I was 14 when I started shaving my legs.
According to my birth certificate, I’m one of those “female” types. I say it such a strange way because I always seem to be slow on the uptake about what it means. A tomboy, a late bloomer — I figured out makeup far after the legal drinking age.
It was a friend who made me realize that I would be expected to begin shaving my legs. It may be a stretch to say friend. She implied that I looked ugly because of my hairy extremities, one of many acts of passive aggression (it was only partially a shock, to be honest).
Oddly, I don’t think it had occurred to me before. I can’t pretend that women in my life had unshaven legs. Somehow I, a true master of observation, had never noticed the smooth legs of my friends and family, or the many women in movies or tv. I guess I believed that if women were meant to have hairless legs, it would happen naturally.
The idea that almost 50% of the population were putting in genuine time and effort, almost daily, to hide a basic part of human anatomy was unthinkable.
I can’t help but feel tricked. There are many, far better articles about how leg shaving came about. I haven’t done the research into it myself, but from what I can learn on google, leg shaving was indeed started by companies selling razors. After all, without women, they were only getting half of the potential market.
I’m surprised they didn’t convince men to remove their leg hair too.
This makes it a relatively recent phenomenon, leg shaving. For most of history, women kept the hair they were born with, and no one batted an eye.
So why can’t I bring myself to love my leg hair more?
Right now (May 2020), I’m in self-isolation. Leaving the house isn’t an option, besides taking out the trash. The only other person who could literally see my legs is my partner, who is stuck in quarantine with me. They’re already expressed to me that they find me just as attractive with or without the leg hair. It’s my body and we both believe I should do what makes me comfortable with it.
So why aren’t I comfortable?
Don’t get me wrong, I very much want to grow out my hair. I’m forcing myself to, actually, taking the opportunity self-isolation brings to remove as much pressure from the process as possible. These hairy legs are sticking with me, at least as long as this quarantine lasts. I want to get used to them, to like them.
But, if I’m being honest, it feels like someone transplanted my brother’s legs on me, or maybe my father’s. It doesn’t feel natural. I’ve reached a point where I don’t dislike them — but they don’t feel like my own body parts unless their covered up.
I wish I understood why I feel so strongly about this, why it’s so hard. I dyed my hair for the first time a couple weeks ago, and that turned out great. I adore my current green-black style, and I’ve been brunette for much longer than I’ve had leg hair. So I can’t pretend it’s just that I’m “not used to it”.
Am I just torturing myself now, thinking about leg shaving? I’m embarrassed when I do it and embarrassed when I don’t. Which embarrassment is greater? What am I going to do when self-isolation finally lifts and it’s summer outside?
I don’t know the answers to these questions. What I do know is this: my leg hair is so much softer than I thought it could be, when I let it grow out past those first few centimetres. I know that there’s a spot on my right shin that doesn’t grow any hair, for no reason I can think of. And I know that taking a long, hot shower because I want to is so infinitely better than taking a long, hot shower because I feel ashamed and “have to” shave my leg hair. I know my legs don’t hurt or feel prickly, that my skin is softer when I stop covering it in angry red razor burn.
And I know I’m going to do my damnedest to feel confident this way someday. It may offend my self-image in theory, but in practice it feels like self-care.