Last Monday at my daughter’s playgroup, one of the mums was wearing shorts for the first time since last summer. I commented on how brave she was, thinking that it was still too cold to be wearing shorts. “I know, look how white I am,” she responded, and as she stuck out a leg, “Oh, don’t look at how hairy they are, I haven’t shaved since Friday.”
This woman is naturally blonde-haired and I couldn’t see any hairs at all on her legs from where I stood, and I doubt I would’ve seen any unless I had been 2cm away with a microscope! And you know what? I can’t count how many times over the years I’ve heard women saying the exact same thing. This got me thinking about why women are apologising for having body hair to other women, who I’m pretty sure, also have body hair.
Now, if anyone should be embarrassed about having hairy legs, it’s me. You see, I wasn’t allowed to shave my legs at school. Yes, that's right, I wasn’t allowed to shave my legs in high school. I’ll give you a chance to let that sink in. Then I’ll let you know that I’m dark-haired, so my leg hair is also dark. You could see it from across the other side of the playground (well, that’s what it felt like at the time). Funnily enough, I only remember being teased about it once (I like to think it was my sparkling personality, clever wit and sporting prowess, that helped, but I actually punched the guy, so maybe word got around…)
I solved the problem to some extent. I might not have been allowed to shave or wax, and I knew my parents would notice if I was suddenly hair-free. So, my solution was…tweezers. Yep, I spent hours in my room plucking out every second or third hair, so my mum never noticed, but yet I didn’t look like a gorilla. I never understood those Year 12 feminists who were allowed to shave their legs, BUT DIDN’T!! I mean, what’s so feminine about looking like a man?
Anyway, the point is that if anyone should have a hang-up about being hairy, it’s me. It should have cast a life-long psychological problem on me, where I neurotically spend every day shaving, plucking, waxing, lasering… or at least have a dislike of gorillas. But it didn’t. I shave my legs maybe once a week – yes, even in summer. I often go out and notice people staring at my underarm region, and realise that it’s probably due for some hair removal. As for my nether regions, I don’t keep to a strict regime. Sometimes there’s hair there, sometimes there’s not.
The only legacy that not being allowed to shave my legs left on me, is that I always thought I was “hairy”. It wasn’t until I read SJ’s book, that I realised I’m not actually that hairy compared to other women. I thought I was the only woman in the world with a few hairs in her bum crack. I now know that many women have it all over their behinds, on their bellies, down their thighs and on their nipples. How did I get to my late 30’s before I knew this? Oh that’s right… it’s because women pretend to other women they don’t have any body hair, and they’re embarrassed to even display a 2mm growth in public.
So, ladies, no more pretending to other women that we look pre-pubescent under our clothes. After all, the woman you’re pretending to KNOWS you’re pretending, because they have hair too. Now, repeat after me: “I’ll never apologise for having body hair again. I’ll never apologise for having body hair again. I’ll never apologise for having body hair again…”
Melissa, a former bookstore owner and librarian, has put her career on hold to be a full-time mum. She is passionate about books and reading and when time permits, she edits books for self-published authors.