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I remember being a child
with wild and wide eyed imagination
in utter fascination with my mother
and all the other mothers
and grown women in my life
who I wanted to be like.
I couldn’t wait until I was old enough
to wear deodorant or makeup
or, most important of all,
an actual bra.
But the day when I could shave
would certainly mark the next phase
though the little hair on my legs
was barely displayed
I begged her to let me start shaving
because behaving in that way
was something grown women do
and for all I knew
a smooth body was the sign of womanhood.

I remember being in sixth grade
gazing in the mirror, elbow raised
where wisps of hair splayed
from under my arms.
Armed with a blade
a pit in my stomach gave way
to what must be done.
Just earlier that day
at rehearsal for the Christmas play
a classmate who had the part of an angel
lifted her angelic limbs
and the sin of having underarm hair
caused classmates to stare
and snicker, laugh, point,
anoint her with nasty words
that couldn’t even be heard by her
from where she stood.
But I could.
And I would remember them.

I remember being sixteen
still a novice at the dating scene
and barely comfortable in my own skin
let alone with who I was within.
I wore a bikini that summer
for the first time in years
finally overcoming the fears
of what others may say or think
of my body,
what I knew of as a commodity,
for the visual consumption all who saw it.
I remember the flush of red
when he pointed at my upper thighs and said,
“Eww you don’t shave your bush?!”
The whoosh of embarrassment I felt
pelted me like summer’s first rain
and the pain of realizing his disdain
drained me of any confidence
or self-worth I thought I had unearthed
just moments before.
It had never even crossed my mind
that anyone would find
the hair down there to be repulsive
and, after that moment,
shaving it became compulsive
my body became a source of shame
and the game of modifying
and commodifying it
took on full reign.

Growing up it was so rare
to see women proudly displaying body hair
that we would call them revolutionaries
or anarchists,
gender bending nonconformists,
or eccentric artists.
The very notion of an unaltered physical form
being so far from the norm
we had no idea what to make of it.
And maybe they were those things
which is great
but why do we associate or speculate
that unmodified bodies
represent some sort of oddity?

And I can’t forget to mention
or bring attention
to the hair adorning our heads
and the ways society has said
what is considered good hair
enough hair
too little hair
too rough hair
too slight hair
the right hair.
So we look at what’s there
and loathe what we have
and crave what don’t.

A friend asked me recently
if we have ever even seen
what our bodies really look like
without any of the plucking or waxing,
the tweezing or other means of extraction.
Have we ever taken a moment
to simply look at our bodies in utter awe
and atonement for all the
groans of growing
for all the ways of knowing
that live inside our bones,
the microphones of our voice box,
the tick tocks of our heart’s clock,
the softness of our bellies and thighs
the windows of our eyes
the sighs of our breath
and the rest of our glorious figures.

When will we get to the place
where we could not care less
if we or someone else was hairless
or hair full, careful not to assume
based on what we presume
to be the standards of beauty,
or hygiene.
It’s not our duty
to assess someone else’s body.

So at the end of the day
it’s not really my place
or the place of others to say
which way is the right way
but what I can say
is that your body is yours
to adore and explore
and what you choose
to do with it is up to you,
not society or propriety
or prying eyes of girls or guys.
It’s what makes you feel good
and that should be understood
as true beauty.

Drawing of a woman in a skirt with leg hair

Courtesy of artwhoring’s Instagram page

Drawing of a woman shaving her face

Courtesy of New Women’s Movement tumblr page