Thursday, December 13, 2007

The Experiment

I was debating about whether or not to blog about this, but then figured... what the hell? That's what a blog is for, right?

In what I have dubbed The Great Hair Experiment, I have temporarily stopped shaving. While doing research for Research Project From Hell (on which I got an A, by the way! Hoorah! I will post part of it for y'all when I finally figure out how to get it formatted for the blog so it doesn't look like a giant mess), I came across several essays on body hair and shaving--mostly from the "Oh, this is an evil social norm imposed by men! Hairy sisters unite!!" standpoint which, I gotta say, is not really my bag.

But it did get me thinking.

Throughout our early adolescence we (girls) eagerly await the arrival of body hair... just so we can shave it off. While it's the hair itself that signals the biological entry into womanhood, it's the removal thereof that makes us feel like women. The more I thought about it, the stranger it seemed. And so I decided to give it a shot, this whole au natural thing.

So far the results are mixed.

First, the legs. That's easy. I know I don't like having hairy legs. I went through a phase when I was about 16 where I stopped shaving (yes, it was a hippie phase), and all was fine and dandy until one day I was out hiking with Highschool Boyfriend and I kept swearing I was walking through spider webs! Yech! I was totally bugged out and couldn't figure out why it was only me that kept running into them.

Then I realized that that tickly sensation was the wind ruffling my leg hair.

I went home and shaved that night.

(Ironically, in one of the essays I read the woman described the exact same sensation as "sensual." I definitely think "creepy" is a more apt description.)

So in the spirit of The Great Hair Experiment I'm letting the legs get fuzzy once more. But I'm not happy about it. At least it's Winter and I'm wearing pants.

Then there's the, er, bikini region. In the interest of full disclosure (because really, if you're still reading at this point, you obviously don't have TMI issues), I have been a Brazilian kinda gal for many, many years. So suddenly going in the complete opposite direction? Was maybe a bit traumatic.

But now that it's been about a month? I'm wondering why the hell I ever did that in the first place.

Actually, no, that's not quite true. I know why... in a sense. Honestly, at first I was just bored and wondered what it would look/feel like. Then it was a sensory thing--I liked the way it felt. But, I always sort of had an issue with the aesthetics (i.e., looking like I was 8 years old).

Now I can honestly say that I feel so much more female, more like a grown, adult, woman. Not a girl.

Once again it just takes me back to the whole idea of the ritual--the shaving, plucking, waxing, Nair-ing, etc.--being the mark of womanhood, rather than the actual biological mark of growing hair in certain places. It makes me wonder how we got here as a culture, how this became part of our gendering process.

And then, finally, the area of perhaps the most contest for women--the pits. This one is exceptionally strange. There are days when I love it, and days when I think "yech! gross!", and I can't figure out what triggers either reaction.

A few days ago I was in a bathroom at school, dirty and overheated from working in the shop (which is possibly the hottest room on earth), just wearing jeans and a tank top, having a good (head) hair day, and as I glanced in the mirror I caught sight of a hairy armpit and in that moment I felt so goddamned sexy! I can't explain why, or how, but I did.

The next morning I was in the bathroom blowdrying my hair, arms over head, and it was back to "yech! I don't know how much longer I can keep this up...".

In other words, the jury is still out.

I don't know how long The Great Hair Experiment will last. I'm fairly certain the legs will be the first to go. I am going to a party this weekend and plan on dressing up--will the underarms make me feel sexy in my spaghetti straps, or not so much? I suppose we'll see what kind of day it is when it gets here.

No matter how it ends up--whether I go back to baby-baldness, become a permanent hairy-sister, or reside somewhere in between--it's definitely been interesting.

I think that, in our own way, we all need to explore our own ideas of femininity. If the packaged, commonly accepted variety works for you... more power to ya! If you prefer to wander a bit (or a lot) farther off the beaten path... just be sure to bring a compass and plenty of water, and have fun!

I think a lot of our body image issues come not only from packaged ideas of what is attractive (super-skinny, big boobs, long hair), but what is feminine (lip gloss, high heels, stockings). The more we allow ourselves to create our own definitions of femininity--and accept those definitions created by our peers--the more comfortable and happy we can become in our own skin.

Not one of us is more woman than the other, high heels, socket wrench, or hairy pits be damned.


Princess Pointful said...

Lovely post-- and actually really courageous, I think.

It is funny how people have such an automatic reaction to such things as body hair... and then you take a moment to reflect back and realize how fucked it is when our normal state is considered wrong somehow.

Every once in a while, I sit back and realize all the beauty rituals I engage in to change myself, and it scares me a little. And I don't even do half the things some of my friends do (like shave their arms... wtf?). Funny how the prettier society tells you we are, the further we are from looking like our real selves.

Yes, I'll Have Another said...

I guess this was a post for the ladies, so I won't even dare offer my opinion on this matter.

the frog princess said...

Hey now, no need to sensor yourself just because your private parts dangle!

It's called an "experiment" for a reason...

QueenBee said...

I was teased when I was younger because my legs were hairy in 7th grade.

I don't have a complex about it, as I'll go weeks without shaving, but my armpit hair drives me up the wall. I HATE it. I hate feeling it there, I hate the look of it.

Anyway, You're awfully brave for trying it though!

OC said...

Good for you for trying - and posting this! I'm not sure I could do it - especially the legs. Not for society, but just for my own comfort - in nylons, in shin guards, I just think that hair is itchy!

Let us know how it goes!

Hope said...

Wow, you're really brave. I wax everything! (Hi, I'm Greek, we're pretty hairy!)

And I really do feel like more of a woman when I'm smooth. But this was such an interesting post of something I had not really thought about before.

Lisa said...

Wow, I feel like we're close now. Hahahaha. Good read, very interesting points. I also know what you mean about feeling like you're running into spiders. I used to refuse to shave my legs, just to prove a point. It's the grossest feeling ever. Well, one of.

ana said...

I can't imagine not shaving, I really can't live with any fuzz on me, and I do it for me, whether or not I am wearing pants. I have to be comfortable in my own skin, because I live in my skin quite often.And my self conscious is a little too critical, it does not let a pound pass without inquisition, hair would be a catastrophe waiting to happen.....

and so I have to hand it to you, to be able to gut out such an experiment.

libby said...

wow! hats off to you - courageous post indeed. i once had a friend who wanted to start waxing her underarms and thus had to grow out the hair...can't say that my high school self wasn't a little grossed out. but i get it more now.

and btw? i RARELY shave my legs when i won't be wearing shorts/skirts...aka 4 months of the year. seriously. its not like anyone sees 'em but me!!