My mom always did my hair. Mostly because she knows how and it’s free- $50-200 dollars is a lot to drop on braids or a press for a 12 year old. I like to think she also did my hair, and sometimes still does, for the quality time, the shared mother-daughter experience. There were the epic ten hour braiding sessions, her rushing to beat the sun, both of us struggling to stay awake, fussing about how far my neck is capable of twisting, laughing about about the latest crazy thing my aunt said. And there was the stove top rendezvous, smells of Blue Magic and singed hair wafting through the air, my mom trying to convince me that the big cast iron comb hadn’t burnt me, repeating “Baby girl… it was the STEAM,’ over and over, a smile spreading across my face as she brushed it up and put a plastic ponytail on top so I could bounce off to picture day or baccalaureate or whatever. It was old-school styling based on the premise that to be acceptable kinky black hair must be processed chemically or physically, manipulated, or constrained in some way, but I loved it.
My mother hates that I shave. As a European, she finds my behavior repellant and confusing. We’ve never had a drag-out fight about it, but it’s always been a point of contention.
“How did I raise such an American daughter?” she says, sighing dramatically. We talked about it once when she walked in on me shaving when I was 17, my feet in the bathroom sink, the surfaces slicked with shaving cream.
“Mom, my hair is different from yours. And I really like shaving.”
“What-ever,” my mom sighed. “It is your body, I suppose.”
If you missed part one, Shave ’em Dry, the point is: I shave as a way to reclaim, feel pride in and own my body, especially all the hairy places that I so cherish. The point of part two: I let my hair grow… for the same reasons. I am really into my hair, whether it’s there… or not.
The second point of part two: I am blessed with smart, wonderful friends, who all told me what they thought about shaving. Some of them work in offices, some in circus (and some in both), some raise families. I highlighted their words as spicy block quotes.
I think of the moment when I decided to stop shaving as both the moment I became an adult and the moment I became a feminist.
We all shave. Or, we all have shaved, or we will shave. Maybe we’re waxing our legs before we go out; maybe we’re shaving our beards in the morning. Maybe twice a week, or twice a month, or once a day.
But we do it.
We shave for ourselves. We might shave for our lovers. And maybe, we might shave to avoid ridicule, judgment, and uncomfortable looks. We shave to showcase our gender presentation. Hair holds our pride, our cultural identity, and signifies our stress level. We shave to fit in, and we shave to bust out. And spoiler: I believe that shaving, or not shaving, can be a great tool for self-expression (both gendered and ungendered). And I wanted to talk about why I shave, why I don’t always shave, and why it’s a choice.
Obviously, because I’m writing this, there’s some explicit language, and I’m gonna talk about nether often-soft-as-a-feather parts. And speaking of, this is going to be a two-part-er.
Here we go.
Into darkness. Continue reading