I remember growing up, being a big fan of the TV show “That 70’s show”. It had a catchy song as the intro, and featured a group of teenagers, one of them even a migrant (like me!). In one episode, one of the characters went ring shopping for his girlfriend. The store owner tried to help him choose a ring, by putting it on, and pretending to be her. The character however, felt that he was “thrown off” by the store owner’s knuckle hair. I can’t remember the exact quote, but what I do recall is staring in the mirror and wondering if I had the same effect on people. Would others be “thrown off” by me wearing rings that drew attention to my hairy knuckles? Should I not wear rings? And was my chin maybe in need of a trim too?
Later that year I purchased my first pack of razors and shaved my knuckles, my arms, my legs, my toes, and my armpits. I was fourteen years old, had just been separated from my mother, and was looking for a sense of control in my life. My relationship with shaving has been on and off since then, from my very first nair mishap in my late teens, to throwing away a handful of razors as an adult, it has now been about two years since I last shaved. None of the TV shows I watched growing up had prepared me for the world that I grew into, a world in which in order to survive I had to choose to love myself, daily and unapologetically. By choosing to stop shaving, I have chosen to stop policing my body, and though I understand that others are empowered by shaving, I wasn’t.
- By choosing to no longer shave I am allowing my body to become an other, my invisibility cloak is gone, and though I have always been an outsider in a city that is mostly white, and mostly conservative, choosing to grow my body hair places yet another layer of difference between me and my neighbors.
- Having a hairy body in my hometown of Salt Lake City, means having a different body, and as my neighbors and family have noticed this, my body has become a topic of conversation. As someone who is curvy and curly, I have grown up listening to my family’s comments about my weight, and the state of my hair. Adding my body hair to the mix, made my mother particularly uncomfortable. One Christmas night, she begged me to let her trim my chin hairs, before we went out to eat with our family. That night, I wore long pants, a shirt with sleeves long enough that they covered my armpits, and the necklace that she had brought me back from Peru. Camouflaging myself to put those around me at ease, got old really fast.
More Radical Reads: Shaping Gender Norms: How You Can Help Society Break Out Of The Binary
- As I explored my choices, and my personal reasons behind them, I became more and more confident of my these choices, as well as my appearance. Once I had made the decision to not shave, there was no going back for me, I knew that the person in the mirror was the femme that I had been waiting for all of these years. My family and friends eventually got used to it, and I did too. It stopped being weird, and became something that I am now proud of. I love my body hair. I love my hairy armpits, and my hairy legs.
- I’ve started wearing shorter skirts, as well as dresses, and shorts. Outfits that I never would’ve worn as an insecure teenager have now become my fashion staple as a confident adult.
- Getting ready to go out has become easier and faster. I used to have a ritual before heading to work, school, or even grocery shopping; in my head I would make up an image of what was acceptable at home, and what was acceptable outside, and it took me years to realize that I was not comfortable unless I complied with these expectations. I would look in the mirror and feel comfortable with my face without makeup, my breasts without a bra, but never my body with hair; despite the fact that this was the most natural of transitions. I couldn’t stop my body from growing hair, just as I couldn’t stop myself from feeling ashamed of it.
- I have also found myself feeling healthier. I stopped having random cuts and rashes on my legs, my skin felt softer, and less dried out. This wasn’t an overnight change for me, but looking back I can’t help but cringe over how much pain I would go through on a weekly basis, just to have those tiny little hairs gone from my legs. I remember ex-partners telling me how much they loved my legs, but nowadays I have lovers who touch my hairy legs and say those very same words, except now it feels different.
- My sex life also changed as I started loving every hairy part of my body, as well as my partners’. Sex became less about a performance, and more about spontaneity, and my newfound confidence showed in this aspect as well. Putting down the razor also influenced the way I saw the world, as well as the way I interpreted it.
- Choosing to love my hairy body changed my art, I started drawing thick femmes, hairy femmes, I found myself falling in love with my body as every drawing became a poem to this new self.
Except it wasn’t new, choosing to no longer shave felt like coming home, like turning back time and taking all of my childhood back. As a survivor of border trauma, and various forms of abuse, this is tied to my healing process. Growing up as an immigrant, I was taught to assimilate, and blend in as much as I could, to be able to do this was tied to my survival. And though my immigration status is still up in the air, I can still make choices that make me feel safe. In a world in which the legality of my body is questioned by politicians and lawmakers, on a daily basis, choosing to love my body is it’s own testament to freedom. I wake up in the morning, surprised at this new life that I have been building. I feel my body, and touch the soft parts, the bulgy parts, the fat and hairy parts, and it all feels so good.
I make late breakfast and eat as much as I want. I bicycle to work, while singing about falling in love, and when I come home, I feel safe. I feel confident. I feel happy. These changes have come gradually, and through many different choices, one of them being to no longer shave, but the most important one simply to love myself as I am.
It’s still difficult for me to practice this form of self love, and I am still unlearning to see myself through the lens of those around me. But, by being intentional about manifesting love in everyday actions that are important for my health, I am practicing self love. And this makes my body happy, and healthy, in every way.
At The Body is Not An Apology, we fight oppression everyday by promoting radical visibility. Please sign up and learn more about #NoBodiesInvisible campaign and new subscription service soon launching from TBINAA.
Are you learning to accept all parts of yourself and your body? Join us for our next webinar 10 Tools for Radical Self Love.
[Feature Image: A grey scale photo of a person, their upturned, their hands holding up their chin. They are wearing a black and white shirt with large flowers. They have curly hair. One elbow is leaning on a pillow. Source: Gabriel S. Delgado C.]