No one asked if I wanted to be born a flower; I just was. If they had asked I would have begged to be anything else. Make me a moss! I’d have pleaded. Make me a grass or a tree! Make me a succulent, a shrub, a clump of seaweed! Just please don’t make me a flower. But here I am anyway, consigned by mere biological chance to the constant appraisal of others. I didn’t want these pretty petals! I didn’t want this lovely scent! I only ever wanted to grow alone and undisturbed, giving no thought to how I might appear to others. Yet because of my pleasing aesthetic I am good for nothing more than gracing a vase or a bouquet, or perhaps crushing between the pages of a book so my beauty lasts long after I’ve died and dried. I am only the sum of what value others assign me and the higher the value, the more they desire to tear me from my roots to claim my loveliness for themselves. Oh, to be a patch of plain little lichen!
Hi, friends. Let’s talk about body hair.
I find it both fascinating and infuriating that my genitalia somehow dictate where and to what lengths I may let my body hair grow. If I have a vagina, I am expected to grow out the hair on my head yet shave my legs and armpits (and possibly my arms), pluck my eyebrows, and wax my upper lip. However, if I have a penis instead, I can grow my body hair as much as I want as long as I keep the hair on my head short. Why body parts I keep covered 95% of the time have any control over my outer appearance I do not know, besides the usual arbitrary rules of “polite” society.
I’m going to be blunt here – I am one hairy, hairy lady. My father’s genes blessed me with the thick, dark hair of a proper Italian girl, and this hair is in no way confined to socially appropriate body parts. My eyebrows connect in a solid line if I don’t pluck them; I have a moustache pre-teen boys would die for; my leg hair is as healthy and hearty as an old-growth forest. My mother even took me as a baby to the doctor to ask about the fine carpet of hair I was growing on my back, wondering if something was seriously wrong with her little girl. But no, nothing wrong, per say… her daughter just happened to be almost as furry as the cats she’d soon pretend to be. I plant these somewhat unpleasant images in your mind to establish the soapbox on which I stand. I am covered in hair. Healthy hair. Hair that grows thick, grows fast, grows constantly.
I’m also lazy. Very, very lazy. What to others looks like a stubborn feminist stance against makeup, leg shaving, and bra wearing is really just me not wanting to bother with such frippery. I have shaved my legs a handful of times over the course of my almost 28 years, and each time has been like the first time. If I don’t shave my legs on at least a bi-weekly basis, the hair returns like the thorns surrounding Sleeping Beauty’s castle – and is just as hard to hack through. My hair can dull a razor blade in a matter of moments and no matter how many times I shave, some hairs will always escape beheading to pop up mockingly.
If I sound bitter, it’s because I am – but not about my hair. I have nothing against my hairy legs or fuzzy arms, my downy lip or weirdly long eyebrow lashes. They’re just doing what hair does best, which is grow. No, I’m bitter because society has boxed me into a corner from which I can’t quite figure out how to escape. See, as a confident, stubborn queer girl living in a liberal state, I can get away with a certain amount of rule-breaking; I have a sidecut, after all, and let my eyebrows do their wacky thing. I’m quite open about not shaving my legs, too. But when it comes to showing off those legs in public? That’s where I falter. I wonder, what will my coworkers think? Will they talk about me behind my back? Will HR tell me I’m not being hygienic? Will I become “that girl”?
And then my inner feminist jumps in. You like being “that girl!” she says. You’re unashamedly “that girl!” all the time! And yes, that’s true. I do. I am. So why is this one rule so hard for me to break? Why can’t I walk into work in a knee-length skirt with the same swagger I felt when I walked in with my shaved head or new tattoos? Why, when I firmly believe that the only reason we vilify female body hair is because of societally constructed beauty standards, am I still so hesitant? I’m fiercely independent by nature, yet I allow myself to be cowed into covering a completely natural, harmless, inoffensive part of my body even in the hottest month of the year. My inner Luna Lovegood shakes her head in disappointment – but Luna was blonde, and I bet she wasn’t carrying a carpet around on her legs.
I’m not saying anything new and groundbreaking here, I know. Sometimes you just need to rant about the bizarre rules human society has constructed, rules with no basis in logic but which most people, even those who are highly logical, never question. I know we’ll get there one day – I just hope I’ll have been one tiny cog in that roll towards progress, and not one of the many wrenches.