The first time I even thought about shaving my legs was for a girl. Her name was Piper.
Piper had blonde hair, cool jeans and straight As. Piper and the rest of her gang of sixth-grade gangsters were all shaving their legs on the regular. At 12, I'd chalked up shaving with other nonstarters like makeup, dating and mini skirts. I never asked Frances my mother about it because I didn't think scraping your legs with a razor every morning was something little girls were supposed to be doing.
Oh, but Piper taught me different. She didn't bully me per se. Instead she simply pointed to my stubbly stick-like legs one recess and said, "So your mom won't let you shave, huh?" It was more of a declarative sentence than a question.
Clearly, like all the other sixth-grade girls, I'd asked my mom for some lady razors and Frances, being a known tyrant devoid of all empathy, had flat-out refused. It was tragic.
"Yeah, she says I'm not old enough," I lied, knowing full well I had no desire to shave my legs -- ever. I mean God put hair there for a reason, right? Plus, my other friend Cynthia had a huge landing strip scar on her left shin from shaving "the wrong way" (whatever that meant) in the bathtub. I wanted no parts of it.
"Well, I can get my mom to talk to her if you want. Because you really need to," said Piper being both helpful and hurtful in the manner of pre-teen girls.
The next week Frances, thinking she was being magnanimous, purchased some centuries-old electric shaver from the thrift store. It looked like an art deco garage door opener and made as much noise. But I dutifully plugged it up and went to work on my fuzzy gams every few days. I'd officially entered the club and have been sentenced to a life of hairlessness ever since.
By high school, not shaving your legs when you had on shorts or a skirt was tantamount to poking a popular right in the eye -- you just didn't do it. I remember once this one boy I liked said another girl's legs almost cut him when he ran his hand up her thigh. I immediately made a mental note: "Boys. Like. Smooth. Legs." It all started to make sense.
Then college happened and that adolescent feeling of having all the eyes on you all the time eased up a bit. It was cool and counter culture and a little bit girl power to only shave when you wanted to. Or when you had a boyfriend. Fast forward a decade and even the boyfriend's lucky if I shave past my knees every three weeks or so.
It's gotten so bad that when I do actually elect to bust out my chick Schick, homeboy knows we're either going somewhere fancy or I need to clean some fuzzies off an old sweater.
Still, when summertime rolls around I usually try to keep up appearances and keep it smooth down there. The thought being that everyone else in the entire universe expects me to machete the jungle from my ankles to my thighs. Like combing my hair, brushing my teeth and sliding on deodorant before going outside, shaving, I always assumed, was a daily ritual for most "ladies." So I played along. Until today.
And you know what happened when I stepped out in my khaki shorts and five-week shadow? Absolutely nothing. I walked by moms, babies, construction workers, various homeless men, women in power suits and even dreaded teenaged girls and not one person gave me the "So your mom won't let you shave, huh?" face. I don't think anyone noticed at all. I felt self-conscious, sure. But eventually that "everybody's looking" feeling gave way to "nobody gives a shit" freedom.
I mean how many times had I seriously considered the hair on another woman's legs? I'm pretty sure never. And yet I've been wasting extra water in the shower for no other reason besides the nonexistent judgment of strangers.
Legs are legs. Right now if you ran your hand up mine you might get an Indian burn or maybe shock the next person you touch, but I consider that a bonus.
All this got me to thinking about all the other stuff some 12-year-old brainwashed me into doing two decades later. I never wanted to pluck my eyebrows, wear perfume or even lipstick before a girl suggested it. Now I'm hooked -- sort of. Are there any grooming rituals you're thinking about chucking?