn’t shave every inch of hair. So I stopped swimming altogether and pretended to be sick every time the opportunity arose.
I remember, in the 6th grade, the boy I liked commented on my dark, large eyebrows. He told me they were gross. So I went home, spent hours on internet tutorials, and plucked them and shaped them. My dad was so sad and disappointed in me. But the boys at school started talking to me differently, and all the girls complimented my perfectly groomed brows. It was obviously a reflection of my increasing worth as a human being. Less hair meant I was more desirable to have as a friend.
I remember, in the 7th grade, after my mom taught me to shave my legs and my armpits, talking to the boy I liked. He told me that he could never like a girl who had arms like mine. They were disgusting. So I went home and shaved my arms.
I remember, in the 7th grade, some light-haired friends noticed that I shaved my arms and thought it was hilarious and weird. I lied to them and told them that I did it for a dare – because they obviously couldn’t understand how disgusting my arms were if they weren’t shaven.
I remember, in the 8th grade, going to a friend’s pool party, and realizing that I was the only girl there with visible hair around my bellybutton. I wore a shirt the entire day, until I could rush home and promptly shave it off.
I remember, in the 10th grade, the boy I had been dating for a year and I thought I was in love with, was examining my face intently. He noticed a few light hairs on my upper lip. He ran away from me, told me I was “fucking gross,” and said that he wouldn’t come near me until I took care of those hairs. His response seemed reasonable. It was my fault. So I went home and plucked away those hairs that I hadn’t even realized existed – embarrassing and shameful negligence on my part.
I remember, in the 11th grade, a boy who I loved and who I believed loved me, was the first person to see me fully nude. He was my first, but I wasn’t his. He told me that I was disgusting because I hadn’t shaven everything entirely, but that he would fuck me anyways. I went home mortified, empty, and in pain, promising him that I would take care of it immediately. The next day he texted me saying that he would rather not see me again. That’s when I learned that I wasn’t lovable unless I spent hours in the shower every week, making sure my body was immaculate and bare.
I remember, in college, the boy who truly did love me and would later plan to spend his life with me, didn’t understand why I didn’t want him to go down on me if I hadn’t spent hours grooming myself to perfection. He didn’t understand why I couldn’t let him love me the way I was, without a huge investment in razors and lotions. He didn’t understand why I apologized if I hadn’t shaven my legs for 2 days. He didn’t understand why I spent so much time every night plucking at my eyebrows and my lips and my hairline. And that’s when I learned that my lifetime of insecurities was also something to be ashamed of.
So I’d just like to say, fuck any person who says that a girl must be hairless to be beautiful. Fuck any person who raises their children to think this way - who criticizes a hairy woman in front of children. Fuck any person who criticizes a girl for being hairy and then turns around and calls women “high maintenance.” And fuck any person who says that dark bodily hair is gross and light bodily hair isn’t.
Women are hairy and women are beautiful. Deal with it. Learn to love women the way they were created to be loved, and maybe someday your daughters won’t spend their formative years embarrassed and crying about the gorgeous, natural hair you gave them.