A brave friend of mine agreed to speak candidly about her experiences as a non-shaving, non-plucking woman. Get comfy, ladies and gents, this is a good read:
Hey, Annie! Care to introduce yourself?
Hello fellow Jaunty Dame followers! I’m a friend of Ms. Rebekah, writing to you from Portland, OR. I’m 28 years old, single, in a shaky transition from grad school to working life. Right now I am working as an elementary school speech-language therapist.
Have you always been pro-body hair? If not, what inspired you to park your razor?
Only recently (in the past year or two) would I say I am pro-body hair, although I have been anti-body-hair-removal for many years now. It’s a good realization for me that these can be different. I am still timid about it but I would like to be bolder and more “out” about my body hair appreciation. Your blog posts and this interview are a great opportunity to remind myself to take more risks!
How long has it been since you last shaved or plucked any hair?
I’m pretty sure the last time I shaved was almost 2 years ago, and that was kind of an isolated incident. I used to use a little trimmer thing for my armpit hair, to reduce the bulk without removing it altogether, but haven’t done that lately. I go in phases of plucking and not plucking various other body hair — particularly the area between the eyebrows (which is one of the few places that is really not all that hairy for me) and those little hairs around the nipples (I’m assuming any readers of your blog upset by a word like “nipple” probably discontinued their subscription after a few of the diva cup entries). Years ago I tried some hair removal (waxing, plucking) for my upper lip (which has fairly visible hair) at the insistence of an ex-boyfriend. The upper-lip hair removal was painful, time-consuming, embarrassing, expensive, and extremely temporary. Ultimately I kept the hair and shed the boyfriend instead when I realized he didn’t accept me for who I was. This is still the area of my body I am most sensitive about, and the one I am most likely to criticize myself for and feel unattractive about.
Have you ever had a body hair role model? Is that a ridiculous question?
Not a ridiculous question at all. I went to a small liberal arts school for my undergrad degree, and it was an acceptable choice not to shave there. I can’t remember how much I did or didn’t shave at that time, but I remember it not really mattering all that much. I think seeing anyone who is not ashamed or embarrassed about body hair can be extremely empowering, so being in a place where it was normatively accepted made a big impression on me. Some people are comfortable setting themselves apart from the crowd, but for those of us who aren’t, it really helps to see other people being themselves, happy, confident, outgoing, etc, without the need for a razor.
Have you noticed any public reactions (friendly or otherwise) to your body hair?
It’s mostly just the hair on my face that’s visible on a daily basis. Because of the work I do now and have done in the past (mainly with K-8 students) I have certainly had younger kids point it out to me in a not-so-accepting way (especially in New Mexico, where the beauty standard is very waxed, plucked, made over, tight clothing, tall shoes, hair styled with appliances, etc etc).
In contrast, I had this really adorable reaction recently… I was working with two students in a social skills group. The 6th grader, a girl, said to me something like “It looks like you’re starting to grow a mustache.” She did not mean any offense, she just noticed it and said so (you can see why she is in the social skills group). So I explained that for some people, this hair is more visible than for others, and some people may choose to remove the hair while others might not. I explained, in a very straightforward way, that I was not upset she had mentioned it, but that other people might not like her to draw attention to it in that way. The 5th grader (a boy, diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder) reacted to all this by saying “Cool!!! I didn’t know girls could grow mustaches!!!” That made me smile for sure.
As for other body hair, it really never causes as much of a scene as I fear it will when I go out in public.
Word on the street says men don’t go for women with apparent body hair. Has this been your experience?
If that has been your experience, I would advise you to move to a different street 🙂 I think body hair is a great litmus test. If somebody is totally turned off by it, not only am I certainly NOT interested in getting intimately involved with that person, but it’s quite likely that they’re not open to a lot of ideas and experiences in general. From my own experience, I can say that it is definitely not the case that all men are turned off by body hair. I think all people, regardless of gender, can feel self-conscious of their bodies and appreciate when a partner is not afraid to show their body in its natural state, beautiful for how it is instead of how it has been altered. I think a good realization for me was a couple of years ago when I had the most amazing sex of my life at that point, with a new partner, and the fact that I had not shaved my legs did not diminish the experience one bit. It was really empowering to realize that the experience and my own sexual energy did not need to conform to conventional notions of what “sexy” bodies looks like.
Do you think that your body hair affects your daily life?
It does in terms of wardrobe… I tend to keep my body hair relatively concealed from the general public, which means wearing pants or long skirts and not a lot of tank tops. That’s pretty easy — I live in Portland. Between the hot weather and the general attitude, it was much harder for me in New Mexico! I did wear tank tops to yoga on a regular basis though, and the yoga classes I went to at the state school gym were definitely not with an “alternative” crowd.
Dress-up events can be slightly anxiety-inducing for me. I was really nervous about my grad school departmental graduation ceremony because I always stuck out like a sore thumb with that crowd.. several of them were getting various cosmetic surgery or laser hair removal to celebrate graduation. Seriously. So I ended up going with a dress that had a tank top but a longer skirt, and if people noticed that my armpits and legs were hairy, they were too busy with graduation to care. Also I moved away and never had to see any of them again, so I really shouldn’t have worried about it so much.
If this isn’t too personal, how long is your armpit hair? I ask because mine’s never reached full length before, and I’m wondering what to expect.
Haha! Good question. The longest hairs seem to be somewhere between 1 1/2 to 1 3/4″ long. Turns out it is somewhat difficult to measure your own armpit hair.
From your personal experience, what are the pros and cons to going au naturel?
If you are self-conscious like I am, a con is that it may affect how much of your body you feel comfortable revealing. You do run the risk of being judged/alienated by people (working through their own insecurities) whenever you openly violate an accepted norm. But again, with the litmus test concept, it’s a good way to weed out people that don’t help you to be your highest self — so really that’s a pro in my eyes. Plus, when somebody does see you for who you are and still reaches out to you they are more likely to be pretty secure, accepting, and open-minded – probably a great person to hang out with. At the same time, I don’t want to oversimplify that — Plenty of people who look “alternative” can be judgmental, while other people who conform to conventional beauty standards may really be very open-minded, though perhaps not comfortable openly challenging those norms.
A huge pro is all the time you save — shaving/waxing/plucking/etc consume way too much time, money, and energy!! You also save a significant amount of water when you aren’t shaving in the shower. Also, unless I just sucked really bad at shaving my armpits (which I probably did), it hurt! I haven’t had that yucky just-shaved armpit feeling in years, plus you don’t have to get the stubbly feeling when the hair is growing back. When you let the hair grow, it gets softer and is cozier for you and/or for being close with others. I think when you can feel comfortable seeing yourself and being seen without removing/altering/covering up natural features, you are able to be more accepting of yourself and others. When you can start to see your body for the amazing organism it truly is, I think you get closer to appreciating your true self and can devote your time and energy to things that are genuinely important.
Ultimately, you have to do what works for you and it’s important to feel comfortable in your body, so if removing hair is important to you, you can do that. You can shave sometimes but not other times. It doesn’t have to be all or nothing. I just think it’s important if you are removing body hair, that you’re doing it because it’s what you want to do and not because you feel you won’t be accepted/respected/desired/valued unless you do.