The last time I shaved my legs was on July 11, 2012. I can’t pinpoint exactly why I stopped. I just didn’t feel like doing it anymore. One week passed, then two, and before I knew it, months were going by and I felt no inclination to restart. The soft blond hairs found from the ankles up never bothered me.
At first I thought nothing of it, but over time, insecurities about my leg hair began to develop. I received unsolicited comments from guys. “Hannah, you’d be so pretty if your legs weren’t hairier than half of the guys on my lacrosse team,” is just one cruel, judgemental comment I received from someone I once considered my friend.
When I rejected the normal idea of femininity by not shaving my legs, it changed people’s perception of my looks — to some, I became less beautiful.
Girls commented too; I came to recognize the pinched smile and raised eyebrows: the face of a girl who is taking great pleasure in judging someone else. “So Hannah, still not shaving your legs?” It made me feel as if my choice made me ugly and weird. Once again, my definition of feminine was being seen as inferior.
I tried to brush off all of these encounters but they lodged themselves deep in my subconscious. I knew that I was happy with my self expression. Why then, when I met my boyfriend a year and half ago, did I feel flustered and embarrassed when I explained my natural legs? Fortunately, he was kind and supportive, which has continued throughout our relationship.
Fast forward to December 2016. After some consideration, I decided to wax my legs before a trip to Hawaii. I did it mostly to simplify sunscreen application, something my pale self needs to do 2 or 3 times a day in sunny weather.
At the waxing salon, I told the aesthetician how long it had been since I last shaved. She thought I was kidding, and when I assured her that I wasn’t, her response was “Oh. Why wouldn’t you want to shave?” and “Wow, I’ve never heard of that before.” For the rest of my appointment she was patronizing and even rude. She, like many others, couldn’t comprehend the fact that her idea of femininity was different from my own, and it translated directly into her treatment of me.
Her reaction has been on my mind ever since. How are women supposed to be strong and independent if we don’t even support each other?
For years, I have consciously made the decision to leave my legs natural and the response I have received has damaged my self confidence. When I finally waxed, the worst and most surprising thing was that I loved it. After years of not succumbing to unkind remarks and social norms, I had lost. My hairless legs made me feel ‘pretty’ and ‘girly’ and I hated it.
In a strange twist of fate, it took finally removing my leg hair to harden my resolve to choose my own path. I’ve realized that I can’t control what people think, but I can control how I react to it. This is my body and no one can tell me what will make it more or less beautiful. Maybe I will shave my legs again one day; maybe I won’t. Above all, I want to be my own version of feminine; I want to be unashamed to be me.
In our society, the definition of feminine is incredibly narrow. We are constantly bombarded with images of what a woman should look like and we are frequently sexualized in all forms of media. We are shown beauty standards that are completely subjective and nearly impossible for an average woman to achieve. Worse than this, we shame each other for not living up to ‘perfect’.