I didn’t shave my legs today…
*Everyone: “Who gives a fuck, (most) men don’t shave their legs Everyday!?!”
In Western culture, there’s all these random gender rules we adhere to, and today as I showered I had a “Hang on, fuck this actual shit!” moment!! Let me enlighten you 😁😁😁
At 10 yrs old I started to get noticeable hairs on my legs. I vividly remember one day in the schoolyard, me and two of the boys comparing leg hair. I wasn’t participating happily mind you. The two lads were comparing their newly grown prepubescent leg hair, I happened to be sitting there, and subsequently the boys noticed my hairy legs dangling out from beneath my school skirt. They commented on how my legs were as hairy as theirs. And genuinely, these guys meant nothing by it, it was a childish observation, but my already female conditioned mind set off alarm bells!!! My legs are hairy?! But all the ads on TV have ladies legs all lovely and smooth!!! Young ladies should have silky smooth legs, not big furry man legs!!! I asked my mother, who was 10-15yrs older than most of my peers’ parents, could I shave my legs please? Nope. Not a hope, she wouldn’t have it. My mother is blessed with the most gorgeous, smoothest skin, like porcelain, practically no body hair, fair eyebrows, always looked pristine but yet never ever wore any make up. In my young mind it was clear that she just couldn’t comprehend the utter shame and mortification of having loads of dark hair on your female little legs!!! It never occurred to me that she felt it was just a pointless effort. So I just wore my knee socks higher to hide my “man legs”!!
Skip to secondary school. The Uber fashionable time of glitter eye shadow and ironing your hair with a literal clothes iron!! Keeping up with the Jones’ was a survival tool, you dont keep up and it Will be pointed out. All girls schools were(probably still are) difficult places to have to spend your fragile youth. I feel like Tina Fey hit the nail on the head in Mean Girls, with girls there’s a whole other secret universe of rules and regulations we put upon ourselves and feel you have to adhere to.
My time in secondary school, there felt like so many things to live up to, acceptable hairstyles, certain ways of plucking your eyebrows, fashionable clothes, and it’s the same now but even more so. I can tell you right here and now that I rarely met those guidelines. I had to sneak my Dad’s razors to shave my legs because as I said I wasn’t Allowed shave til I was 15 & my mother finally gave in and bought me my own razors.
I continued through school, went to college, finished that, had my children and here we are now at 31. All those years I’ve shaved my legs, my pits, my bikini line cuz I can’t tolerate the pain of waxing, and ive plucked my eyebrows. Some days I wear mascara but no other make up. My hair is in a messy bun 80% of the time, down&natural wavy mess 15% of the time and the last 5% is divided between straightened or curled hair, ya know, when I’m being fancy, for an event like 😉
If there’s an event, like a wedding or a christening or something where there’s going to be loads of pics and my ego takes the fore, I would wear a bit of foundation too, go all out ya know!! From the ages of 18-20yrs I had a lot of black eyeliner going on, and wings baby, wings! But for the last good long time, bar the odd lick of cheap mascara, ive been bareface all the way. This has graduated into also not plucking my eyebrows. It wasn’t a conscious decision, I just couldn’t find my tweezers for like ever and the brows filled in and I thought fuck it! They weren’t bothering me unplucked, so hurray….One less thing to bother with, the lazy bitch’s dream!
Then, while showering today, I had a thought as I rinsed the conditioner from my hair. The next steps were going to be wash my body then reach for the razor. Having been a secret shaver in my adolescence, as aforementioned, I’m not a daily shaver anyway. There’s a good two weeks growth there. The thought was “Why bother? Ya haven’t bothered with your eyebrows & the world didn’t fall apart, your legs & pits & bits have been progressively becoming more forest like over the last fortnight (slight exaggeration!) and yet I’m still female, I’m still fucking gorgeous, a sexy momma! I’m still an artist, I’m still an author, I’m still a creator, a parent, a chef, a gardener, a hippy, a nerd, a bookworm, I’m everything I’ve ever been, there’s just more hair on me, hair that I can’t feel, that doesn’t disrupt my day, my life, my creativity, I feel exactly the same with or without hair, only less ingrown hairs when I HAVE hair!!!!!
