Learning to Love My Body Hair

I have always been a very hairy girl. Ever since I was little, my arms and legs have been covered in thick, dark hair. In the first few years of my life, I don’t think I ever felt any particularly way towards my hair. When I was five, a boy in my first-grade class pointed at my arm hair and told me only boys had hair on their arms. I remember going home to my mother and asking why I was the only girl with hairy arms. She told me she had always thought girls with hairy arms were pretty. That made me feel better—but in that way anyone feels when your mom or dad says you’re pretty. You feel like they’re obligated to.

When puberty hit, not only did my arm and leg hair get thicker and fuller, but I also started getting underarm hair, hair between my eyebrows and on my upper lip, and, of course, pubic hair. Except for my arm hair, at least I took solidarity in that fact that most girls in my grade were dealing with the new spurts of body hair.

The minute my mom let me shave, I started to, determined to be as pretty and smooth as the girls in magazines and at school. I used the chemical hair removal stuff at first; my mom was paranoid about razors. The strong smell of it still makes me gag sometimes. Once I left it on for a bit too long and wound up with red rashes all over my legs. I used the chemical stuff methodically on my legs and underarms, and the outlines of my bikini area as well. I didn’t touch my arms though, but one day, after overhearing someone in my sixth-grade class say something about how girls with arm hair were gross, I shaved off my arm hair.

The moment after I did it, I felt bare. It looked nice, but within half a day, I had already started to grow back prickly little bumps. I didn’t like how they felt. I preferred the silkiness of my arm hair. I vowed never to shave my arm hair again. It wasn’t worth it.

In regards to my legs, my underarms, the knuckles of my fingers and toes, my bikini area—well that took a little longer to come to peace with. I switched from the chemical stuff to razors, once I was old enough and my mom felt like I wouldn’t accidentally cut myself.

I was a swimmer till tenth grade, and felt the pressure to shave not only to fit in with my teammates, but to be more “aerodynamic.” In high school, I shaved every other day. Once a teacher made a comment about how girls with hair on their knuckles should shave it off. I hid my hands under the table in shame, vowing to shave that night.

When I entered college, it did not get better. I felt this pressure to be completely smooth-shaven all the time. I was shaving every day, propping my leg up against the wall of the dorm shower and making sure I got every little bit. I had heard horror stories of boys dumping girls because of body hair and I didn’t want to be that girl. I knew my arms would already be a turn off, but I still had the other features to prove. I shaved my legs and my armpits, even the knuckles on my hands and feet.

I told myself this was what I liked, what I felt was right.

To be honest, I’m not sure when I stopped shaving every day. At one point, I shifted to every other day. And then I felt like I could go on to just when I was going out or wearing short pants. Nowadays, I don’t shave more than I do. I used to feel embarrassed and ashamed when I walked in public with my prickly leg hair. Now I don’t care.

I still shaved my armpits though. They were never as time consuming as my legs and I always felt satisfied when I did so. But over spring break, I forgot to pack a razor and just let my arm pit hair grow out. Right now, it’s the longest it’s probably ever been and I’m slowly getting used to wearing tank tops and short sleeved shirts with my hairy pits.

I’m a hairy girl. My hair is coarse and thick. It is everywhere. It grows back quickly. But I love how soft and silky it makes my arms feel. I love how I have basically an effortless dramatic brow. I love the little hairs on my toes and fingers, how the hair on the back of my legs is softer than the ones on the front. And I even love my armpit hair.

Do I still shave? Sure, because I also love the feeling of smooth legs and armpits.

To clarify—there’s nothing wrong with wanting to shave. I definitely still do it. If you prefer smooth legs and armpits, that’s your decision. But we should get over the idea that body hair on women is something inherently shameful. What we do with our body hair should be viewed the same as what we do with our regular hair—cut it, let it grow long, buzz it short, change it with the season, maybe even dye or braid it. It shouldn’t be seen as gross. It should be seen as part of our bodies, just as important and as valued as the rest of us, that we can chose what to do with and when we want to do it.

I’ve come to shave not because I feel like I need to, or feel a pressure to, but only when I want to.

Because, I’m a hairy girl. I love my body hair. And you should love yours too.

 

Imaged Credit: cover from livemaguk.com, other photos by author