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Hair, There and Everywhere

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As a child, everyone raved about my curly hair. It was thick and dark, and grew like a weed.

At the age of 9, I began to go through puberty.

You know that thick, dark, fast-growing hair on my head? It started to grow just about everywhere else.

Except, this time, it was even darker, and much coarser -- and no one who knew I had it expressed envy of any kind.

My body hair first became a problem for me when I was 10. One summer day at the pool, I looked down -- there was pubic hair showing out of the bottom of my bathing suit. I was absolutely horrified. I had never heard of anyone having such a problem. I knew that it was normal to have pubic hair, but surely this was abnormal. I felt like such a freak.

Over the next two years or so, I continued to do my favorite summer activity- swimming. However, time at the pool was now a balancing act consisting of hiding my unavoidable hairy bikini line by wrapping a towel around my hips, wearing a pair of jean shorts, or physically being in the water. Hiding my shame at being a healthy, natural woman had become an obsession.

None of my other friends had this problem- I carefully studied them from the sanctuary of short shorts. There must be something wrong with me.

I read a question in Teen magazine about shaving your pubic hair- the columnist advised against it, simply telling the questioner to “just trim” if anything showed past their swimsuit.

Just trim? How on earth would "just trimming" help if there was actual hair growing past my bikini line down my legs!? I flung the magazine across the room.

I finally raided my mother’s bathroom at the age of 12, stealing a razor and banishing (for about 12 hours or so) all hair from my legs, under arms, and bikini line. I was left with unattractive red bumps, but it seemed to be a definite improvement over the hair that tormented me so.

Since then I’ve attempted various methods of hair removal with limited, if any, success. My skin is dark enough to make bleaching hair look odd. Shaving irritates my skin, and produces results that lasted less than 24 hours. I tried Nair, leaving it on twice as long as safely recommended- and no hair came off. Waxing and sugaring take off plenty of skin and cause bleeding, but the targeted hair, for the most part, stays put.

As stubborn as I am regarding control over my body hair, it appears as though my hair is even more stubborn than me. My enemy’s persistence is neverending.

However, this isn’t to say that I haven’t tried going (growing?!) with the flow. When I was 17, I decided to do an experiment: what would happen if I simply didn’t shave under my arms?

My senior year of high school, I shaved my pits twice: once for homecoming, and once for prom.

None of my friends treated me any differently -- although rumors that I was a lesbian and a crazy feminist did surface. They did get the feminist part right, but I was fairly sure that I dug guys.

The entire time, I only had one "Oh My God I’m a Freak HELP!" moment. It was during the winter, when I was making out with my first real boyfriend. He was a couple of years older, and since he didn’t attend my school, he wasn’t around to hear the crazy-feminist-lesbian-who-doesn’t-shave rumors. Because it was winter, he had never seen me in a sleeveless top.

He started to take off my shirt -- which seemed like a good idea to me, too, until I realized… the hair! He doesn’t know about the hair! Panic set in. I had no idea what to do.

"I DON’T SHAVE MY PITS!!!" I announced to the entire neighborhood.

"Umm, okay," he said, looking bewildered at why this would be an issue in the first place. I guess when you’re doing fun, sexy things with someone you care about and are attracted to, underarm hair- regardless of your personal preferences -- isn’t that big a deal.

I wish I could say that that was the end of my body hair woes, but over the 5 years after that, being hairy is something I’ve continued to struggle with. I’ve continued to feel like an ugly, hairy freak, despite the reassurance from friends and lovers that I’m fine as is, hairy, shaved, or in between.

Two weeks ago, I returned to school, and decided: enough is enough.

I haven’t shaved anything anywhere for two weeks, and am feeling just fine. I’d forgotten how it feels to have hair where I’m supposed to. And, just as I remember, it’s thick, dark, and grows faster than the speed of light. I’m certainly not saying that I won’t ever shave again, but I’m thinking that, at least every now and then, giving up the battle with my body hair and just letting myself (and my follicles) be is the way to go.

written 30 Jan 2008 . updated 20 Jan 2014

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