The Body Hair Issue

So 2014 is fast becoming the year of the body hair debate.

After a decade of Brazilian waxes, vajazzles and laser hair promotion, suddenly society has started to call into question whether hair removal is feminine, and why we all do it …

First there was the uproar about the ill-pitched Veet ad at the start of the year, and now famous females have begun to sport hairy pits in some form of silent campaign against social expectations.

Now, body hair is a topic particularly close to my heart … NOT because I have a hairy chest (boom boom!), but because I am blessed (cough) with ridiculously dark hair, and equally pale skin.

When I was ten, I got bullied. On the scale of bullying, it was probably nothing compared to the cyber bullying kids endure these days. But from an adult’s perspective, looking back, it was still pretty bad.

I was the class geek. I was a bright kid, a year ahead of myself, in a private school full of rich kids who weren’t particularly academic. And they made my life a misery. At the time, my Mum was recovering from a serious illness, so I didn’t want to burden my parents. And so I just grinned and ‘bore it’, and for two years, hated every moment of my time at a particular school.

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I don’t have too many memories of it all to be honest. I remember being miserable for months, to the point where I eventually changed schools. I remember a couple of choice moments. A girl punching me in the stomach (at a private school my parents were paying thousands of pounds for me to attend!), because I was standing where she wanted to be for the school photo!

And I remember one particularly awful biology lesson …

We were learning about reproduction in flowers.  When you’re ten, reproduction is an awkward enough topic. We were sat in one of the school’s science labs, watching footage of rainforest plants. As the camera panned across a particularly ugly, hairy plant, there was a loud comment from one of my classmates – so loud I’m sure the teacher heard it, but it was the kind of school where that kind of thing was just ignored …

“It’s Charly’s legs!” laughed one girl, as the camera focused on the long dark hairs of the petals.

The rest of the class began laughing.

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I sat, my eyes fixed at the screen, unblinking. My eyes were filled with tears.

The camera panned across the petal, towards the centre of the flower.

As the shot focused on the dark hairy cavern, I knew what was coming next.

“It’s Charly’s bum-hole” another one chipped in.

I don’t remember anything else specific from that day. I know they weren’t punished. I know I didn’t react on the outside. And I’m sure I cried a lot as soon as I got home.

What I do know is a few nights later, at the age of ten, I went into my parents bathroom, picked up my Dad’s razor from the washstand, and all but hacked my legs to bits trying to shave them. I picked the razor up by the blade end by accident, cutting two grooves into my thumb, and butchered my legs, trying to remove the ugly dark brown hair.

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I repeat – at the age of ten.

Girls in groups can be horrid. No matter what age.

I don’t know if it was that day in Biology, or if it was just society. I don’t know if it was simply the reality of growing up with such contrasting skin and body hair.

But I do know that I’ve always grown up hating body hair, particularly my own.

I began shaving my legs and underarms far younger than my Mum would have ever wanted, and as soon as I was of an age where I could spend my own money on grooming, I would get bikini waxes done every month. I can’t count how many hours of my life I’ve spent shaving, ‘Imac’ing, bleaching and waxing, or how much pain I’ve gone through in the process … all to avoid that feeling I had that day in the classroom.

What I can tell you is how much more confident I became in myself, the day I could afford laser hair removal.

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About a year ago I opted for the rather painful, but virtually permanent form of hair removal, and I’ve never looked back. I’m infinitely happier with my body, and whereas the idea of impromptu trip to a swimming pool, or anywhere which required me showing more than the lower section of my leg at short notice used to fill me with dread, I’ve never felt so comfortable in my own skin. Because that’s all it is now – clear skin.

I’m sure certain feminists will hate that statement. They’ll tell me I should love every part of my body, and that I shouldn’t find beauty in sterotypes and expectations created by men.

But I like to feel feminine. I’m a 5 foot 8 girl, who has never weighed less than 10 and a half stone, and who has size 8 feet. I’ve never felt overly delicate! I want to feel feminine. And that includes being hairless.

I’m not saying all women should be hair free, and I’m not saying my reasons for spending thousands of pounds on laser hair removal are honourable ones … They most probably stem from those nasty little girls in that biology class …

But what I am saying, is that adult me is far happier not having to worry about a 6 o’clock shadow under my arms. And that I do find hairy legs and arm pits masculine.

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That doesn’t make me a failing to womankind – it just shows I have an opinion about what I think is attractive. And in the same way I think I’m more attractive with hairless legs and arm-pits, I think guys are more attractive with a bit of stubble but a hairfree back!

We all find different things attractive. If women don’t want to shave under their arms, or shave their legs, each to their own. Just don’t make someone feel bad for not conforming.

In the same way I should never comment on someone else’s choice of outfit, or choice of haircut, why should I pass judgment on what someone else choses to do, or not do, with their body hair?

And whilst I wouldn’t sport an underarm beard out of choice, I would hate for my child to be bullied for having dark hair on her arms or her legs.

Often the problem with causes, is to make a statement people have to go to the extreme. I don’t think we need to become a nation of gorillas to show that women have body hair too, and I don’t think women should be judged for choosing to shave their legs, or remove their body hair, any more than they should for deciding to keep it.

But what I do think, is that no little girl should have to suffer what I did that morning in class.

Those vile little girls who bullied me got their come-upance. A few years later, after I’d moved to a lovely school, where bullying was unheard of, and the academic results were way better ( 😉 ) I bumped into a former classmate. Turns out the bunch of bad apples who made my life hell for two years had all been in and out of drug rehab. None of them had made anything of their lives.

But those little girls had got their ideas from somewhere. And most ideas children get come from their parents. If you’re not already, one day most of us will be parents, and as such we’ll be responsible for educating our children on things like body image. Let’s make sure those children grow up knowing body hair is natural, and not ugly. And that they have the choice to remove it, or to leave it.

Miss Twenty-Nine xxx

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