We’ve written a lot about shaving here on DDP. Reyes wrote about why she shaves her pubic hair, but not her leg hair. Nadia Morris wrote about the social pressure on women to shave, and Skylar Fox explored shaving standards for men. At the time when I read my colleagues’ posts, I gave little thought to my shaving habits. I hated shaving my legs, but I regarded shaving as a necessary grooming ritual. A few months ago, I decided to stop.
Ceasing shaving has been a freeing experience for me. It gave me new respect for my bodily autonomy. It allowed me to examine the reasoning behind a daily activity, isolate social influences, and make my life just an ounce more intentional.
My leg hair has now grown to its full fuzzy glory. But it took a while to get here. Every step of the way, I was tempted to shave it off. I want to describe several milestones I had to pass, where the temptation was the greatest to give up on this experiment and welcome the soapy embrace of a razor.
Holy shit am I really doing this?
I start getting a stubble. It itches a bit, constantly reminding me it’s there. Like it’s whispering come on, shave me. I suddenly get a renewed love for pants and long socks. I tell myself it’s just temporary. I’m just skipping a day or two of shaving. I’m not really doing this.
Ok, I’m really doing this.
After two weeks of forgoing a shave, the idea starts to settle in. I am not shaving my legs. I’m not just taking a break from shaving, no, I’ve gone cold turkey. Confidence in the decision grows slowly along with the hairs. The confidence is still fragile, easily shattered, and I hide the evidence of my deeds in denim.
A friend from out of the country visits. He stays at my place. In my bed. Naked, I’m exposed. I hold my breath. My inner self flinches, half expecting an angry rejection. The hair on my legs is not snakes, and my lover is not turned to stone. My life goes on. First contact! I think. I feel pride. My body is mine. And my body is beautiful.
I go on a first date with a stranger from cyberspace. I don’t know him. Unlike my “first contact” lover, I have no history with stranger. I want him. I resist the urge to shave, and we go on more dates. We get naked and he welcomes my body. This feels like a big step. More is at stake. I feel like I can really do this now. I can be that person. I can be the hairy feminist.
Sticking with it.
I feel like I’ve proven to myself all I needed to prove. I’ve risked rejection. I had sex while hairy. I had sex with someone that mattered to me, hairy. I was now dating that someone, still hairy. I’ve proven I can do this. So why did I still have this fear, why was the voice still whispering into my ear shave, just do it?
Even after all those milestones I was afraid. I was afraid of social rejection. I didn’t want my coworkers to see the fine blond hairs sticking out from the top of my socks. I didn’t want to be different.
Release from expectations.
At this point I do not have a compulsion to shave my legs. I have worn dresses and bikinis. I’ve joked about my hairy legs. I feel liberated. Now, if I do decide to shave, I know that I freely choose to. That unsaid fear of breaking social convention is gone. Not to say that I don’t feel the social pressure, I do. I just don’t give a fuck.
When I talk about shaving with other women, I often hear “I do it because I like how it feels.” I have difficulty believing that. It may be ONE of the reasons, but I bet it’s not the main reason. Ceasing to shave and paying attention to my thoughts really helped me isolate the inner voices that were not mine. These voices of fear were those of society, not native to my head. I had to starve them out, so I can better pay attention to my own voice. The whole experience has been very freeing, and I encourage others to try the same. And once you’ve done it, you can go back to shaving and know that it is a decision you made on your own. Because if you do something every day, it should be a conscious decision.