**Warning to readers: This is a post about body hair (including pubic hair,) hair removal, the media and the overall effect on the self-image of women. You have been warned.**
Hair, flow it, show it/ Long as God can grow, my hair
Those iconic words are from the musical “Hair.” Now, I don’t know much else about the show except that the song “Age of Aquarius” came from it and since I am an Aquarius, I’ve always liked that song. But since this post is about the biological material, hair, and not the show, I’ll let you find out about the musical on your own if you are so inclined.
So, I have a confession to make. I am a hairy beast. I say that in all honesty and acceptance and it’s meant to be funny and not at all self-depricating but it’s very true, I am a hairy beast. I have hair on my nose, my arms, my legs, my fingers and toes. I have hair that runs along my jaw and these stubborn wiry chin hairs. I have a ‘stache and a hairy tummy. I blame the genes on my father’s side. After all, most African and Native American tribesmen aren’t overly hairy, but those Neandertalic ancestors of mine from Northern Europe? Yup, hairy beasts. After all, it’s cold in Northern Europe.
I first started shaving my legs in the sixth grade and that was after quite a few years of torment from classmates about my hairy limbs. Want to make an eight-year-old cry? Start calling her “The Wolfman.” For a while, when I was in high school, I was even shaving my arms which, honestly, was just a hot mess (that didn’t last too long.) Waxing of facial hair (eyebrows, upper lip and chin) began when I was 16 or so. Waxing of more “sensitive” body parts started happening when I was in college and when I was 25 I discovered “threading” for the removal of facial hair. Bleaching, Nair, Nads, the scrubby pumice stone thingy, I tried just about every fad out there for hair removal. I convinced myself that after X number of times of waxing, the root would die and the hair would stop growing. (For the record, I am 31 years old which means I have been waxing parts of my face bi-monthly for 13 years… but someday they’ll stop growing.) I shutter to think about the amount of money that I have spent on hair removal. I am kind of glad that I never looked into laser hair removal as I was talking to a woman about it a short time ago and she shared her story of how she shelled out over $1000 for treatments… and it didn’t work! Waxing and threading are both painful and temporary and yet, I keep paying for these masochistic sessions. Why?
I consider myself to be an enlightened, progressive, self-assured woman, but I still want to look good and I want to be accepted and being a hairy woman is not accepted. It is not accepted in this culture… in fact, I can’t really think of any cultures where it is accepted. But I have to say, I had my moments of crazy when my drive for acceptance intersected my drive to be seen as desirable and I succumbed to what was and still is considered to be the hallmark of beauty… the Brazilian Bikini Wax.
I received my first Brazilian when I was 21 or so. It was 2001 and “Sex and the City” was still pretty popular in mainstream culture. I considered myself to be very open-minded and sexually aware so men’s magazines were not strangers to my eyes (besides, everyone had access to the Internet in their rooms so it’s not like one had to travel far to find images.) The message that girls like me were getting was “Your pubic region, as it is, is gross and guys really prefer a cleaner look.” Stop and take a minute to think about that… GUYS prefer a cleaner look. (OK I am sure there are some girls out there who like the cleaner look as well, but I am writing from my POV.) So, in my effort to be as desirous to the opposite sex what did I do? I marched down to a beauty salon and allowed a complete stranger to smear hot wax on some of the most sensitive parts of my body and then unceremoniously rip the hair out, until I resembled a pre-pubescent girl. But do you want to know what no one tells you about the Brazilian Bikini Wax? Without the presence of pubic hair, there is major chafing that happens. When hair grows back, it itches uncontrollably and hair has to be 0.25 inches long before you can wax again. Pubic hair does not grow straight, it kind of has a mind of it’s own and in-grown hairs look disgusting and can become infected. And Brazilian Bikini Waxes? Expensive. I kept up this vicious cycle for almost four years. FOUR YEARS!!
But beautifying your nether regions has become big business. Google “Vaginal Rejuvenation” and you’ll get information on plastic surgeons who will, for a fee, tighten your vagina and nip and clip back your labia (minora and majora) making your lady parts look prettier, just like women in magazines or in film. I don’t know about you, but I can’t tell you the last time I looked at my vulva so I don’t know if I’d consider it to be pretty or not. Now, granted, some women may experience labia that cause them pain because of how far the labial folds protrude, but I guess for me, if it’s not broken, I’m not going under the knife. And the funny thing is, despite all of the testimonies from doctors extolling the virtues about vaginal rejuvenation, absent are the stories from the women who experience recurring pain and discomfort after their surgery. (For those stories, check out American Plastic by Laurie Essig. I was able to get it at the library.)
OK, so if you’ve gotten this far, you might be asking yourself, why is she ranting on and on about this and sharing all of this information with us? Here’s why: DD2, my Dragonfly, is a hairy beast. Has been since birth. It was one of the first things that we noticed about her after my OB plopped her naked, vernix covered body on my chest. She has little furry shoulders, a strip of hair that runs down her back, quite the unibrow and for a while she had a very hairy forehead. I can’t help but wonder what the future holds for her. Who knows? The hair might dissipate as she grows older, it might not. What am I, as a mother going to tell my daughter if she comes to me crying because the kids are making fun of her because of her hair?
I don’t know because I chose to conform to the norm. But consider the words of Sheryl Crow: “If it makes you happy, it can’t be that bad.” True? False? Something between?
For the record, I still shave my legs and underarms (more frequently in the summer… once a week as opposed to maybe once a month,) and I still wax and pluck facial hairs. And it still hurts.