Men can shave their face or grow a beard and either is fine but if a female gets facial hair and doesn’t remove it then it’s a thing!
Men can pluck their eyebrows or not pluck their eyebrows and either is fine, but if women don’t then it’s a thing.
Men can shave their legs or not, either is fine, if women don’t then it’s a thing.
Men can shave their armpits or not, if women don’t, it’s a thing.
Men can groom their pubes or not and either is fine but if a female goes au natural it’s a thing!
Men can go barechested and it’s fine, a woman breastfeeds and the world fucking ends, she’s rude/bad somehow.
Men fuck who they like & they are legends, women fuck who they like and they are sluts.
Men who only have sex for love are good guys, women who only have sex for love are frigid for not being looser.
The list goes on.
Men have their own woes, I’m aware. I know there’s a certain ideal of man that is projected onto men. Their emotions are ridiculed, they’re expected to be consistently brave or some other silly masculine shit they’re expected to live up to.
I remember a story about a man with a beard (can’t remember who!) being asked “Why do you grow a beard?” and he replied “The beard just grows, I do nothing. If you want answers ask the one who Shaves his beard, he has given it more thought than I.” As I decided not to reach for the razor, it was because I realised that I honestly don’t care enough about the hair to remove it. It doesn’t bother me, I don’t even know it’s there. The only time it’s an issue to me is when I think “oh shit someone might see my hairy legs” and honestly how ridiculous are we to think anybody genuinely cares deeply about whether or not your legs or pits are hairy!!!
I know my partner doesn’t care if my legs are hairy or not, I don’t think he’s ever given a glance to my armpits, boys don’t notice eyebrows, and they honestly don’t care if your minge is hairy or not once their getting the leg over, ya know what I mean like?! And guess what, if someone Does find you less attractive because you have or haven’t got hair on any part of you then here’s a secret, they don’t fucking like you!!! They like the idea of you, the aesthetic you present, but they don’t love You.
Body hair also serves a purpose, so why do I remove it simply for a thought in my head, a thought that some person that’s not me might see my hairy legs or hairy pits or fluffy eyebrows and They might have a thought in Their head about how my legs are hairy, a thought that they will disregard completely as soon as they can’t see or just forget about my hairy legs or pits! Do you see what I mean? I undertook this long-term hair removal habit because it was the social norm, not because I personally gave any shits. What message does that sent my daughter? That to feel attractive she Must remove a naturally occurring feature of her body just because everyone else her gender does?! I don’t like that message. I know now that my mother was trying to instill the same thing, natural is perfectly acceptable, but in 90s Ireland there was not much conversation about body consciousness or things like that. Ya got yes or no answers from your parents, you weren’t graced with an explanation! When I was what she considered too young I was not allowed to shave or wear makeup, when I was old enough I was allowed, simple! There was no conversation with my mother nor in the public spectrum about how these things were a Choice not a “necessary norm”, do you get me. The only thing ever said was don’t wear too much make up or you’ll look like a prostitute. Social perception was and still is that women should be well turned out within certain standards, slight variations of that can be considered eccentric or funky but go beyond that and you’re either a “bra burning make-up-less non-smiling feminist” or the other end of the spectrum a “slut”. Which by the way is more shameful if you’re a women. Gigilos are just something we joke about, it’s fine! But a hooker? Bitch must be crawling!
Maybe embracing my body completely as au naturale will instill that message in my daughter too, that you don’t have to be any specific way. Sure, she’ll Probably go through the youthful super eyeliner phase like her mammy, and that will be ok too, because she can be whoever and however she wants. Currently it takes huge persuasion to even get her to brush her hair, so perhaps she’ll be even more au naturale than me and end up with natural dreads, who fecking knows. All I hope is that the choice is for herself and not for what she thinks people will think.
And as for me, for now I think I’ll break the gender stigma and resign the razor, maybe for good, put it up on the shelf alongside the makeup & tweezers! And that’s fine. The world still turns.
Why not check out my book, The Natural Wellness Book, available to order in paperback on: http://www.lulu.com/ie/en/shop/mairead-james/the-natural-wellness-book/paperback/product-22973002.html
Or for download on Kindle: https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B01MSQIOS5/ref=cm_sw_r_cp_awdb_9TfByb7MTHJ5G