It's gonna get sappy up in here.
I’m the one who does a bit of grooming on Mother Nature’s shaggy bits when my backyard gets out of control. I also take a sharp instrument to the growth that nature gave my body. Weeds make me kind of happy, but I do it for my neighbors.
The desire to tame natural beauty is reflected in suburban lawns and advertisements for hair-removal clinics. We want uniformity and a show of discipline. Those who don’t tend to their lawns or their bodies in the way that pleases the status quo are considered dissidents, unstable, or just plain lazy.
I live alone in a small town, I work from home as a freelance writer, and I rarely go anywhere where people would actually care about my body hair. My next-door neighbor, a handsome man in his 50s, says he finds hairy women unattractive. (He sometimes takes off his shirt when he’s mowing his lawn, and I appreciate that he isn’t one of those young men who make their chest hair disappear.)
He isn’t the only man who has said this to me. I have to ask myself if that’s the reason I shave my legs and underarms. I’m 61 years old, but I still want to feel attractive.
Once in a while, I take a razor to those escapees from the bottom of my bathing suit. I don’t wax because I can’t afford to go somewhere to have it done. One time, I tried one of those home waxing kits. My entire pubic area looked like it had been beaten. I shaved my pubic hair once or twice because my partner at the time asked me to. It felt nice when it was freshly done, but I didn’t like the way it looked. I felt like a prepubescent girl, which isn’t an attractive look on a middle-aged woman who has two grown sons.
In the past, I stopped shaving my underarms during the winter. I liked it, but after I had radiation for breast cancer, most of the hair stopped growing under my right armpit. One hairy armpit makes me feel lopsided.
Hair removal seems to be the human version of deforestation. It may be fine to do some culling, but you can destroy the ecosystem by taking away too much. All hair is dead material once it exits the follicle, yet we are so emotionally conflicted about those strands of threadlike keratin. If we don’t have enough or have too much, we’re not happy. Many of us argue with the texture, color, or placement of the hair on our bodies. We are embarrassed, or even ashamed, and that applies to both sexes.
Is it fashion, cultural pressure, or the impact of pornography on male desire that causes us to spend time and money removing something we were born with? Those really aren’t good reasons at all.
Hair is important to most of us in one way or another, but unless you lose your hair through aging, illness or medical treatment, it grows back. It keeps on growing like the grass my neighbor cuts while I admire his hairy male body. It keeps growing like the weeds I cut back which will need cutting next week, even though I don’t care if it grows wild.
I know that I manicure my yard for others, but I don’t know why I can’t stop myself from removing my body hair. It’s just hair. I actually find human body hair attractive on other people. Whether it is cultural conditioning or just my own personal issue, I can’t stop shaving. In most other ways, I’m not concerned about what other people think, which is why a female neighbor is always commenting on my strange taste in clothing or the fact that I really should put on a bra.
I live in Ontario, so for three seasons, my body is covered, but I can’t give up this one thing. I’m not even super-hairy -- I just don’t feel attractive with leg and underarm hair, and I don’t want to feel this way.
There is a Tumblr called Hairy Legs Club where women post photos and stories about their decision to let their bodies have their own way. I hesitate to call these women brave, although many of the comments reflect this sentiment. Maybe they are brave for fighting something so insidiously stupid and shallow. They’ve helped me to appreciate our natural beauty, even if I am not ready to go all the way.
What they are doing reminds me of the 1970 song “Almost Cut My Hair” by Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young. I was all for men fighting to keep their long hair back in the ’60s. Once long flowing locks on men became accepted, they could chose to keep it long, cut it or shave it off completely. They no longer have to sing protest songs about conforming to some ideal for something as innocuous as hair growth.
The women who have dropped the razors and shared photographs and stories are singing a protest song for us. They are the guerrilla gardeners of the human landscape.