The sun’s out and so are my body anxieties.
I am a woman who has gone through her fair share of major body anxieties; from teenage insecurities and comparisons to full-on disgust at my own body hair.
It’s Mental Health Awareness Week and the theme this year is body image. As soon as I read it, I had to take some time away from my phone screen to process the storm of emotions that my body produced in response to it.
“Eeeeeeeeeep!” my internal monologue screamed. It’s a subject that my mind wants to run away from…but I am going to be brave and talk about the insecurity that shames me the most….body hair.
These are the areas that my (very natural) hair grows:
My first bout of shame started when I was about 12 years old. I was walking in Kelvingrove Park with my mum one sunny day. I was wearing a short-sleeved top and I must have been pointing upwards (probably at a squirrel in a tree or an interesting cloud) and my mum obviously noticed that I had some underarm hair and said something along the lines of, “Eeee…you’ve got hairy pits!”
Safe to say I never fully recovered from this reaction despite my best efforts to smash the patriarchy and let my little ginger hairs grow free.
I spent my teenage years subtly observing the armpits of my female peers internally asking myself the questions,
“How much hair do they have?”
“Am I hairier than them?”
“Is it ok to not shave?”
I would be constantly on the lookout for unshaved pits. Of course, harbouring this insecurity, I would immediately judge whoever was unshaven. I remember my female cousin (who is a year and a half older than me) being so proud of her hairy pits. I immediately noticed just how nice her underarm hair was…it wasn’t scraggly and expanded over a large territory of skin like mine was. I was envious and resented her body hair.
And then the shame became worse in secondary school when, while changing after P.E., a ‘friend’ pointed to my tummy and said “eeew you’ve got a hairy belly!” People looked and I was so embarrassed. I quickly got ready and headed to lunch. I was quiet and on the verge of tears, but a friend who was sitting next to me told me to hold it in so as not to let this ‘friend’ win. My “hair belly” was a little snail trail leading from my pubic region to my belly button. I got home and immediately shaved it off. I became even more self-conscious while changing as it would be obvious that I had been affected by it. I still remove my belly hair, though not as often as I did when I was younger. I get satisfaction from plucking my dark shame, leaving a smooth tummy area. I especially enjoy plucking the tiny jaggy ones. I do, however, resent having to do this. I wish I was born with light hair and no snail trail and massively hairy pits and legs.
I admire the woman who are body proud and don’t feel ashamed of their body hair. I’ve been trying for years to overcome this. I haven’t shaved my legs in months (the last time I did was in February because an ex had an issue with my hairy legs…dick. I ended up shaving so fast that I ended up with a huge gash on my ankle. I spent the entire dinner date with a piece of tissue clotting my bleeding flesh. So sexy.) I know I shouldn’t care about my hairy legs, but it really gets to me. Since I’ve been unshaving for a few years, when I do, it just looks plain alien. My legs are deathly pale that they almost glow when they are free of an auburn layer of fur. The woman I’ve seen on the interwebs that are body proud and embrace their body fur seem to have light coloured fuzz or tanned skin from a sun that bleaches their hair.
My body hair is similar to that of a man’s. My lower legs and inner thighs are significantly hairier than my arms. Shaving/hair removal is expensive and time-consuming and it grows back…what’s the point?
I wish the hairiness from my legs and underarms went to my bush hair. Brazilian waxing from times before have seemed to permanently removed hair along one patch of my vagine area. It looks bizarre, but fortunately, nobody has said anything about it, and to be honest, if someone is down that end of my body, they generally aren’t there to admire the shape and critique the number and location of my vagine hairs.
Next up is bum hair. Porn gives this illusion that all females have hair free bumcracks. It’s all lies. I have sprouted many over the years back there. It’s the most satisfying place to get a wax. The first time I got a brazilian wax I was not expecting them to go that far round and that deep. I had to hold my bum cheeks apart so that the beautician could apply the wax and let it set until…RIP! It was like ripping masking tape off a painted wall. When I got home after it, I couldn’t stop stroking it. I don’t think I had been as aware of my bum hair as I had done after that wax.
When I am single, I generally don’t shave my legs and just let everything grow wild. Only my cat sees me in all my natural glory and she can hardly judge…she’s covered in the stuff! Also…she’s a cat. She may judge, but mainly it’s at my inability to act like a cat.
I know in my heart that I shouldn’t care. I’ve started not caring as much about my underarm hair as it’s come in to the mainstream to show off your fuzzy pits and there’s more representation of it in the media.
I’ll go out without tights, but my skirt will be long and covering my legs and I’ll carry a pair of tights with me (mainly in case it gets cold, not from someone openly judging me). Maybe I could challenge myself a little and go out in 3/4 lengths and do exposure therapy by showing my ankle furr off. The area that would be most challenging would be to go out and have my thigh hair on full show. Those dark badbois are hard for the eye to avert from.
If I lived in the wild, I maybe wouldn’t feel as much shame about it. In a major city, smooth women are everywhere-billboards, adverts, even the mannequins.
It’s going to take time to feel comfortable with my body hair and be proud of it, but I’m getting there.
I’ve found that reading body and hair proud articles help massively. Here are some that talk about it compassionately:
An interview with 4 women about growing and loving their body hair.
A small article about the reasons why certain areas grow hair.
A piece about Januhairy this year.
An uplifting and empowering piece about women who have chosen to break free from societal standards.
Love and hugs x
Cover Image: Violeta Noy