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My whole life I've had an odd relationship with body hair. 

The first time I acknowledged my body hair was when I was 12 years old. I had never even thought of it until all my friends started shaving their legs, so I begged my mom to let me shave mine. Little did I know that this would be the beginning of the constant headache that is body hair. From there on, I started shaving more frequently, including my underarms, legs, and regularly waxing my increasing peach fuzz. Getting rid of this hair, though, was just an invitation for more hair to grow back. Then, I would shave again, again, and again. This constant back and forth made my body hair darker and thicker, and it made me even more aware of just how much hair I really had, so the judgments around me grew harsher. I was eventually  pressured to get rid of every visible hair on my body before leaving the house. My underarms, legs, stomach, eyebrows, mustache, and chin had to be plucked and perfect—always.

This pressure made me constantly change my outfits according to the state of my body hair. Back in high school, if there was a day that I hadn't shaved, I felt like I couldn't wear that cute sleeveless shirt or comfortable shorts on a hot day. I thought it would look bad and people would stare and talk... and they did. So, I forced myself to wear jeans despite the horrible heat and change my tank top to a stuffy blouse. And when I did shave, I wore every dress and skirt in my closet during that short span of hairless days to make up for the lost time. All because of this unspoken rule that I needed to look presentable at all the times, and that meant being hairless.

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I never questioned it before. I thought shaving was part of a woman's responsibility. It was drilled into my subconscious and it made me believe that being hairy was a very bad and irresponsible thing. I believed body hair was unhygienic, unprofessional, took away from my femininity, or was just plain ugly. Now I realize that this is completely false! The truth is, this stigma has been normalized in our society and culture, where men can run around freely with hair down to their ankles while women and femmes feel they have to be smooth all over. “Normalized” women themselves judge other women when they don't follow these messed up expectations. Not only is it very unfair and unjust, but it's harmful to the self-esteem of girls and femmes everywhere. 

Moreover, it doesn't help that the very topic of body hair is also very taboo. It has always been kept a secret, because talking it out would break the illusion of perfection all women have to uphold. Not only is this unrealistic, but it affects women's health and how they decide to take care of their bodies by forcing them to simply figure it out on their own and to not dare go against the pre-established norms. Don't get me started on the media's representation of women's body hair, or better said, lack thereof. Those commercials that showcase smooth-skinned women further push the stigma that beauty needs to be hairless. The day I see a hairy woman on screen not portrayed in a negative light and simply living freely is the day I die a happy woman.

I remember my mom telling me that if I wore shorts or a dress I had to shave my inner thighs, that while wearing a bikini I had to make sure I didn't miss a single spot, and that while getting ready, I had to double check my chin to make sure I didn't have dark hairs peeking out. She mortified me with horror stories about how to eliminate my facial hair. I couldn't pluck them out because it would make them grow back quicker and I couldn't shave with a razor because it would leave a shadow. I had to cut them with small scissors and then pay close attention to them every day to make sure they weren't visible. Because that would be horrible.

It wasn't until the beginning of quarantine, where I didn't have to worry about going out and where the heat would force me to wear shorts, that I started to forget about all my constant worries. It felt so weird, almost wrong at times, to wear shorts with hairy legs. It was like I was breaking the rules—it was exhilarating. I started small and slowly escalated to wearing whatever outfit I wanted without worrying about anything else. 

[bf_image id="6tgz59hq59jfm35834pfss8"] That's when I started to realize it really doesn't matter whether I shave or not. I was still taking good care of myself and my body: I had good hygiene, I had a more positive mindset, I was still embracing my femininity, I stopped worrying about what people thought, and I wasn't being shameful to myself for not shaving. Especially that one thing that took me a long time to realize—it isn't anyone's business! I wasn't hurting anyone and I felt comfortable in my own skin. Now, whenever I shave it's because I want to, for whatever reason that may be. Although I still sometimes struggle with these insecurities, I no longer feel pressured to look a certain way around people. I've realized I'm beautiful no matter how dark and abundant my hairs may be.

It took me a while to feel comfortable in my own unshaved skin and I understand how one can be taken aback by it, but we have to start normalizing this already-normal thing! At first, my mom was reluctant and joked about the hairiness, but once I explained my intentions, she began to understand. Now, not only does she support my unshaving journey, but shared with me that she's starting to be more laid-back when it comes to shaving herself. 

Whether you shave or decide not to, you shouldn't feel pressured by anyone, not by a partner, in-laws, family, or friends. No one should make you feel bad about your body hair. It's all about doing things from within, whatever makes you feel as beautiful as you are. So raise your arms high and don't worry about the hair—it's completely natural.

Allison Milián Sánchez is an undergraduate student at the University of Puerto Rico-Rio Piedras Campus. She’s studying General Drama. When she isn't writing, she's either reading poetry, plays or screenplays or dying to get back on stage and acting. Allison Milián is here to change the world through art and its never ending beauties!
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